In late August, the Associated Press published an exposé about the NYPD's partnership with the Central Intelligence Agency to spy on Muslims in NYC. Unsurprisingly, the NYCLU is challenging the partnership in court, and yesterday filed a motion to determine whether the spying operation violates an existing court order—the Handschu Guidelines, which are named after a 1971 plaintiff in a lawsuit against the NYPD accusing them of violating the constitution while investigating political groups.
The original guidelines were revised in 2003, after Charles S. Haight Jr. said he would "allow greater police powers because the nature of public peril had changed," the Times reports. Yet even the new relaxed guidelines were too stiff, and within six months it was found that the department had been violating them by interrogating arrested Iraq war protesters about their political views. Now, in the wake of the AP report, the NYCLU wants to know the extent to which the NYPD has been spying on Muslims.
The NYPD has defended its program, which includes aggressively enlisting informants by targeting, say, Pakistani cab drivers who may have broken some law completely unrelated to terrorism. NYPD officers will then persuade them to provide intelligence in exchange for letting them off the hook, and then they'll share this information to the CIA through backdoor channels. The NYPD also sends undercover officers into ethnic and Muslim neighborhoods to act like "a human camera" and "map the human terrain" in mosques, hookah bars, and Internet cafes.
"The NYPD’s reported surveillance of local Muslim communities raises serious questions concerning whether the Police Department has violated court-ordered restrictions on its ability to spy on and keep dossiers on individuals," NYCLU Legal Director Arthur Eisenberg said in a statement. “In order to know whether the NYPD is violating the court order, we need a more complete explanation of the NYPD’s surveillance practices." Attorneys have asked Judge Haight for an order requiring the department to preserve its records and databases, and to let them collect information to see if the NYPD has violated the modified Handschu guidelines.