TRENTON, N.J. (AP) – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie sharply criticized the New York Police Department on Wednesday for not informing federal law enforcement agencies _ at least to his knowledge _ about their secret surveillance of Muslims in Newark.
Christie has said he doesn’t recall being briefed about the spying in 2007, while he was the state’s top federal prosecutor.
Speaking Wednesday night on Townsquare Media’s “Ask the Governor” radio program, the governor said the Department of Justice’s Joint Terrorism Task Force should have been advised. He questioned whether the NYPD’s secrecy was “born out of arrogance or paranoia.”
“I know they think they their jurisdiction is the world. Their jurisdiction is New York City,” Christie said, adding: “My concern is this kind of affectation that the NYPD seems to have that they are the masters of the universe.”
Christie’s comments come in response to a series of stories by The Associated Press that detailed the monitoring or recommended surveillance of Muslims in New York and surrounding states, including New Jersey and Connecticut, by the NYPD.
In 2007, the NYPD’s secretive Demographics Unit fanned out across Newark, photographing every mosque and eavesdropping in Muslim businesses. The findings were cataloged in a 60-page report, obtained by The Associated Press, that served as a police guidebook to Newark’s Muslims. There was no mention of terrorism or any criminal wrongdoing.
Newark’s top officials said their police were asked to show NYPD officers around but didn’t know about the nature and scope of the NYPD operation.
The Associated Press also revealed that the NYPD secretly monitored the daily activities of Muslim college student groups across the Northeast.
Christie has called the Newark report “disturbing” and asked state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa to look into the report. However, on Wednesday Christie said he has no problem with “covert surveillance,” but didn’t say whether he thought it was appropriate to target certain communities as a preventive measure when there is no suspected wrongdoing.
“I understand we need people doing covert surveillance to protect the people of our state and our region. No problems with that,” Christie said. “My concern is why can’t you communicate with the people here in New Jersey, with law enforcement, here in New Jersey. Are we somehow not trust worthy?”
NYPD has said it informed Newark officials and that a liaison was assigned and that Newark police were briefed before and afterward.
New York City officials have been unapologetic, saying they knew of no law prohibiting them from going into New Jersey.
Andrew Schaffer, Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters, said NYPD officers weren’t acting as police officers from another jurisdiction.
“They don’t exercise police power, they don’t make arrests, they don’t conduct searches, they don’t execute search warrants. That is beyond our power outside of our defined jurisdiction,” Schaffer said. “But there’s no prohibition on traveling to, residing in, or investigating within the United States.”
Associated Press writer Colleen Long in New York City contributed to this report.
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