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Judge rejects Muslims' civil rights lawsuit

| Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, 8:36 p.m.

NEW YORK — The New York Police Department's intelligence unit didn't discriminate against Muslims with far-reaching surveillance aimed at identifying “budding terrorist conspiracies” at Newark mosques and other locations in New Jersey, a federal judge ruled on Thursday.

In a written decision filed in federal court in Newark, U.S. District Judge William Martini dismissed a civil rights lawsuit brought in 2012 by eight Muslims who alleged the NYPD's surveillance programs were unconstitutional because they focused on religion, national origin and race. The suit accused the department of spying on ordinary people at several mosques, restaurants and grade schools in New Jersey beginning in 2002.

The plaintiffs, including the former principal of a grade school for Muslim girls, “have not alleged facts from which it can be plausibly inferred that they were targeted solely because of their religion,” Martini wrote. “The more likely explanation for the surveillance was to locate budding terrorist conspiracies.”

The judge added: “The police could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself. ... The motive for the program was not solely to discriminate against Muslims, but to find Muslim terrorists hiding among the ordinary law-abiding Muslims.”

The ruling also singled out The Associated Press, which sparked the suit with a series of stories based on a confidential NYPD document showing how the department sought to infiltrate dozens of mosques and Muslim student groups and investigated hundreds in New York and elsewhere.

“Nowhere in the complaint do the plaintiffs allege that they suffered harm prior to the unauthorized release of documents by The Associated Press,” Martini wrote. “This confirms that plaintiffs' alleged injuries flow from the Associated Press's unauthorized disclosure of the documents.”

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