NYPD Muslim spying under new scrutiny in federal court

The legal precedents through which the police's intel department enacted spy programs are in need of redress

Published October 2, 2013 3:22PM (EDT)


Along with the development of the NYPD's "mini-CIA" after 9/11 came the shift towards constitution-defying preemptive policing. Key among the moves made by the police's intel chief, former CIA analyst David Cohen, was to see undone a number of important legal precedents set in the 1970's to limit warrantless police spying on political and religious groups.

In their deep and broad surveillance of thousands of innocent Muslim communities in the last decade, police have regularly defied guidelines once set by the so-called Handschu decree, which was put in place in response to surveillance used against activists in the 1960s and 70s. Cohen saw the decree's guidelines relaxed in courts after 9/11. Now, however, after light has been shed (largely by AP reporters Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo) on the NYPD's widespread spying on Muslims, a federal court is now revisiting the Handschu guidelines.

Via The Guardian:

A federal judge on Tuesday revisited at a decades-old court settlement restricting how the New York Police Department conducts surveillance after civil rights lawyers accused the department of breaking those rules by monitoring Muslims...

"I've come to think of this case as a volcano that's asleep most of the time … but every now and then blows up," District Judge Charles Haight said at the start of a hearing in federal court in Manhattan.

The latest eruption stems from the NYPD's monitoring of Muslims, where they eat, study and worship as part of its counterterrorism efforts.

In February, civil rights lawyers filed papers seeking a court order barring further surveillance of Muslims without evidence of crimes and a court-appointed auditor to oversee police activities that were "flagrant and persistent".

The police measures directed at Muslims violate the Handschu decree "because they're not rooted in the fact that there's a criminal predicate", said plaintiff attorney Paul Chevigny. "They're rooted in the fact that the subjects are Muslims."

By Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

David Cohen Handschu Muslim Surveillance Muslims Nypd Police Spying Surveillance Terrorism