A group of New Jersey Muslims is suing the New York Police Department over a wide-ranging Muslim surveillance initiative first diclosed by the Associated Press earlier this year.
Eight Muslim Americans responded on Wednesday by filing a lawsuit in New Jersey, charging that the spying program unconstitutionally targeted people based on their race and ethnicity, rather than responding to explicit security threats.
Guilt by association was forced on me, said Syed Farhaj Hassan, an Army reservist and one of the plaintiffs. The NYPD decided to be lazy and group everybody together, Hassan added to the New York Daily News, calling the program a slap in the face.
In a series that earned it a Pulitzer prize, the Associated Press described a sweeping post-9/11 project to gather information on Muslims in New York City and elsewhere. The New York City Police Department, acting at first with the help of a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, dispatched informants and undercover agents to ethnic neighborhood hubs that included mosques and businesses. The NYPD expanded the program to include Muslim students in several states, at one point having an officer join Muslims on a whitewater rafting trip to upstate New York.
While the NYPD and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg have defended the practice, calling it a justifiable public safety measure, critics say authorizing surveillance missions without any evidence of a specific plot or crime may break the law. The AP series prompted a CIA investigation that ultimately rebuked the agency for sending an agent to join the New York Police Department.