U.S. Second Circuit - The FindLaw 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

NYPD to Pay $1M to Settle NJ Muslim Spying Case

While media coverage of the recent settlement in Hassan v. NYPD report that the settlement was for a paltry $75K split between 11 plaintiffs, many sources failed to include the $950K in legal fees the plaintiffs racked up that the department and city agreed to cover.

The case revolves around the NYPD's post 9/11 policies that included surveilling mosques, schools, and other groups, solely for their Muslim affiliation, without probable cause, reasonable suspicion, or any reason other than religious affiliation (and xenophobia). As part of the settlement, the city and department have agreed to revise their policies, and provide better training, both of which were also terms of prior settlements alleging similar misconduct. While neither defendant admitted liability, it doesn't take a legal scholar to understand what a million dollar settlement means in terms of who violated the law.

Targeted Surveillance

According to an AP story that broke in 2011, the NYPD basically pulled out all the stops, and ignored the Constitution, when it came to infiltrating the local Muslim community. The surveillance programs were developed in the post 9/11 era when law enforcement allowed anti-Muslim xenophobia to irrationally (and illegally) trump the civil rights of Middle-Eastern individuals.

Notably, the NYPD's clearly discriminatory policies were not linked to a single terrorism investigation, nor any counter-terrorism successes. Basically, the NYPD collected information on Muslim individuals without any reasonable suspicion. Fortunately, the division within the department tasked with the surveillance has been disbanded. Additionally, as part of the settlement, much of the information gathered will be destroyed or sealed.
Curiously, while the NYPD denied liability, it also agreed to "not conduct investigations in which race, religion, or ethnicity is a substantial or motivating factor."

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