Mapping Muslims co-authored by CLEAR, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) and the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition (MACLC).
Raza v. City of New York
While unwarranted police surveillance of Muslim communities pre-dated August 2011, press reports at that time described shockingly broad NYPD surveillance of Muslim communities in New York City and beyond. Various organizations and individuals came together to coordinate responses.
CLEAR joined forces with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU). In June 2013, attorneys at the organizations above filed Raza v. City of New York, on behalf of a number of institutional and individual plaintiffs, arguing that discriminatory NYPD surveillance violates the U.S. and New York State Constitutions. We were later joined by the private law firm of Morrison & Foerster.
The NYPD’s program, dedicated to the total surveillance of Muslims in the greater New York City area, operated under the unconstitutional premise that Muslim beliefs and practices are a basis for law enforcement scrutiny. The NYPD mapped Muslim communities and their religious, educational, and social institutions and businesses in New York City (and beyond). It deployed NYPD officers and informants to infiltrate mosques and other institutions to monitor the conversations of Muslim New Yorkers, including religious leaders, based on their religion without any suspicion of wrongdoing.
It conducted other forms of warrantless surveillance of Muslims, including the monitoring of websites, blogs, and other online forums. The results of these unlawful spying activities were entered into NYPD intelligence databases, which amassed information about thousands of law-abiding Americans. A police representative has admitted that the mapping activities did not generate a single lead or resulted in even one terrorism investigation.
In January 2016, a settlement was announced after the NYPD agreed to reforms barring investigations on the basis of race, religion, or ethnicity. The settlement is tied to another long-standing class-action lawsuit concerning the NYPD’s Intelligence Bureau’s investigations, Handschu v. Special Services Division. In 1985, Handschu was settled through a court-ordered decree of rules governing the NYPD Intelligence Division’s investigations (known as the Handschu Guidelines).
In 2016, the Handschu court held three days of public hearings for members of the Handschu “class” – meaning anyone who participates in First Amendment activity within New York City – to provide input as to the “fairness and reasonableness” of the proposed settlement.
On October 28, 2016, the Handschu court decided that certain parts of the negotiated Guidelines needed to be stronger in order for the settlement to be fair and reasonable.
Tanvir v. Comey
Four clients came separately to CLEAR and described the same series of events the FBI abused the No-Fly List to coerce them into spying on their religious communities. CLEAR filed suit in 2013 and later CCR and the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton joined as co-counsel.
As a result of their placement on the No-Fly List and the FBI’s unwarranted scrutiny, some of the men were not able to see family members overseas for years. One was not able to visit his gravely ill 93-year-old grandmother; another was separated from his wife and three young daughters for roughly five years; a third was unable to see his wife for nearly two years.
Our clients sought to remove their names from the No Fly List and to recover damages under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
A month before oral arguments In 2015, the Department of Homeland Security notified each of the plaintiffs that they would be able to fly – confirming what we had known all along, that our clients posed no risk to aviation safety.
The district court dismissed our clients’ First Amendment claims and RFRA claims. As of 2017, three of our plaintiffs have appealed the dismissal of their RFRA claims.
Countering Violent Extremism
In September 2014, the Department of Justice announced the launch of new pilot programs for Countering Violent Extremism (“CVE”). Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. described the pilot programs as an effort to “bring together community representatives, public safety officials, religious leaders, and United States Attorneys to improve local engagement; to counter violent extremism; and – ultimately – to build a broad network of community partnerships to keep our nation safe.” The program aims to involve religious leaders, school officials, healthcare providers, and community groups in efforts to detect and deter “violent extremism.” In response to requests by community organizations, CLEAR created a CVE Guidance for religious centers and community organizations.