NEW YORK — Mayor Michael Bloomberg responded Friday to criticism of the New York Police Department's surveillance of Muslims across state lines, saying that police attended public meetings to protect the city from terrorism and informed New Jersey authorities about their findings.
"A lot of the World Trade Center terrorists that took 3,000 people went back and forth to New Jersey," he said during his weekly appearance on WOR Radio. "To say that the NYPD should stop at the border is a bit ridiculous."
Bloomberg said he had not spoken to Gov. Chris Christie or Newark Mayor Cory Booker following their criticism of the department's out-of-state operations, detailed recently in a series of stories by The Associated Press. The NYPD monitored mosques and Muslims around the metropolitan area and kept tabs on Muslim student groups at universities in upstate New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
The tactics have prompted objections from civil-rights groups and raised questions over whether the NYPD is illegally engaging in religious and ethnic profiling.
Christie accused the NYPD of behaving as if "their jurisdiction is the world," but the department has not been overstepping any bounds, Bloomberg reiterated.
"What we've been doing in New Jersey is what anybody in this country or in the world can do. You can go to open meetings, and you can go on open websites and look and see what's there, and that's really all we've been doing," he said. "We have a responsibility to do that, and we share the information with New Jersey."
Bloomberg's statements appeared to contradict Christie's assertion that the NYPD had not been sharing information with New Jersey law enforcement agencies when it conducted surveillance in Newark.
The governor on Thursday accused the police department of ignoring a key lesson of the Sept. 11 attacks.
"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," Christie said. "I do not want to return to those days."
At the time of the surveillance in Newark in 2007, Christie was U.S. attorney for New Jersey. He said he doesn't recall being briefed.
Booker said Thursday that the spying had caused "egregious harm to Muslims in Newark."
"People are saying they are afraid to pray in Mosques," he said. "They are afraid to eat in restaurants. A chill has been put on my community; the pain and the anguish is real."
Bloomberg said Friday that Newark has an officer assigned to work with the NYPD, and New Jersey authorities have been kept informed.
"Sometimes there's nothing to inform, and sometimes you inform people and they don't listen," he said.