The New York Police Department (NYPD) has been accused of allegedly carrying out a massive college spying operation targeting Muslim student associations (MSAs) at some of the city’s most popular schools.
While it has always been acknowledged that US security services have a right to monitor the activities of specific individuals, the latest allegations claim that a much more widespread surveillance operation has been carried out: ‘spies’ were allegedly sent to join MSAs and help generate huge databases about individuals.
There are now warnings that the operations, if confirmed, could amount to a huge invasion of privacy, potentially opening the NYPD up to claims from students who believe they were monitored. There are also claims that some of the schools and colleges could face difficulties if it can be shown that they were aware of the operations taking place on their campuses.
The NYPD and other law enforcement agencies have to tread a fine line when dealing with extremists in America. There are undoubtedly those who seek to convert young Muslim males to become terrorists. But allegedly singling out entire groups, and spending huge resources on monitoring these groups, risks not only breaching privacy laws, but also takes much-needed resources from other areas.
Experts have warned that if schools are found to have cooperated with privacy-breaching police operations, and if they have handed over student records without following proper protocol, they could face severe sanctions and could potentially lose some or all of their federal funding. Some schools have already insisted that they know nothing of such programs, while others have stayed quiet so far.