Mayor Mike Bloomberg was on the defense this morning against criticisms thrown at him this week that the New York Police Department’s surveillance of Muslims in New Jersey is arrogant and paranoid.
Since the Associated Press came out with reports that the NYPD spied on Muslim student groups at campuses throughout the Northeast, the mayor has continued to defend his position. He told reporters last month that the surveillance is necessary to fight terrorism and protect freedoms (like free press, guys!). Last week, after reports came out that the NYPD has also been conducting surveillance on mosques and Muslim-owned restaurants in Long Island and Newark, Bloomberg said that the city is consistently following leads and not targeting individuals based on religion or race.
In addition to pressure from universities and advocacy groups, the mayor has faced significant backlash from Newark Mayor Cory Booker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Christie, on Wednesday night, said he didn’t know whether the surveillance program was “born out of arrogance, or out of paranoia, or out of both.” He even mocked Police Commissioner Ray Kelly as “all-knowing, all-seeing.” He said the NYPD had a “masters of the universe” mentality.
Today, on his weekly WOR710 radio show with John Gambling, Bloomberg reiterated that this policy is about public safety.
Gambling asked, “Are you surprised at some of the words you’re hearing from the governor and the mayor of Newark?”
Bloomberg responded, “I haven’t talked to either one about it. We have an agreement with the state of New Jersey signed by I think it was Governor Codey, in terms of helping them — because it’s a regional problem — prevent terrorism. And we also have an agreement as to what would happen if we had to respond, and we’d do it jointly.”
“And also, in the case of I think its Newark, they’ve assigned one of their police officers to work with the NYPD. So, we’ve certainly been keeping them informed,” he added.
He went on to defend the legality of the NYPD’s surveillance: “But the truth of the matter is what we’ve been doing in New Jersey is what anybody in this country and in the world can do. You can go to open meetings and you can go to open websites and look and see what’s there, and that’s really all we’ve been doing, and we have a responsibility to do that, and we share the information with New Jersey.”
In his criticisms of New York City, Christie mentioned Sept. 11, saying, “9/11 was not prevented because law enforcement agencies weren’t talking to each other, they were being selfish, they were being provincial, they were being paranoid, they were being arrogant…I do not want to return to those days.”
Today, Bloomberg also mentioned 9/11, saying, “You gotta remember, John, a lot of the World Trade Center terrorists that killed 3,000 people went back and forth to New Jersey, and trained…in New Jersey. Certainly some of the planning was in Newark, as a matter of fact. And so to say that the NYPD should stop at the border is a bit ridiculous.”
“So I think what we’ve got to do is just work together,” Bloomberg said. “We’ll do as good a job we can to keep everybody informed. Sometimes, there’s nothing to inform them. Sometimes you inform people and they don’t listen. I think we should work and find the things that we can work together with Governor Christie and Mayor Booker rather than spend their time trying to find differences.”