New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie escalated a cross-Hudson war of words with New York City last night, complaining on a radio show about allegations that the New York Police Department (NYPD) went outside its jurisdiction to spy on Muslims in Newark, Rutgers University, and possibly other locations. He said he didn’t know if the NYPD’s actions were “born out of arrogance or paranoia.”
The Associated Press has issued a series of reports on NYPD’s secret surveillance of Muslims in New York and outside the state. In response, a coalition of New Jersey Muslim groups wrote to Christie to ask for a full investigation of the allegations. The New Jersey attorney general began an investigation and, at a previous town hall meeting, deferred judgement on civil liberties issues to the outcome of the inquiry.
But spending eight minutes of his Wednesday “Ask the Governor” radio show on the matter, Christie escalated his complaints about the NYPD’s conduct on the basis of jurisdictional issues. “My concern is this kind of obsession that the NYPD seems to have that they’re the masters of the universe,” he said, noting that he did not recall being informed of the spying at the time, when he was a federal prosecutor in the state. He went on to speculate about what caused the lapse in coordination:
CHRISTIE: I don’t know if it was born out of ignorance or paranoia.
HOST: But you think lives could have been at risk, because they refuse to share or be forthcoming.
CHRISTIE: They always can be. In terms of law enforcement lives when you got people stumbling over each other who are surveilling the same people. Also, because we know… that the basis of criticism after 9/11 was the refusal of rival law enforcement agencies to share information with each other.
Watch a clip of the Christie interview:
Christie also had harsh words for NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who, like New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, has refused to apologize for the surveillance or its scope outside New York. The host of “Ask the Governor” noted that Kelly had not apologized, prompting Christie to reply: “Of course! Because he’s Ray Kelly! What are you going to do? He’s all knowing, all seeing.” Kelly came under fire last month for appearing in a film by an Islamophobic group called the Clarion Fund, and, after dissembling about his role, apologized.
Yesterday, the U.S. Attorney Eric Holder said the Justice Department was reviewing the NYPD surveillance to determine if there were civil rights violations.