New York - An NYPD undercover agent pretending to be a Brooklyn College student at the Islamic Society took the Muslim oath of faith, Shahada, and befriended Muslim students to infiltrate the community.
New York – An NYPD undercover agent pretending to be a Brooklyn College student at the Islamic Society took the Muslim oath of faith, Shahada, and befriended Muslim students to infiltrate the community.
A woman claiming to be “Melike Ser” (Mel) spent four years sharing and earning the trust of the Brooklyn College Muslim community in New York City as an operation to spy Muslims, according to NY’s daily weblog Gothamist.
The female detective’s mission was part of the NYPD’s blanket surveillance of innocent Muslims that has caused much controversy in the city.
The Mayor of NYC, who disagreed with the scheme, had said at a Ramadan dinner, “Muslim New Yorkers are still fighting for basic human rights.”
“We recently shut down the Demographics Unit at NYPD, which conducted surveillance on Muslim New Yorkers. Because it’s unfair to single out people on the sole basis of their religion,” he added.
Brooklyn Muslim College students told the same source that they felt violated after they discovered “Mel’s” true identity.a
“You trust someone, you talk to them. And they were just gathering information about your community,” a student said.
“I grew up here. To have this happen because of your religion, or your political views, it’s scary. You feel alienated. And you don’t feel like this is your home,” she added.
Professor Ramzi Kassem at CUNY School of Law and director of the school’s Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility (CLEAR) project said that “for an undercover to be seeded in a community for that long without a specific target raises some deeply troubling questions about the direction of policing in our city.”
According to NY attorney Gideon Orion Oliver, undercover detectives “develop really profound and predatory relationships with their targets,” to create an intimate bond of trust between them.
After spending so much time and getting to know a vast amount of the target’s life, “the government and the undercover officers have significant roles in manufacturing what they then characterize as the defendants’ plots,” Oliver said.
These cases become a type of “entrapment” filled with manipulative tactics by undercover detectives and FBI informants that later lead to arrests.
“The government—often acting through informants—is actively involved in developing [terrorism plots], persuading and sometimes pressuring the target to participate, and providing the resources to carry it out,” according to the 2014 Human Rights Watch report.
The same source noted that in its defense, Brooklyn College authorities denied any knowledge of the undercover operation at the campus and said they were not notified of such activity by the NYPD.
According to the Handschu Guidelines, which ban NYPD from monitoring political or religious organizations without a previous suspicion of a crime, the “Mel” case could allegedly be considered a violation as a stunt to scout out Muslim students out of mere curiosity.
Karen Hinton, a spokesperson for the Mayor’s office stressed that the NYPD does not carry out terrorism investigations into communities or religions, but into suspected criminals in accordnace with the Handschu Guidelines.
Following “Mel’s” discovery, Brooklyn College students at the Islamic Society are skeptical and feel paranoia. “In the back of all our minds, there’s always that suspicion, that either, you are [a spy], or you think I’m one,” a female Muslim student stressed.
“We’re acting like criminals, even though we haven’t done anything,” she concluded.
Photo Credit: Seth Wenig/Associated Press