Residents of New York City are on their way to having new oversight of their police department’s counterterrorism operations, which often includes surveillance.
A new settlement filed Monday would permit a civilian representative to report police to a judge whenever the representative feels officers violate guidelines that restrict how far police can go in monitoring religious and political groups. The lawsuit stems from NYPD surveillance of Muslims, some of whom sued the city over that surveillance in 2013.
The representative will also be privy to how the NYPD runs its surveillance investigations, and will be allowed to stick around until the NYC mayor gets court approval to remove the person. The deal still needs to get final approval from U.S. District Judge Charles Haight.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) represented Asad Dandia, Mohammad Elshinawy and Imam Hassan Raza in the case along with a nonprofit called Muslims Giving Back and the mosques Masjid At-Taqwa and Masjid Al-Ansar.
The lawsuit alleged that these people, groups and religious organizations were unlawfully targeted in surveillance of Muslims that began in 2002 following the attacks of September 11, 2001. The lawsuit alleges NYPD officers assimilated into mosques to conduct surveillance of Muslims who had nothing to do with terrorism.
“Muslims suffered stigma … because of fear of attracting unwarranted police scrutiny.”
“Muslims suffered stigma and chilled their speech and religious practice because of fear of attracting unwarranted police scrutiny,” Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s national security project, wrote following the settlement announcement.
“Religious leaders like our clients censored themselves in public and recorded sermons and conversations out of fear they could be misrepresented.”
The settlement would prevent investigations “in which race, religion, ethnicity, or national origin is a substantial or motivating factor,” according to the ACLU.
It’s a note that would have resonated no matter the day it was announced, but does even more so on the day President Donald Trump signed a new executive order that barred residents of Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Syria — all majority Muslim nations — from traveling to the U.S. for 90 days.
Though the administration took pains in the executive order to say the ban wasn’t based on religion, a White House press release later said all six nations were “compromised by radical Islamic terrorism.”