NEWS’ VIEW: Protecting Yale’s students

In the wake of reports that the New York Police Department monitored the Muslim Students Associations at Yale and other schools, University President Richard Levin emphasized Yale’s support for its MSA on Monday and condemned “police surveillance based on race, religion, nationality or peacefully expressed political opinion.”

Creating an environment that encourages open expression is fundamental to the work of a university, and Levin has a responsibility to protect his students’ ability to speak freely. A segment of the Yale community felt violated on Sunday. Levin was right to place Yale’s weight behind the MSA.

Levin implied that the NYPD’s surveillance was wrong, but did not say so explicitly. Given incomplete information, he was right to leave room for arguments both for and against surveillance of MSAs and to focus broadly on core values. His moralizing, however, tended too far toward the idealistic. Peaceful expression of some political opinions should absolutely merit the concern of a dutiful police force.

Since Levin’s statement, further AP stories have made the NYPD’s excess clear. Undercover NYPD officers investigated the Muslim community of Newark, N.J. in 2007 despite “no evidence of terrorism or criminal behavior,” the AP reported yesterday. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg explained away Levin’s criticism with vague notions that his police are keeping America safe, but the news reveals that Islamophobia is alive and well. We are encouraged to see Yale stand firmly on the side of tolerance.

Comments

  • River_Tam

    > Since Levin’s statement, further AP stories have made the NYPD’s excess clear. Undercover NYPD officers investigated the Muslim community of Newark, N.J. in 2007 despite “no evidence of terrorism or criminal behavior,” the AP reported yesterday.

    No evidence of terrorism or criminal behavior?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharif_Mobley
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Arabian_Knight
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007_Fort_Dix_attack_plot

    Bonus round:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aafia_Siddiqui

    • ColinRoss

      The fact that Muslims who lived in New Jersey committed criminal acts does not mean that it is hunky dory for the NYPD to surveil the Muslim community of the state en masse.
      That the NYPD was able to do this without oversight is deeply troubling. And the NYPD intelligence file, compiled by it’s Orwellian Demographics Unit, contained no hint of any criminal activity, but was simply a database of the daily lives of Newark Muslims and thus was a clear violation of federal rules that say the NYPD cannot retain information gained from spying on religious or political groups unless it relates to criminal activity.

      Thankfully it looks as though Cory Booker is going to take them to task. Christie too.

      • River_Tam

        > The fact that Muslims who lived in New Jersey committed criminal acts does not mean that it is hunky dory for the NYPD to surveil the Muslim community of the state en masse.

        Complaining about stopping and searching drivers for Driving While Black is one thing; claiming that there should be no method to the madness of legal surveillance is just silly. If you’re aiming to stop Islamic terrorism in New Jersey, it makes sense to keep an eye on gatherings of Muslims in New Jersey. If you’re aiming to stop people from slinging crack on LA street corners, it makes sense to keep an eye on gatherings of black youth in Compton.

        > Thankfully it looks as though Cory Booker is going to take them to task. Christie too.

        Well, that’s mainly for jurisdictional reasons. The politicians of NJ were made to look the fool by the NYPD.

        • ColinRoss

          To “keep an eye on gatherings of black youth” has not meant and should not mean that police are free to assemble detailed intelligence files on churches, restaurants and other locations where blacks frequent. What it should mean, whether you’re looking for gang members or terrorists, is that officers engage with the community by talking to parents, teachers and community leaders–they’re the ones who know the trouble-makers who deserve police attention. Wholescale spying sends the message that police don’t trust anyone in the community and prevents effective policing and counter-terrorism.

          • River_Tam

            Oh dear, I don’t think you understand the problem at all.

            Talking to community leaders? In the so-called “Muslim community”, it is the leaders, not the followers, who are the real problem.

            Consider:

            Anwar al Awlaki was so respected as a leader in the Muslim community that he was invited to pray at the US Capitol by the Congressional Muslim Staff Assocation in 2002. He was an active Al-Qaeda recruiter.

