Two civil rights groups, Muslim Advocates and the Center for Constitutional Rights, will argue their appeal today in Philadelphia to have reversed a ruling by a judge that found NYPD officers could legally spy on Muslims living in New Jersey.
The plaintiffs in this important case about the right to privacy include a United States soldier, a school principal and several Rutgers University students. Last year’s ruling by U.S. District Judge William Martini, they contend, grants police carte blanche to civil rights violations.
The case has serious implications at a time in the U.S. and abroad, particularly after last week’s terror attacks in Paris, when many people still unfairly associate Muslims and Islam with terroristic activity.
The matter stems from the NYPD’s spying since 2002 on Muslim groups at schools, restaurants and mosques, brought to national attention by The Associated Press’ Pulitzer Prize-winning 2012 series.
The judge, to the astonishment of many in the Muslim community, said the AP would be responsible for any harm associated with the surveillance and not the police. In his judgment he wrote that cops spied “on Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself.”
The lawyers representing the civil rights groups disagreed, and wrote, in part, in their appeal: “The city’s surveillance program is explicitly based upon, and accordingly perpetuates, a malignant stereotype: that Muslims are a danger to society.”
They added that the surveillance has hurt their clients’ standing in the community and could threaten their jobs.
New York City responded by claiming the NYPD had not broken any New Jersey laws in executing the spy campaign.