WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — Attorney General Eric Holder says he’s disturbed by what he’s read about the NYPD conducting surveillance of mosques and Islamic student organizations in New Jersey.
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Holder says the Justice Department is reviewing the matter, including letters from New Jersey officials complaining that they were kept in the dark about the surveillance.
The attorney general made the remarks at a subcommittee hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee when asked by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., how a law enforcement agency could spy on another state’s residents without notifying authorities.
“I don’t know,” Holder replied. “We are in the process of reviewing the letters that have come in expressing concerns about those matters.”
“At least what I’ve read publicly, and again, just what I’ve read in the newspapers, is disturbing,” Holder said. “And these are things that are under review at the Justice Department.”
Holder said he has also spoken to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who strongly emphasized his concerns about the surveillance program.
The attorney general said that at a reception several days ago, Christie “expressed to me the concerns that he had” and that he “has now publicly expressed his concerns as only he can.”
Christie has criticized the NYPD for what he and other New Jersey officials have described as less than full coordination and disclosure to them of what was going on.
Holder didn’t say whether he was more concerned about the lack of coordination or the surveillance itself.
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Meanwhile, an interfaith news conference was held in Jersey City Thursday to denounce the NYPD’s surveillance program.
“An investigation will definitely shed a lot of light on who knew what and where and who should have had the responsibility to carry the admission forward and who should have stopped it and what have you,” said Mohamad El Filali, executive director of the Islamic Center in Passaic County.
He wasn’t yet saying if he was considering a lawsuit, El Filali thinks the NYPD’s surveillance of Muslims and businesses violates their civil rights by investigating across the Hudson River.
“There is no justification,” he said.
“If you don’t stand up with your brothers and sisters of other faiths, what happens to them will eventually happen to you,” said Father Phil Latronico from the Newark Archdiocese, among several clergy who spoke out.
State attorney general spokesman Paul Loriquet says what they find will determine their actions at that point.
On Wednesday, the head of the Newark FBI said the NYPD’s monitoring of Muslims in the Garden State has hindered the feds’ ability to gather counter terrorism intelligence.
“What we’re seeing now with the uproar that is occurring in New Jersey is that we’re starting to see cooperation pulled back. People are concerned that they’re being followed. People are concerned that they can’t trust law enforcement,” said FBI Newark special agent in charge Michael Ward.
But Mayor Michael Bloomberg has defended the city and the NYPD.
“Anything we’ve done in New Jersey, we have done under an agreement with the state of New Jersey that was signed by a previous governor, and still remains in effect,” said Bloomberg on Tuesday.
Back in 2005, then New Jersey Gov. Dick Codey signed the executive orders that allowed the NYPD to cross the Hudson and carry out surveillance operations in New Jersey.
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