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February 19, 2012 6:16 AM   Subscribe

NYPD monitored Muslim students all over the Northeast, reading their blogs, even sending an agent on a City College rafting trip. A 'secret' police report is here.
posted by xowie (61 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
In God we trust. The rest we monitor.
posted by Fizz at 6:27 AM on February 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


Asked about the monitoring, police spokesman Paul Browne provided 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, which the NYPD referred to as MSAs. Jesse Morton, who this month pleaded guilty to posting online threats against the creators of "South Park," had once tried to recruit followers at Stony Brook University on Long Island, Browne said.

"As a result, the NYPD deemed it prudent to get a better handle on what was occurring at MSAs," Browne said in an email. He said police monitored student websites and collected publicly available information, but did so only between 2006 and 2007.

"I see a violation of civil rights here," said Tanweer Haq, chaplain of the Muslim Student Association at Syracuse.


I see a job well done here. Nice work, NYPD.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 6:32 AM on February 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


How is looking at things people post online a violation of their civil rights?

Facebook causes brain damage. I'm sure of it.
posted by flabdablet at 6:36 AM on February 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


How is looking at things people post online a violation of their civil rights?

Is targeting someone to follow around as they make their way around town from one public place to another when they aren't part of a criminal investigation a violation of their civil rights, if you're the police?

I don't know. Maybe.

At least, it's probably a little more complicated than the first facile analogy you can think of would make it seem.

Reasoning by one-liner isn't a particularly honest or effective strategy for examining a question.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:51 AM on February 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


In God we trust. The rest we monitor.

In our God we trust. Everyone else's we monitor.
posted by infini at 6:54 AM on February 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


It's not so much the looking at things they post online, flabdablet, it's the way in which they select which things they're monitoring. Is the NYPD sending undercover cops into any right-wing student groups or Christian organizations? Are even those groups' legal activities being documented with this level of detail? Hell, even outside the partisan/religious spectrum... are they infiltrating ACM meetings in an attempt to prevent cybercrime?

Law enforcement agencies have limited resources, and any actions they take as a result of any of the information they gather has a chilling effect on the affected group (even for those individuals who are behaving legally). That means that the determination of how to allocate those resources must be accountable and unbiased, or else it violates the idea that everyone is equal under the law.
posted by Riki tiki at 7:02 AM on February 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


Back in the day, bloodletting was used to treat sickness because people didn't understand what it was or how to treat it.

I tend to look at this the same way.
posted by Mooski at 7:14 AM on February 19, 2012


Is the NYPD sending undercover cops into any right-wing student groups or Christian organizations?
Has NYC had a problem with right-wing Christian terrorism?
posted by planet at 7:17 AM on February 19, 2012


Has NYC had a problem with right-wing Christian terrorism?


Ask Oklahoma city about that one.
posted by usagizero at 7:22 AM on February 19, 2012 [29 favorites]


Or your local abortion clinic.
posted by ook at 7:27 AM on February 19, 2012 [34 favorites]


In God we trust. The rest we monitor.

Don't kid yourself, these guys would be prayertapping without a warrant, if they could only figure how.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:35 AM on February 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Has NYC had a problem with right-wing Christian terrorism?

I've read the comments of these Right-wing Christians. I suspect NYPD wouldn't find too many spending time at places of higher education.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:39 AM on February 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


I just wish they'd target ALL the religions equally.
Shifty motherfuckers.
posted by GoingToShopping at 7:40 AM on February 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


A 'secret' police report is here.

secret police indeed
posted by nathancaswell at 7:41 AM on February 19, 2012


even 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.
The NYPD is so fucking derp on religious affairs they couldn't know that answer just by looking up Salah in Wikipedia? Instead they have to send an officer on a taxpayer funded whitewater rafting junket?

An extremist and a devout muslim are both going to pray 4-5 times a day depending on their sect. There's not really a Saturday morning cartoon style "well the terrorist will obviously pray NINE TIMES A DAY because he's a SUPER MUSLIM" dead giveaway going on here.
posted by Talez at 7:54 AM on February 19, 2012 [20 favorites]


In their present state, New York’s finest represent a local version of the way this country has been militarized to its bones in these last years and, since 9/11, transformed into a full-scale surveillance-intelligence-homeland-security state. - Tom Englehart
posted by Trurl at 7:56 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


And if the NYPD had been following “right-wing student groups or Christian organizations” and it received this level of publicity, would it even bubble up to a FPP on MetaFilter and would any of you decry such “intrusion”?

But basically, you’ll defend Muslims to the hilt, right? Despite the stated factual basis for the NYPD’s surveillance?

