April 3, 2012
Mr. Paul Salvatoriello
Deputy Attorney General
Hughes Justice Complex
25 Market Street
Trenton, NJ 08625
Via email to Paul.Salvatoriello@lps.state.nj.us
Dear Mr. Salvatoriello:
Thank you very much for reaching out to me on Tuesday, March 27, 2012, on the subject of the NYPD spying on American Muslims. Your updates on the ‘information gathering’ by the Attorney General’s office are much appreciated. You informed me that you have begun contacting several law enforcement agencies throughout the State. You also reaffirmed the State’s commitment to address the concerns of the Muslim community. I have attended and spoken at the March 3, Summit Meeting in Trenton in which I expressed my reservations about the hesitancy of Attorney General Chiesa to commence a formal investigation of the NYPD espionage activities in New Jersey.
I have opined recently in the Star Ledger’s NJ Voices about my uneasiness, which reflects my assessment of our community’s evolving discontent.
The NYPD espionage has not ceased, and entrapment efforts continue unabated. Doubtless, the trust that we have worked so hard to nurture over the last decade has been shaken up to its roots. The American Muslim community is very anxious for tangible steps that demonstrate the AG’s expressed commitment to determine the extent of complicity, or lack thereof, of New Jersey law enforcement agencies. Our ultimate objective is to hold the NYPD accountable. To that end, I would like to propose some concrete steps to be implemented.
1- Establish a New Jersey Attorney General’s Muslim Advisory Council composed of leaders that truly represent the diversity of the American Muslim community. Try to avoid having a majority of the old traditional leadership represented. Instead, engage the emerging youth and professional leaders. While administered by the AG’s office, other state and possibly federal law enforcement agencies should also participate in this council on a rotating basis. The purpose of the Council must reach beyond ceremonial purposes. Its mandate must be to continually engage the community on the issues that matter to them. As a targeted community, issues relating to racial and religious profiling, both illegal in New Jersey, civil and religious rights violations, and proactive engagement with law enforcement agencies, will require ongoing discussions. Having such access to our community will provide the needed pulse of what we are experiencing.
2- Issue an order to all NJ law enforcement agencies to provide whatever documents they may have about current and past collaborative relationships with the NYPD. While the AG may be excused for not commencing a formal investigation of the NYPD due to the fact they are not an NJ State entity, the NJ AG has the authority and mandate to seek full cooperation from police departments in Newark, Paterson, and New Brunswick as a start.
3- While the jurisdictional violation of NJ territory is a serious issue, we strongly believe it pales compared to the widespread and deliberate surveillance of an entire law-abiding and innocent community simply because of their faith and ethnicity. This must be the message of the AG and our governor.
4- Consider supporting the call for legislative action to better deal with the future foreign invasion of NJ territory. I believe we need a legislation that defines the legal and practical responses to future espionage activities by non-state entities. As it stands now, we lack such legal foundation on which to base our reaction to these activities. Local police departments do not have clear guidelines on a collaboration of this massive and warrantless surveillance.
I have personally argued that in NJ, American Muslims are best treated and consequently they have done more to make NJ safer, more productive and a better place in which to raise a family. American Muslims are loyal citizens and they care about the well-being of our fellow citizens and of our country. We stand with those who want to move America forward. Let us rebuild the bridges of trust and respect by being truly respectful and trustworthy.\
I recognize my recommendations will require further elaboration, a luxury absent in this letter. I am ready to engage you and others in a serious discussion of the substance of my proposals.
Mr. Salvatoriello, you promised you would share my thoughts and suggestions with the Attorney General, Jeffrey Chiesa. I hope to hear only great news.
Aref Assaf, PhD
American Arab Forum