New Jersey's top FBI agent plans to visit a mosque as part of an outreach effort in the Muslim community today, a day after criticizing the New York Police Department for damaging relationships by spying on houses of worship and student organizations, according to the Associated Press.
Michael Ward, the agent in charge of the FBI's Newark division, said he planned to meet with worshippers in Paterson in the evening at a mosque that has been identified as a target of NYPD surveillance in documents obtained by The Associated Press.
Ward said Wednesday that news of the NYPD's monitoring of Muslims in New Jersey has hurt the good relationships law enforcement officials had worked hard to build in the community since Sept. 11.
The dispute laid bare the tensions between the FBI and NYPD that have existed for years. But it also proved how New York and neighboring New Jersey view police spying programs differently 10 years after the terrorist attacks.
In New York, polls show strong support for the NYPD and editorial pages have said broad surveillance is needed to protect the city. Just across the Hudson River, however, politicians have decried the NYPD's programs and newspapers have editorialized against them.
A series of AP stories has detailed that the NYPD monitored mosques and Muslim-owned businesses in New Jersey, and how it prepared a report cataloging the location of Muslim-owned businesses and mosques in Newark. Muslim student groups at Rutgers University and other colleges throughout the northeast also were monitored. The report didn't describe any criminal activity or links to terrorism of any groups that were monitored.
Muslim leaders in New Jersey have been vocal in their criticism of the NYPD's activities, and were planning to hold a news conference Thursday afternoon to renew demands for the state attorney general and federal authorities to launch a formal investigation into the NYPD's activities…
Ward is right to take steps to repair these damaged relationships. In the days since Sept. 11, the federal government must be able to interact with the Muslim community in good faith. At the same time, the community must feel safe working with investigators. The NYPD should take note.
Read more at the Associated Press.