A spokesman defends the action, but a Muslim student chaplain sees ‘a violation of civil rights.’
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.
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.
Asked about the monitoring, police spokesman Paul Browne provided a list of 12 people arrested or convicted on terrorism charges in the U.S. and abroad who had once been members of Muslim student associations, which the New York Police Department referred to as “MSAs.”
Student groups were of particular interest to the department because they attracted young Muslim men, a demographic that terrorist groups frequently draw from. Police worried about which Muslim scholars were influencing these students and feared that extracurricular activities such as paintball outings could be used as terrorist training.