Court testimony released today by the New York Civil Liberties Union and partnering civil rights attorneys affirms that the NYPD’s Demographics Unit spied on Muslim New Yorkers only because of their ethnicity and native language – not because they were suspected of criminal activity – and reveals that the intelligence gathering never resulted in a lead in a terrorism investigation.
The deposition of NYPD Assistant Chief Thomas Galati is part a discovery process initiated through Handschu v. Special Services Division, a decades-old federal case that has produced a series of court orders regulating NYPD surveillance of political and religious activity. At issue is whether the Police Department’s surveillance of Muslims has violated a 1985 consent decree that restricts the NYPD’s ability to conduct surveillance targeting political and religious activity.
“I never made a lead from rhetoric that came from a Demographics report, and I’m here since 2006,” Galati testified on June 28. “I don’t recall other ones prior to my arrival.”
The Handschu case, a class-action lawsuit filed in 1971, has successfully challenged various NYPD surveillance and investigative practices directed at political activity.
“The NYPD has effectively imposed a badge of suspicion on all Muslims and stigmatized whole communities in New York City solely because of their religious affiliations,” said NYCLU Legal Director Arthur Eisenberg.
Handschu was settled with a consent decree entered in 1985, in which the NYPD was prohibited from investigating political and religious organizations and groups unless there was “specific information” that the group was linked to a crime that had been committed or was about to be committed. The case, which grew out of earlier NYPD efforts to monitor political groups, continues to bear upon surveillance activities conducted by police. Attorneys on the case include Eisenberg at the NYCLU, and Jethro M. Eisenstein, Paul G. Chevigny, Martin R. Stolar and Franklin Siegel.