Bloomberg on NYPD surveillance: ‘Proud of my defense of freedom,’ and Jersey knew

Michael Bloomberg. (Azi Paybarah, via flickr)
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Responding to criticism from the New York Times that the NYPD's surveillance of Muslims undermined the mayor's otherwise admirable defenses of religious freedom, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, "I'm very proud of my defense of freedom."

On Sunday, the Times ran an editorial entitled, "Surveillance, Security and Civil Liberties," in which the paper took Bloomberg to task for the NYPD's extensive surveillance of Muslims in the metropolitan region, as reported in a series of articles by the Associated Press.

The Times called the surveillance "constitutionally suspect" and decried the "disdain" with which the mayor has responded to criticism thus far.

"Meantime," continued the paper, "we are wondering what happened to the Michael Bloomberg who stood up for fairness and religious freedom by backing a proposed Muslim community center near ground zero. We hope that mayor re-emerges soon to restore trust."

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Asked for his reaction to the editorial at a press conference about restaurant ratings this afternoon at Zero Otto Nove Trattoria on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, the mayor said, "Quite the contrary." 

"I'm very proud of my defense of freedom," Bloomberg continued. "I've stood up every time I could and I'll continue to do so. And I think if you were to survey most people of every religion, including Islam, they would say that what we're trying to do is keep everybody safe to they can continue to practice their religion here in the only country that really has religious freedom."

"Well, there are other countries with religious freedom," added Bloomberg. "But religious freedom that we can be proud of, and I will continue to speak out and do that. And I have many friends that are Muslims, and ... those that I've talked to have said this country is threatened by radicals and we should continue to keep this country safe, because if we don't, everybody's religious freedom is going to be threatened."

Bloomberg was also asked his response to New Jersey governor Chris Christie's protestations that he had no knowledge of the NYPD's activities in New Jersey —a contention that seems to be untrue, according to this morning's Star-Ledger —and Christie's portrayal of the NYPD and its commissioner, Ray Kelly, as hubristic. 

"Well, number one, anything we've done in New Jersey, we have done under an agreement with the State of New Jersey that was signed by a previous governor and still remains in effect," said the mayor. "In the case of one of the cities ... we did inform the head of police there. However, he's no longer there, he's in another city. And they even assigned a police officer to work with us.

"In terms of sharing information, we continue to do what we've always done. We share all the time. We are in compliance with the federal court decision in terms of what we can do, and we'll continue to gather the kind of information that the constitution and the court decision allows us to do.

"Just keep in mind, you can all have fun with this story, but we have to be perfect every single day. The terrorists only have to be right once ... And I'm committed, as is the police commissioner, to get through the next 665 days and continuing to keep this city as safe as we possibly can."