Was NYPD Spying on Muslims All for Naught?

     MANHATTAN (CN) – A federal judge unsealed explosive testimony Tuesday showing that a six-year spying program targeting Muslims has not uncovered any new leads.
     Though the NYPD initially denied the existence of a Demographics Unit that spied on Muslims, a series of Pulitzer Prize-winning articles from The Associated Press confirmed that unit’s existence, scope and CIA support last year.
     The Southern District of New York is now conducting discovery to ensure that the program, which has since been renamed the Assessment Unit, complies with a 1985 consent decree that was reached in Handschu v. Special Services Division.
     Handschu guidelines prohibit the NYPD from investigating political and religious organizations without “specific information” linking the group to a crime. The underlying case involved protest over the McCarthyist era of NYPD investigation into supposed communist activities.
     In June 28 testimony unsealed Tuesday, NYPD Intelligence Division Assistant Chief Thomas Galati told the court that he had not heard that the program ever stopped a crime.
     “I never made a lead from rhetoric that came from a Demographics report, and I’m here since 2006,” Galati told the court. “I don’t recall other ones prior to my arrival.”
     Earlier in the questioning, Galati explained that rhetoric referred to “overheard conversation which would be inciting somebody or encouraging somebody to commit an unlawful act.”
     Since Sept. 11, 2001, the NYPD succeeded in chipping away at Handschu protections on national security grounds, but ongoing litigation hopes to boost its civil libertarian legacy.
     In a statement, the New York Civil Liberties Union’s legal director Arthur Eisenberg criticized the NYPD for stigmatizing New Yorkers based on religion.
     “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,” Eisenberg said.

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