US District Court Judge Haight today issued a ruling modifiying the Handschu settlement that for over 15 years had served as an important protection against the pervasive police surveillance, disruption and punishment of lawful political activity. The decision was a decidedly mixed bag.
The Court rejected the City's initial request for unbridled authority to spy on wholly lawful political activity, except in the case of public events, without any suspicion of criminal activity. But the Court granted the City's request to abandon some of the procedural protections -- the requirement that the police department maintain a paper trail that documents political surveillance activities and the justifications for it -- that had served as an impediment to abuse.
The opinion leaves many issues unanswered and the NYCLU will continue to litigate the matter aggressively to maximize protections for dissent.