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Candidates debate whether NYPD should infiltrate Muslim student groups

Potential candidates for New York City mayor are taking stands on the police department’s surveillance of Muslim students, ranging from support to worry that the police department may be violating civil liberties, the Associated Press has reported.

The NYPD used undercover officers and informants to infiltrate Muslim student groups at colleges across the Northeast. The monitoring was part of the department's anti-terrorism efforts. Officers tracked student websites and blogs, monitoring who was communicating with the groups. On one occasion, an undercover officer was sent on a whitewater rafting trip with students from the City College of New York.

The AP’s investigation has triggered an uproar among civil liberties activists, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who leaves office after the 2013 election, has said that he finds "worrisome" the idea that his successor might abandon NYPD policies that have kept New Yorkers safe.

New York City Comptroller John C. Liu, who is expected to run for mayor, warned that "we should not as a matter of policy profile people based on religion or race — it goes against everything this city stands for."

Liu, a Queens Democrat, faces a federal investigation into his fundraising operation after reports of inconsistencies in his campaign finances.

At a hearing in October, New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said that a department squad called the Demographics Unit mapped the city’s Muslim population, according to The New York Times. 

Councilmembers at the hearing said they worried New Yorkers' civil liberties were being violated.

“It looks like we are targeting Muslim neighborhoods and communities,” Councilman Brad Lander said at the time. “That’s not good for us. We have people out there who are partners who feel the trust is betrayed.”

The Associated Press and The New York Times contributed to this report.

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