NEW YORK — An interstate feud escalated Friday when a New York congressman berated the New Jersey governor for "trying to score cheap political points" instead of saving lives when he complained that the New York Police Department's monitoring of Muslims across the state line was arrogant and secretive.
Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said Gov. Chris Christie crossed a line when he mocked Police Commissioner Ray Kelly as "all-knowing, all-seeing" and said the NYPD's intelligence operation in Newark may have been "born out of arrogance."
"It's really disturbing and disappointing to have someone like Chris Christie join on this politically correct bandwagon," King said on a WOR-AM radio program. "I wish Chris Christie was more concerned about keeping people alive than he is about trying to score cheap political points."
Both King and Christie are Republicans.
New Jersey officials raised concerns about NYPD operations in their state two weeks ago, after a series of stories by The Associated Press detailed how police officers had monitored Muslims around the metropolitan area and prepared a report cataloging the location of Muslim-owned businesses and mosques in Newark.
The tactics have prompted objections from civil-rights groups and raised questions over whether the NYPD is inappropriately monitoring people who are not suspected of any links to terrorism.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg renewed his defense of the NYPD's intelligence operation on the same program Friday, saying the department had the legal right to gather information that would be available to anyone about Muslims in the region.
"What we've been doing in New Jersey is what anybody in this country or in the world can do," Bloomberg said. "You can go to open meetings, and you can go on open websites and look and see what's there, and that's really all we've been doing."
Christie, who was the top federal prosecutor in New Jersey when the surveillance took place, said on a radio program Wednesday that the NYPD had arrogantly overstepped its bounds by not telling law enforcement officials in New Jersey about the monitoring of Muslims in Newark.
Christie said he was concerned with "this kind of affectation that the NYPD seems to have that they are the masters of the universe."
On Friday, King accused Christie of "overreacting," and said that if he had legitimate concerns, he should have picked up the phone and called Kelly.
"I just found it a real disappointment the way he was conducting himself, the way he was taking cheap shots at Ray Kelly," King said. "I can't believe Gov. Christie is so narrow-minded that somehow he thinks terrorism is going to stop at the state line or the city line."
King also suggested that Christie was driven by ego.
"His main objection seems to be that he wasn't ... brought in. But the fact is that he wasn't governor. He was U.S. attorney. And I'm not aware of any major terror plots that he ever uncovered while he was U.S. attorney in New Jersey."
A Christie spokesman said Friday King "doesn't know what he's talking about" when dismissing Christie's record on terror, citing a post-9/11 conviction of a man who trying to sell a missile to a would-be terrorist, and of six men accused of plotting to kill military personnel.
"Gov. Christie merely raised reasonable concerns about the NYPD's activities in New Jersey – chiefly that the NYPD ignored one of the main lessons learned from the 9/11 attacks," Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said.
"There is a reasonable, bare-minimum expectation that they would communicate with law enforcement agencies when entering another jurisdiction – at least with the Joint Terrorism Task Force."
Bloomberg said the NYPD had been sharing information with its liaisons in New Jersey law enforcement.
"Sometimes there's nothing to inform, and sometimes you inform people and they don't listen," he said.
Newark police officials have said that New York police officials notified them they would be sending plainclothes officers into Newark, and that the city's police director got a report when the operation was over. But Newark officials said they were misled about the nature of the operation and wouldn't have authorized it.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker said on Thursday that since learning of the NYPD's efforts to monitor the community, some Muslims in the city had become afraid to pray in mosques.
"A chill has been put on my community," he said. "The pain and the anguish is real."
Associated Press writers Beth DeFalco and David Porter contributed to this report from New Jersey.