Senate

Senate Republicans press federal authorities for information on Texas synagogue hostage-taker

A group of Senate Republicans are pressing federal authorities for more information about Malik Faisal Akram, the British national behind the Texas synagogue hostage situation earlier this month, and how he was able to enter the United States.

The 11 GOP senators, including both of Texas’s, sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas asking to learn more about Akram, who died in the incident, and any “possible breakdowns in our screening processes” that allowed him to enter into the U.S. despite being previously known to British authorities.

The Republican senators who signed the letter are Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Sen. Charles Grassley (Iowa) and Sens. John Cornyn (Texas), Ted Cruz (Texas), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Mike Lee (Utah), Ben Sasse (Neb.), Josh Hawley (Mo.), Tom Cotton (Ark.), John Kennedy (La.), Thom Tillis (N.C.) and Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.)

“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,” the senators wrote. 

“In order to more fully understand how Malik Faisal Akram entered this country, and what possible breakdowns in our screening processes allowed that to happen, we would appreciate answers to the following questions and requests no later than February 8, 2022,” the senators added. They asked for information on his “A-file,” Akram’s visas and databases that check Visa Waiver Program travelers, among other questions.

The senators also sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray asking for information on Akram and the “FBI’s conduct in this matter.” Among some of the information that senators requested included the FBI’s intelligence sharing relationship with the United Kingdom and its communications with the country before and after the hostage situation.

The senators also requested that Wray make himself available for a briefing to discuss his answers with their staff. 

The FBI told The Hill that the agency had received the letter but said they had no comment regarding the ongoing investigation. 

“As a general matter, we do not comment on communications with Congress,” a State Department spokesperson told The Hill in a statement.

Four people were held hostage by Akram for hours at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, on Jan. 15. All four people were later safely released.

An FBI special agent called it both a “hate crime and an act of terrorism.”

The Hill has reached out to the Homeland Security Department for comment.

— Updated at 11:55 p.m.

Tags Alejandro Mayorkas Antony Blinken Ben Sasse Charles Grassley Christopher Wray Chuck Grassley Colleyville synagogue hostage crisis John Cornyn John Kennedy Josh Hawley Lindsey Graham Malik Faisal Akram Marsha Blackburn Mike Lee Ted Cruz Texas Thom Tillis Tom Cotton

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