One morning in autumn in Buffalo, N.Y., a college student named Adeela Khan logged into her email to find a message announcing an upcoming Islamic conference in Toronto. Gun shy of these meetings, Khan clocked “forward,” sending it to a group of fellow Muslims at the University of Buffalo, and simply forgot about it. But the seemingly simple act on Nov. 9, 2006, was enough to arouse the suspicion of an intelligence analyst at the New York Police Department 300 miles away. Incredible.
What’s more, Chris Hawley, the AP article author said this caused the analyst who combed through her post to put her name in an official report marked ‘SECRET’ in big red letters. Somehow, the document got all the way to Commissioner Raymond Kelly’s office. The report, along with other documents gotten by the Associated Press, tells us how the NYPD’s intelligence division focused far beyond New York City as part of a surveillance e program targeting New York City Muslims, which was bad enough. As if the NYPD had nothing else on its plate to chew on.
The New York police have for months been combing through student websites run by Muslim student groups at Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers, and 13 other colleges in the Northeast. They went so far as to talk with local authorities about professors in Buffalo and even sent an undercover against on a rafting trip, where he caught on tape students’ names and noted in police intelligence files how many times they prayed, which was five times a day as most Muslims do.
When asked about the monitoring, police spokesman Paul Browne produced a list of 12 people arrested or convicted on terrorism charges in the United States and abroad who had once been members of Muslim student associations, the NYPD referred to as MSAs. They included Jesse Morton, who this month pleaded guilty to posting online threats against the creators of the animated TV show South Park.
This is an animated cartoon show of elementary school kids, meant for both adults and kids, and which often features jokes on minority groups, including Muslims and specifically “a joke on Saddam Hussein being killed.” Morton had once tried to recruit followers at Stony Brook University on Long Island, Brown said. All this shows is some probable cause for Morton’s anger at the idiot show.
Yet, the NYPD deemed it wise to get a better, bigger handle on what was going at MSAs. Brown said police monitored student websites and gathered information in 2006 and 2007 that was for public consumption. Yet other documents reveal that other surveillance continued for years afterward.
Tanweer Hag, chaplain of the Muslim Student Associate at the excellent Syracuse University commented, “I see a violation of civil rights here. Nobody wants to be on the list of the FBI or NYPD or whatever. Muslim students want to have their own lives, their own privacy and enjoy the same freedoms and opportunities that everybody else has.” And well they should.
In one report, an undercover officer describes accompanying 18 Muslim students from the City College of New York on a whitewater rafting trip in upstate New York on April 21, 2008. The officer noted the names of attendees who were officers of the Muslim Student Association. If that’s not spying, my name isn’t Mata Hari.
In fact, beyond the regularly scheduled rafting events, the group prayed at least four times a day. Is there some law against how many times a day a religious person can pray? Or if much of the conversation was spent discussing Islam and was religious in nature, all of which the report mentioned. These are minority students, trying their best in a hostile culture to their best, and closely following the tenets of their religion. And here they have an NYPD cop on their back.
Does anyone assign them to people in the Hassidic community of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to see if the religious Jewish people are planning threats against mosques, or Muslim organizations? Or even Christian organizations? Why do we as a people persist in this paranoid demonization of Muslims? It’s been a decade since 9/11/2001. We’ve engaged in two wars following those events and destroyed at least two mainly Muslim countries, finding no WMD in Iraq, nor having any success in organizing Afghanistan into a Western democracy. But let’s move on . . .
Jawad Rasul, one of the students on the trip, said he was stunned that his name was included in the police report. “It forces me to look around wherever I am now,” he said. And I say, make sure there’s not a cop tailing you, and that you have a good lawyer if there is.
Another student, Ali Ahmed, whom the NYPD said was in charge of the trip, claimed he understood the NYPD’s concern. “I can’t blame them for doing their job.” This is not their job, my young friend. Their job is policing New York City, not spying on young people. Ali continued, “There’s lots of Muslims doing some bad things and it gives a bad name to us all of us, so they have to take their due diligence.” Then, why not put Jon Corzine in jail for comingling his MFGLOBAL investment company’s funds with his customer’s funds, and stealing $1.3 billion?
He’s just one among the many, who mismanaged and create Weapons of Financial Destruction. Yet he’s out there walking around, throwing the president a $30,000 a plate dinner at his New York mansion. It’s not only Muslims that don’t behave inappaproptiately. Lots of people do, including the New York police, and their overly violent bashing of non-violence protestors of Occupy Wall Street. So don’t assume all the guilt for wrong action is a young Muslim.
City College, bless them, “Criticized the surveillance, and said it was not aware that the NYPD was watching students.” I don’t mean to distract you, but how about following priests because we know many of them have a predilection for pedophilia? No? We should have sacred cows allowed to do their business where and when they please. In fact, “City College,” continued that “it does not accept or condone any investigation of any student organization based on the political or religious content of its ideas.” Like I said, “Bless them.”
