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Federal judge dismisses suit challenging surveillance of New Jersey Muslims

A judge for the US District Court for the District of New Jersey [official website] ruled Friday that the New York Police Department's (NYPD) [official website] surveillance on Muslims is a lawful effort for national security, and does not constitute harm or violation of civil rights. The controversial surveillance program, which allegedly targets individuals based on religious affiliation, was challenged [JURIST report] by Muslim Advocates [advocacy website] in June 2012. The Muslim Advocates alleged that the NYPD has engaged in surveillance of Muslim schools, including kindergarten and elementary schools, as well as entire communities, including the Muslim community in Newark, New Jersey. The lawsuit sought injunctive relief barring the NYPD from continuing surveillance operations based solely on religion. The judge dismissed this challenge on the basis that monitoring some members of the Muslim community is a necessary step in monitoring the state for terrorist activity. Additionally, the judge stated that any harm caused to the community was not caused by the state's surveillance, but rather by an AP series that detailed confidential NYPD reports [JURIST report].

The NYPD has come under scrutiny recently for alleged discriminatory surveillance. In September New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly [official websites] admitted [JURIST report] that the NYPD spied on mosques and on a Muslim preacher but requesting that the court dismiss the complaint. JURIST guest columnist Samar Warsi in May questioned [JURIST comment] the NYPD policies stating: "It is vital to be cautious when government officials use glittering generalities such as 'national security' and 'counterterrorism' to legitimize acts and policies in clear contravention of basic constitutional guarantees." In May New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa concluded that the NYPD's surveillance program did not violate the Constitution [AP report]. Chiesa had launched an investigation into the program after a series of AP articles sparked outrage in New Jersey in February. In March Raymond Kelly adamantly denied [speech; press release] that the surveillance programs were unconstitutional.

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