MetaFilter: Do what you want with right-wingers or Christians, but so much as look at Muslims and cue the outrage.
posted by joeclark at 8:02 AM on February 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Can I just roflmao instead?
posted by infini at 8:03 AM on February 19, 2012


And if the NYPD had been following “right-wing student groups or Christian organizations” and it received this level of publicity, would it even bubble up to a FPP on MetaFilter and would any of you decry such “intrusion”?

Well why don't you post an FPP of said action and we'll find out.
posted by Talez at 8:06 AM on February 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


Ask Oklahoma city about that one.
Is the NYPD the Oklahoma City police? Is that what the "NY" stands for? Huh.
posted by planet at 8:22 AM on February 19, 2012


My father taught Slavic languages in the 1960s and 70s, and helped out with the "Russian Culture Club", where students would learn to make piroges and how to paint Ukrainian Easter eggs. There was one glum guy who came to meetings but wouldn't paint eggs. It turned out that he was a State policeman.

I'd like to think that in later years, he'd see intricately painted black, red and white easter eggs and say, "Hey! Those are Ukrainian!" and perhaps have had an appreciation for Slavic culture that went beyond suspecting they were all commies. And perhaps the NYPD has gotten a sense of what regular muslim people are like.
posted by acrasis at 8:34 AM on February 19, 2012 [17 favorites]


Many are abstractly in favor of the police being preventive instead of just reactive. Until the police try.
posted by cheburashka at 8:35 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's a self-link, but it might be worth taking a look at this, joeclark. Statistically, the threat posed by Muslim Americans is minute, and the chance of any given Muslim American selected at random being a risk is also minute.

So, the problem with his kind of fishing expedition - apart from questions like why New York is paying for surveillance in Boston, or white-water rafting trips, is that it ties up police resources on tasks with a minuscule chance of producing useful information, while damaging relationships which might actually lead to usable intelligence.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:37 AM on February 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


joeclark, you don't understand that it's an equity issue. We Christians demand to be followed as intensively by intrusive police agents as Muslims who, merely for peaceably exercising their religion, become terrorism suspects! Don't you feel the terrible blow to white Christian narcissism? (White Christian narcissism goes a long way to explaining the persecution complex into which the loud and angry Republican candidates are tapping, with great success it appears.)
posted by homerica at 8:49 AM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Police also were interested in the Muslim student group at Rutgers, in New Brunswick, N.J. In 2009, undercover NYPD officers had a safe house in an apartment not far from campus. The operation was blown when the building superintendent stumbled upon the safe house and, thinking it was some sort of a terrorist cell, called 911.'


This bit gave me a bad case of the giggles...

Did they catch any actual terrorists? I doubt it.

And yeah, Muslims are supposed to pray five times a day. That's normal, not an indication someone is going to commit an act of terror.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:03 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the NYPD, along with most police departments, routinely violate people's civil rights. But going to some meetings and reading some posts to see what it's about? No elaborate undercover ops, no entrapment, no plans to harass them or disrupt their activities, no agents provocateur? Not feeling a civil rights violation in that. "I don't know what these people are about -- go make sure they're not a bunch of bomb-throwing nuts," doesn't rise to the level where I think we need to worry. There's too much else to be concerned about.
posted by tyllwin at 9:07 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I don't know what these people are about -- go make sure they're not a bunch of bomb-throwing nuts," doesn't rise to the level where I think we need to worry.

The problem is in the logic behind which set of "these people" they choose to monitor. As pointed out above, American Muslims are not a high threat group. So why were they singled out for even minimally invasive surveillance? What other, higher threat groups were ignored that should've been watched instead?
posted by scalefree at 9:28 AM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


What other, higher threat groups were ignored that should've been watched instead?

Bankers?

Kidding aside, I feel that close examination of all groups with beliefs in supernatural beings is ok. Individual groups need to be at least cursorily examined not only to make sure that they aren't a terrorist threat, but also to prevent child abuse and other similarly insidious things.

That said, if it established that their beliefs are harmless, they should be left alone.
posted by Fuka at 9:40 AM on February 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Not a violation of civil rights, sure, but a vast waste of resources that could better be devoted to, you know, investigating and preventing actual crimes.
posted by Pomo at 9:40 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


OK, see here's the problem:
Paul Browne provided 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....Jesse Morton, who this month pleaded guilty to posting online threats against the creators of "South Park," had once tried to recruit followers at Stony Brook University on Long Island, Browne said.

"As a result, the NYPD deemed it prudent to get a better handle on what was occurring at MSAs.


