"Jury is out" on NYPD's Muslim students probe

The New York Police Department has defended its investigation of Muslim student associations at universities across the northeast, which reportedly saw the NYPD reach out to colleges hundreds of miles from the city.

The NYPD says it was trying to "get a handle" on the student association situation, and to defend its actions, the force released a list of people associate with these groups who have been implicated in serious terrorist plots against the United States.

While there is extensive federal oversight of investigations by the FBI and the CIA, that is not the case with the NYPD's own counterterrorism unit.

The real question is one of standards.

When I was in the FBI, and in the Los Angeles Police Departement, there were clear lines about what we could investigate as a potential threat, and what we could not investigate as protected as free speech.

The difference can be explained by looking at two hypothetical statements; if someone says, for instance, "I hate Americans," that is protected speech. If, however, that person goes on to say "we should kill Americans," then that person has crossed a line.

The jury is still out on what standards the NYPD investigation into the Muslim student associations were using - where they had set the bar on when it was acceptable to pry into someone's personal life.

John Miller is a former FBI assistant director, and a former head of the L.A. Police Department's counterterrorism bureau. Click on the video in the player above to see his full analysis of the NYPD investigation.

  • John Miller

    John Miller is a senior correspondent for CBS News, with extensive experience in intelligence, law enforcement and journalism, including stints in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the FBI.