McCarthy Demands Answers from DOJ on Synagogue Attacker
House Minority leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) issued a statement demanding answers from the Justice Department, accusing them of “downplaying” a hostage situation at a Texas synagogue on Saturday.
Many are demanding answers for how a Malik Faisal Akram, a British national who took four hostages at gunpoint at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, could enter the U.S. on a tourist visa when he was known to U.K. intelligence agencies and had a criminal record.
“Our understanding, and obviously we’re still looking into this, is that he was checked against U.S. government databases multiple times prior to entering the country,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday.
Akram, 44, flew to New York City from the U.K. on December 29, and he was in Dallas by January 2. The BBC reported Tuesday that Britain’s counterintelligence and security agency, MI5, investigated Akram in 2020 and had him on a watch list as a “subject of interest” but concluded that he no longer posed a threat.
Psaki said that the government did not have any “derogatory information” on Akram when he entered the country.
“We’re certainly looking back, as I referenced, at what occurred to learn every possible lesson we can to prevent attacks like this in the future,” Psaki said.
On January 15, Akram knocked on the window of Congregation Beth Israel synagogue, and Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker welcomed him inside and offered him a cup of tea. Akram sat through part of the live-streamed Shabbat service and then displayed a weapon. He took four hostages: Cytron-Walker, congregant Jeffrey Cohen, and two others.
“Akram told his captives that he wanted to secure the release of Aafia Siddiqui — an American-educated Pakistani woman widely known as ‘Lady al-Qaeda’ who was convicted of terrorism charges in 2010,” the Washington Post reported.
According to authorities, as soon as the remaining hostages fled, after an 11-hour standoff, the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team rushed in, using a flash-bang device to try to disorient the suspect and then fatally shooting him.
McCarthy and other prominent Republicans, like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, have rebuked the Biden administration over its handling of the incident.
“Over the past 48 hours, President Biden’s Justice Department has gone from denying the clear and religious, anti-Semitic implications of this attack to now backtracking to what we all already knew to be true. Now as more information becomes available, it only raises more questions,” McCarthy said in a statement.
McCarthy accused Biden officials of “downplaying” the attack and demanded to know why the FBI “initially disregard[ed] the role anti-Semitism played in this hostage situation.”
“The terrorist was clearly driven by anti-semitic hate, which is why he targeted the synagogue, and it is appalling that the initial statement from the FBI as reported by corporate media initially obfuscated that fact,” said Christina Pushaw, a spokesperson for DeSantis.
“While we do not have the details of how this U.K. national with a criminal record was able to go to Texas and attack the synagogue, this is exactly the kind of national security threat that the FBI ought to prevent. But instead, the Biden Administration is weaponizing the FBI against political dissidents, such as concerned parents making their voices heard at school board meetings.”
“How long did the FBI know a radical Islamist foreign national with a criminal record was in the country? Were they working with him or his associates? How did this person get a visa? Did he slip through the cracks because they were too busy surveilling your conservative grandma?” Donald Trump Jr. tweeted.
At a news conference on Saturday, FBI Special Agent in Charge Matt DeSarno initially said that “the Texas synagogue hostage taker’s demands were specifically focused on issues not connected to the Jewish community.”
DeSarno’s comments were widely criticized, and the FBI released a statement late Sunday, acknowledging that the attack was anti-semitic.
“This is a terrorism-related matter, in which the Jewish community was targeted, and is being investigated by the Joint Terrorism Task Force,” the statement read.