So the NYPD monitoring followed the discovery of those 12 people - they weren't 12 terrorists that were caught by the NYPD. We don't know, from the article, if the NYPD successfully charged anyone with terrorism.

Further, we don't know how many of those 12 were actually convicted. It says "arrested or convicted", so some of them weren't convicted. And we don't know even know how many of them were in the US (let alone NY) - it says "the United States and abroad". On top of that, they may not have even been members of the associations at the time they committed the alleged crimes (it says "had once been members"). So from 12 terrorists we are left with...how many actual, convicted, American terrorists who were members of MSAs? Five? Three? None?

They don't even say that Jesse Morton was a student, or that he was trying to recruit members of an MSA (although that's certainly possible), and surely they would have mentioned it if he'd succeeded.

So we're left with a long surveillance campaign on a wide range of people, who had done nothing to arouse suspicion, that apparently hasn't led to a single successful prosecution. It sure must be great to live in New York if the crime rates are so low that your police can spend all their time doing this.
posted by Infinite Jest at 9:42 AM on February 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


But going to some meetings and reading some posts to see what it's about?

After all, if they've got nothing to hide...
posted by Trurl at 9:53 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


...and nothing to fear or lose then it's all hunky dory. These days the cops give you that good inert stuff, then you go to jail.
posted by clavdivs at 9:59 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I don't know what these people are about -- go make sure they're not a bunch of bomb-throwing nuts," doesn't rise to the level where I think we need to worry.

But you do know what they're about. They're Muslim students.
posted by kenko at 10:06 AM on February 19, 2012


Yeah, when I used the phrase "these people" it does sound very othering, doesn't it? I didn't mean it that way, but rather, just "this group we don't know much about." They're picking them, I'd say, mostly on that basis. They aren't going to meetings to try and check out say, Orthodox Jews, or Evangelical Christians, because they're already familiar enough with those groups to know what sort of behaviors are normal.

After all, if they've got nothing to hide...

I know, it's a slippery slope, isn't it? I just have to think there's some sort of acceptable middle ground between keeping ignorant and stalking and spying.
posted by tyllwin at 10:07 AM on February 19, 2012



Not a violation of civil rights, sure, but a vast waste of resources that could better be devoted to, you know, investigating and preventing actual crimes.


OR, you fire everyone involved in these make-work investigations, save a fuckton of money, and have zero negative impact on Business As Usual policing...
posted by mikelieman at 10:07 AM on February 19, 2012


I don't know about mainstream Christians, but I would bet dollars to donuts there are similar law enforcement activities aimed at right-wing (if we are talking about organizations such as neo-nazi groups, rather than the young republicans) student groups.

I am not really all that concerned about the police reading public blogs of all types, and for all we know they do and it is not just blogs of Muslim extraction. The sending someone along to physically monitor is a step closer to not-okayness in my book though.
posted by edgeways at 10:17 AM on February 19, 2012


We don't know, from the article, if the NYPD successfully charged anyone with terrorism.

We don't need to know.

The charging function is the DA's job. Or a Grand Jury.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:19 AM on February 19, 2012


That is perhaps the most pedantic and point-missing response I've ever received to a comment on here, well done.

OK: we don't know if, as a result of the NYPD's investigations, anyone was charged, or convicted, of any sort of crime whatsoever, by anyone, whether in New York state courts, or US federal courts, or any other court or tribunal anywhere in the world, whether civilian or military, secret or public. Happy?
posted by Infinite Jest at 10:43 AM on February 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


In God we trust everyone else's monitor.

Is the NYPD sending undercover cops into any right-wing student groups or Christian organizations?
&
would it even bubble up to a FPP on MetaFilter and would any of you decry such “intrusion”?

Wasn't there a post a bit ago on the feds following some senior citizens that was sort of played with? The waffle house thing.
It's all about how the information is packaged in the first place (call it "waffle house" and put old men in it, ha ha ha. Read the FBI report that they had firearms, suppressors, detonators - bit less comical). I like that it gets chewed over here.

80-90% of the time it's the shallow brain reaction. Sometimes it's cute or funny, mostly it's tripe. But that's 90% of everything anyway there, Sturgeon. Sometimes Mefi gets an extra 10% that isn't. Which is neat, and why I'm here.

