- Associated Press - Monday, February 20, 2012

NEW YORK — One autumn morning in Buffalo, N.Y., a college student named Adeela Khan logged into her email and found a message announcing an upcoming Islamic conference in Toronto.

Khan clicked “forward,” sent it to a group of fellow Muslims at the University at Buffalo, and promptly forgot about it.

But that simple act on Nov. 9, 2006, was enough to arouse the suspicion of an intelligence analyst at the New York Police Department, 300 miles away, who combed through her post and put her name in an official report. Marked “SECRET” in large red letters, the document went all the way to Commissioner Raymond Kelly’s office.

The report, along with other documents obtained by the Associated Press, reveals how the NYPD’s intelligence division focused far beyond New York City as part of a surveillance program targeting Muslims.

Police trawled daily through student websites run by Muslim student groups at Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers and 13 other colleges in the Northeast. They talked with local authorities about professors in Buffalo and even sent an undercover agent on a whitewater rafting trip, where he recorded students’ names and noted in police intelligence files how many times they prayed.

Asked about the monitoring, police spokesman Paul Browne provided a list of 12 people arrested or convicted on terrorism charges in the United States and abroad who had once been members of Muslim student associations, which the NYPD referred to as MSAs. They included Jesse Morton, who this month pleaded guilty to posting online threats against the creators of the animated TV show “South Park.” He had once tried to recruit followers at Stony Brook University on Long Island, Browne said.

“As a result, the NYPD deemed it prudent to get a better handle on what was occurring at MSAs,” Browne said in an email. He said police monitored student websites and collected publicly available information in 2006 and 2007.But documents show other surveillance efforts continued for years afterward.

“I see a violation of civil rights here,” said Tanweer Haq, chaplain of the Muslim Student Association at Syracuse University. “Nobody wants to be on the list of the FBI or the NYPD or whatever. Muslim students want to have their own lives, their own privacy and enjoy the same freedoms and opportunities that everybody else has.”

In recent months, the AP has revealed secret programs the NYPD built with help from the CIA to monitor Muslims at the places where they eat, shop and worship. The AP also published details about how police placed undercover officers at Muslim student associations in colleges within the city limits; this revelation has outraged faculty and student groups.

Though the NYPD says it follows the same rules as the FBI, some of the NYPD’s activities go beyond what the FBI is allowed to do.

Kelly and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg repeatedly have said that the police only follow legitimate leads about suspected criminal activity.

But the latest documents mention no wrongdoing by any students.

In one report, an undercover officer describes accompanying 18 Muslim students from the City College of New York on a whitewater rafting trip in upstate New York on April 21, 2008. The officer noted the names of attendees who were officers of the Muslim Student Association.

“In addition to the regularly scheduled events (Rafting), the group prayed at least four times a day, and much of the conversation was spent discussing Islam and was religious in nature,” the report says.

Praying five times a day is one of the core traditions of Islam.

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