NYPD infiltration of colleges raises privacy fears

manifold

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NEW YORK — With its whitewashed bell tower, groomed lawns and Georgian-style buildings, Brooklyn College looks like a slice of Colonial Virginia dropped into modern-day New York City. But for years New York police have feared this bucolic setting might hide a sinister secret: the beginnings of a Muslim terrorist cell.

Investigators have been infiltrating Muslim student groups at Brooklyn College and other schools in the city, monitoring their Internet activity and placing undercover agents in their ranks, police documents obtained by The Associated Press show. Legal experts say the operation may have broken a 19-year-old pact with the colleges and violated U.S. privacy laws, jeopardizing millions of dollars in federal research money and student aid.

The infiltration was part of a secret NYPD intelligence-gathering effort that put entire Muslim communities under scrutiny. Police photographed restaurants and grocery stores that cater to Muslims and built databases showing where people shopped, got their hair cut and prayed. The AP reported on the secret campaign in a series of stories beginning in August.
NYPD infiltration of colleges raises privacy fears - WSJ.com

Privacy rights violation, prudent counter-terrorism measure, or both?
 

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NEW YORK — With its whitewashed bell tower, groomed lawns and Georgian-style buildings, Brooklyn College looks like a slice of Colonial Virginia dropped into modern-day New York City. But for years New York police have feared this bucolic setting might hide a sinister secret: the beginnings of a Muslim terrorist cell.

Investigators have been infiltrating Muslim student groups at Brooklyn College and other schools in the city, monitoring their Internet activity and placing undercover agents in their ranks, police documents obtained by The Associated Press show. Legal experts say the operation may have broken a 19-year-old pact with the colleges and violated U.S. privacy laws, jeopardizing millions of dollars in federal research money and student aid.

The infiltration was part of a secret NYPD intelligence-gathering effort that put entire Muslim communities under scrutiny. Police photographed restaurants and grocery stores that cater to Muslims and built databases showing where people shopped, got their hair cut and prayed. The AP reported on the secret campaign in a series of stories beginning in August.
NYPD infiltration of colleges raises privacy fears - WSJ.com

Privacy rights violation, prudent counter-terrorism measure, or both?
In reality, there aren't many rights to privacy that exist, certainly none directly in the Constitution.

Here is the description of the surveillance given in the article:
"In their surveillance, undercover officers from the department's Special Services Unit attended events organized by Muslim students, the official said, as did members of the NYPD's Demographics Unit, a secret squad that used plainclothes officers of Arab descent to monitor neighborhoods and events.

The NYPD's Cyber Intelligence Unit used speakers of Arabic, Persian and other languages to monitor the websites of Muslim student organizations. They trolled chat rooms and talked to students online, the official said."​

While they do mention that the NYPD did obtain information from campus police under the ruse that they were investigating narcotics connections, that is not a violation of FERPA, which only applies to educational records and information. Campus PDs are not covered by FERPA.

Question: Is the disclosure of campus law enforcement unit records restricted by FERPA?

Answer: No. Records that are created by the campus law enforcement unit (whether commissioned police or non-commissioned security) at least in part for a law enforcement purpose are not “education records” and, at least as far as FERPA is concerned, may be shared freely with anyone the institution, in its discretion, deems appropriate. For example, FERPA would not prevent a campus law enforcement unit from disclosing to external law enforcement agencies an incident report concerning the unit’s response to a student’s threatening statements or behavior. However, any copies of that report that are shared with other campus offices would become subject to FERPA, though the original in the law enforcement unit would continue not to be. Moreover, any student education records that other campus offices share with the campus law enforcement unit, as “school officials” with a “legitimate educational interest,” remain subject to FERPA even in the hands of that unit.​
http://www.nacua.org/documents/ferpa1.pdf

None of their civil rights were violated at all.

Although rather creepy, if one is a Muslim student there, it is all perfectly legal and none of their civil rights were violated, not in the least.

As to the question of whether it was prudent, I don't know. They say there are several Muslim Student Associations of concern, but they don't give the conditions for an MSA to meet that list's criteria.

It passes the smell test from what I can see, so far.
 

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