Anyway: Bart McEntire (not of the NYPD, but just to address the "doesn't law enforcement do anything but harass muslems thinking they're terrorists" thing. It's not like the NYPD isn't doing other stuff too)

More on prosecution here.
One relevant bit: What do you do with a Ramzi Yousef who tells the FBI on the plane bringing him back from Pakistan that his objective had been to topple the twin towers of the WTC into each other so that the death toll would exceed those killed in the bombing of Hiroshima during World War II? He failed in that objective, he says, because he ran out of money, this time, to build a big enough bomb. What do you do? You use every tool in the counterterrorism arsenal—military, diplomatic, seizure of assets, and prosecution—to contain and stop the Ramzi Yousefs of the world.

I mean, y'know, NYPD/FBI investigates electrical engineering student at a strip club. Man, they're just wasting their time, aren't they?

That said there are, and most manifestly were shortly after 9/11, egregious violations of civil rights and blatantly racist and religious based oppression.

This, yeah, looks kind of crummy, but it's bread and butter type of police work. Which is usually just over the edge anyway. F'rinstance - ever notice, you could be driving a hospital-owned vehicle, custom plates "HRT SRGN" wearing greens, and going over the speed limit. Get pulled over, the cop will still ask: "Been drinking this evening?"

It's an unconscious action. Just a rote. What makes this sort of thing dangerous in this case is that there can be an unconscious racism at work which can be more insidious than overt racism.
But too, they have to run seemingly innocuous stuff down or risk failing to do the job (not that anyone got fired over 9/11 so I don't know why anyone bothers, but y'know, some people do punch in)
So, just due diligence, yeah.
What's driving policy, different story. It'd be nice, f'rinstance, if we gave visas to electrical (et.al) engineers who do have a good college experience and want to raise families and live in the U.S.
Pain in the ass to do that as it is now.
So that bitty change would eliminate that much more disaffection and make the job of counterterrorism that much easier in following the good college kids who aren't terrorist types.

Long, but I have to address this:
"These are all kids coming from rich families or good families, and they're just trying to make a living, have a good career, have a good college experience."
Just so f'ing naive that statement (like most terrorists aren't educated). And classist too. I love the implication. Hey, don't oppress me just because I'm Muslim. Oppress those scumbags from lower class families who don't make it to college. Funny.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:11 PM on February 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I mean, y'know, NYPD/FBI investigates electrical engineering student at a strip club. Man, they're just wasting their time, aren't they?

Nobody was investigated because they were an engineering student at a strip club. Investigate people because you have good reason to suspect them, which also doesn't include "we don't know enough about your group". You don't start with suspicion & look for evidence to support it. That's how the Iraq War started & we all know how that turned out.
posted by scalefree at 12:43 PM on February 19, 2012


Wasn't there a post a bit ago on the feds following some senior citizens that was sort of played with? The waffle house thing. It's all about how the information is packaged in the first place (call it "waffle house" and put old men in it, ha ha ha. Read the FBI report that they had firearms, suppressors, detonators - bit less comical).

There were a couple posts on that. In the later one we discovered that the "conspiracy" was likely put together by the informant who turned out to be up on a pedophilia charge. But that's another class of law enforcement misconduct, "relying on coercive informants to develop a case".
posted by scalefree at 12:53 PM on February 19, 2012


Nobody was investigated because they were an engineering student at a strip club.
Yes, exactly. Might've been nice if they did. Engineering student, supposedly devout Muslim, at strip club. Huh. Learning to fly planes. Not much interested in landing them. Double huh. Ok, maybe put a guy at the airport or something? Look into it a bit? Oh, hey, this is the same guy who involved with the first attempt on the WTC. Isn't that a bit particular? Nah, he's well educated from a wealthy family wanting to practice his religion with others. We're probably just biased. Forget the whole thing.

You don't start with suspicion & look for evidence to support it
So...police don't observe suspicious behavior then investigate in order to build a case for a criminal act? Sorta sounds like police procedure 101. Guy with a crowbar walking near a jewelry store in the middle of the night. Suspicious. And he talked to that other guy, who's now sitting in a car. Well, I've got no evidence to support the car guy is involved in a jewelry store theft just because they're talking and particularly because it hasn't happened yet. I'll just go to Dunkin' Donuts.

Here, a guy who threatened to kill South Park writers for depicting Mohammed was linked to a particular group. The NYPD investigated.

Explain to me how they're the bad guys here for following up on potential connections.

In the later one we discovered that the "conspiracy" was likely put together by the informant who turned out to be up on a pedophilia charge.

Yes. And, of course, if you do have someone in custody for a crime. And they say "hey, I'll tell you about some guys looking to make ricin who bought some explosives and plan to shoot some IRS agents if you cut me a break" it's not a bad idea to investigate.

