Muslim leaders say New Jersey's attorney general stopped short of promising a formal investigation into New York Police Department surveillance operations in the state during a meeting they characterized as a positive first step.
Leaders from different New Jersey Muslim organizations met with Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa and state and federal law enforcement officials for nearly three hours in Trenton to discuss concerns over the NYPD's activities in the state.
Several attendees said Chiesa told them during the private meeting that he was still reviewing what legal jurisdiction New Jersey law enforcement officials might have over NYPD operations in the state, before taking any formal action.
A spokesman for the attorney general, Paul Loriquet, called the process part of the agency's "fact-finding" about what occurred.
"Today was the beginning of an open, ongoing, and productive dialogue with New Jersey's Muslim-American community," Loriquet said. "We will continue to reach out to the community and keep the communication channels open as we move forward in our fact-finding."
New Jersey's Muslim leaders have been demanding at least a state investigation - if not a federal one - into the NYPD's activities following a series of stories by The Associated Press that detailed the monitoring or recommended surveillance of Muslims in New Jersey, the mapping of mosques in Newark and the monitoring of Muslim student groups, including at Rutgers University and at other schools in the Northeast.
Leaders representing a cross-section of New Jersey's diverse Muslim population entered the meeting saying they would not settle for less than an official investigation, but many of those same leaders later left the meeting saying although an investigation hadn't been promised, they felt reassured that New Jersey law enforcement officials were taking the matter seriously.
"It's the start; there's still a lot of unanswered questions, I'm going to be honest with you," said Amin Nathari, of the Muslim Community Leadership Coalition of Newark, who attended the meeting. "But the fact that we're all at the table having dialogue and that the commitment is there, that there's a mutual concern to get to the bottom of the issue and to get some justice, I think that we'll be OK going forward,"
In addition to the attorney general and more than a dozen Muslim leaders, the head of the FBI's Newark field office, the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, and representatives from the New Jersey State Police and the Department of Homeland Security also attended.
Paul Fishman, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, declined to comment on whether his office or the U.S. attorney general would be launching a formal investigation, saying only that the U.S. attorney general had already said he was taking a preliminary look at it.
"The issues that were raised relating to the New York Police Department are obviously of huge concern to the Arab and Muslim community in New Jersey and we want them to know that we're responsive to their concerns and that we want to hear what they have to say so that in determining what we're going to do, we know what the community thinks," Fishman said.