NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The NYPD utilized a secret unit of undercover officers, who used CIA training to infiltrate muslim communities up and down the East Coast of the United States. But we already knew that. We also knew that many of the officers on the special detail worked out of an apartment in downtown New Brunswick, until their cover was blown in June 2009.
Now we also know that the targets of their spying included muslim student associations at colleges across the Northeast, including Yale, UPenn, and both the New Brunswick and Newark campuses of Rutgers University.
Documents obtained by the AP and posted on NJ.com show that an officer had looked into the internet presence of muslim student groups at Buffalo, NYU, and Rutgers-Newark. The report listed information about upcoming events and included the names of student leaders, professors, and guest speakers.
It also said the officer had checked the websites, forums, and blogs of over a dozen student organizations on a daily basis.
In that particular report, the Muslim Student Association at Rutgers' main campus in New Brunswick is listed as being looked into, but the officer writes he "did not find significant information posted on their websites, forums, or blogs." Ten other groups at universities in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania were listed in the same category.
The writeup on the Newark campus' Muslim Students Association consisted of details related to a religious event coming up in November 2006.
The department told the Home News Tribune that they monitored student websites and collected publicly available information between 2006 and 2007. They said the investigations were justified because several terrorists were involved in muslim student organizations.
Just last week, a 19-year-old student at Rutgers-Newark was arrested and accused of assembling the ingredients to make an explosive in his Newark dormitory. The information that led to his arrest was unrelated to the NYPD's surveillance of the campus. The bust resulted from a tip given by police at a South Dakota college.
Rutgers was nearly silent about the shocking revelation an out-of-state police agency broadly investigated student groups seemingly targeted for their religious affiliation.
"The university was not aware of this at the time and we have nothing to add on this matter," spokesman EJ Miranda told the Associated Press.
However, Miranda's statement is contrasted with a much stronger response from the University of Buffalo: "UB does not conduct this kind of surveillance and, if asked, UB would not voluntarily cooperate with such a request," a spokesman told the reporter.
City College of New York, based in NYC, had even stronger words for the department: "The City College of New York does not accept or condone any investigation of any student group based on the political or religious content of its ideas," they told the AP.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has affectionately referred to NYC's police force as his "army" and longtime police commissioner Raymond Kelly recently revealed that the city police have the capacity to shoot down airplanes. Kelly came under fire earlier this year for appearing in an anti-muslim video that was shown to new officers in Brooklyn for several months.
The New Brunswick field office for the secret NYPD unit was located in a first-floor luxury apartment at 1 Richmond Street, now known as the Plaza Square Apartments. Their cover was blown in 2009 when a building superintendent called the authorities on them, thinking they were a terrorist cell.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick.