NYPD monitored Yale Muslim Students Association

New York Police Department officers monitored Muslim students at Yale and at least 14 other colleges around the Northeast, the Associated Press first reported Saturday.

Detectives went undercover and “as a daily routine” in 2006 and 2007 surveyed the websites, forums and blogs of Muslim student associations at colleges including Yale, Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania. The names of students and professors involved in Muslim student associations and related events were recorded in reports prepared for New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, though none were charged with a crime. Yale spokesman Tom Conroy said Saturday that the University did not know about the police activity detailed in the NYPD report.

After hearing of the surveillance, members of the monitored organizations expressed outrage at what they perceived to be illegal police activity.

“Members of the Yale Muslim Students Association are shocked and saddened by this violation of our civil rights and basic dignity as students based purely on religious and/or national identity,” said Mostafa Al-Alusi ’13, the group’s current president, in a Sunday email to the News on behalf of its members. “Discrimination on the basis of faith is just as wrong and unacceptable as discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation or any other identity.”

The group’s statement said the NYPD’s monitoring of Yale’s Muslim students “destroys the very conditions that make Yale a world-class university,” citing its infringement upon the “spirit of open inquiry, a diverse student body, [and] a principled commitment to inclusion.”

In a Nov. 22, 2006 NYPD secret document titled “Weekly MSA Report” obtained by the News from the Associated Press, an NYPD officer reported that he visited the websites and forums of Muslim student associations at Yale, Columbia, Penn and eight other colleges and “did not find significant information.”

Vice President and Secretary Linda Lorimer said the University was unaware of the NYPD’s monitoring of Yale students.

“I have spoken with [Associated Vice President for Administration] Janet Lindner and she has consulted with [Yale Police Department Chief Ronnell Higgins], and we know of no such activity involving Yale students or Yale student organizations,” Lorimer said in an email Sunday night. “The University supports [the Muslim Student Association’s] goals and aims and is grateful for its leadership on our campus. I am one of the many who have been both inspired and educated by the MSA.”

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne told the Associated Press that his department deemed it “prudent to get a better handle on” what was occurring at Muslim student associations around the Northeast by monitoring student websites and collecting publicly available information. At least 12 people arrested or convicted on terrorism-related charges around the world were associated with Muslim student associations, Browne said.

Browne said the NYPD’s monitoring only took place in 2006 and 2007, but the Associated Press documented cases of undercover monitoring as recently as 2009, when police set up a safe house in New Brunswick, N.J., to follow the Muslim student group at Rutgers University.

Kelly and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg have said repeatedly that the NYPD only follows legitmate leads about suspected criminal activity. The reports obtained by the Associated Press do not document any criminal activity.

Police should only investigate people if they have a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, said Yaman Salahi LAW ’12, a member of the Middle Eastern and North African Law Students’ Association who said he is interested in studying the surveillance practices of local police departments.

“If the NYPD thinks membership in a Muslim student group counts as reasonable suspicion, then we have a serious problem on our hands,” he said in a Saturday email to the News. “The NYPD should not be spying on students a hundred miles outside of its jurisdiction on the basis of nothing but their religion.”

Salahi added that Yale should reassure the community that it does not cooperate with law enforcement activities that infringe upon students’ rights in order to stand up for its students’ rights.

Sarah El-Ghazaly LAW ’12, a co-director of Yale’s Muslim Law Students’ Association, said she personally found the police conduct “highly offensive.” Students should be able to participate in religious organizations at their colleges without fear of being monitored by police and named in secret reports, she said.

“I’m not offended because I’m Muslim,” she said. “I would be equally offended if I heard that the police were monitoring Bible study groups or any other religious group.”

Other schools’ Muslim students associations monitored by the NYPD include New York University, Syracuse University and Albany University.

Comments

  • Arafat
  • basho

    I don’t think anyone can reasonably object to the collection of publicly available information. MSA groups can voluntarily publish to open access websites, but it’s a hate crime to read what they write? What a joke.

  • lakia

    Islam is not just a “religion” it’s a political philosophy, one which is a threat to democracy. It’s time to define religion constitutionally.

    • GeoJoe

      Why is religion in quotes? How would we define religion “constitutionally,” exactly? Would that mean that religious beliefs wouldn’t be allowed to influence policy? Would the Catholics then need to shut up about contraception? Or is it only Christian beliefs that should guide politicians? Jeez…

    • lakia

      We could define religion as anything that does NOT conflict with a free Republic or a Democracy, for starters. And I think it’s pretty clear why religion is in quotation marks.

      • SY10

        Even if it were true that Islam conflicts “with a free Republic or a Democracy” and the Christianity doesn’t, that would still be a shockingly stupid definition of religion.

        • lakia

          As it pertains to the Constitution not Webster’s.

      • yalie13

        By your absurd, racist, repulsive, and misanthropic standards, you cannot define religion as anything that does not conflict with a free republic because the definition of religion in its most pure and extreme form is a set of rules not devised by people (as in a democracy or republic) to be followed.

