guardian.co.uk, Monday 4 February 2013 21.11 GMT
The New York police department's surveillance of the city's Muslim community violates longstanding rules drawn up to prevent spying and harassment of political activists in the 1960s and 70s, according to a legal challenge filed on Monday.
Civil rights lawyers say such "widespread and intense" surveillance has created a climate of fear, and stigma among Muslims living in New York. They are now seeking a court injunction against the NYPD's ability to instigate investigations into Muslims without evidence of crimes and for a judge to appoint an independent monitor to oversee its counter-terrorism efforts.
Lawyers describe NYPD surveillance of Muslims – first revealed by an Associated Press investigation – as an "all-encompassing dragnet" for intelligence, based on the false assumption that "conservative Muslim beliefs and participation in Muslim organisations are themselves bases for investigation."
They cite a series of AP reports about a small counter-terrorism unit within the investigations department, known as the Demographics Unit, later the Zone Assessment Unit, dedicated to infiltrating Muslims in Greater New York. The lawyers said NYPD officers used intrusive methods to routinely monitor restaurants, bookstores and mosques, and created dossiers of innocent conversations without any evidence of criminal activity.