NYPD Surveillance: How To File A FOIL Request
You have a right to know if the NYPD is spying on you. AALDEF can help you find out.
Am I being watched? Since August 2011, the Associated Press has been reporting on the NYPD's (New York City Police Department) secret and expansive surveillance of Muslim communities through the Northeast corridor. From neighborhood cafes, to Friday prayers, to Muslim Student Association meetings and trips - the NYPD has been there -- and has been taking notes.
YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW IF YOU, YOUR BUSINESS, OR MOSQUE WERE AMONG THE THOUSANDS SUBJECTED TO THE NYPD'S ILLEGAL SURVEILLANCE!
It's clear that hundreds of individual names and businesses were kept on file without any suspicion of wrongdoing. Undercover informants have recorded how many times students pray, which businesses Muslim immigrants frequent, and mapped the location of mosques and community centers - and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
So what can you do? GO FOIL YOURSELF!
The New York Freedom of Information Law ("FOIL") requires the NYPD to
disclose "all records" requested by a member of the public that are not
otherwise protected against disclosure. Through FOIL, you can request NYPD's
file on yourself and document this systematic mockery of civil liberties. By
exercising this right you keep the pressure on the NYPD by demanding
transparency. Learn how to file a FOIL with AALDEF's FAQs and Resources below.
What can AALDEF do?
Since AALDEF began the mass FOIL campaign last month, numerous community leaders, organizations, business owners, students, activists, and individuals are using this opportunity to find out if they have their own NYPD file - and what it contains.
"Individuals across the Northeast have contacted us about finding out whether the NYPD is spying on them," said Nermeen Arastu, staff attorney at AALDEF. "The reports about widespread secret surveillance have left many individuals, both Muslims and non-Muslims, wondering what they can do to create change and advocate for their rights. With GO FOIL YOURSELF, there can now be strength in numbers. If the NYPD is secretly collecting information on you, you have the right to request that information. The more requests that are filed, the stronger the message sent to the NYPD."
AALDEF would like to know about the results of your FOIL request. Collecting the information from your FOIL will allow us to document the scope of the NYPD's secret snooping into the lives and lawful activities of the Muslim community. The report will only use summary data and anonymous anecdotal information and not use your name or personal information without prior permission.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (212) 966-5932 x207 if you have any questions or need assistance. We can also visit your organization, mosque or student group to provide trainings and support on FOIL rights.
WHAT IS THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION LAW (FOIL)?
Under New York State's Public Officers Law Sections 84 through 90, the FOIL requires every public agency to produce records requested by the public. These records include "any information kept, held, filed, produced or reproduced by, with or for an agency...." The government is not required to create records to satisfy a FOIL request, only share documents that already exist.
HOW DO I MAKE A FOIL REQUEST TO THE NYPD?
FOIL requests to the NYPD must be made in writing. The requestor should state clearly that the letter constitutes a request under the Freedom of Information Law. The letter should also include a description of what is being requested and your name and address. Where possible, include specific search terms to aid and expedite any computerized searches. Please use the attached sample letter for guidance when making a FOIL request for your own file.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO GET MY FILE?
In accordance with FOIL, State agencies may charge up to 25 cents per page of copied materials, but cannot charge for the inspection, certification or compilation of records. You also have the right to inspect accessible documents in person at no charge.
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO GET A RESPONSE?
Under New York's FOIL Law, an agency has 5 days to respond to your request. At this point you will either receive the requested documents, a denial of your request or an acknowledgement of your request with an approximate response date.
CAN MY REQUEST BE DENIED? IF SO, WHAT IS THE NEXT STEP?
The NYPD may deny your request in whole or in part by citing exemptions under sections 87 of the FOIL. Some of these exemptions include information that would interfere with a law enforcement investigation, identify a confidential source or reveal criminal investigative techniques or procedures. In the likely event that the NYPD withholds your file under one of the statutory exceptions you may file an appeal within 30 days of the denial. If you decide to appeal, please feel free to contact AALDEF for help.
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