NYPD reportedly infiltrated Muslim student groups, obtained student records without warrants
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 10/11/2011) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today called on the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate apparent violations of the privacy rights of Muslim students by the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and several colleges and universities.
CAIR-NY said an Associated Press report published today indicates that NYPD informants infiltrated Muslim student groups at local colleges and universities, monitored their Internet activity and placed undercover agents in their ranks. NYPD officers and several educational institutions may have also violated U.S. privacy laws by accessing and sharing students' records without warrants.
Report: NYPD Spying on Muslim Students
According to the Associated Press:
“The infiltration was part of a secret NYPD intelligence-gathering effort that put entire Muslim communities under scrutiny…In a few instances, NYPD detectives approached campus police for help, saying they were working narcotics or gang cases to win their cooperation and sometimes even access to records, the official said. Police used the records to identify students they were observing and get contact information, the official said. The colleges may have broken the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, a federal statute, if they handed over student records without the students' consent…The punishment for such disclosures is severe: a school can lose all of its federal funding.”
In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad wrote in part:
“Rather than pursuing criminal behavior, this program targeted adherents of a minority religion with no apparent predicate other than their faith. This raises significant questions about the government's willingness to unreasonably intrude into law-abiding people's lives. It is incumbent on the Department of Justice to ensure that all Americans uphold existing laws such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. …
“I respectfully request that your department investigate apparent NYPD and university violations of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and similar violations of the constitutional rights of American Muslims through the NYPD's systematic use of racial, ethnic and religious profiling.”
Based on past Associated Press revelations of NYPD spying on Muslims, CAIR called on the New York City Council and Mayor Michael Bloomberg to enforce a law that prohibits the use of racial or ethnic profiling by law enforcement officers.
Last week, a CAIR representative offered testimony at a city council oversight hearing on the NYPD's anti-terrorism tactics and security initiatives.
CAIR-NY Civil Rights Manager Cyrus McGoldrick's testimony focused on reports that the NYPD, with help from the CIA, conducted widespread monitoring and surveillance of the Muslim communities in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut without evidence of wrongdoing on the part of those monitored.
Associated Press reports indicate that the NYPD even spied on Muslim leaders who figured prominently in community outreach efforts.
The ongoing investigation by the Associated Press revealed that undercover NYPD officers in a so-called “Demographics Unit” targeted Muslim communities and houses of worship with the assistance of individuals linked to the CIA.
NYPD officials initially denied the Demographics Unit existed, despite the AP's publication of an NYPD presentation that described the mission and makeup of the unit.
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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CONTACT: CAIR-NY Civil Rights Manager Cyrus McGoldrick, call/text: 203-206-6883, 212-870-2002, firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, email@example.com; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, 202-341-4171, firstname.lastname@example.org