  • MrWest

    The NYPD read your website. It’s publicly available information. get a over yourself, MSA. this is not a “violation of civil rights and basic liberties.” this is probably one officer whose boss told him to read up on some websites online. Im reading your website right now, too. Are you angry at that?

    • whatwhat

      It is a violation of civil rights and basic liberties if they’re being unfairly targeted and monitored on the basis of their religion.

      Also, another thing that this article does not mention is that the NYPD also sent an undercover agent to stalk a MSA on a whitewater rafting trip 300 miles away in Buffalo. Also even though these students were not convicted of any wrongdoing, their names were recorded in reports prepared for Commissioner Raymond Kelly. This is absurd.

      http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-nypd-spy-20120220,0,969321.story

    • blueandwhite14

      Publicly available information. Right. Suppose I walk into a store, and I’m wearing a hijab. By walking into the store, I’m exposing myself to everyone inside that store, and I have no right to tell anyone to stop looking at me, right? So when an employee decides to follow me around the entire store, while letting a white woman wander on her own down the aisle beside me, they’re technically allowed to do so. But does that make it right?

  • wtf

    Any information that you make publicly available is no longer under the sphere of your control– anyone with access to a computer can read it. Officers at the NYPD have as much right to reading those blogs, newsletters, etc, as they do reading the YDN. Would that constitute monitoring Yale? Is everyone currently reading the YDN guilty of “monitoring” Yale? Stop being so hypocritical, MSA.

    • whatwhat

      “Detectives trawled Muslim student websites every day and, although professors and students had not been accused of wrongdoing, their names were recorded in reports prepared for Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly.”

      I think that is the major problem- that their names were recorded in reports even though they weren’t accused of any wrongdoing. In any case, I don’t see how this is an act of MSA being hypocritical. Do they monitor other people? Or claim that it’s OK to monitor other people and put them in police reports for no reason besides the fact that they are part of [insert group/ethnicity/religious affiliation/etc]?

      http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-nypd-spy-20120220,0,969321.story

      • basho

        If they didn’t want to be identified with the information they posted, they shouldn’t have posted it. An academic paper on the opinions of Muslim students would be EXPECTED to use similar primary sources – an NYPD report is no different.

      • MrWest

        the US government collects names of people all the time, regardless of whether or not they are accused of a crime. For example, the government collects names of individuals who travel frequently to China and Russia. Its not a crime to travel but the government keeps track of those who are going a lot. The NSA and the military track students with exceptionally strong math and science skills. Collecting names of people with certain habits, skills, expertise, affiliations, etc is not a crime

  • The Anti-Yale

    When the FBI spied on me 40 years ago, they did so surreptitiously. http://edgarseyes.blogspot.com/

    Spy means spy.

    This doesn’t sound like spying to me. It sounds like folks in a room opening a public digital document.

    Now, if they USED that document to invade someone’s privacy or chill their freedom of speech (like the murderers of the Danish cartoonist chilled Yale’s Press’s freedom of expression last year) THEN there would be a problem.

    I am usually a rabid watchdog for civil liberties, but I don’t see an issue here.

    Yet.

    PK

  • whatwhat

    i will concede that point, but at the same time, do you feel that the NYPD sending an undercover agent to stalk the MSA on a whitewater rafting trip 300 miles away in Buffalo is excessive (something not mentioned in the YDN article) but mentioned here:

    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-nypd-spy-20120220,0,969321.story

  • The Anti-Yale

    ****Associated Press
    February 20, 2012
    NEW YORK — The New York Police Department monitored Muslim college students more broadly than previously known and at schools far beyond the city limits, including Ivy League colleges Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania, the Associated Press has learned.
    Police talked with local authorities about professors 300 miles away in Buffalo and sent an undercover agent on a whitewater rafting trip, where he recorded students’ names and noted in police intelligence files how many times they prayed.****

    **YES. THIS IS SPYING.
    ABHORRENT. CHILLING FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND RELIGION.
    PS
    If the FBI recorded the number of times I pray, they’d have difficulty discerning a number: “A Protestant doesn’t pray on his knees, he prays on his back.”**

  • The Anti-Yale

    ****Associated Press
    February 20, 2012
    NEW YORK — The New York Police Department monitored Muslim college students more broadly than previously known and at schools far beyond the city limits, including Ivy League colleges Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania, the Associated Press has learned.
    Police talked with local authorities about professors 300 miles away in Buffalo and sent an undercover agent on a whitewater rafting trip, where he recorded students’ names and noted in police intelligence files how many times they prayed.****

    **YES. THIS IS SPYING.
    ABHORRENT. CHILLING FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND RELIGION.
    PS
    If the FBI recorded the number of times I pray, they’d have difficulty discerning a number: “A Protestant doesn’t pray on his knees, he prays on his back.”**