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Mayor Bloomberg Defends Reported NYPD Surveillance of Muslim Students

By Jill Colvin | February 21, 2012 7:01pm
Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the NYPD's surveillance efforts at a press conference in Brooklyn.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the NYPD's surveillance efforts at a press conference in Brooklyn.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

BROOKLYN — Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the NYPD Tuesday against allegations it spied on Muslim students at schools including Yale University, and even followed some on a whitewater rafting trip.

“I don’t know why keeping the county safe is antithetical to the values of Yale," Bloomberg told reporters at an unrelated press conference in Brooklyn. "Yale’s freedoms to do research, to teach, to give people a place to say what they want to stay, is defended by the law-enforcement throughout this country that works very hard to make sure that we are safe."

In its latest story on the NYPD's far-ranging counter-terrorism efforts, the Associated Press reported that officers have engaged in extensive surveillance of Muslim students across the northeast, trolling the websites of Muslim student associations and even sending an undercover agent on a City College whitewater rafting trip, where he recorded how many times students prayed.

Yale President Richard Levin blasted the report as “disturbing,” charging that “police surveillance based on religion, nationality, or peacefully expressed political opinions is antithetical to the values of Yale, the academic community, and the United States.”

But the mayor said Tuesday he didn't think there was anything wrong with the tactics used by the NYPD.

“If going on websites and looking for information is not what Yale stands for, I don’t know,” said an agitated mayor, arguing that any public websites are fair game.

“Of course we’re going to look at anything that’s publicly available in the public domain. We have an obligation to do so and it is to protect the very things that let Yale survive.”

When pressed about the reported white water rafting trip, Bloomberg appeared to sidestep the allegations.

“The only white water rafting I’ve done, I did with my daughter," he said. "I don’t think she had a lot of information that I was interested in, in terms of her political views. It was a long time ago. And I’m not sure at that time she had political views. She certainly does now.”