Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Spying Case Settlement a Victory for Civil Rights

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Spying Case Settlement a Victory for Civil Rights

Article excerpt

Spying on someone because of their ethnicity, because of their faith preference, because of their nation of origin, has never been a good idea, and it isn't one now.

A court settlement reaffirmed that basic truth last week in the case of the New York City Police Department's so-called "blanket surveillance" of Muslim students, mosques and even bakeries and groceries in New Jersey in the months and years following the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

In the settlement, the New York Police Department has said:

It will not engage in surveillance on the basis of religion or ethnicity.

It will follow certain protocols, still being developed, when it conducts activity in New Jersey.

It will permit plaintiffs of the lawsuit to provide input for a new policy guide that will govern activities of the department's intelligence bureau.

It calls for counter-terrorism probes in New Jersey to fall under the Handschu Guidelines, which regulate the department's investigations into political activities.

Without admitting wrongdoing, the city agreed to pay the 10 plaintiffs a total of $75,000, ranging from $1,250 to $22,500. The settlement also calls for the city to pay $950,000 in attorney fees, costs and expenses.

While the City of New York and the NYPD did not admit to any misconduct or violation of law in settling the case, advocates for the plaintiffs declared the settlement a victory for basic human rights.

Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, one of the organizations representing the plaintiffs, said the NYPD had conducted surveillance on at least 20 mosques, 14 restaurants, 11 retail stores, two grade schools and two student Muslim associations in New Jersey – a surveillance that produced not one terrorist lead.

"Today's settlement sends a message to all law enforcement agencies loud and clear: Simply being a Muslim is not a basis for suspicion, and cannot be a basis for surveillance," Khera said in announcing the settlement. …

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