NEW YORK—A federal judge in New Jersey on Thursday tossed out a lawsuit that claimed the New York Police Department discriminated against Muslims by spying on them. A parallel lawsuit is still going forward in a New York court. In 2011, the Associated Press publicized the department’s surveillance program, noting the police department had extensively monitored Muslim communities, with tactics that included installing secret video cameras in mosques.
In his ruling, Judge William Martini wrote that he tossed out the lawsuit because the plaintiffs didn’t have sufficient evidence to show that the city was intentionally discriminating against Muslims based on their religion rather than for “a neutral, investigative reason.”
“The police could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself,” Martini wrote. “While this surveillance program may have had adverse effects upon the Muslim community after the Associated Press published its articles; the motive for the program was not solely to discriminate against Muslims, but rather to find Muslim terrorists hiding among ordinary, law-abiding Muslims.”
Martini placed the blame on the Associated Press for any harm the plaintiffs experienced as a result of the surveillance—lower attendance at a mosque or a drop in revenue for a surveilled business.
“Nowhere in the complaint do plaintiffs allege that they suffered harm prior to the unauthorized release of the documents by the Associated Press,” he wrote. “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.”
The lawyers for the Muslim plaintiffs are now focusing on their lawsuit moving forward in New York. Mayor Bill de Blasio, still new to the job, promised in his campaign to reign in the police department’s surveillance of Muslim communities, but he wasn’t specific about what limits he would place on investigators. He merely said he would appoint an inspector general over the program. David Cohen, the man who has headed the NYPD’s intelligence operations, including the surveillance program since 2001, resigned at the end of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s term in December.