For Immediate Release
Washington D.C. – February 23, 2012
National Coalition Decries NYPD Spying
As Symptomatic of Erosion of Civil Freedoms
A coalition of national and local organizations, whose mission is to educate the public about the erosion of civil and political freedoms in our society has issued a statement protesting the surveillance of Muslim students by the NYPD. The Associated Press has revealed that from 2006–2009, the New York Police Department was carrying out illegal surveillance of Muslim students and their organizations as far removed from their jurisdiction as universities in upstate New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, indeed all over the northeast with neither cause nor warrant (see AP Report).
Attorney Steve Downs, Executive Director of the National Coalition to Protect of Civil Freedoms (NCPCF, www.civilfreedoms.org) issued a press release today stating that “any disregard for legal formalities and jurisdiction is symptomatic of an erosion of civil freedoms about which all Americans should be concerned.” Downs further stated that the constituent organizations of the NCPCF have expressed their grave concern that beyond the obvious threat to the privacy of the students posed by the unwarranted investigations, there is concern over “a real threat to the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of assembly of every resident of the U.S.”
Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, a spokesperson for NCPCF said that “the fact that such spying operations are taking place can have a chilling effect on the willingness of students to engage in the legitimate extra-curricular activities of college life afforded by the targeted organizations.” Dr. Ahmad further added, “We need assurances that the spying will not spill over into recruitment for fake-terrorist operations in which entrapment (where people are seduced into doing things they would not normally do) is conducted under the guise of a sting operation (where a criminal is fooled into conducting already manufactured criminal acts, which are planned, financed and directed by law-enforcement officials).”
The NCPCF has reported numerous cases of “preventive prosecutions based on thought crimes and manufactured charges,” and asks whether the database of students monitored under this program could be used to target the students for such prosecutions. Ahmad noted that the elasticity of the charges of conspiracy makes it possible to prosecute even people with no criminal intent because they participate in a conversation in which police float illegal suggestions and then the innocent target commits a perfectly legal act which may be construed to further the conspiracy. Dr. Ahmad asserted, “Imagine students on a rafting trip and an informant suggests that a cell phone could be used to trigger an explosive device. If one of the students subsequently buys a cell phone and sends it to, say, his aunt overseas; he could be charged with conspiracy, even if no crime is intended or committed. Further, under the newly passed National Defense Authorization Act, NDAA, he could be detained for a year or more with no charges being filed whatsoever.”
NCPCF Executive Director Downs has asked that the NYPD must immediately cease all spying operations against all student groups and other activists and has called on Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Department of Justice to immediately investigate the NYPD for possible egregious constitutional and civil rights violations against innocent students and activists.