Fordham Law


NYPD commissioner defends monitoring of Muslim student groups in most detailed remarks so far

Fordham Law School in The Republic, March 03, 2012

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NEW YORK — New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly defended his department's monitoring of Muslim student groups Saturday, saying the tactics had helped lead investigators to "very dangerous individuals," even as student and activists upset about the monitoring rallied outside the Wall Street luncheon where he delivered his remarks.

In a transcript of his remarks, Kelly gave his most detailed defense of the NYPD's contentious intelligence gathering during a Fordham Law School alumni luncheon where he was a guest speaker. The alumni association event was closed to the media.

"Any one who intimates that it is unlawful for the police department to search online, visit public places, or map neighborhoods has not read, misunderstood or intentionally obfuscated the meaning of the Handschu guidelines," he said, referring to a court order that governs how the NYPD can collect intelligence.

He said that the department turned its focus on Muslim student groups in 2006 after terror plots in Britain were shown to have involved university Muslim student groups in the U.K.. He said as part of the NYPD's counterterrorism effort, they were trying to determine "how individuals seeking to do harm might communicate or conceal themselves."

"We did not look at these groups on the basis of their religious affiliation," Kelly said, according to the transcript provided by the NYPD. "We looked at their public communications on the basis of examples like the 2005 London transit bombing and the 2006 plot to detonate explosives on transatlantic airlines, both of which involved active members of Muslim student associations in Britain."

In 2006, he said the department began monitoring Jesse Curtis Morton, a Columbia University graduate, who pleaded guilty this month to posting online threats against the creators of the animated TV show "South Park." ''We took note when, in November 2006, he visited Stony Brook University's Muslim student association to speak and recruit," Kelly said.

Outside the luncheon, the Fordham Law Muslim Students Association-organized picket was small, but loud.

The protest drew about 60 people, carrying signs with slogans like "Protect me ... Don't profile me!"

"Not all Muslims are terrorists," said Pelin Serpin, a student studying international business at Baruch College. "Singling out Muslim students because of their religion is not what that they need to do. They can do better."

The demonstration followed Associated Press reports revealing that the NYPD has been keeping a close watch on Muslim student groups throughout the Northeast region of the U.S. Officers hunting for terrorist infiltrators monitored student websites, kept track of guest speakers and even sent an agent on a student whitewater rafting trip.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has defended the intelligence gathering effort as legal, and not unnecessarily invasive of people's privacy. Kelly had previously declined to talk in detail about the exact steps police took to monitor Muslim groups whose weren't suspected of any crime, but has insisted that the steps were necessary to protect the public.