Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York [dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, a self-declared progressive Democrat, was running for City Hall last year, he soared to prominence with powerful rhetoric about reforming the NYPD, even hinting at changes to the police department’s controversial tactic of blanketed spying on Muslims.In April, four months after his inauguration, when the NYPD announced it would disband the so-called Demographics Unit, which conducted covert surveillance missions at dozens of mosques, Halal meat shops, and other locations frequented by Muslims throughout the five boroughs, New Jersey and even Long Island, he promised “a police force that keeps our city safe, but is also respectful and fair.” The mayor and his chosen police commissioner, William Bratton, were cheered by civil rights groups and Muslim leaders for disbanding the unit, but many were not totally convinced that Muslim Americans were no longer the focus of operations. Now, it appears the De Blasio administration is supporting the ruling in favor of the NYPD much the same way his predecessor Michael Bloomberg did when multiple lawsuits were filed against the city for its spying tactics. In a legal brief filed in the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit Monday, lawyers for the city requested that the court affirm the US District Court for New Jersey’s decision in February, which said that the half-dozen New Jersey residents suing the department could not prove they were injured in any way by the NYPD’s clandestine surveillance. In fact, the city, in its brief, bolstered the lower court’s point that if any harm was done, it was not caused by the NYPD, but rather by the Associated Press for its revelations. The AP eventually won a Pulitzer Prize for its reporting. “All of the harms alleged by plaintiffs occurred, if they occurred, only after the Associated Press made public certain confidential NYPD documents and did so in unredacted form,” the city wrote in its 79-page brief. This is the first time the De Blasio administration has legally weighed in on the issue. The plaintiffs have alleged that the NYPD focused its surveillance on New Jersey mosques, restaurants, stores, schools and Muslim Student Associations. Their lawyers argued that they were targeted because of their religion after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, not because they were suspected of any crimes or misdeeds. The lower court wasn’t buying it. “The police could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself,” the court wrote in its opinion.Citing the US Supreme Court’s ruling in another case, the city’s lawyers wrote: “the [District] Court held that the plaintiffs in this case have not alleged facts from which it can be plausibly inferred that they were targeted solely because of their religion. The more likely explanation for the surveillance, the Court found, is that the surveillance was for a legitimate law enforcement purpose, i.e., counter-terrorism, and the most obvious reason for that explanation is because the alleged ‘Program’ began just after the attacks of September 11, 2001.” A spokesman for the city Law Department told The New York Times that the filing “does not address broader policy issues concerning surveillance of Muslim communities, but rather technical legal issues.”Glenn Katon, legal director for Muslim Advocates, which along with the Center for Constitutional Rights and Gibbons P.C. sued the NYPD, blasted the city’s response. “The brief that they filed on Monday has all of the same arguments that they made in the trial court,” under Bloomberg and then-NYPD Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, Katon told the Press. He said it’s clear by reviewing the Demographics Unit reports released by the AP that undercover officers were spying on his clients based on their religious beliefs. “They’re going to Muslim establishments and only looking at Muslims,” he said. Katon also called the decision to abandon the Demographics Unit a “public relations stunt,” adding that neither De Blasio nor Bratton have publicly stated their intentions to drop the program altogether. It turned out a similar unit existed, but its operations went far beyond spying. Less than a month after the NYPD said it had disbanded the unit, The New York Times revealed that a little-known group of detectives—dubbed the Citywide Debriefing Team—would scour city jails for people charged with low-level crimes and would try to recruit them into their roster of mosque informants. One man, as the Times noted, was a food cart vendor who got into a dispute with a parking enforcement officer. “Of course if you have leads, something that makes you believe that people regardless [of their religion], that they’re involved in something resembling September 11 or any criminal activity, then go do all the surveillance you want,” said Katon. “You can’t spy on everyone based on what a handful of fanatics did in 2001.” An appeal in the New Jersey case was filed in July seeking an injunction. Plaintiffs’ lawyers want the NYPD’s evesdropping ruled unconstitutional and minimal monetary damages awarded to one client. Two similar lawsuits against the NYPD are currently in settlement negotiations. To date, there have been no lawsuits related to the police department’s activity in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Separate demographics reports were created for both counties, amounting to 166 pages of mundane observations of Muslim restaurants, religious institutions, smoke shops and, in one case, weekend belly-dancing at a Huntington kebab joint. The undercover operations never led to one arrest or a formal terrorism investigation.
