Scott: On one side, innocent muslims and their supporters who say their civil rights were violated. On the other, the New York City Police Department and mayor who say they are doing what is necessary to protect the city from terrorists. The investigation by the Associated Press revealed the NYPD had set up surveillance, or stakeouts, both in New York City and outside of their jurisdiction, like here in Newark, New Jersey.
Police were tracking Muslims, whether or not they were suspected of any crimes.
Undercover NYPD officers photographed and tracked mosques, where Muslims worship and Muslim-owned businesses, including cafes, bookstores and grocery stores.
And from at least 2006 to 2009, the AP found the NYPD had infiltrated Muslim student associations, or MSAs, on different college campuses, including Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
Tell me what you have heard about the NYPD monitoring the MSA’s activities.
“I think some people actually sent in undercover agents to go to their field trips, attend their meetings. They’ve been following the actual websites of the MSA organization.”
“The NYPD was here for a couple years, hiding out in a bunker in an apartment over here actually.”
“I heard the landlord of the apartment called the cops thinking it was a terrorist cell that was here. But it turned out to be the NYPD.”
Scott: The NYPD reportedly monitored at least fifteen MSA websites, noting names of students and professors in police files.
Sophomore Azka Mohyuddin says her family is concerned.
Azka Mohyuddin: My parents told me not to be in MSA anymore because they’re worried I’m going to be on some list somewhere.
Scott: And what did you say?
Azka: Well, I didn’t really listen to them. I told them I understand their concern. A lot of parents are concerned and I know a lot of students who came up to the board and told them they’re not going to be coming anymore. But I’m part of it because it’s fun. I love hanging out with the people. We just hang out. We have all these events. It’s part of who I am. I am Muslim, you know. I’m proud of that. And I shouldn’t have to hide that.
Scott: What do you say to people who say in a post 9/11 era, you got to let go of some civil liberties in order to maintain national security.
“The thing is that people, out of fear, do a lot of things. But you can never let go of your civil liberties because if one-by-one, if they are taken away, eventually there’s going to come a point where you’re just controlled, so you have nothing now. And you’re only giving it up in a state of fear. No one has anything to hide, everything is public with the MSA. So, why is there even a need to watch us?
Scott: But some in the area do think the monitoring is necessary to prevent another terrorist attack.
A recent poll found 70% of people in New Jersey agree with the NYPD surveillance of Muslims. In New York, 58% agree.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who defends his department’s actions, said in a radio interview, “People have short memories as to what happened here in 2001.”
The NYPD would not grant us an interview but they did forward a list of ten “admitted or arrested Islamic extremists” who had been members of student Muslim groups. They also emailed this response, “The NYPD is not interested in keeping indiscriminate tabs on anyone who attends or explores a rally or lecture. The above list makes clear a link between prominent and particular speakers and members of Muslim student associations and future conspired acts of terror, or worse, near misses.”
Scott: But civil rights groups and the Muslim students we talked to say they are standing up for the rights of all Americans.
“This is not an issue that just affects Muslims. This sets a very dangerous precedent for all students at a university. What’s to stop them from coming into your apt just because they want to search it?”
Scott: Scott Evans, Channel One News.