Federal Judge Throws Out Lawsuit Against NYPD For Spying on Muslims, Rules It Was Legal

Image via Muslim Advocates
Lead plaintiff Syed Hassan, center, at a press conference on the lawsuit last year.
A federal judge in New Jersey has dismissed a lawsuit brought against the New York Police Department by a group of Muslim individuals and community groups, a suit that had alleged that the NYPD's surveillance of them infringed on their constitutional rights. In a decision released yesterday, New Jersey U.S. District Judge William J. Martini ruled that the spying itself was legal, that the plaintiffs had no standing to bring the case, and that even if they did, they couldn't prove that the NYPD had acted with the intention of discriminating against Muslim Americans.

This suit, filed in December 2012, was the first brought by Muslim groups against the NYPD for their surveillance program, uncovered by the Associated Press in 2011. (A second suit was filed in New York in June of 2013 by the American Civil Liberties Union.) The lead plaintiff in the New Jersey case was Syed Farhaj Hassan, a Shi'a Muslim and Iraq war veteran. The suit's other plaintiffs included a students' association, a council of imams in New Jersey, a beef sausage company, and several other individuals, including the principal of a grade school for Muslim girls. The suit was filed by lawyers from Muslim Advocates, a San Francisco-based group, and the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, neither of whom are very happy with the judge's ruling.

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Here's Audio of an NYPD Officer Roughing Up Harlem Teen Before Calling Him a "Mutt." His Crime: Looking "Suspicious."


This morning, we told you about a video that includes an audio recording of an NYPD officer and a sergeant stopping a 16-year-old Harlem kid during one of the department's controversial "stop and frisks."

Now you can listen to the recording -- and hear how disturbingly aggressive the officers were with the boy, who has no criminal record, no gang affiliation, and is in school.

In the recording, the officer asks the kid: "Who the fuck are you talking to? Want to go to jail?"

"What for?" the kid, Alvin, replies. "Why am I being arrested for?"

"For being a fucking mutt, you know that?" an officer says.

See our previous post for a more descriptive account of what went into making the video, and more info on "stop and frisk."

See the video below (the audio of the stop happens at about the three-minute mark).
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New York Prisoner Spent More Than 20 Years in Solitary Confinement: Report

It's not easy to feel a great deal of sympathy for many of the convicted criminals locked away in New York's prisons, we know. But a new report from the New York Civil Liberties Union might just conjure up at least some compassion.

Then again, maybe it won't -- they're still criminals.

Regardless, the NYCLU released a report this morning detailing the "inhumane, arbitrary use of solitary confinement" in New York state prisons. One of the more compelling anecdotes found in the report is the story of one particular inmate who's been locked away in solitary confinement for more than 20 years.

"Extreme isolation is one of the most extreme forms of punishment one human can force on another, and in New York State it is often a disciplinary tool of first resort," NYCLU legal fellow Scarlet Kim says. "People spend weeks, months and even years cut off from human interaction and rehabilitative services for non-violent, minor misbehavior. The process for determining who is sent to extreme isolation is arbitrary - there is virtually no guidance or limitations on who can be sent to extreme isolation, for what reasons, or for how long."

As outlined in the report, titled Boxed In: The True Cost of Extreme Isolation in New York's Prisons, more than 8 percent of New York's prison population is held in isolation at any given time.

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Is Albany's Proposed Anonymous Online Comments Ban 'Mischaracterized?'

Since Wednesday, we've been following news of pending legislation in Albany that would make illegal anonymous online commenting in certain contexts.

That proposed piece of law would require the removal of any comments posted on a website by an anonymous poster "unless such anonymous poster agrees to attach his or her name to the post" if someone complains about that comment.

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NY's Proposed Anonymous Web Speech Ban: Is It Related to a 1974 U.S. Supreme Court Ruling?

Yesterday, the Voice reported on pending legislation in Albany that would ban anonymous online speech. We took the time to catch up with New York State Sen. Thomas F. O'Mara and Assemblyman Dean Murray, who sponsored the bill, to see what they had to say. Quickly put, their basic idea is that the proposed legislation would cut down on cyber-bullying -- such as untrue, and unsigned, comments you might come across in a message board or on a blog.

Uncertainty over the Constitutionality of the bill persists, however, with one expert telling us: "I would like to see an argument -- and I haven't seen one -- that would authorize a legislature to determine what can be posted or not posted on a private website...the Constitution does not talk about websites or anonymity. The cases over the years suggest that the legislature has no business trying to tell editors what to print."

During our convo, we asked Murray about this. He countered that it was constitutional, citing the 1974 Gertz v. Robert U.S. Supreme Court Decision as evidence that the First Amendment does not protect against the falsehood-based mean-mongering you come across on the internet.

So what the hell is the Gertz decision, you might ask?

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Anonymous Online Speech: Soon To Be Banned by Albany?

The Voice's Steven Thrasher just brought this to our attention.

Legislation is pending in Albany that would make illegal anonymous online commenting, City & State tweeted this morning.

Looks like Wired was among the first to report on the measure.

The bill's backers, according to the mag, want to curtail "mean-spirited and baseless political attacks" and "spotlight on cyberbullies by forcing them to reveal their identity."

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Who Will Protect Your Passwords From Your Boss?

A few weeks back, The Associated Press reported some more sucky news about the job market: Employers increasingly want passwords to social networking sites, and will demand that info from prospective employees on job apps.

Creeped out because H.R. might soon click through your private spring break photos or old IMs with friends? Well, you're certainly not the only one. A lot of people have decried this practice as an invasion of privacy and violation of civil rights.

So what's being done about it?

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NYCLU Pushes Legislation To Curb Discrimination Against Transgender New Yorkers

GENDA report.jpg
New Yorkers are legally protected against discrimination based on race, sex, sexual orientation, or disability -- which means people who fall under any of those categories cannot lose access to homes, jobs, and other services because of their racial, sexual, or physical identities.

Currently, however, there are no protections for New Yorkers who are transgender or express their gender differently from societal expectations and stereotypes.

And according to the New York Civil Liberties Union, which is pushing to change the discrimination laws to include this group, New York state is falling behind.

This week, the NYCLU released a report documenting discrimination in the state for transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers.

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NY Post Op-Ed: NYPD Wrongly Profiled, Not Muslims

The New York Police Department, not Muslims, is the victim of profiling.

At least that's what one op-ed writer at the New York Post wants you to think.

Dr. Qanta Ahmed, a physician in New York and author of In the Land of Invisible Women took to the tabloid's opinion pages today to explain that cops should not come under fire for spying on entire Muslim neighborhoods.

She writes: "The true wrong here is done by a biased media and a suspicious, maneuvering minority within the Muslim minority. Their distortions have unapologetically cast the NYPD, the CIA, Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly as bigoted racists violating basic American ideals."


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Cops Bust Bodega Worker Ismael Duran for Not Selling Booze to Minor

If you sell alcohol to a minor, you can get arrested.

And if you do not sell alcohol to a minor, you can apparently also get arrested.

No, really.

The Daily News tells the story of Ismael Duran, a father of three who immigrated to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic three years ago. Duran works at the Giselle Mini Mart in Brownsville. When 18-year-old undercover cop Anthony Harriott tried to buy Smirnoff Ice, Duran checked his I.D. and refused, as Harriott is a minor.

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