KEY POINTS

  • Bloomberg defended NYPD spying on Muslims as what they're "supposed to do"
  • An unknown number of Muslims living in New York were monitored for at least 6 years
  • The surveillance program ended in 2014 under Mayor de Blasio

Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg is once again defending controversial policing practices used while serving as New York City mayor. This time, it’s the controversial monitoring of Muslims in the city following the 9/11 attacks, which he argued was necessary to “protect this country.”

During an interview for PBS Newshour, Bloomberg said: “We had every intention of going every place we could legally to get as much information to protect this country. We had just lost 3,000 people at 9/11. Of course, we’re supposed to do that.”

Under Bloomberg, the New York Police Department carried out the organized surveillance of Muslims living in the city. Mosques, businesses, schools and certain neighborhoods were monitored by police until the program ended in 2014. Critics of the practice argued that it violated the privacy of individuals who had committed no crimes or had no links to terrorism and discriminated based on ethnicity and religion.

The program was also condemned for fostering resentment against law enforcement within Muslim communities, creating an atmosphere of alienation that ultimately undermined counter-terrorism efforts.

Bloomberg, however, did not seem to agree with the criticism, instead portraying the policing program as a necessary evil. While the former mayor said that he didn’t believe all Muslims were inherently terrorists, he said that connecting the two groups was justified.

“But all of the [9/11 terrorists] came from the same place – and all that came were from a place that happened to be one religion. And if they’d been another religion, we would have done the same thing,” Bloomberg said.

The program operated under Bloomberg for at least six years, during which no arrests were made and no terror plots were averted.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio blasted Bloomberg’s interview in a tweet Thursday night, describing the surveillance of Muslims after 9/11 as “racist” and only “bred resentment and distrust” toward police.

After being targeted by several lawsuits, the surveillance program was eventually dissolved in 2014 after a settlement was reached with the city. Because of this, it was never ruled whether or not the practice was legal.

Bloomberg recently came under fire after a recording resurfaced in which the then mayor discussed why he supported the use of “stop and frisk” policing. Since announcing his intent to seek the Democratic Party nomination for president, however, Bloomberg has apologized for the controversial practice.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has confirmed he is running for president Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has confirmed he is running for president Photo: AFP / Timothy A. CLARY