• First Amendment Under Assault, Again

    February 4, 2016

    Tags: , , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Post-Constitution America


    When we speak of the government’s ongoing assault against the First Amendment, it is typically in the context of Freedom of Speech. That is indeed primarily the focus, using the tools of The State to silence its critics. But not if you are a Muslim.

    For many Muslims, the clause inside the First Amendment most often violated is that of Freedom of Religion. One of the latest battles in that war is playing out now in New York City.

    Because the worst of the 9/11 attacks happened in New York, the city has always claimed a kind of de facto exemption from having to follow the rule of law. Under its former mayors, the NYPD actively conducted blanket surveillance of the Muslim community, to include sending undercover cops into mosques and Muslim social events for “intel.” Though no obvious terror attacks were identified or thwarted, the NYPD insisted the program was critical (see the same tired arguments expelled as “torture worked, though we won’t tell you how.”)

    NY’s current mayor, Bill Blasio, promised in April of 2014 to dismantle the so-called NYPD Demographics Unit, which was responsible for singling out one religious group among all others, apparently based on the twisted post-9/11 logic of “Muslim –> Likely Terrorist –> Spy on all Muslims.”

    However, despite the promise, the NYPD has continued its spying in violation of the First Amendment.

    The most recent example was discovered when the website The Gothamist wrote about an NYPD undercover detective who converted to Islam to spy on students at a local college. The police admitted to the spying, but claimed it did not violate the First Amendment in that it was “targeted” and not “overarching blanket surveillance.” The undercover cop developed intimate ties with the students she met, even attending bridal showers and weddings. She also joined the school’s Islamic Society to gather information on Muslim students.

    Glenn Katon, legal director for Muslim Advocates and a lead attorney in Hassan v. City of New York, which alleges that the NYPD engaged in a program of “blanket, suspicionless surveillance” that discriminated on the basis of religion, recently won a small victory when the Third Circuit court found that the Hassan plaintiffs had standing and raised valid constitutional concerns, and reversed the suit’s previous dismissal. The courts had previously in that dismissal required the plaintiffs to prove on an individual and personal basis that they had been surveilled, a difficult request given that while the NYPD admitted blanket surveilling the Muslim community, it would not confirm individual cases (see “Catch-22” in the dictionary.)

    An attorney in another ongoing lawsuit against the NYPD, Handschu v. Special Services Division, stated that for a police officer to be placed undercover for as long as in the current case, there would have to be a terrorism enterprise investigation in place, which would require permission from the Commissioner of Intelligence and proof of an ongoing criminal conspiracy. No such terrorism enterprise or ongoing criminal conspiracy has even been alleged by the NYPD. They conducted the spying anyway based on the idea that terrorists are Muslims so therefore all Muslims must be treated as potential terrorists.

    Indeed, Handschu originally dates back to 1985, when the courts prohibited the NYPD from investigating political and religious organizations and groups unless there was “specific information” that the group was linked to a crime that had been committed or was about to be committed. Following 9/11, the NYPD has counter-sued, sought to modify and/or ignored what are known as the Handschu Guidelines as they wished.

    NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller said, without apparent shame, that the need to prevent terrorist attacks sometimes comes into conflict with the need to respect the constitutional rights terrorists in theory are attacking. “We have two sets of tensions that pull against each other every day, and the hardest thing to have to do is find a balance.” Um, no. Our freedoms are ensured by the Constitution John Miller, that document you are sworn to uphold and protect.

    Miller might want to run his ideas by the Supreme Court, and perhaps a few of the innocent Muslim students whose religion alone put them under surveillance. They might argue that what the cops call the need for public safety indeed puts them outside the scope of Americans who qualify for that safety.

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  • Recent Comments

    • John Poole said...


      The most chilling aspect of this story is that cops can always find someone in their ranks who is thrilled with the idea of going deep undercover. Sort of sadly ties in with the previous post of Iraqi folk working with American invaders and now wanting to start a new life far away from their roots. It takes a sort of creepy type of personality in my opinion-I know many will disagree with my premise.

      02/4/16 9:12 AM | Comment Link

    • jim hruska said...


      NYC is just a city. one each.
      now look at the country as a whole and look at the executive order that changes us gun laws with out congressional action.
      that is trashing the 2nd amendment.
      hopefully we’ll read about that in your next post.
      jim hruska

      02/4/16 9:49 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      IF/WHEN New York is attacked again by terrorists seeking to outdo 9-11, then you can forget the Constitution, especially if The Donald is using it to wipe his ass—ps It’s HUUUUUGE.

      02/4/16 11:22 AM | Comment Link

    • teri said...


      Totally off topic:

      I did not realize that Loretta Lynch, new Attorney General, owed her early career to Bill Clinton. Is this why the FBI is investigating Hillary, but the DoJ has not shown interest thus far? Shouldn’t Lynch be recused (or replaced or whatever fits) in regards the investigation?
      Quote from article:

      […]Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) sent out a press release Monday asking the president to appoint a Special Prosecutor.
      As evidence pointing to the mishandling of classified information mounts, it is critically important that the Department of Justice investigation into Secretary Clinton’s unsecured e-mail is conducted in a fair and impartial manner,” DeSantis said. “Yet, the Obama Administration’s continued public remarks prejudging the outcome of this ongoing investigation have called any pretense of impartiality into question. “
      DeSantis continued, “Secretary Clinton should receive absolutely no special treatment from the Department of Justice and the decision to prosecute must not hinge on political considerations. It is beyond my understanding why the Department of Justice will not appoint a special counsel in order to resolve any potential impropriety that could taint this investigation.”
      DeSantis asked the following questions:

      1.Attorney General Loretta Lynch was appointed United States Attorney in New York by President Bill Clinton in 1999. Does the Department of Justice consider this a conflict of interest in the context of a federal investigation involving President Clinton’s spouse?[…]


      02/5/16 6:24 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      It may only appear Hillary has had a change of heart re: the right to free speech: “If you have something to say, say it.”


      Of course, she was only daring someone to speak the truth. Speaking truth to power like a certified liar like Hillary always come with a price. Right, Peter?

      02/5/16 7:15 AM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      Teri- Hillary: “If someone doesn’t like what I’m saying they can always just turn their back” Hey, get that guy- I didn’t say they could also stand up! That is not a peaceful protest in my book. I need some muscle to get that guy outta here…….”

      Clinton on Ray McGovern: “He came, he stood, he got roughed up! Cackle cackle, cackle.”

      02/5/16 9:22 AM | Comment Link

    • wemeantwell said...


      And Ray also got put on various watch lists as a potential threat to Hillary, so everytime she makes a speech and he is around he gets hassled. Her reach is long and her revenge is infinite.

      02/5/16 9:34 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...


      DeSantis continued,“Secretary Clinton should receive absolutely no special treatment from the Department of Justice and the decision to prosecute must not hinge on political considerations. It is beyond my understanding why the Department of Justice will not appoint a special counsel in order to resolve any potential impropriety that could taint this investigation.”

      “Her reach is long and her revenge is infinite.”

      DeSantis continued, “Oh. Yeah. Nevermind”

      02/5/16 10:15 AM | Comment Link

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