Chris Hawley of Associated Press reports that the sense in the Muslim community in New York is that there is not much they can do about what appears to be targeted surveillance against them in the wake of 9/11. AP has been publishing a number of pieces on this issue for the past few months to spotlight the problem. For background on the situation, see previous coverage from September and October. Hawley reports:
“The police do what they want,” he said, standing in front of the empty storefront where his café used to be. “If I went to court to sue, what do you think would happen? Things would just get worse.”
It’s a common sentiment among those who are considering their legal options in the wake of an Associated Press investigation into a massive New York Police Department surveillance program targeting Muslims. Many of the targets feel they have little recourse — and because privacy laws have weakened dramatically since 9/11, they may be right, legal experts say.
“It’s really not clear that people can do anything if they’ve been subjected to unlawful surveillance anymore,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.
Lawsuits filed by surveillance targets themselves are notoriously hard to win, said Paul Chevigny, a law professor at New York University and expert on police abuse cases.
“The fact that you feel spooked and chilled by it doesn’t constitute an injury,” Chevigny said. Even in cases where surveillance notes leak out, the chances of winning a lawsuit are “marginal” unless the leaking was done with the clear intent of harming someone, he said.
Read more on Chicago Tribune. Hawley cites specific laws and rulings that may have weakened people’s rights or redress.
This situation needs greater exposure and discussion – and yes, outrage. As a long-time New Yorker, I have no doubt in my mind that if the NYPD engaged in the very same conduct but targeted Jews, there would be holy hell to pay in NY. Yet they are reportedly targeting another religious group and the majority of the public shrugs or ignores the problem?
What does that say about us all? Have too many people bought into governmental FUD and now distrust all Muslims? If so, that would be tragic as well as offensive.
We’re the melting pot, remember?
We’re the ones who stand up for religious freedom and the rights of the underdog.
We’re the ones who presume to spread tolerance and freedom to other lands.
Let’s clean up our own backyard.