The setup: Senior backup quarterback Mitch Mustain made his long-awaited first start in a Trojan uniform after sophomore quarterback Matt Barkley went down with a high-ankle sprain in last week’s loss to Oregon State. Mustain led the Trojans against a struggling Notre Dame team in a game with little hype and fanfare — for the first time since 2001, both teams came into the game unranked.Road block · Sophomore defensive end Nick Perry forced a fumble on Notre Dame’s eight-yard line during the third quarter on Saturday. The fumble recovery was one of four turnovers the Trojans forced in the game. – Tim Tran | Daily Trojan The story: It was a fairy-tale ending for Mustain. The Trojans had the game-winning touchdown in the final minute in their grasp.Then everything slipped away.In a emotional twist usually found only in movies, the Trojans went from utter jubilation to shock and disappointment as the usually sure-handed senior wide receiver Ronald Johnson dropped a 53-yard touchdown that would’ve put USC up 23-20 with just 1:17 remaining in USC’s last game in the Coliseum this year.“I was shocked,” USC coach Lane Kiffin said about the dropped pass. “It’s something that we’ve worked on with that coverage. It’s just a shame.”However, the blame can’t be put solely on Johnson. USC still had multiple chances after that drop with a 14-yard completion to redshirt junior tight end Rhett Ellison on fourth-and-seven and a 16-yard completion to freshman wide receiver Robert Woods on the next play. However, Mustain would throw an interception to end the drive.USC receivers were dropping passes all night long, which didn’t make life any easier for the first-time Trojan starter.Senior tight end Jordan Cameron attributed the multitude of drops to a lack of focus.“It was concentration,” Cameron said. “You got to make plays and be focused. I think a lot of guys took their eyes off the ball, focusing on the yards after the catch but you need to focus when it comes to you. You feel terrible when you drop the ball. It happens to the best of us, you gotta have a short memory.”Defense rules: In a dramatic turn from where this team began at the start of the season, the Trojan defense was the unit keeping the team in the game with four takeaways that led to all of USC’s points.On top of only allowing 15 first downs, the second fewest the USC defense has allowed this year, the defense picked off Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees three times and advanced a fumble to the Fighting Irish’s two-yard line that led to the only touchdown from the Trojans.“It was a surprising game from the aspect that prior to the last play of the game we were plus-four in turnover margin,” Kiffin said. “You think that you’d win that game but obviously we got to make more points off the turnovers.”However, two-minute defense was the one thing that reminded everyone this was still the same unit as the one that took the field against Washington and Stanford earlier this year. All three of Notre Dame’s touchdowns came with less than 2:39 left in each half.“I’m not sure [why we can’t stop teams in the two-minute drill],” sophomore linebacker Devon Kennard said. “[Saturday] was a little different in that they were getting big runs on us but usually it’s big passes. We got to play more consistent in the second and fourth quarters.”Injured Trojans: While Mustain made his first start of his Trojan career, Barkley suited up and participated in the captains’ coin toss at the start of the game but wore a baseball cap on the sidelines during the entire contest. He said he knew sometime before the game that he wouldn’t be able to play but said that it was tough watching. He’s anxious to get back on the field next week.“I’m going to play this week. There’s no doubt about that,” Barkley said. “Whatever needs to happen, I’m going to make it happen.”Barkley’s injury occurred last week, but another important Trojan was injured on Saturday. Sophomore safety T.J. McDonald, who leads the team in tackles, left the game after making a tackle on the first play of the second series of the game. McDonald separated his shoulder and did not return.“I came and it was a big hit on the sidelines,” McDonald said. “I got up and it didn’t feel right. I knew something was wrong.”Walk-on sophomore Tony Burnett took McDonald’s place and recorded 10 tackles, second-highest on the team.“He did a great job coming in for me,” McDonald said. “I was helping him on the sidelines and to be put in my position in a rivalry game, that’s a big job and for him to come in and do that, that’s great.”The Trojans are now very thin in a secondary that was already extremely young and inexperienced with its starters at the beginning of the year, as sophomore safety Jawanza Starling, redshirt freshman cornerback Torin Harris and junior cornerback T.J. Bryant are not playing because of injuries.Senior Day blues: For Mustain, Johnson and a few other key Trojans on the field, this was the last game they played in the Coliseum. To go out in a loss to Notre Dame with the game decided in the final minute wasn’t the way many of these seniors expected to go out.“It’s extremely disappointing,” senior linebacker Malcolm Smith said. “As disappointing as it gets.”