It went on, “Absent specific evidence linking a member of of the City College Community to criminal activity, we do not condone this kind of investigation.”
Police Spokesman Browne said other undercover types go wherever people they’re investigating go. There is no indication that, in the nearly four years since the report, the NYPD brought charges connecting City College students to terrorism. Then maybe they should stop investigating these kids, these people, and get back to policing the larger, entire population of the city.
Yet, in n recent months, the AP has revealed secret programs the NYPD built with help from the CIA to monitor Muslims at the places where they eat, shop and worship. The AP also published details about how police planted undercover officers at Muslim student associations in colleges within the city limits; this revelation has outraged faculty and student groups.
Yet, though the NYPD says it follows the same rules as the FBI, some of the NYPD’s activities go beyond what the FBI is permitted to do. This despite the fact that Commissioner Kelly and NYC Mayor Bloomberg both say that the police only follow legitimate leads about suspected criminal activity. Yet the most recent documents mention no wrongdoing by any students.
Be that as it may, the AP reported first in October that the NYPD had placed informants no less or undercover officers in the Muslim Student Associations at City College, Brooklyn College, Baruch College, Hunter College, City College of New York, Queens College, La Guardia Community College and St. John’s University, all of which are in New York limits.
I attended Brooklyn College for my bachelor and masters’ degrees. And I can tell you that the working and middle-class students then as now mean business about learning, heading towards a skill-set that could provide them employment. Mine happened to be writing and literature. We knew our parents did not have the means or the silver spoon to support us through four to six or more years of advanced degrees. So I can identify with these kids, whether they’re Muslims, black, Christian, or Jewish.
In fact, we had several Jewish organizations (as others) on campus, Hillel and B’nai B’rith which raised major bucks for Israel. I don’t remember the latter being monitored or investigated for their loyalties to a foreign country.
Police then spread their dragnet into the Muslim student group at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ, as it had done surreptitiously before with an informant at Syracuse, a distinguished private university. What boogeyman are they looking for at Rutgers, also a fine university? Just as a side note, we had the Virginia tech student murders, where students could bring guns on campus, and no one went into a national panic about the Asian identity or religion of the killer.
As this Islamo-obsessing continues, this kind of surveillance takes on a life of its own. Inevitably, in 2009 undercover NYPD officers found a “safe house” in an apartment not far from the Rutgers campus. The operation was blown when the super of the building stumbled upon the safe house and, assuming it was sort of terrorist cell, called the police emergency dispatcher. This again shows the Keystone Kops aspect of all this amateurish spying. Although this is not a call to bring in the CIA again.
But the FBI got involved and made up its mind that monitoring Rutgers students would be one of the operation’s objectives, officials said. Rutgers attracts a more affluent student body than the CUNY, City University of New York’s Colleges and perhaps also SUNY’s, the State University of New York Colleges, whose tuitions are lower than Jersey’s Rutgers, but still provide quality education and degrees for students.
Unfortunately, the Rutgers police chief at the time, Rhonda Harris, would not talk about the fallout. In a written statement, the university spokesman, E.J. Miranda, said: “The University was not aware of this at the time and we have nothing to add to this matter.” Not aware—and not incensed—and perhaps not interested. Again, even Rutgers is not Harvard or Yale, all Ivy League schools attended by the children of the 1%. These students are still part of the middle-class.
Yet, still another NYPD intel report from Jan. 2, 2009, described a trip by three NYPD officers to Buffalo, where they could meet with high-ranking members of the Erie County Sherriff’s Department and made a deal to “develop assets jointly in the Buffalo area (traditionally an industrially depressed area and the breeding ground for patsies like the three mentioned earlier). The Erie County Sherriff’s Department agreed as well to act as “listening posts” within the ethnic Somalian Community, thus widening their little war on the people of the U.S. of A.
The sheriff’s department officially noted “that there were some Somali professors and students at SUNY-Buffalo and it would be worthwhile to further analyze that population,” the report says. Well, I would imagine, they had darker skin. They were Muslims. Perhaps some students and professors had emigrated from the troubled little country. And god knows, something negative could be coming out of their mouths to influence young brains: only Allah knows.
The officer’s report notes three other speakers. Among them was a man named Siraj Wahaj, a prominent and controversial New York imam who had attracted the attention of authorities for years.
Spokesman Browne said the NYPD did not follow that recommendation. Why? Too tired? No, a university spokesman, John DellaContrada, said the NYPD never contacted the administration. Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Mary Murray couldn’t confirm immediately the meeting or say whether the proposal went any further. Obviously, they didn’t want the help.
