Civil rights lawyers will urge a federal judge to declare the New York Police Department’s widespread spying programs directed at Muslims to be unconstitutional, order police to stop their surveillance and destroy any records in police files.
In a lawsuit being filed Tuesday, the lawyers said the spying has hindered the ability of residents to freely practice their religion. It is the third significant legal action filed against the NYPD Muslim surveillance program since details of the spy program were revealed in a series of Associated Press reports in 2011 and 2012.
The lawsuit said that Muslim religious leaders in New York have modified their sermons and other behavior so as not to draw additional police attention. The suit is expected to be filed against Mayor Michael Bloomberg, police commissioner Raymond Kelly and the deputy commissioner of intelligence, David Cohen.
The lawsuit, which accuses the city of violating the First and Fourteenth amendments, is the latest legal challenge to the activities of the NYPD Intelligence Division. A year ago, the California-based civil rights organization Muslim Advocates sued the NYPD over its counterterrorism programs. Earlier this year, civil rights lawyers urged a judge to stop the NYPD from routinely observing Muslims in restaurants, bookstores and mosques, saying the practice violates a landmark 1985 court settlement that restricted the kind of surveillance used against war protesters in the 1960s and ’70s.