A federal appeals court on Tuesday reinstated a lawsuit challenging the New York Police Department’s surveillance of Muslim groups in New Jersey after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, saying any resulting harm came from the city’s tactics, not the media’s reporting of them.
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, reversing a judge’s decision last year to dismiss the case, found the Muslim plaintiffs raised sufficient allegations of religious-freedom and equal-protection violations and put the case on track for trial.
In dismissing the lawsuit, U.S. District Judge William Martini had concluded the police could not keep watch “on Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself” and concurred with the city in blaming reporting by The Associated Press, which exposed the surveillance program, for any harm.
The city called the intelligence gathering an appropriate and legal anti-terrorism tactic and said it never spied on people or businesses solely because they were Muslim.
“There’s been no finding by the court that the NYPD did anything wrong or anything illegal,” said Lawrence Byrne, the NYPD’s deputy commissioner for legal matters. “It’s simply a procedural opportunity for the plaintiffs to see if they can prove their case.”
Current police Commissioner William Bratton disbanded the demographics unit last year and reassigned its detectives. Officials said a review concluded the same information could be better collected through direct contact with community group.