Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans, including Sen. Ted Cruz, of Texas, demanded answers from the Biden administration Tuesday about the terrorist who held four people hostage at a Colleyville, Texas, synagogue earlier this month.
In their letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the senators questioned how Malik Faisal Akram, a 44-year-old British national, was able to get into the country in the first place.
"In light of the numerous red flags in Akram's record, we are extremely concerned about the adequacy of our visa adjudication and admission-screening protocols," they wrote. "As Akram's own brother told reporters: 'How had he gotten into America? Why was he granted a visa? How did he land at JFK airport and not get stopped for one second?' "
According to The Dallas Morning News, Britain's intelligence agency MI5 investigated Akram in 2020, but dropped its investigation within months, adding him to a list of about 40,000 former "subjects of interest," which is not usually shared with U.S. authorities.
With no red flag, Akram flew to New York without issue as a British citizen under the terms of the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP) in late December.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, the program permits citizens of 40 countries to travel to the United States for business or tourism for stays of up to 90 days without a visa.
Two weeks after arriving in the country, Akram held the rabbi and three members of Congregation Beth Israel at gunpoint, and demanded the release of Aaifa Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman linked to al-Qaida who is serving an 86-year sentence for trying to kill U.S. officers in Afghanistan.
Akram released one hostage and the other three escaped when Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker threw a chair. Once all the hostages had been freed, the FBI raided the synagogue and killed Akram.
The senators' letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray demanded answers to 15 questions, including:
- "Does the FBI consider Akram to be an international terrorist, particularly a jihadist or Islamic fundamentalist terrorist? If so, please explain. If not, why not?"
- "Has the FBI determined whether or not Akram is part of a larger cell or terrorist operation?"
- "The hallmark of success in preventing international terrorism attacks within the United States after 9/11 is our ability to prevent terrorism threats from entering the United States. How did this system break down in this case?"
A day after the attack, President Joe Biden said Akram had been staying at a "homeless shelter" and purchased the gun he used "on the street" illegally, according to the New York Post.
In their letter, the senators asked Wray to confirm this and whether the FBI is investigating the illegal seller.
They also asked if the National Instant Criminal Background Check System possesses "any records or evidence to suggest that Akram was ever denied or delayed the ability to purchase a firearm at any time? If so, on what date and what records remain from these transactions or attempted transactions?"
All 11 Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee signed the letters.
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