Nicole Montero/Staff Writer
After almost two years of finding a possible listening device in the Graham Center’s Serenity Room, the Muslim Student Association asked the University Police to analyze the bugging device in a forensic lab.
Back in 2013, members of MSA contacted the Council of American-Islamic Relations, an organization that promotes the interests of Muslims in the United States, after they found a small metal object embedded in the carpet with wire attached to it while praying in the GC Serenity Room in 343.
Nezar Hamze, director of CAIR, received the device from the students and then contacted the United States Attorney’s office to report the incident. That’s when University Police got involved, said Chief of Police Alexander Casas.
“We investigated the situation, but in the end, we found there was nothing that we could do,” said Casas.
Casas explained the situation to the attorney and to MSA. The bugging device was then turned over to FIUPD to be impounded.
Several agencies that work closely with the police department, like the Miami-Dade Police Department and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, were contacted but denied any participation in the incident.
“Their preliminary was that they could not identify it,” said Casas. “It was not theirs and they assured us that it was not a device typical of what they would use in a surveillance.”
Casas then contacted the FBI.
“Our partners at the FBI recognized the type of device that it could be,” he said. “They directed us to a website where the device could be purchased in quantity.”
The device was a very common condenser microphone that is typically used in digital recorders and can be purchased on digikey.com for $3.08. It can also be purchased in quantities of a hundred per pack at $162.
“Basically, the FBI told us that the device was typical,” he said. “So typical that it’s what most students use to take notes in class,” Casas said.
MSA representative Rayid Sakib, junior engineering major, previously told student media that the bug had a wire on it when it was found, but University Police say it did not.
Sakid also said that this was an issue of First Amendment rights for not only Muslim students, but for anyone who uses the Serenity Room.
Farouk Farouk, president of MSA, also told student media that the goal was to reignite the situation and put it back in people’s mindsets.
“We want to make sure that FIU has strict policies in place to restrict any sort of spying on campus,” said Farouk earlier this year.
After several attempts to make contact, MSA did not make further comments.
Other students around campus, like Alejandro Zarza Martinez, information technology junior, have a hard time believing that anyone at FIU would want to spy on each other.
“Why would anyone need to listen to college students’ conversations and prayers? It doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “Also, it’s not just MSA that uses that room. It’s practically open to anyone – so how exactly do they know that the device didn’t just fall out of someone’s pocket?”
Natalia Monterrey, a sophomore business administration major, believes that it is possible that someone would want to listen in on a conversation or prayer.
“Anything’s possible right now,” she said. “There’s so much hatred going on at this time and a lot of people and religions are being attacked. Even if the device wasn’t meant for MSA, it’s still creepy and, if I was them, I would certainly feel violated as well.”
FIUPD has officially closed the case but still sympathizes with situation.
“I understand the sensitivity and why this is very important to that association,” said Casas. “In today’s day and age, in what’s going on with our post-9/11 world, I can absolutely empathize with their sensitivity.”