As reported in NorthJersey.com, a man from Paramus heads to New York State’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, today in a potentially precedent-setting case that’s being closely watched by open-government advocates and media companies.
Samir Hashmi sought records after reading news reports that the NYPD had secretly monitored Muslim houses of worship and businesses in New York and New Jersey, as well as student groups at 16 Northeast colleges, including Rutgers University, where Hashmi was a student.
Hashmi has alleged that he was illegally monitored by the NYPD for expressing his First Amendment rights on the State University’s campus. He further stated that the purpose of the suit was to ensure that Muslims feel safe to express themselves on college campuses and everywhere else in this county.”
Other students who also believed that they were monitored requested records and were told that none existed. But the NYPD informed Hashmi that it could “neither confirm nor deny” the existence of such records — a response that a New York appellate Court ruled was justified.
Omar T. Mohammed, Hashmi’s lawyer, said the NYPD’s reply was the first time he knows of that a local agency attempted to use the so-called federal “Glomar Response” to deny a records request.
In Hashmi’s case the NYPD said it could not confirm the existence of records because doing so could reveal information about targets of counterterrorism surveillance. The NYPD was the first state or local agency to use the Glomar response to deny a public-information request. However more are following New York City’s lead. In 2013, Indiana authorized the Glomar response through a state statute and in 2016, a New Jersey state appeals court ruled that government agencies in New Jersey may deny access to public records by saying they can “neither confirm nor deny” their existence.
The decision of this case will go a long way in drawing the line in what law enforcement agencies believe are necessary actions to protect the citizens of our country while counter-balancing invading the privacy of others. We wont be surprised if this is not the last we hear of this case or others like it as the Federal Courts will be sure to weigh in.