In a stunning legal decision issued today, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Muslim-Americans who had been subjected to blanket mass-surveillance by the NYPD Intelligence Division have grounds to sue the department for discrimination. The ruling reverses a 2014 decision by the United States District Court of New Jersey that found the plaintiffs had insufficient legal standing to challenge the surveillance against them, and that the blanket surveillance of Muslim communities itself was not evidence of bias.
Linda Sarsour, Executive Director of the Arab American Association of New York, lauded today’s verdict, saying “The courts could not deny that in fact there is reason to believe that the NYPD engages in unwarranted surveillance of Muslims based on their faith alone…We haven’t won yet, but this is a step in the right direction” Sarsour also said the NYPD program had generated widespread fear and paranoia. “This issue has never been just paranoia, this is a reality for Muslim communities,” she added.
In 2011, a landmark investigation by the Associated Press revealed that the NYPD’s Intelligence Division had been conducting highly-invasive, suspicion-less surveillance on Muslim-Americans living in and around the New York area. This surveillance, which lasted for years and which involved mapping out Muslim neighborhoods and businesses, building databases on information on ordinary people, and using undercover operatives to infiltrate entire communities, ultimately failed to turn up even one lead related to terrorism.