A federal judge in Newark has tossed a lawsuit brought by eight Muslims who claimed the NYPD’s post-9/11 surveillance of their mosques, schools, and other community locations violated their civil rights. Instead, U.S. District Judge William Martini ruled that there was no harm done until the Associated Press reported on the program (earning itself a Pulitzer Prize along the way). “The Associated Press covertly obtained the materials and published them without authorization,” he wrote. “Thus the injury, if any existed, is not fairly traceable to the city.”
Judge Martini said the plaintifs were not targeted for their religion. “The more likely explanation for the surveillance was to locate budding terrorist conspiracies,” Martini ruled. “The police could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself.” (See the full decision here)
It was the AP that needlessly complicated things:
None of the Plaintiffs’ injuries arose until after the Associated Press released unredacted, confidential NYPD documents and articles expressing its own interpretation of those documents. Nowhere in the Complaint do Plaintiffs allege that they suffered harm prior to the unauthorized release of the documents by the Associated Press. This confirms that Plaintiffs’ alleged injuries flow from the Associated Press’s unauthorized disclosure of the documents. The harms are not “fairly traceable” to any act of surveillance.
“A similar lawsuit filed in federal court in Brooklyn is still pending,” the AP reports.
“I have dedicated my career to serving my country,” said one plaintiff, former U.S. soldier Farhaj Hassan, “and this just feels like a slap in the face — all because of the way I pray.”