Updated 03/08/2012 09:11 AM
FBI Official Says NYPD Surveillance Of N.J. Muslims Damaged Public Trust
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The head of the FBI in New Jersey said on Wednesday that the New York City Police Department's monitoring of Muslim groups damaged the public's trust in law enforcement across the Hudson.
Michael Ward, who heads the FBI's Newark Division, said two NYPD investigators have been assigned to the New Jersey-based Joint Terrorism Task Force for years.
While he did know they were working in the state, Ward said he only learned from the media about the extent of the NYPD's operations outside the task force.
Ward said the NYPD's reported secret surveillance of mosques, Muslim-owned businesses and college campuses jeopardized some of the relationships agents had built in the community over the last decade.
"When people pull back cooperation, it creates additional risks, it creates blind spots, it hinders our ability to have our finger on the pulse of what's going on around the state and thus it causes problems," said Ward.
NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said on Wednesday that the police department's intelligence gathering led to the capture of radical converts in New Jersey and was always within the FBI's guidelines.
Nevertheless, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said the NYPD should alert local authorities about surveillance they are conducting beyond the five boroughs.
"I don't have any problem with NYPD coming to New Jersey, but if you're going to come, let New Jersey law enforcement know about it," said Christie.
Muslim leaders in New York, New Jersey and other states have also requested investigations into the NYPD's activities.
Meanwhile, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani defended the NYPD over its controversial surveillance of the Muslim community.
At the Bronx Chamber of Commerce's annual Irish heritage luncheon in Bronxdale on Wednesday, the former mayor stressed his respect for Islam and the rights of all Americans.
But the former federal prosecutor said history shows threats have repeatedly emerged from within mosques and Muslim community groups and he endorsed the NYPD's judgement and tactics.
"We have without any doubt, the most responsible, the best police department in the country. We have in Ray Kelly, one of the best police commissioners in the history of the police department. I would tend to give them the benefit of the doubt before I would get too exaggerated about this," said Giuliani.
However, Richard Aborn of the Citizens Crime Commission, also a former prosecutor and law enforcement expert, said that the NYPD should not be given the benefit of the doubt and needs independent oversight.
"If you were to combine the Chicago police department, the Los Angeles police department and the Philadelphia police department into one force, that force would still be smaller than the NYPD. Yet each of those departments has vigorous independent oversight. We essentially have very little," said Aborn.
The NYPD maintains it has established strong ongoing relations in the Islamic community, and during a meeting with handpicked local Muslim leaders on Tuesday, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said he pans to reach out to Muslim communities across the five boroughs.