Exclusive

CIA given details of British Muslim students

Outrage as personal files of undergraduates at Detroit bomb suspect's college handed to US

Personal information concerning the private lives of almost 1,000 British Muslim university students is to be shared with US intelligence agencies in the wake of the Detroit bomb scare.

The disclosure has outraged Muslim groups and students who are not involved in extremism but have been targeted by police and now fear that their names will appear on international terrorist watch lists. So far, the homes of more than 50 of the students have been visited by police officers, but nobody has been arrested. The case has raised concerns about how the police use the data of innocent people and calls into question the heavy-handed treatment of Muslim students by UK security agencies.

This week, MPs criticised the Government's key policies on countering extremism which they said were alienating Muslim communities.

Last year, The Independent reported on the alleged harassment of young Muslims by the police and security service, MI5, whose officers had tried to recruit them as spies. In the latest case, details of students from University College London (UCL) were handed over to police by the university's student union, after detectives visited the campus in early January 2010 during their continuing investigation into the attempted Christmas Day bombing in Detroit by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Abdulmutallab studied engineering at UCL in 2005-08, and was president of the UCL Islamic Society in 2006-07.

Police had first approached UCL's Islamic Society, which refused to hand over the information. Mojeed Adams-Mogaji, the society's president, said: "I was concerned about what they would do with the data. At another meeting with the Metropolitan Police, they told us they would keep it for seven years and would share the data with other intelligence agencies if requested. Obviously, I'm very concerned with what they plan to do with this information."

Gareth Peirce, the prominent human rights lawyer, advised the Islamic Society during the affair. Last night she described the police's actions as "completely inappropriate".

She said: "You wonder if he [Abdulmutallab] had been a member of a society without the name Islamic on it, then would there have been such an appetite to grab the information. It adds to the fear that the Muslim community is a suspect community. The whole concept of data protection was meant to nail down absolute privacy and here it is being breached without a legal reason being imposed on the university to comply."

Eric Metcalfe, at the Justice student human rights network, said he believed it was another example of "heavy-handed" policing aimed at countering radicalism rather than investigating alleged crime. "There is no reason why the police can't go to court and persuade a magistrate to issue a warrant with which the university would have to comply," he said. "But this seems more about heavy-handed intelligence gathering, which may not have respected the privacy rights of the students."

Zubair Idris, 21, a second-year international medical student at UCL, said: "I feel frustrated and outraged. To pass on 900 student details because they were members of UCL Islamic Society is ridiculous. The reason I joined the society was for socio-cultural reasons. I've never seen the guy [Abdulmutallab]. I wasn't here when he was at university. "

Sayyida Mehrali, 19, a first-year neuroscience student, added: "I feel that it is a bit extreme that my information has been passed onto the Metropolitan Police as I joined UCL after Umar Farouk had left. There was never any opportunity to meet this individual and I think it's shocking that they have my details on a database."

From 2005 to 2007, Muslim students at Dundee University were harassed by Tayside Police's Special Branch community contact unit, who targeted "ethnic religious groups" in order to gather intelligence on activities that "could be considered extremist."

The university's Student Advisory Service allowed the police to attend the Freshers Fair to speak to students, but there was an outcry after branch officers posed as community officers and spoke to students covertly. They also approached students on campus, attended university meetings and events and visited students at their homes. They repeatedly harassed members of the Dundee University Islamic Society, and during the Israel-Lebanon war in 2006, visited Muslim students at their flats late at night.

The police initially approached the UCL Islamic Society on 4 January 2010 for a list of names of their members between 2005 and 2008. Following legal advice, the society declined to give the information. The police then approached the student union with a personal data request. The union provided names and email addresses of members of the UCL Islamic Society and Royal Free and UCL Medical Islamic Society between September 2005 and June 2009. The police then approached the university for telephone numbers and home addresses. These were passed on by the UCL Registry.

There are further concerns about the role of the student union in the disclosure of the data. Mr Adams-Mogaji said: "We also realised that the student union gave the details of the UCL Medical Islamic Society without being requested for it. The union is supposed to protect the societies under it and not hastily succumb to pressure without the need to. We're clearly not safe with the union and our trust in them is undoubtedly diminishing."

Qasim Rafiq, a former president of the UCL Islamic Society and spokesman for the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS), said: "Giving unnecessary personal data to the police seems to demonstrate a lack of regard for the personal data of its members. For me, it goes against the principles of the union to act in a flagrant manner towards its constituents. We had to demand the student union to email the students whose details were given to the police, and had we not had done so students who have been contacted by the police wouldn't have been aware that their details had been passed on."

In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said: "As part of enquiries police spoke to a number of people who may have been able to provide information relating to the background of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. This has included liaison with UCL, the student union, the Islamic Society and the FOSIS.

"Inquires made at UCL – where Abdulmutallab studied between 2005 and 2008 – are just one strand of the investigation. We have been careful to ensure that all inquiries and information gathered is treated sensitively."

A spokesman from UCL's press office refused to comment on the matter. A spokeswoman from the student union said: "The police asked the student union to provide details of members of the UCL Islamic Society and the Royal Free and UCL Medical Islamic Society between 2005 and 2008. The union provided the names and email addresses of student members only."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee