TRENTON, New Jersey (AP) — The New York Police Department ignored one of the key lessons of the Sept. 11 attacks by not sharing information with New Jersey law enforcement agencies when it conducted secret surveillance of Muslim communities, Gov. Chris Christie said Thursday.
The Republican governor's comments were his harshest criticism yet of the NYPD's secret surveillance of Muslims in New Jersey's largest city and elsewhere. He said the department had a "masters of the universe" mentality."
At a briefing Thursday, the governor would say whether he thought civil rights were violated, saying that was not his job.
The governor said it can be dangerous if law enforcement agencies don't share information.
On Thursday, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office declined to comment on Christie's statements. The NYPD didn't respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Christie's comments drew praise from at least one Muslim leader in New Jersey, Aref Assaf, head of the American Arab Forum.
"I'm so gratified. I'm honored to be a resident of the state of New Jersey under his leadership," Assaf said. "He doesn't mince words; he was unambiguous about the incursion of the NYPD into our state without proper protocols."
Christie's remarks came 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. The AP also revealed that the NYPD secretly monitored the daily activities of Muslim college student groups across the Northeast.
Civil rights groups on Thursday joined widening calls for an investigation. The Justice Department said this week it was just starting a review, months after first getting complaints about NYPD surveillance of entire Muslim neighborhoods.
The American Civil Liberties Unions of Connecticut and Pennsylvania are seeking investigations on NYPD practices in those states, including at Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania. An NYPD report also described surveillance in 2007 in Newark, New Jersey, on which Christie said he doesn't recall being briefed even though he was then the U.S. attorney for the state.
Christie said he didn't know whether the surveillance program was "born out of arrogance, or out of paranoia, or out of both."
"My concern is this kind of affectation that the NYPD seems to have that they are the masters of the universe," the governor said.
The NYPD said that 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.
Associated Press writers Beth DeFalco in Trenton, Samantha Gross and Colleen Long in New York, and Samantha Henry in Newark contributed to this report.