Lawyers push back on NYPD Muslim spying

Feb. 4, 2013 at 4:41 PM
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NEW YORK, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- A civil rights lawyer asked a federal judge Monday to tighten oversight of the New York Police Department's intelligence gathering operation.

The lawyer, working on behalf of Muslims in New York City who say they're being harassed and spied on because of their faith despite leading law-abiding lives, said police are going far beyond the boundaries set forth after previous legal disputes.

"The NYPD is continuing a massive, all-encompassing dragnet for intelligence concerning anything connected with Muslim activity through intrusive infiltration and record-keeping about all aspects of life, politics and worship," the court filing states. "The NYPD operates on a theory that conservative Muslim beliefs and participation in Muslim organizations are themselves bases for investigation."

About 1,200 documents from the investigations were given to lawyers to examine after various media investigations showed the wide array of intelligence-gathering routinely conducted by New York police, The New York Times reported. Plain-clothed officers regularly visit mosques, cafes and other gathering places and report back on what they overhear.

The deputy commissioner in charge of the department's intelligence division, David Cohen, said such tactics are needed "[to] identify locations where an individual radicalized to violence -- coming from overseas or homegrown -- might go to blend in."

Prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, officers were required to report to a judicial oversight board when they were doing surveillance work in places such as mosques and restaurants, but U.S. District Judge Charles Haight did away with that requirement.

Advocates, though, say the snooping has gone too far.

"The NYPD has deceived this court and counsel, as well as the public, concerning the character and scope of its activities in violation of the guidelines," the legal filing, signed by one of the lawyers, Paul G. Chevigny, states.

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