Speaking at a Senate hearing Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder said he found some reports about the New York City Police Department's surveillance of Muslim communities throughout the Northeast to be "disturbing."
Holder said he empathized with Governor Chris Christie after it was revealed the NYPD was keeping track of mosques and Muslim student groups in New Jersey.
The NYPD has come under fire for the practice and now the Justice Department says it is reviewing the matter.
“I think, at least what I’ve read publicly, and again, what I’ve just read in newspapers, is disturbing. And these are things that are under review in the Justice Department," said Holder.
New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg raised the issue at a hearing in Washington. He wanted to know how New York police could spy on New Jersey residents without notifying local authorities.
It is unclear whether Holder meant he was disturbed by the surveillance program in general or just the NYPD's work outside the city.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg continued to defend the police department during a visit to Chicago on Thursday.
"We have the best police department in the world, and I think they show that every single day. And we have stopped 14 attacks since 9/11," said the mayor.
Meanwhile, the FBI is postponing a visit to a New Jersey mosque that is believed to have been part of the NYPD's monitoring operation.
Apparently mosque leaders asked authorities not to come.
On Wednesday, Michael Ward, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Newark Division, said the controversy has hurt relationships the FBI has worked hard to build in the years since the September 11th terrorist attacks.
NYPD spokesman Paul Browne issued a statement that reads in part, "NYPD surveillance has resulted in terrorist arrests, including in New Jersey, and that was done within federal guidelines."