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Church State Issues

N.J. official: NYPD Muslim surveillance legal

May 25, 2012

Arizona Republic

Muslim residents have no recourse to halt police spying, state AG says

by Samantha Henry - May. 24, 2012 08:50 PM

Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J. - New York City police did not violate New Jersey laws when they conducted surveillance of Muslim businesses, mosques and student groups, Gov. Chris Christie's administration said Thursday following a three-month review, a finding that angered Muslim leaders who had sought a clampdown on the cross-border police operations.

The conclusion by Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa, a Christie appointee asked by the governor to look into the spying, means New Jersey Muslims have no state recourse to stop the New York Police Department from infiltrating student groups, videotaping mosque-goers or collecting their license plate numbers as they pray.

Such operations were part of a widespread NYPD program to collect intelligence on Muslim communities both inside New York and beyond. Undercover officers and informants eavesdropped in Muslim cafes and monitored sermons, even when there was no evidence of a crime. The result was that many innocent business owners, students and others were cataloged in police files.

The interstate surveillance efforts, revealed by the Associated Press earlier this year, angered many Muslims and New Jersey officials. Some, like Newark Mayor Cory Booker and the state's top FBI official, criticized the tactics. Others, like Christie, focused on the fact that the NYPD didn't tell New Jersey exactly what it was up to.

In response, Chiesa launched what he described as a fact-finding review. That review concluded that the NYPD's operations violated no state laws, either civil or criminal.

Further, authorities found that New Jersey has no laws barring outside law-enforcement agencies from secretly conducting operations in the state, representatives of the attorney general's office told the AP. However, New York police have agreed to meet with New Jersey law enforcement regularly to discuss counterterrorism intelligence and operations, the attorney general said.

Chiesa, the governor's former chief counsel and a longtime confidante, outlined the state's findings in closed-door meetings Thursday afternoon with Muslim leaders.

Muslim leaders said they were told that every instance of NYPD activity in New Jersey had been justified by a lead, but that the attorney general would not provide any details on the nature of any of those leads, saying the fact-finding was ongoing.