The rights of Muslim residents of New Jersey were not violated when police infiltrated mosques and student groups in a search for potential terrorists, a federal judge ruled Thursday.
In a civil rights lawsuit brought by eight New Jersey Muslims who contended that police improperly targeted them because of their religion, US Judge William Martini found their rights were not violated because the law enforcement strategy made sense.
"The police could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself," the judge wrote in his ruling dismissing the lawsuit.
"The motive for the program was not solely to discriminate against Muslims, but to find Muslim terrorists hiding among the ordinary law-abiding Muslims," the decision said.
The eight contended that surveillance programs by the New York Police Department in the aftermath of the Sept. 2001 terrorist attacks were unconstitutional.
Their lawsuit alleged the police had spied on people at mosques, restaurants and schools in New Jersey beginning in 2002, according to the Associated Press.
That the New York police had engaged in broad surveillance of Muslim Americans was revealed in a series of articles published by the news service beginning in 2011.
That fact prompted stern comments from Martini, who said any injuries suffered by the eight plaintiffs were the result of the AP's decision to publish the information, which the judge said was unauthorized.
"Plaintiffs' alleged injuries flow from the Associated Press's unauthorized disclosure of the documents," Martini said.
"The injury, if any existed, is not fairly traceable to the city," the judge said.
Plaintiff Farhaj Hassan, a US soldier who served in Iraq, told the AP that the ruling was disappointing.
"I have dedicated my career to serving my country, and this just feels like a slap in the face -- all because of the way I pray," he said.
"The court's decision gives legal sanction to the targeted discrimination of Muslims anywhere and everywhere in this country, without limitation, for no other reason than their religion," the center's legal director, Baher Azmy, told the AP.
A second, similar lawsuit filed in federal court in New York is still pending, the AP said.