NEW YORK: A federal judge has ruled that the New York Police Department’s surveillance of Muslims in New Jersey was a lawful effort to prevent terrorism, not a civil rights violation.
In a decision filed Thursday in federal court in Newark, U.S. District Judge William Martini dismissed a lawsuit brought in 2012 by eight Muslims who alleged that the NYPD’s surveillance programs were unconstitutional because they focused on religion, national origin and race.
The suit accused the department of spying on ordinary people at mosques, restaurants and schools in New Jersey since 2002.
The lawsuit followed a series of stories by The Associated Press based on confidential NYPD documents that showed how the department sought to infiltrate dozens of mosques and Muslim student groups in New York and elsewhere.
Martini said he was not convinced that the plaintiffs were targeted solely because of their religion. “The more likely explanation for the surveillance was to locate budding terrorist conspiracies,” he wrote.
The judge added: “The police could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself.”
Farhaj Hassan, a plaintiff in the case and a U.S. soldier who served in Iraq, said he was disappointed by the ruling.
A similar lawsuit filed in federal court in Brooklyn is still pending.