Did you actually read any of the links? “I am,” Adams responded. “I’d say the first ones that need to die is the ones in the government buildings. … When it comes down to it, I can kill somebody.”
Here's the thing - in order to be charged with conspiracy to murder, you don't need to actually murder anyone. Sorta defeats the purpose of the investigation if you wait until someone gets killed.

The point here is - there's a difference between investigation as harassment and investigation as investigation.
Harassment has and does exist and it's an ongoing problem with any number of examples.

Is this particular bit one of them? Not overtly as far as I can see.
Law enforcement investigates. Then they're done. They don't come out and clear you of wrong doing they just don't charge you. Pain in the ass, yeah. But not exactly not part of the job.

But maybe I'm missing something, show me where this crosses the line or is completely spurious.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:53 PM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'll add: publicizing the "secret" file does more damage to a given group than the investigation itself. What's served by that? Because it isn't the privacy of the organizations under scrutiny.

"As a daily routine... Undersigned also visited these Muslim student organizations and did not find significant information posted on their web sites, forums, blogs and groups"

Clearly officer Mahmood Ahmad is out to screw these guys.

It only looks like a waste of time because it yields a negative.

Gosh, how come these scientists waste so much time eliminating things that aren't the answer? They should just focus on making discoveries all the time and inventing the cure for cancer.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:05 PM on February 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Nobody was investigated because they were an engineering student at a strip club.
Yes, exactly. Might've been nice if they did.


Would've been absolute stupid blind luck if they did. There was & is no percentage in investigating engineering students that attend strip clubs. When looked at post-hoc, you could just as well have found him by investigating the 7-11 he used or his laundromat. That doesn't make 7-11's or laundromats a fruitful avenue of investigation.

You don't start with suspicion & look for evidence to support it.
So...police don't observe suspicious behavior then investigate in order to build a case for a criminal act?


Suspicion is a belief. If you start with behavior that leads you to suspicion, that's different from starting with suspicion & finding evidence that supports it. In the case of the people being investigated by NYPD, the "suspicious behavior" that initiated the investigation was practicing Islam. In your mind maybe Islam itself is reason enough for suspicion. Not in mine.
posted by scalefree at 2:20 PM on February 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


There was & is no percentage in investigating engineering students that attend strip clubs.
Muslim engineering students. At strip clubs. Who had ties to Ramzi Yousef. Point being - the ties.

the "suspicious behavior" that initiated the investigation was practicing Islam.

You have the NYPD (through Browne) with their list of 12 people, including Jesse Morton, who had been members of Muslim student organizations (which demonstrably in other cases have been tied to terrorist recruitment) so they followed up at Stony Brook Unv (in New York), et.al. and investigated.

They found nothing so they didn't charge anyone. Only reports exist. If they found nothing, but charged someone or detained them unreasonably, that might be a bit more egregious.

In your mind maybe Islam itself is reason enough for suspicion. Not in mine.
Although perhaps I'm being altogether too generous.

No, let me try this again first.
They investigated the ties the 12 arrested/convicted members of Muslim student organizations had with other student organizations. Among those members was Jesse Morton, who allegedly stalked and conspired and threatened to kill South Park writers and was convicted of this.
In the course of the investigation they eliminated many people as non-threats and didn't charge anyone with a crime or detain anyone because they had found no evidence.
They had 12 people. They followed ties to them and associated organizations. There were no disruptive acts. No one was detained without cause as a result of the investigation. The publicized report itself bears this out.

With that in mind:

If you start with behavior that leads you to suspicion, that's different from starting with suspicion & finding evidence that supports it.

Show me then the evidence that the NYPD (et.al) in this case initiated the investigation predicated on the practice of Islam.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:21 PM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd stand up and stop them but I'm eagerly awaiting the end results of this city-army trend.

Tin whistles and up-for-Johnny, if history is any indication.
posted by Slackermagee at 3:54 PM on February 19, 2012


I know at least one of the students in one of the MSAs mentioned. I've gone to one MSA event and had fun, ate lunch ... I find this all a bit mind boggling.
posted by sciencegeek at 3:56 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Shit like this is a waste of police resources.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:13 PM on February 19, 2012


They investigated the ties the 12 arrested/convicted members of Muslim student organizations had with other student organizations. Among those members was Jesse Morton, who allegedly stalked and conspired and threatened to kill South Park writers and was convicted of this.

Is it usual for textbook stalking cases to turn into guilt-by-association witch hunts?
posted by Sys Rq at 5:16 PM on February 19, 2012


But maybe I'm missing something, show me where this crosses the line or is completely spurious.

