A federal appeals court appeared concerned Tuesday that the New York Police Department may have spied on Muslim groups following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks solely because of their religion.
The three-judge panel questioned whether police had any specific leads to justify the surveillance of Muslim businesses, mosques and student groups in New Jersey. The practice went on until at least 2012, according to a lawsuit filed by Muslim groups.
A federal judge had thrown the lawsuit out, concluding that police could not keep watch “on Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself.”
However, the judges on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals questioned why the spying wasn’t more targeted.
“You’ve got to admit there are a lot of people in this country that [became] prejudiced against Muslims after 9/11,” Judge Jane Roth said. “Whether that includes the people who have instituted the surveillance practice in New York City — how can we know at this point?”
The city’s lawyer, Peter Farrell, called any injuries suffered by Muslims “self-imposed, based on subjective fears” that may have led them to avoid gathering with other Muslims after the attacks. However, the judges said the harm was “concrete” if attendance at mosques fell or businesses lost money because they feared those locations were being watched.