An independent civilian appointed by New York's mayor will monitor counterterrorism activities of the New York Police Department, the New York Times reports that lawyers said in court documents Thursday. The news comes as those lawyers attempt to settle two lawsuits about the NYPD's surveillance of Muslims after 9/11.
"At a time of rampant anti-Muslim hysteria and prejudice nationwide, this agreement with the country's largest police force sends a forceful message that bias-based policing is unlawful, harmful, and unnecessary," said Hina Shamsi, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union's national security project.
The agreement would restore some of the outside oversight that was eliminated after the attacks, when city leaders said they needed more flexibility in conducting investigations. In the years that followed, the Police Department secretly built files on Muslim neighborhoods, recorded sermons, collected license plates of worshipers, and documented the views of everyday people on topics such as drone strikes, politics and foreign policy.
The settlement does not explicitly prohibit any methods that are currently allowed, and the city does not admit any wrongdoing. Police officials said that many of the provisions of the agreement — such as barring investigations based solely on religion, race and ethnicity — simply codified changes that had already been in place. But civil rights lawyers say some tactics that investigators used over the past decade violated the Constitution and probably would not have been allowed if anyone outside the Police Department had been reviewing the investigative files.