The New York Police Department’s intelligence unit’s surveillance of local Muslims is constitutional and prudent, a federal judge ruled on Thursday, dismissing a civil rights lawsuit brought in 2012 by eight Muslims who alleged the programs were illegal because they focused on religion, national origin and race.
U.S. District Judge William Martini slammed The Associated Press’s reporting that revealed the surveillance programs that spied on ordinary people at several mosques, restaurants and grade schools in New Jersey since 2002.
“Nowhere in the complaint do the plaintiffs allege that they suffered harm prior to the unauthorized release of documents by The Associated Press,” Martini wrote. “This confirms that plaintiffs’ alleged injuries flow from the Associated Press’s unauthorized disclosure of the documents. … The Associated Press covertly obtained the materials and published them without authorization. Thus the injury, if any existed, is not fairly traceable to the city.”
Martini ruled that the the plaintiffs, including the former principal of a grade school for Muslim girls, “have not alleged facts from which it can be plausibly inferred that they were targeted solely because of their religion,” Martini wrote. “The more likely explanation for the surveillance was to locate budding terrorist conspiracies.”
The judge added: “The police could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself. … The motive for the program was not solely to discriminate against Muslims, but to find Muslim terrorists hiding among the ordinary law-abiding Muslims.”
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly had been staunch supporters of the surveillance programs, saying they were needed to protect the city from terrorist attacks.
A similar lawsuit filed in federal court in Brooklyn is still pending.
With reporting by The Associated Press.