The ACLU, the NYCLU, and the CLEAR project have filed a lawsuit challenging the New York City Police Department's discriminatory surveillance of innocent Muslim New Yorkers. The plaintiffs include three religious and community leaders, two mosques, and one charitable organization, all of whom have been subject to the NYPD's unconstitutional religious profiling program. Through this program, the NYPD has singled out Muslim institutions and individuals for pervasive surveillance that is not visited upon the public at large or upon institutions or individuals belonging to any other religious faith. As a result, the NYPD has imposed an unwarranted badge of suspicion and stigma on law-abiding Muslim New Yorkers, including our clients. The lawsuit was filed in June 2013 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
The NYPD's program, dedicated to the total suspicionless surveillance of Muslims in the greater New York City area, operates under the unconstitutional premise that Muslim beliefs and practices are a basis for law enforcement scrutiny. The NYPD has mapped Muslim communities and their religious, educational, and social institutions and businesses in New York City (and beyond). It has deployed NYPD officers and informants to infiltrate mosques and other institutions to monitor the conversations of Muslim New Yorkers, including religious leaders, based on their religion without any suspicion of wrongdoing. It has conducted other forms of suspicionless surveillance of Muslims, including the monitoring of websites, blogs, and other online forums. The results of these unlawful spying activities are entered into NYPD intelligence databases, which have amassed information about thousands of law-abiding Americans. A police representative has admitted that the mapping activities have not generated a single lead or resulted in even one terrorism investigation.
The NYPD's spying activities are rooted in prejudice, and have spread fear throughout Muslim communities. As a result of unlawful NYPD spying, our clients' religious goals, missions, and practices have been profoundly harmed. The discriminatory surveillance program has forced religious leaders to censor what they say to their congregants, limit their religious counseling, and record their sermons, for fear that their statements could be taken out of context by police officers or informants. Knowledge and justifiable fear of NYPD surveillance have diminished attendance at mosques, prompted distrust of newcomers out of concern they are NYPD informants, and prevented the mosques from fulfilling their mission of serving as religious sanctuaries. Knowledge and justifiable fear of NYPD surveillance have also diminished the ability of a charity and one of its leaders to raise funds and interfered with their mission of fulfilling one of Islam's primary tenets by promoting and providing charity to needy New Yorkers.
Our lawsuit charges that the NYPD, through its discriminatory surveillance program, has violated our clients' constitutional right to equal protection, as well as their right to freely exercise their religious beliefs. It asks the court to end the NYPD's unconstitutional surveillance program, and to prevent future surveillance based on religion and not on individualized suspicion of criminal activity. It also asks the court to expunge the records the NYPD created on each of our clients, and appoint a monitor to ensure that the NYPD ends its unconstitutional religious profiling policy and practices.