TRENTON, NJ – After a three-month review, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Officehas determined that the New York City Police Department broke no laws in its surveillance of Muslims on this side of the Hudson River after 9/11.

In an announcement made Thursday afternoon, Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa also said his office has taken steps to improve law enforcement coordination between the two states and set up protocols to address concerns expressed by Muslim community leaders.

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"We thought the AG was on our side," said Aref Assaf, president of the American Arab Forum in an article on nj.com. Assaf called the revelations at the meeting "stunning and offensive ... I was ready to walk out."

“What has not been told to us is to what extent were you watching my sons and my daughters, to what extent you were listening to us on the phone. And is this still going on? They couldn’t even tell us that,” said Imam Mustafa El-Amin of the Masjid Ibrahim in Newark, in an article on northjersey.com.

Among the targets of the surveillance  was the Masjid Omar Mosque on Getty Avenue, according to a NYPD report. New York police officers videotaped and photographed worshipers at the mosque, the report said. The officers also recorded license plate numbers of people who attended Friday prayers at the mosque, paying special attention to New York state vehicles, the report said.

The mosque also was believed to have been the target of federal investigators, said the report, which included aerial photographs of the mosque.

Among the steps announced by Chiesa on Thursday were:

  • An agreement has been reached to strengthen the lines of communication with NYPD concerning investigative activities in New Jersey related to counter-terrorism. New Jersey law enforcement officials will meet with NYPD on a regular basis to exchange information concerning counter-terrorism intelligence and operations.
  • Effective immediately, by virtue of an Attorney General’s Directive issued today, New Jersey law enforcement agencies have formalized notification protocols to follow when they learn of law enforcement activity being conducted by out-of-state police agencies within their jurisdictions. For counter-terrorism-related matters, the Directive establishes reporting protocols to designated personnel at the New Jersey State Police Counter-Terrorism Bureau and the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, for further coordination with the Joint Terrorism Task Force headed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
  • The Attorney General’s Office will establish a Muslim outreach committee in order to enhance communication and encourage a greater understanding regarding issues of importance to both law enforcement and the Muslim community.

The fact-finding review conducted by the Office of the Attorney General included gathering information from individuals within the ranks of law enforcement in New Jersey, New York, and other states, as well as from civilians within the Muslim and other communities in New Jersey. The Office of the Attorney General will continue to receive and assess information relevant to the conduct at issue and cooperate with any other state or federal law enforcement agencies engaged in reviewing those matters.            

Attorney General Chiesa announced the results of the fact-finding review to date after meeting earlier Thursday with leaders from New Jersey’s Muslim community at the Hughes Justice Complex in Trenton.  

The Attorney General explained that while, as a routine matter, law enforcement in New Jersey effectively coordinates operations to de-conflict and ensure operational safety with out-of-state law enforcement agencies, the Directive issued today will bring consistency to those reporting mechanisms based on the nature and scope of the underlying law enforcement activity.  He also indicated that the Directive, as well as regular meetings with the NYPD, will enable better, and more immediate, coordination of information for purposes of conducting counter-terrorism operations.

Recognizing the unique challenges of counter-terrorism intelligence gathering and investigations, while understanding the need to safeguard the public’s confidence in law enforcement’s respect for fundamental civil liberties, Attorney General Chiesa said, “We remain committed to striking the appropriate balance of ensuring the safety of our citizens through vigilance in fighting terrorism, while not undermining the public’s confidence in how we approach that mission.”