New Jersey attorney general: NYPD surveillance of Muslims was legal
New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa concluded on Thursday that the New York City police did not violate New Jersey laws when they controversially conducted surveillance of Muslim communities, according to the Associated Press.
According to reports, the NYPD has been conducting surveillance of Muslim communities in a number of states in the New England region. The NYPD has gathered information on cab drivers, street level food vendors, ethnic book stores, Internet cafes and even mosques — all without any evidence of wrongdoing.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) had described reports of NYPD surveillance in his state as “disturbing.” Three months ago, Chiesa launched a fact-finding review to determine whether any state laws had been broken. In a statement released Thursday, he said there was no evidence the NYPD violated New Jersey civil or criminal laws.
Unlike the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which is prohibited from conducting similar operations without prior evidence of wrongdoing, the NYPD is unrestricted in this manner.
New Jersey law enforcement officials have agreed to meet with NYPD officials on a regular basis to exchange information concerning counter-terrorism operations. In addition, the New Jersey Attorney General will establish a Muslim outreach committee to better communicate with the Muslim community.
“We remain committed to striking the appropriate balance of ensuring the safety of our citizens through vigilance in fighting terrorism, while not undermining the public’s confidence in how we approach that mission,” Chiesa said.
Muslim leaders are upset by the findings and are considering a federal civil rights lawsuit. Aref Assaf of the American Arab Forum expressed his displeasure to Chiesa during closed-door meeting Thursday.
“I said to him it’s not only insulting, it’s offensive to our sense of justice, that you bring us to Trenton to tell us that you accept as legal and valid the actions of the NYPD,” he recalled to the Associated Press. “I will not be surprised if you’re issuing an order informing your law enforcement officials that they too can spy on American Muslisms because if it’s legal for NYPD, than it must be legal for NJ to do the same.”
With prior reporting by Stephen C. Webster