Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) is asking federal agencies to confirm key immigration details about the suspect in Tuesday’s deadly terrorist attack in New York City and whether he previously showed up on a government database that tracks travel records for immigration and anti-terrorism enforcement.
Grassley, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, asked Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Elaine Duke in a letter to confirm reports that Sayfullo Saipov, the suspect in the attack, immigrated to the United States from Uzbekistan on a diversity visa in 2010.
Grassley also asked for a list of all hits involving Saipov that show up on the Treasury Enforcement Communications System (TECS), a database that assists the FBI and other agencies in monitoring travel of people to and from the United States to certain countries.
"According to reports to my office, Saipov is a lawful permanent resident who immigrated to the United States from Uzbekistan on a diversity visa over five years ago," the Iowa Republican wrote. "To confirm this information and better understand what motivated this act of terror, please provide numbered written responses to the following questions no later than November 14, 2017."
Additionally, Grassley asked DHS to document whether Saipov was on a terrorist watch list and whether he had any criminal convictions. He asked the State Department to provide all visa records and associated documentation for Saipov, what category of visa he sought, if any, and which embassy or consulate he submitted his application to and whether it was denied.
Grassley also specifically asked whether Saipov was subjected to "any additional administrative processing" associated with the visa application and requested a timeline for "all applications or petitions for immigrant and/or non-immigrant visas."
Saipov, 29, a New Jersey resident, reportedly had multiple interactions with law enforcement in several states in recent years. ABC News reported Wednesday that DHS federal agents in 2015 interviewed the suspect about possible ties to suspected terrorists but did not have enough evidence to open a case on him.
According to the report, which cited law enforcement officials, federal authorities cited Saipov's name and address as a "point of contact" for two different men whose names appear in a Counterterrorism and Criminal Exploitation Unit's list because they came to the U.S. from "threat countries." Federal authorities have since lost track of one of the men who they consider a "suspected terrorist" and are trying to track down, the report said.
A hand-written note found next to the rented truck used in the attack said it was carried out on behalf of ISIS, according to John Miller, the NYPD deputy commissioner for intelligence and counter-terrorism. Miller on Wednesday said Saipov had been planning the attack for a "number of weeks" and seemed to have followed instructions from ISIS on how to carry out a terrorist attack using a truck or other vehicle.
The Justice Department Tuesday night in a statement pledged to "work with its partners in law enforcement and the intelligence community to thoroughly investigate this matter."