|Muslim Student Association (MSA)|
Investigators have been infiltrating Muslim student groups at Brooklyn College and other schools in the city, monitoring their Internet activity and placing undercover agents in their ranks, police documents obtained by The Associated Press show. Legal experts say the operation 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 infiltration was part of a secret NYPD intelligence-gathering effort that put entire Muslim communities under scrutiny. Police photographed restaurants and grocery stores that cater to Muslims and built databases showing where people shopped, got their hair cut and prayed. The AP reported on the secret campaign in a series of stories beginning in August.
The majority of Islamic terrorism cases involve young men, and infiltrating student groups gave police access to that demographic. Alarmed professors and students, however, say it smacks of the FBI spying conducted on college campuses in the 1960s. They are calling on college administrators to investigate.
"It's really about personal freedom," said Moustafa Bayoumi, an English professor at Brooklyn College. "The government, through the police department, is working privately to destroy the private lives of Muslim citizens."
In their surveillance, undercover officers from the department's Special Services Unit attended events organized by Muslim students, the official said, as did members of the NYPD's Demographics Unit, a secret squad that used plainclothes officers of Arab descent to monitor neighborhoods and events.
The NYPD's Cyber Intelligence Unit used speakers of Arabic, Persian and other languages to monitor the websites of Muslim student organizations. They trolled chat rooms and talked to students online, the official said.
By 2006, police had identified 31 Muslim student associations and labeled seven of them "MSAs of concern," the documents show.
Six were at branches of the City University of New York: Brooklyn College, Baruch College, City College, Hunter College, La Guardia Community College and Queens College. The other was at St. John's University, a Catholic college in the borough of Queens.