For my part, I'm not sure where this falls, honestly--but unless the implication that the police were just randomly monitoring all Muslim students is spurious, it does seem worrisome to me. At the very least, I don't think knee-jerk reactions on either side are helpful--one way or another, these questions are too important to treat lightly. Classes of people shouldn't be singled out for special government suspicion--unless maybe those classes are made up of people voluntarily associating with specific groups known to advocate violent behavior (Nazis and anti-abortion zealots, both being voluntary associations and classes with a history of carrying out violent terrorist acts, for instance, seem like fair game). But just being Muslim seems thin; hell, some of the founders held Muslim beliefs in such high regard they might themselves have drawn suspicion in today's political climate.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:08 PM on February 19, 2012


At police precinct meetings, the public relations officers are always begging for the community to get move involved with the police, and want more black, hispanic, and other young men to be more receptive to the NYPD and report more crime.

I haven't laughed at this once. It's ironic but not funny.
posted by fuq at 7:39 PM on February 19, 2012


even sending an agent on a City College rafting trip

"Captain, the results are still inconclusive. I need to put in an expense request for our upcoming skiing trip. Who knows what these dastardly students will get up to in Gstaad!"
posted by atrazine at 8:06 PM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I really tire of this liberal shit. I really do. You genuinely can't reasonably show a simple linear concept if it involves a group that's apriori perceived as being victimized. Facts simply won't enter into it the equation for some reason.

Is it usual for textbook stalking cases to turn into guilt-by-association witch hunts?

So, a guy like Chesser say. Harmless? Not involved in Al-Shabaab at all? Morton, doesn't travel overseas? Not dangerous?
So (then NY based) Revolution Muslim - move along NYPD, nothing to see here, harmless car bomb.

It's not internet stalking. They're famous because they threatened South Park writers. They're dangerous because they give money and aid to people who purposefully target innocent people, if are not outright involved themselves.
Someone who wants to be associated with and give money to people who (in this example) did the Uganda bombing last year - that person shouldn't be investigated? Maybe check out the people they hang out with?

Syed Hashmi. Know who he is?
He went to SUNY Stony Brook and Brooklyn College. He was suspected of laundering money for AQ, but was convicted of helping out with some cash and equipment. It's even on HufPo.

Now, was Hashmi hosed by the justice system and were there abuses such that I think he should be let go?
Yep.
Did he actually do it though?
Yep.
Again - rights do not require known innocence (really worth a read), but there's a difference between criminalization and abuse and the mechanism of investigation.

Similarly, is there a need for oversight in these kinds of operations? Is showing a film like "The Third Jihad" pointlessly simplistic? Yep.
But, would a legitimate police investigation check out known associates and associations like Muslim Students' Association?
Yep.

Were they involved in sending money to terrorist outfits (e.g. Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, et.al.)? Yep.
Did members (such Ramy Zamzam who served as council president for the Muslim Student Association of Washington, D.C.) travel to Pakistan and try to join Jaish-e-Mohammed? Yep.

Did the Muslim Student Union at U.C. Irvine (a member of the Muslim Student Association) regularly sponsor anti-semitic events?
Yep.
(Interesting exchange here from a USCD member. I'm not a David Horowitz fan. And I'd suspect her of being a plant. But the Southern Poverty Law Center has documented of this stuff too all over California and Oregon, and they're not exactly right swinging.)

Sami Omar Al-Hussayen MSA from Idaho. He was cleared.

He'd be a good example of an abuse in this kind of thing. Maybe the guy was guilty. Maybe not. But he shouldn't have been surveilled in the first place.

NYPD intelligence had a study (pdf) out some time ago, talking about escalation in militancy, recruiting on college campuses, etc.
This was mechanical, not proscriptive.
Contrast the U.K. report telling professors to monitor Muslim student groups and report on them.

And they take Jenkins' (from RAND) work looking at strategies to prevent potential recruits from following dangerous and destructive courses.
Well, y'kknow, not alienating them by spying on them, probably a good idea. And deporting them. All that as I mentioned.

And indeed, they look at it in a constructive manner (in parts of the report). You don't want extremist elements setting the tone of the conversation and so driving your average student further into alienation.
Which - yeah, wouldn't you keep surveillance low key if you're the NYPD if for no other reason alone? Hell the guy practically drops that in the FPP piece - say, let's not talk about ongoing investigations in public or aggravate the vast majority of Muslim folks who are just going about the business of living.

However, a general failure of execution does not mean there isn't something to investigate in a specific instance.

Classes of people shouldn't be singled out for special government suspicion
Unquestionably.

But just being Muslim seems thin;

It would be were it the case.

