The Associated Press’s series on NYPD spying continues today with the news that Muslim students at colleges in New York were investigated covertly by the secret NYPD and CIA program that also monitored community centers, government allies, and entire neighborhoods in the years after September 11. The new report places NYPD undercover officers at schools including Brooklyn College, Baruch, Hunter, City College, Queens College, La Guardia, and St. John’s, where they sought out student radicalization. But according to experts, their methods “may have broken a 19-year-old pact with the colleges and violated U.S. privacy laws, jeopardizing millions of dollars in federal research money and student aid.”
“The government, through the police department, is working privately to destroy the private lives of Muslim citizens,” said Moustafa Bayoumi, an English professor at Brooklyn College.
“We come to the room, we talk, we chill,” said one 20-year-old student of his Islamic Society group at school. “So if another sister comes into the room and she’s a cop, that’s not cool. I’m really scared about this.”
Last week, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly defended the program and insisted the department does not racially profile. “The value we place on privacy rights and other constitutional protections is part of what motivates the work of counterterrorism,” Kelly said. “It would be counterproductive in the extreme if we violated those freedoms in the course of our work to defend New York.”
But it appears to be exactly what happened at local schools, and federal funding makes it all the more complicated, especially because the NYPD solicited help from campus police. If colleges broke the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act by handing over student records without permission, they could lose “every single federal dollar: the research funds, the federal loans, the Pell grants,” a privacy expert explained.
The authorities, according to documents, were even worried about “militant paintball trips” organized by Muslim students at Brooklyn College. “You could say the same thing about football,” countered one student, a sophomore. “You know, football’s violent. They could say, ‘They’re trying to teach Muslims how to hit.’” Or, young man, how to be a real American.
NYPD Infiltration Of Colleges Raises Privacy Fears [AP via NPR]