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Repress U, Class of 2012
Posted on Mar 24, 2012
By Michael Gould-Wartofsky, TomDispatch
Meanwhile, many campus police squads have been educated in the art of war through regular special weapons training sessions by “tactical officers’ associations” which run a kind of SWAT university. In October, UC Berkeley played host to an “Urban Shield” SWAT training exercise involving local and campus agencies, the California National Guard, and special police forces from Israel, Jordan, and Bahrain. And since 2010, West Texas A&M has played host to paramilitary training programs for police from Mexico.
In October, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte got its very own SWAT team, equipped with MP-15 rifles, M&P 40 sidearms, and Remington shotguns. “We have integrated SWAT officers into the squads that serve our campus day and night,” boasted UNC Charlotte Chief of Police Jeff Baker. The following month, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, a SWAT team staged an armed raid on an occupied building, pointing assault rifles at the heads of activists, among them UNC students.
3. Spy on Muslims
The long arm of Repress U stretches far beyond the bounds of any one campus or college town. As reported by the Associated Press this winter, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and its hitherto secret “Demographics Unit” sent undercover operatives to spy on members of the Muslim Students Association at more than 20 universities in four states across the Northeast beginning in 2006.
None of the organizations or persons of interest were ever accused of any wrongdoing, but that didn’t stop NYPD detectives from tracking Muslim students through a “Cyber Intelligence Unit,” issuing weekly “MSA Reports” on local chapters of the Muslim Students Association, attending campus meetings and seminars, noting how many times students prayed, or even serving as chaperones for what they described as “militant paintball trips.” The targeted institutions ran the gamut from community colleges to Columbia and Yale.
According to the AP’s investigation, the intelligence units in question worked closely not only with agencies in other cities, but with an agent on the payroll of the CIA. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, facing mounting calls to resign, has issued a spirited defense of the campus surveillance program, as has Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “If terrorists aren’t limited by borders and boundaries, we can’t be either,” Kelly said in a speech at Fordham Law School.
The NYPD was hardly the only agency conducting covert surveillance of Muslim students on campus. The FBI has been engaging in such tactics for years. In 2007, UC Irvine student Yasser Ahmed was assaulted by FBI agents, who followed him as he was on his way to a campus “free speech zone.” In 2010, Yasir Afifi, a student at Mission College in Santa Clara, California, found a secret GPS tracking device affixed to his car. A half-dozen agents later knocked on his door to ask for it back.
4. Keep the undocumented out
Foreign students are followed closely by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) through its Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). As of 2011, the agency was keeping tabs on 1.2 million students and their dependents. Most recently, as part of a transition to the paperless SEVIS II—which aims to “unify records”—ICE has been linking student files to biometric and employer data collected by DHS and other agencies.
“That information stays forever,” notes Louis Farrell, director of the ICE program. “And every activity that’s ever been associated with that person will come up. That’s something that has been asked for by the national security community… [and] the academic community.”
Then there are the more than 360,000 undocumented students and high-school graduates who would qualify for permanent resident status and college admission, were the DREAM Act ever passed. It would grant conditional permanent residency to undocumented students who were brought to the U.S. as children. When such students started “coming out” as part of an “undocumented and unafraid” campaign, many received DHS notices to appear for removal proceedings. Take 24-year old Uriel Alberto, of Lees-McRae College, who recently went on hunger strike in North Carolina’s Wake County jail; he now faces deportation (and separation from his U.S.-born son) for taking part in a protest at the state capitol.
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