Legal justifications taken up by lawyers for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration to defend the NYPD’s surveillance of Muslim communities are the same initially put forward by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

In response to a lawsuit alleging the illegal police activity, The Intercept’s Ryan Devereaux reports, the mayor’s lawyers claim the NYPD “did not engage in dictionary-defined surveillance of plaintiffs” and contend “that any harm that may have been caused to [the plaintiffs] was the fault of reporters” rather than law enforcement.

Devereaux continues:

In newly filed court documents, the de Blasio administration has offered, for the first time, its position in one of several key lawsuits accusing the NYPD of running a harmful east coast surveillance program aimed at members of the Islamic faith outside of New York City. The argument put forward by the new administration, which rode into office on promises of NYPD reform, is an extension of defenses offered by lawyers for former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly.

The lawsuit that triggered this turn of events – Hassan v City of New York – was brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and Muslim Advocates, a non-profit, in June of 2012 on behalf of nearly a dozen Muslim plaintiffs from New Jersey who claim to have suffered from the NYPD’s haphazard intelligence operations. Together the plaintiffs claim to have been swept up in an illegal, unconstitutional, interstate NYPD surveillance program, solely because of their religion. Their case was dismissed in February and appealed the following month, forcing the de Blasio administration to now take a clear legal position on the issue of Muslim surveillance conducted outside New York. For the plaintiffs’ lawyers, that response was disheartening.

… The NYPD’s expansive surveillance of Muslim communities was first revealed in 2011 in a Pulitzer Prize-winning series of stories published by the Associated Press. In a damming collection of reports based on internal NYPD documents and extensive interviews, the AP documented how in the wake of September 11 a division of the NYPD known as the Demographics Unit, later renamed the Zone Assessment Unit, attempted to reinvent itself as an intelligence agency, rather than a division of a municipal police department.

Read more here.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly

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