ACLU tries to unravel the link between FBI and YPD

The American Civil Liberties Union has continued to press for information on the relationship between the FBI and campus police departments including Yale’s, but the University’s general counsel insists the cooperation entails no risks that students’ privacy will be violated.

Under the arrangement, a member of the Yale Police Department also reports to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. The officer works alongside the FBI to report activity that may further terrorism, according to the FBI.

The ACLU has filed Freedom of Information Act requests across the country in an attempt to figure out the guidelines of the arrangement. Roger Van, of the Connecticut branch of the ACLU, said he finds the partnership troubling.

“It’s reminiscent of the Vietnam War era, when students were being spied on,” he said. “I think it could have a chilling effect on campus activism.”

The FBI and the University maintain that they are only interested in keeping the campus safe, and Dorothy Robinson, Yale’s general counsel, wrote in an e-mail that the partnership would not lead to any wrongdoing from the YPD.

“This participation does not authorize Yale Police to divulge information to the FBI that is otherwise protected by University policies, nor to authorize spying on campus activists,” Robinson wrote.

Ben Wizner, an attorney for the ACLU, said he wonders about the effects of the police officer’s dual role on his or her conduct. Wizner said the FBI loosened its investigatory constraints in 2002, perhaps leading to differences between Yale’s policy and that of the FBI.

“Whose investigatory guidelines are they operating under? The University community should be pressing the University — is that employee solely operating under University guidelines? I don’t know the answer to that, ” he said.

Robinson wrote that University Police must operate under Yale’s guidelines.

Neither Van nor Wizner claimed any wrongdoing by Yale. But the ACLU’s Web site accuses the FBI of using the task forces to spy and inappropriately interrogate students at several schools.

“I’m not in any position to say whether Yale is doing something inappropriate. The purpose of a FOIA request is not to accuse but to inquire,” Wizner said.

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