The documents mentioned Adeela Khan, the University of Buffalo student, is entitled to a “Weekly MSA Report” and dated it Nov 22, 2006. It purportedly explains that officers from the NYPD’s Cyber Intelligence unit visited the websites, blogs and forums of Muslim student associations as a “daily routine.” BTW, didn’t these cops have anything to do back in New York City, which pays their salary? Or is that too practical a question to ask in this heady atmosphere of overcooked intelligence?
Adeela Khan was a board member of the Muslim Student Association at the University at Buffalo at the time she received the conference announcement, which went out to a list of Muslim organizations. Now, she was a suspected perp for the NYPD goon squad.
The email said “highly respected scholars” would be attending the Toronto Muslim conference, but gave no details of the program, except the guests were “highly respected scholars.” What a catch! Khan, smelling a rat, never went to the conference, was not affiliated with it and had no idea who was speaking at it.
She says she clicked “forward” on her computer and sent it to a Yahoo chat group of fellow students. Smart girl!
It turns out, “A couple of people had gone the year prior to this affair and they said they had a really nice time, so I was just passing the information on forward. That’s really all it was,” said Khan, who has since graduated, after nearly stepping into a bear trap.
Yet, Officer Mahmood Ahmad of the NYPD’s Cyber Intelligence Unit took notice and listed Khan in his weekly report for Kelly. Imagine that, for doing nothing but forwarding an email. The officer began researching the Toronto Muslim conference and discovered one of the speakers, Tariq Ramadan, had his U.S. visa revoked in 2004. The U.S. government said it was because Ramadan had given money to a Palestinian group. How many Jewish people give money (I mean big bucks like hundreds of millions) to Israeli groups? Fortunately, they reinstated Ramadan’s visa in 2010.
Do you notice how the powers that be keep trying to start wars between Americans, not just with foreign powers, whenever there’s the vaguest imaginable chance? In fact, the officer’s report notes three other speakers, including Siraj Wahaj, the prominent but controversial imam “who had attracted attention for years.” The other two aren’t mentioned in the article.
Prosecutors put his name into a 3 ½-page list of people that they said, “May be called as co-conspirators.”
Our government obviously has literally prepared America to live with terror with frequent incursions on our civil liberties. It’s policy now. And all this crap comes with it like the tales of Ray Kelly, Bloomberg, and their minions looking high and low for terrorists when, in fact, Ray, Mike and the boyz are the terrorists, and all the government protective agencies as well, stealing our civil liberties.
Spokesperson Browne said that “intelligence analysts were interested in recruiting by the Islamic Thinkers Society; a New York-based group that wants to see the United States governed under Islamic law.” Morton was a leader of a group that went out to Stony Brook University’s MSA to recruit students that same month.
Browne also said, “One thing that our open source searches were interested in at the time was, where [does the] Islamic Thinkers Society go—in terms of MSAs recruiting.” Wow, that is sheer brilliance. No wonder he’s the NYPD spokesperson.
Well, happy to say, despite Kelly, despite Browne, despite the whole crew of paranoid terror hunters, when asked to participate in this witch-hunt, Yale declined comment. What’s more, the University of Pennsylvania did not quickly respond to requests for comments. And other colleges worried about the monitoring that infringed on students’ freedom of speech, as in lots of lawsuits. A Columbia University spokesman, Robert Hornsby, said in a written statement, “American universities are lauded overseas, and across the globe and seen as welcome to a diversity of people and points of view.” Hornsby added, “So we would obviously be concerned about anything that could chill our essential values of academic freedom or intrude on student privacy.”
Danish Munir, an alumnus adviser for the U. of Pennsylvania’s Muslim Student Association, said he believes police are wasting their time by watching college students. It’s all fodder for the terror-propaganda mill, true or false, though there’s little truth but much propaganda value in these feigned efforts of the NYPD.
Munir, apparently coming to his senses continued, “What are they expecting to find here? These are all kids coming from rich families or good families (there is a difference), and they are just trying to make a living, have a good career, have a good college experience. It’s a futile allocation of resources.” Yes!
It would definitely seem to be a futile allocation of resources,” and is, except to those profiting from War on Terror hysteria: the Military Industrial Complex, Big Oil, the Department of Homeland Insecurity, the New York City Police Department and the Pentagon; this is not small change but billions for all involved in the true conspiracy against the millions of honest Americans.
Just take one look at how and what they’re trying to do to Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, for releasing literally millions of state department emails, freshly leaking the truth like blood, money, and oil. The harassment, the violations of legal and military protocols have become part of this game. As well as the futures and bank accounts of the leading military types.
Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer, life-long resident of New York City. An EBook version of his book of poems “State Of Shock,” on 9/11 and its after effects is now available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. He has also written hundreds of articles on politics and government as Associate Editor of Intrepid Report (formerly Online Journal). Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.