Professors at Brooklyn College have become the first city employees to publicly condemn the NYPD’s spying on local Muslims.
In a September 13th resolution, Brooklyn College’s Faculty Council denounced the spying on Islamic students, suggesting that the police department targeted them without any proof that they were engaging in terrorist activity.
“The Faculty Council opposes surveillance activities by the NYPD and affiliated agencies on our campus either directly or through the use of informants for the purposes of collecting information independent of a valid and specific criminal investigation,” the resolution read.
Meanwhile, the department has come up with a unique way to legally justify its spying. According to a former top police official, it has established its own internal review committee to determine whether prior evidence or indications existed that anyone under surveillance had been planning to break the law.
But this is hardly an independent committee. It reportedly consists of Police Intelligence head David Cohen, the former CIA spook and current NYPD spy mastermind; Chief Thomas Galati, the Intelligence Division’s commanding officer who at Cohen’s direction in 2007 violated diplomatic protocol by making the arriving Iranian delegation to the United Nations sit on the tarmac of at Kennedy airport for 40 minutes while he conducted a weapons check – to the chagrin of the waiting Secret Service, Port Authority Police and the State Department Security Service; Stu Parker, whom the official described as “of counsel” to Cohen, although he is not listed in the NYPD roster; and the department’s Deputy Commissioner of Legal Affairs, Andrew Schaffer.
This committee begs the question of whether there is any oversight over the NYPD’s domestic spying program outside the police department. Three of the committee’s four members belong to the Intelligence Division, which means they are monitoring themselves. The fourth, Schaffer, is not regarded as a department heavy hitter.
The Brooklyn College Faculty Council urged the college administration to issue its “own public statement outlining their opposition to on campus surveillance… as well as detailing their knowledge of or involvement in this surveillance and information gathering.
“We call on the administration to demand publicly that the NYPD inform those groups and individuals that have been the subject of this surveillance of the fact of the surveillance and the nature of the information gathered,” it said.