As friction over the New York police spying on New Jersey's Muslims continues to grow, the FBI's top officer in the Garden State says the uproar is damaging his agency's ability to gather important counterterrorism intelligence, reports the Newark Star-Ledger. Muslims had already distrusted law enforcers and feared they were being watched, said Michael Ward, director of the FBI's Newark division “And the impact of that sinking tide of cooperation means that we don't have our finger on the pulse of what's going on in the community, as well,” he said. “We're less knowledgeable, we have blind spots, and there's more risk.”
In his first public comments on the deepening controversy — one that Tuesday also saw the filing of a formal complaint by civil rights groups with the state's attorney general — Ward said the FBI has spent the years after 9/11 opening lines of communication with New Jersey's Muslim communities. In a rare public criticism of another agency, Ward also questioned whether the now widely known surveillance the New York Police Department conducted in 2007 in Newark — as plainclothes officers charted mosques and other places frequented by Muslims — was effective intelligence gathering.