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Muslim Students Reeling From Shocking News of NYPD’s Spying

The NYPD's nearly unchecked surveillance program monitored Internet exchanges and postings of Muslim students from at least 16 colleges in the Northeast.

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A spokesman for the mayor did not answer questions from the New York Times about whether the surveillance program was ongoing.

Police spokesperson Paul Browne, who is fresh off of controversy for lying to the public about the department’s use of an anti-Muslim training video, also refused to answer questions about whether the campus spying program continues today. Like Bloomberg, Browne defended the surveillance programs in general,  noting that the NYPD’s spying on college students was justified because, “Some of the most dangerous Western Al Qaeda-linked/inspired terrorists since 9/11 were radicalized and/or recruited at universities in MSAs.”

The equating of MSA membership with violence is broad to the point of absurdity. Like all other student groups, MSAs are often large organizations with fluid memberships. But the absurd conflation has become public policy in New York. In 2007, the NYPD released a report called “Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat.” It articulates a  broad rationale for spying on Muslim community spaces, including “cafes, cab driver hangouts, flophouses, prisons, student associations, non-governmental organizations, hookah bars, butcher shops and book shops.” It essentially holds that Islamic religious practice, or even the plain congregation of Muslims, can lead to radicalization and violence.

Nor has the department stopped at spying. In numerous instances since 9-11, the cops have engaged in entrapment. In many cases, the NYPD, often with the FBI’s help, has devised plots to attack city targets and pushed the plans on vulnerable young men with no history of terrorist involvement. Once some previously law-abiding, if disgruntled person offers even the vaguest support for the cops’ terror plot, they swoop in with a triumphant “sting” and foil the danger they’ve created.

Several years before the City College rafting trip, Jawad Rasul believes the NYPD tried to draw him into a fake plot like this. It was 2006 and Rasul was an impressionable 18 year old taking classes at a community college. He says an older man who called himself Kamil Pasha befriended him, offering him a job at a catering company.

“We became friends,” Rasul told me. “But after maybe eight months he disappeared, telling us that he was going to see his family because they had arranged a prospective wife. But then he reappeared in the news. We realized that he was an undercover agent for the NYPD when his name came out in the newspaper.”

Pasha’s name appeared in connection to the  case of Shahawar Matin Siraj. Pasha and another officer had prodded Siraj toward an NYPD-concocted plan to detonate a bomb in New York City. Siraj at points refused to actively participate in the plot, saying, “No, I don’t want to do it.” But after repeated pushing, he finally agreed to act as a lookout. Siraj was soon arrested and charged with conspiracy. He was sentenced to 30 years behind bars for a crime that existed only in the cops’ minds.

Asserting Rights Before a Lawless Police Force

Jawad Rasul says he was never at risk of being entrapped because he would never have agreed to do anything illegal, but the experiences of being trailed by by two different informants has changed how he acts in the day to day. To get ahead of those watching him, Rasul says he’s tried to be as transparent as he can about his life. “What I do is constantly update my facebook profile because someone told me that the anti-terror and other law enforcement agencies don’t like surprises. So to keep the pressure off me I update everything on my wall with anything I am doing because I know they are most likely watching me.”

 
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