NYPD Monitors Muslim Students Across Northeast
by Kara Dunford | The George Washington University
The New York Police Department monitored Muslim college students across the Northeast, according to a report published by the Associated Press this weekend.
Undercover agents wrote police intelligence reports detailing names of students and how often they prayed, while detectives visited Muslim student websites every day. The names of students and professors were recorded in reports for Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, although no accusations were filed against them.
The NYPD had placed undercover officers in Muslim Student Associations at eight colleges within New York City, according to an AP report from October. The new report shows the monitoring was more widespread than previously known, stretching to sixteen campuses, including Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University.
Spokesman Paul Browne told the AP the department wanted to get a “better handle” on what was occurring at Muslim Student Associations because of what was seen as the link between these groups and convicted terrorists. Browne provided a list of 12 people arrested or convicted on terrorism charges both in the United States and around the world who had once been members of Muslim Student Associations.
Student groups were of interest to NYPD due to their appeal for young Muslim men, who are frequently recruited by terrorist groups.
Browne said police did monitor student websites and collected publicly available information between 2006 and 2007. Reports obtained by the AP detail monitoring taking place as recently as 2009.
Previous reports by the AP detailed a partnership between the Central Intelligence Agency and NYPD to monitor the daily life of New York City Muslims. A veteran CIA officer provided NYPD with a surveillance strategy, and the CIA trained a New York police detective at the agency’s espionage school.
While Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg have said the police department only followed leads about suspected criminal activity, documents obtained by the AP record no wrongdoing by any students.
One report detailed by the AP described an undercover officer’s participation in a whitewater rafting trip with 18 Muslim students from the City College of New York in April 2008. The officer’s report included the names of officers of the Muslim Student Association as well as details of the prayers and conservations of the students.
Columbia University spokesman Robert Hornsby said in a written statement to the AP the university is concerned about the intrusion on student privacy and academic freedom.
New Yorkers are responding to the allegations against the NYPD. This week, three Democratic New York state senators introduced a bill that would provide an independent inspector to oversee NYPD in response to what the senators see as abuses on the part of the department. The bill, which has little chance of passage, according to the AP, would target stop-and-frisk and the treatment of the Occupy Wall Street protestors in addition to Muslim surveillance. Mayor Michael Bloomberg does not support the bill.
Members of the Muslim community in New York have called for the resignations of both Kelly and Browne. In a rally in lower Manhattan at the beginning of the month, protestors spoke out against what they see as “police mistreatment.”
While there has been some negative response to NYPD actions, the majority of New Yorkers are satisfied with the actions taken by the department. A February 9th Quinnipiac University poll found 60 percent of New York City voters believe NYPD has acted “appropriately” in dealing with Muslims. 24 percent of voters said police have “unfairly targeted Muslims.”Kara Dunford is currently a student at The George Washington University pursuing a degree in political communication.