Lawsuit Against NYPD for Muslim Surveillance Restored

Decision that stripped targets of standing to sue reversed


"We're not saying your a terrorist. We're just watching everything you do to make sure."
Credit: Sean MacEntee / photo on flickr

An appeals court panel has restored a lawsuit by Muslims against the New York Police Department for its intrusive but ultimately ineffectual surveillance of Muslim groups, not just in New York City, but outside of its own jurisdiction in New Jersey.

For those who don't recall, the Associated Press won a Pulitzer Prize in 2012 for exposing that, following the Sept. 11 attacks, the NYPD started putting together informants and snooping among Muslim organizations, looking for signs of terrorist activity without any sort of direct suspicion of conspiracy. When the news came out, a collection of imams and students in New Jersey sued for the violation of their privacy and religious freedoms.

A judge in New York Jersey threw out their case, accepting the police's argument that it was an "anti-terrorism" investigation not an "anti-Muslim" investigation (despite the lack of suspects). The judge took it a bizarre step further by stating that any damages or discrimination that any Muslims might face as a result was due to the Associated Press reporting on the existence of the surveillance. The judge argued that the exposing of the surveillance was the source of any damage, not the surveillance itself.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was not having it. The court restored the plaintiffs' standing to sue, saying that blaming the exposure on the Associated Press was like saying ""What you don't know can't hurt you. And, if you do know, don't shoot us. Shoot the messenger."

After becoming mayor, Bill de Blasio ordered the end of the program in 2014. Read more about the case here.