New York police settle lawsuits over spying on Muslims
The New York Police Department (NYPD) on Thursday agreed to a series of reforms as part of a settlement of two high-profile lawsuits over its practice of illegal surveillance of Muslims following the 9/11 attacks.
Under the settlement, the police force in the U.S.’s largest city agreed to strengthen safeguards against launching investigations and conducting surveillance against Muslims based on their faith.
The department also agreed to reinstall an independent civilian watchdog that will monitor NYPD’s counter-terrorism activities to ensure investigative practices are in accord with the Constitution, according to the settlement.
“This settlement is a win for New York Muslims and for all New Yorkers, who have a right to be free from discriminatory police surveillance and to practice their religion without stigma or fear,” Hina Shamsi, the director of the national security project at the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement.
“For the first time, this watershed settlement puts much needed constraints on law enforcement’s discriminatory and unjustified surveillance of Muslims,” she added.
The lawsuits were among a number of legal actions that followed a Pulitzer-prize winning series of stories published in 2011 that revealed the NYPD’s intelligence branch engaged in religious profiling and surveillance of Muslims in the city and beyond since 2002.
Police singled out religious and community leaders, mosques, nongovernmental organizations and individuals for surveillance that was not conducted against institutions or individuals belonging to any other religious faith, The Associated Press’ reports documented.
Thursday’s settlements are subject to approval by a federal court.
“We are committed to strengthening the relationship between our administration and communities of faith so that residents of every background feel respected and protected,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.
De Blasio ended the controversial surveillance program shortly after taking office in April 2014.