Anecdotally: I've heard some extremist Muslim groups? Dislike the Jews.
Some extremist Christian groups too. Probably a good idea, generally, to look into preventing that. So - how? Well, find an informant or a criminal action.

It's hard to gather intelligence unless it's predicated a priori on criminal action or unless you have an informant.
It's impossible to gather intelligence if, to further the investigation, you have to keep those matters private and must explain, in public, who your sources are and the criminal predication otherwise the grounds for your investigation are suddenly invalid.

There have been a number of plots to explode terrorist bombs in New York (Herald Square, the Najibullah Zazi thing, etc) and that stuff is done in part with work like this - informant, guy undercover, etc.

Ok, so let's say the links are a bit further off. We have guys who were part of the MSA and were terrorists/criminals, but there is a particular guy who is part of that organization now we're not sure of.
So they use a matrix to follow along though the path of militancy and look for identifiers, not necessarily individuals.
Meh.

What's scarier is the use of immigrants and the pressure brought to bear on them to be infiltrators.

I mean, generally speaking, it's all worrysome stuff.
And heap on top of that the low returns generally on counterterrorism vs. the bread and butter stuff like petty crime, and the completely disproportionate amount of money we spend on b.s. security theater, yeah, I understand the acrimony.

But y'know, this is sort of COIN coupled with the everyday police work "oh, I smell cannabis, if you told me who you got it from, I might let you go" thing.

It's the unthinking that's a problem, not overt racism in surveillance practices. If for no other reason that the overt actions wear out over time, the mechanisms don't.

So let me be clear here at the bottom, because I suspect a tl:dr from most of y'all

“It seems that the basic question is what if we substituted different groups — what if this were the Klu Klux Klan who conspired to silence a speech by Martin Luther King.”

As long as the investigation was not proscriptive, and if it's based on criminal action by associates it wasn't, the surveillance was legitimate - regardless of the broader social question (which is legitimate) raised of suspicion and surveillance.

But again, tough to prove. And tough to sort out over whether the oversight is legitimate, looking to score political points, backed by some interest's funding, etc.

I just feel sorry for the cop who had to sit and watch all this boring crap.
...well, not the white water rafting, that'd be cool.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:52 PM on February 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


This didn't happen in a vacuum. The NYPD has a long history of racism, and of singling out ethnic groups. I'd imagine that, by targeting religious and college groups for observation, rather than taking the simple step of reaching out to those same groups in a public manner, the NYPD is going to add to individuals' and communities' sense of alienation and persecution. Which is a hell of a consequence for an investigation that doesn't seem to have turned up shit.

It's hard not to see this as part of a more pervasive pattern of bias. Keep in mind the department's recent fumbling regarding the anti-Muslim video, called The Third Jihad, that ran on loop at a terror training that hosted 1,200 officers—and which included footage with Ray Kelly that the department explained away as preexisting, but which turned out to be a direct, 90-minute interview that was conducted at the behest of Kelly's deputy commissioner. Nothing says "Community, Professionalism, Respect," like "we're going to systematically infiltrate even paltry, vaguely religious organizations, and our top cop is going to participate in a piece of racist propaganda."
posted by evidenceofabsence at 9:05 PM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know, it is kind of funny. This sort of thing has angered me generally. Now that I personally know someone targeted by this sort of tactics, it has angered me specifically.
posted by sciencegeek at 5:06 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's hard not to see this as part of a more pervasive pattern of bias.

Is it hard to see a pervasive pattern of bias in some MSA's?

If there were a white christian student organization on campus and they had a "Hitler Week" and one of their former members - let's say 8 years before - had sheltered Tim McVeigh.

Worth running down the lead if some current members get busted for something?

Howabout the student organization Youth for Western Civilization?
J.D. Hop (arrested for child rape, firearms, etc, swell guy) was connected to the university leader of a YWC in Washington.

The FBI tracked their facebook accounts. Questioned student coordinator Phil Tignino, et.al.
Pretty much the same kind of operation here because it's based on someone affiliated with the organization getting arrested.

Look, terrorists can be perfectly nice people in person, they just have very extreme beliefs.
Non terrorist extremists can be very polite too, check out the woman in the youtube bit who politely agrees that yes, Jews should all be in Israel so it would be easier to kill them en masse.

Terrorist organizations are not rigid hierarchies, they're loose networks and the environments fostering terrorism are very cultural and religious in a very specific way.
There's not this general "I believe in Allah" or "The white race is ok by me" sort of thing. There are very specific beliefs that can be goal centered and acted upon.

If I believe that I should kill Jews (whether I'm an extreme Muslim or white supremacist) as a method of reaching my cultural or religious goal then those goals should be investigated by secular law enforcement authorities.

