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New York police allowed to monitor mosques due to terror threat, NYC argues

rtr2vtoi_siA US federal judge is reviewing a Vietnam War-era court settlement restricting law enforcement surveillance policies after the New York Police Department was accused of illegally spying on Muslims in the years following the 9/11 terror attack.

The Handschu decree was signed in 1985 in response to policing  procedures that were employed against anti-war protesters  throughout the 1960s and ‘70s. The original case, filed by  political activist and lawyer Barbara Hanschu, “attempted to  redress a historic pattern of police surveillance, infiltration,  disruption, and suppression of political expression and  association in New York City,” according to the New York Civil  Liberties Union.

But in 2003, Judge Charles Haight – the same judge who first  signed the decree in 1985 – relaxed his ruling to grant police  more leeway in the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11,  2001. Haight has now revisited the order a third time after  allegations that the New York Police Department (NYPD) adopted  widespread surveillance against New York Muslim communities,  reportedly going so far as to designate entire mosques as  terrorist organizations.

I’ve come to think of this case as a volcano that’s asleep  most of the time…but every now and then blows up,” Haight  said at the start of a hearing Tuesday in Manhattan federal  court.

In February 2013, civil rights lawyers filed papers seeking a  court order preventing the NYPD from monitoring Muslims without  having evidence that criminal activity is taking place. The  request, according to AP, also sought the institution of an  auditor to stop “flagrant and persistent” police activity.

Plaintiff attorney Paul Chevigny said the NYPD’s actions were  clearly in violation of the Handschu decree “because they’re  not rooted in the fact that there’s a criminal predicate. They’re  rooted in the fact that the subjects are Muslims.”

While the NYPD has never criminally charged a mosque or Islamic  organization with operating as a terrorism enterprise, religious  centers were secretly monitored for years. By that logic, any  individual who attended a prayer service could become the subject  of an investigation.

Civil liberty advocates have expressed their outrage at the  policies, which were first revealed in a still ongoing series of  articles by Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman of AP. With help from  sources inside the NYPD who had conflicted feelings about the  program, the two reporters revealed that the NYPD opened at least  a dozen “terrorism enterprise investigations” in the past  decade.

It’s undeniable that New York City remains at the center of  the threat by Islamists who have been radicalized to  violence,” city lawyer Peter Farrell claimed in the court  hearing this week. Farrell said the city would provide secret  documents disclosing the evidence justifying these  investigations.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg asserted in 2012 that  anything the NYPD has done throughout its investigation is  authorized by law.

They can look at websites they can watch television to detect  unlawful activities or where there might be unlawful activity to  get leads,” Bloomberg said on his radio show last year.   “We don’t target individuals based on race or religion. We  follow leads and we are consistent, I think, with the guidelines  resulting from the Handschu federal court decision.”

Judge Haight announced he would make a ruling at a later date.


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