The New York Police Department monitored Muslim students across multiple states as part of a sweeping Muslim surveillance program, The Associated Press reported.
Believing that Muslim student associations could incubate radicalism, the NYPD dispatched undercover officers and informants to colleges across New York City. In one instance, an officer accompanied Muslim students on a whitewater rafting trip in upstate New York and reported back to his superiors that the students prayed multiple times and discussed Islam.
The AP also found that officers regularly culled information from web sites and online forums associated with Muslim student groups at prominent universities outside of New York City, including Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania and Syracuse. A University of Buffalo student's name surfaced in a police report after she forwarded an e-mail about an upcoming conference of Islamic scholars.
NYPD: Students Investigated Met Reasonable Suspicion Requirement
Students who advertised events or sent e-mails about regular events should not be worried about a 'terrorism file' being kept on them, police spokesman Paul Browne told the AP. NYPD only investigated persons who we had reasonable suspicion to believe might be involved in unlawful activities.
The City College of New York and Rutgers University told the AP they were unaware of the program, and a spokesman for Columbia University expressed alarm about anything that could chill our essential values of academic freedom or intrude on student privacy. After the story broke, the Council on American Islamic Relations called on universities to safeguard their students' rights.
University officials may be the last line of defense for Muslim students whose rights were apparently violated by the clearly unconstitutional -- and possibly illegal -- tactics used by the NYPD, Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American Islamic Relations, said in a press release. The NYPD continues to act as if it is somehow above the law that governs all other individuals and institutions.
The Associated Press uncovered the student spying program during a larger investigation of how the NYPD has launched an extensive program of spying on Muslim-Americans in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001. With the guidance of a former CIA official, the NYPD began sending undercover officers to gather information at mosques or at cafes and barbershops in New York City neighborhoods with large Muslim populations.