On the one hand, if you do find a specific guy who committed a crime and he has ties to a given outfit, you want the latitude to keep tabs on the outfit.
On the other hand, if you are given that latitude, sometimes you just start casting wide nets and hoping for the best.
I mean "More Groups Than Thought Monitored in Police Spying" it's practically the same headline.

I understand police drive the streets and can follow your car for no reason at all. Shocking.

There's a difference between police following black men's cars as a matter of course based on prejudice and the police following black men's cars because there was a recent robbery by a black man who fled in a car.
That said - I fully cede that the latter is often used to cover for the former.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:28 AM on February 20, 2012


Worth running down the lead if some current members get busted for something?

Of all the student organizations listed, only two seem to have any reason to have aroused any suspicion. The NYPD doesn't seem to have been following up on a lead with any of the many other organizations listed, so much as engaging in a blanket surveillance operation throughout the tri-state region. If the NYPD had been investigating specific student organizations based on, well, anything, it might be different, as you suggest. That was not the case. And that's why "If there were a white christian student organization on campus and they had a "Hitler Week" is a straw-man argument. The vast majority of the student organizations named didn't do anything other than consist of young muslims who were associating with one another. "A muslim student organization somewhere did something suspicious" is not sufficient grounds for infiltrating a vast number of muslim student organizations.

Also important: you know how you mentioned that the FBI tracked Facebook accounts, in an unrelated case? Why wasn't the FBI doing this surveillance? It pisses me off that a number of the schools mentioned are well outside of the NYPD's jurisdiction (the University of Buffalo, Stony Brook, Rutgers, Yale, U Penn, etc.). If the NYPD could back the fuck down and let the FBI act as the snoops they are, maybe the NYPD could retain some good-guy credibility when acting as the local police organization that it's actually supposed to be.

I would really like to have a police agency that doesn't see itself as something between an occupying army and an intelligence agency, but as a police agency that works with and within the communities it serves. Because I don't think that alienating vast swaths of the city's population is in anyone's best interest, as pertains to terrorism, or anything else.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 2:46 PM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Of all the student organizations listed, only two seem to have any reason to have aroused any suspicion.
&
The NYPD doesn't seem to have been following up on a lead with any of the many other organizations listed, so much as engaging in a blanket surveillance operation throughout the tri-state region

Seem.

Why wasn't the FBI doing this surveillance?
They were. They do monitor MSA's in the same instances as cited by the NYPD in this particular case.
And, to be fair: cited. I see no proof there. Although it's got the same substantiation as the news piece itself.

And I'll add, state and local authorities do plenty of things the FBI and federal authorities won't or legally can't.

when acting as the local police organization that it's actually supposed to be.
Yep, plenty of flaws in intelligence led policing.

And that's why "If there were a white christian student organization on campus and they had a "Hitler Week" is a straw-man argument.

No, I'm addressing the facet of this that is the standard of the criminal cause with the given that there are legitimate criminal cases (12 of 'em) linking the investigation to the groups.
If there's no criminal information, there's no cause. So, moot point.

If there is, what form does it take?
How do you identify the people who plan to do violence within a group or among others who hold the same sorts of beliefs, but don't plan to hurt anybody?
Same sort of problem with hate speech.
When does it cross the line from speech to incitement?

And there again, clearly, from the police pov, you can violate the trust that might normally let someone come forward with some information.

Indeed, one could manufacture a cause as a pretext for investigation. Which, as I mentioned, is an even bigger danger. Take Joe Cab driver, he's an immigrant, he's got some shaky legal ground, maybe he's working illegally or his status is in danger - whatever, so they say work for us and we won't turn you over on this other thing.

So he goes and keeps an eye on a given MSA or mosque or whatever - is that guy an informant? Is that information 'voluntary'?
It's a sort of cloudy area, legally. And unless the NYPD does something to interfere or agitate, the surveillance in and of itself (again, with the caveats) isn't proscriptive.

This isn't all cut and dried. All I'm saying.

I can't dispute your discomfort with it (I agree) or how you want the NYPD to be (I don't live in NY).
posted by Smedleyman at 6:09 PM on February 20, 2012


The so-called Underwear Bomber was the president of the UCL Islamic Society. I don't think it's unreasonable to investigate people in similar circumstances, although of course it's unreasonable to treat the circumstances as if they were suspicious in themselves.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:00 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can I get the NYPD to investigate one-sentence paragraphs?
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:25 PM on February 20, 2012


NYPD Is Probably Still Spying on Muslim Students
posted by homunculus at 12:20 PM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


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