In a rebuke of a surveillance practice greatly expanded by the New York Police Department after the Sept. 11 attacks, a federal judge ruled today that the police must stop the routine videotaping of people at public gatherings unless there was an indication that unlawful activity may occur.

Nearly four years ago, at the request of New York City, the same judge, Charles S. Haight Jr., had given the police greater authority to investigate political, social and religious groups.

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