New York

For NY lawyer, a 45-year-old surveillance case is her legacy

  • In this March 19, 2016 photo, Barbara Handschu talks to a reporters at her apartment in New York. Handschu barely gave it a thought 45 years ago when she was listed first among plaintiffs in a Vietnam-era lawsuit challenging how New York City police officers conducted surveillance of political activities. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

    In this March 19, 2016 photo, Barbara Handschu talks to a reporters at her apartment in New York. Handschu barely gave it a thought 45 years ago when she was listed first among plaintiffs in a Vietnam-era lawsuit challenging how New York City police officers conducted surveillance of political activities. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this March 19, 2016 photo, Barbara Handschu indicates the size of her FBI file while talking to a reporter at her apartment in New York. The 73-year-old Manhattan lawyer is no longer the lightning rod that led the FBI decades ago to build a 2-inch-thick file on her, but her name is synonymous in New York City with the police guidelines about handling surveillance activities. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

    In this March 19, 2016 photo, Barbara Handschu indicates the size of her FBI file while talking to a reporter at her apartment in New York. The 73-year-old Manhattan lawyer is no longer the lightning rod that led the FBI decades ago to build a 2-inch-thick file on her, but her name is synonymous in New York City with the police guidelines about handling surveillance activities. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this March 19, 2016 photo, Barbara Handschu poses for a picture at her apartment in New York. The 73-year-old divorce lawyer is proud of her place in the fight against illegal surveillance with a name destined to live on long after she’s gone. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

    In this March 19, 2016 photo, Barbara Handschu poses for a picture at her apartment in New York. The 73-year-old divorce lawyer is proud of her place in the fight against illegal surveillance with a name destined to live on long after she’s gone. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)  (The Associated Press)

Barbara Handschu is synonymous in New York City with the police guidelines about handling surveillance activities that bear her name.

And that's fine with the 73-year-old Manhattan lawyer who is no longer the lightning rod that led the FBI decades ago to build a 2-inch-thick file on her. Now, she marvels at the courage of young Muslim women who worry about surveillance like she once did.

Handschu became a household name in police circles when she became the lead plaintiff in a 1971 lawsuit challenging illegal surveillance of police activities. The lawsuit led to a consent decree and a continuing federal court case destined to live on long after Handschu is gone.