New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will appoint an independent civilian to monitor the police department’s counterterrorism activities, lawyers said yesterday as they moved to settle lawsuits over surveillance targeting Muslims in the decade after the Sept. 11 attacks, the New York Times reports. The agreement would restore some of the outside oversight that was eliminated after the attacks, when the city said it needed more flexibility in conducting investigations. In the years that followed, police secretly built files on Muslim neighborhoods, recorded sermons at mosques, 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 methods currently allowed, and the city does not admit wrongdoing. Police officials said provisions of the agreement, such as barring investigations based solely on religion, race and ethnicity, codified changes already in place. Civil rights lawyers said some tactics investigators used over the past decade violated the Constitution. and would probably not have been allowed if anyone outside the Police Department had been reviewing the investigative files. The settlement, which must be approved by a federal judge, represents the most significant recalibration of the rules governing police intelligence-gathering in the city since Sept. 11, 2001. The announcement drew support from Muslims who said the police had put their community under undue pressure.