ACLU sues NYPD over surveillance of Muslim communities

Posted at 7:53 PM, Jun 24, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-24 19:53:00-04

BROOKLYN (PIX11) – From individuals to organizations to mosques themselves, several Muslim plaintiffs joined together in a 33 page federal lawsuit filed by the ACLU and the NYCLU.  Since 2002, the suit alleged the city and the NYPD targeted the Muslim community simply because they are Muslim and engaged in what the ACLU called the “Muslim Surveillance Program,” which they describe in the suit as “suspicion-less surveillance.”

The NYPD’s actions, according to the suit, violate the rights of Muslims and infringe on the free exercise of religion under the U.S. Constitution.  Masjid At-Taqwa, a Brooklyn mosque, alleged the NYPD installed a surveillance camera right outside of its doors, but after numerous complaints from the mosque officials the camera was moved across the street.

Imams at another local mosque alleges on a regular basis, “Informants known informally as ‘mosque crawlers’ are specifically dispatched to  monitor sermons, scrutinize imams, record conversations, and collect lists of mosque attendees…”

Such tactics, the lawsuit said, led to mosque leaders to act on their own and record their own sermons so their statements were not taken out of context.
These are just some  examples the ACLU and the NYCLU said became vehicles of intimidation by the NYPD and they are calling for it to end.

“When there is no suspicous behavior they have no right to cast an entire community under suspicion. It’s the wrong message. It indicates a disdain for peoples privacy and dignity,” said Executive Director of NYCLU, Donna Lieberman.

In PIX11’s own canvass of nearby neighborhoods and their houses of worship, our cameras found no NYPD cameras in the immediate vicinity of a church, synagogue or Hindu temple.

Plaintiffs named in the lawsuit were not available to speak with PIX11 because the matter is still pending.  Worshippers at Masjid AT-Taqwa also declined to speak with our cameras.