            Siraj Wahhaj was the first imam to be invited to offer an invocation to the House of Representatives (in 1991). He turned out to be an unindicted co-conspirator in the WTC bombings of 1993 and said of bin Laden in 2003 to the Wall Street Journal: “I’m just not so sure I want to be one of the ones who say, ‘Yeah, he did it. He’s a horrible man.'”

            Abdurahman Alamoudi was the founder of the American Muslim Council and served as a Pentagon consultant for over a decade, as well as adviser to President Clinton and fundraiser/lobbyist for both parties. He was a speaker at the Washington National Cathedral prayer service for victims of 9/11. In 2004, he was sentenced to 23 years in prison for conspiracy with the Libyan government.

            So no, you can’t just ask the community to police itself. The problem is the leadership. Community policing clearly doesn’t work if these men pull sizeable followings and aren’t ousted for their support of terrorism.

          • ColinRoss

            Your implication seems to be that any imam or Muslim leader cannot be trusted. I find that foolish and I’m sure Muslim-Americans find it insulting.

          • River_Tam

            > Your implication seems to be that any imam or Muslim leader cannot be trusted.

            That’s a stupid conclusion to draw from what I said.

          • ColinRoss

            Not really.

            “Talking to community leaders? In the so-called “Muslim community”, it is the leaders, not the followers who are the real problem.”

            If what you were trying to say is that there have been some prominent Muslim leaders who have turned out to be real rotters, I would agree. But I don’t see how that impacts the overwhelming supermajority of non-criminal Muslim leaders or the police’s ability to engage them productively.

    • yalengineer

      A crazy Korean student at Virginia Tech massacred a bunch of people but you don’t really see a witch-hunt on Asian Americans. Let’s not use a double standard.

      • River_Tam

        > A crazy Korean student at Virginia Tech massacred a bunch of people but you don’t really see a witch-hunt on Asian Americans. Let’s not use a double standard.

        Your analogy would be applicable if

        1) His Koreanness motivated his attack. There is no evidence that it did.

        2) he was planning in a group. It makes no sense to put surveillance on a group to catch a lone wolf.

        3) There were multiple incidents of groups of Koreans planning to massacre a bunch of people.

        If those criteria were met, then yeah, I’d support logging what is put on the KASY website.

  • public_editor

    In so far as Levin is defending the Yale MSA (by all accounts, its members are moderate and the Yale MSA serves an important role at Yale), he should be commended. However, his insinuations that MSAs are only monitored because of their religious affiliations is absurd; MSAs tend to attract among the more radical members of the American Muslim population and MSAs are associated (at some much more directly than others) with the Muslim Brotherhood.

  • The Anti-Yale

    “Orwellian Demographics Unit”?

    ****Do you own an i-phone, Mr. Ross?Do you use Google, Mr. Ross? Then you are the subject (target?) of an “Orwellian Demographics Unit”, but one not wearing badges.
    If you are going to close the barn door after the horses have escaped, be sure you haven’t set fire to the barn inadvertently in the process.
    A door with no barn is useless, as are Constitutional guarantees to privacy in a world which has sold privacy to the latest browser and touch-screen.
    PK
    M.Div. ’80. etc.****

  • tomago

    Why does the quote “Because that’s where the money is…”, by bank robber Willie Sutton come to mind? No one endorses the targeting of any group, but wrapping oneself in the Constitution while burning the flag are the actions of pandering political correctness over the practical application of counter-terrorism methods by experts.

    We all have to make concessions to survive as a society. Do I like being patted down at the airport…no. But I mind it less than being blown up.

    There are real threats today made by people that would slit the throats of every YLS student if given a chance. If some groups’ activities need to be monitored by experts in the field to insure our safety, than have at it. YLS should stow their moral high horse and visit the 911 Memorial, and see what not erring on the side of safety really means.

  • DocHollidaye

    There needs to be a bridge between the gap of ignorance and fear. A whole lot of people based their fear on ignorance and started causing a great civil divide in this country.

    Let’s not let that happen. Fear mongers will always be amongst us trying to cause trouble where none exists.