New York attack: Suspect charged with terrorism offenses – CNN

Sayfullo Saipov has been charged with federal terrorism offenses in connection with Tuesday’s attack in Manhattan in which eight people were killed, according to a charging document from the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Saipov, a 29-year-old Uzbek national who was living in New Jersey, is charged with providing material support to ISIS and violence and destruction of motor vehicles.
Saipov rented a truck similar to the one used in the attack several times over the course of the last several weeks in order to be familiar with operating it, a law enforcement official tells CNN.
The FBI is seeking the public’s assistance with information about an Uzbekistan national in connection with the attack, according to an FBI poster. The agency is looking for tips on Mukhammadzoir Kadirov, 32.
[Previous story, published at 5:13 p.m. ET]
The suspect in New York’s deadliest terror attack since 9/11 had planned the attack for weeks and carried out the killings “in the name of ISIS,” John Miller, NYPD deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, said on Wednesday.
Authorities identified the suspect as Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, a 29-year-old Uzbekistan native who came to the US legally in 2010. Saipov allegedly drove a rented truck onto a well-trafficked bike path just blocks from the World Trade Center on Tuesday afternoon.
Eight people were killed and more than a dozen injured as the driver carved a path of destruction through several blocks of Lower Manhattan. Saipov crashed the rented truck into a school bus, left the vehicle brandishing imitation firearms and was shot by police, officials said. He survived and was taken into custody, police said.
How the New York City truck attack unfoldedHow the New York City truck attack unfolded
In carrying out the attack, Saipov relied on the playbook laid out by ISIS in recent years, officials said. Miller said that handwritten notes in Arabic found near the scene had both symbols and words, but the general message was that the Islamic State would endure forever.
“He appears to have followed almost exactly to a ‘T’ the instructions that ISIS has put out in its social media channels before with instructions to their followers on how to carry out such an attack,” Miller said.

Here are the latest developments:

  • Five Argentinian high school classmates, two young American men, and a Belgian mother were identified as the victims, police said.
  • President Donald Trump called Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to offer any federal assistance needed, Trump tweeted.
  • The suspect arrived in the US as part of the diversity immigrant visa program, the Department of Homeland Security said.
  • De Blasio and Cuomo praised New York residents for quickly returning to their normal lives. If the attacker’s goal was to terrorize the public, then that goal failed, they said. “That’s what makes New Yorkers special,” de Blasio said. “That strength, that resilience, that ability to be undeterred in the face of ugliness and the actions of a depraved coward.”

The suspect

Saipov came to the US from the central Asian nation of Uzbekistan in 2010 on a diversity immigrant visa, according to the Department of Homeland Security. The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program awards up to 50,000 individuals per year a visa for a green card, which bestows permanent residency and is a path to citizenship.
The visas are awarded randomly to those in select countries to promote immigration from places that don’t otherwise send many immigrants to the US. The bill establishing the program was signed into law in 1990.
NYPD official John Miller said Saipov has never been the subject of an NYPD or FBI investigation, but investigators are looking into how he is connected to the subjects of other investigations.
Saipov was “radicalized domestically” in the US, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday morning.
“The evidence shows — and again, it’s only several hours, and the investigation is ongoing — but that after he came to the United States is when he started to become informed about ISIS and radical Islamic tactics,” Cuomo said.
Saipov was not on any US government terror watch lists, according to two sources familiar with the investigation.
Just over six months ago, Saipov began driving for Uber in New Jersey, the company told CNN. He passed a background check and did not have any rider complaints about his safety as a driver, according to Uber. The company is cooperating with authorities in the investigation.
Who is New York attack suspect Sayfullo Saipov?Who is New York attack suspect Sayfullo Saipov?
Saipov once listed his occupation as a truck driver, his marriage license shows.
He had multiple run-ins with law enforcement in several states, online records show. He had traffic citations issued in Missouri and Pennsylvania and was arrested by the Missouri State Highway Patrol in October 2016 after failing to show up in court for a misdemeanor offense.
He paid a $200 bond, which he forfeited when he didn’t show up in court for his next hearing in November. A guilty plea was entered on his behalf.
Saipov’s wife has spoken with investigators, law enforcement officials said. Saipov, his wife and three children have a residence in Paterson, New Jersey.
Carlos Batista, one of Saipov’s neighbors in Paterson, told CNN that Saipov had acted as a “peacemaker” about six months ago. Batista was riding a dirt bike at night, and Saipov’s friends asked him to stop. The incident became testy until Saipov stepped in and “calmed everything down,” Batista said.
Saipov has been linked to social media accounts that contain ISIS-related material, a law enforcement official said Wednesday morning. The official also said Saipov has been somewhat cooperative with FBI and New York police investigators who questioned him in the hospital overnight.
Officers were able to talk to Saipov before he went into surgery, but it was unclear if he told them anything, a law enforcement source told CNN.

The victims

Among the eight people killed, five were from Argentina, two were Americans, and one was from Belgium, according to the New York Police Department.
The Argentinians were part of a group celebrating their high school reunion in New York City, Argentina’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said.
Victims of the New York terror attackVictims of the New York terror attack
Hernán Diego Mendoza, Diego Enrique Angelini, Alejandro Damián Pagnucco, Ariel Erlij and Hernán Ferruchi died in the attack, the ministry said in a statement Tuesday.
They had traveled to New York from Rosario, a town nearly 200 miles northwest of Buenos Aires, to mark the 30th anniversary of their high school graduation. A sixth Argentine national who was also part of the group was injured during the attack.
Nicholas Cleves, 23, from New York, and Darren Drake, 32, from New Milford, New Jersey, were the two Americans killed.
Anne-Laure Decadt, a 31-year-old Belgian woman, was also among those killed, according to a statement from her husband, Alexander Naessens. Decadt, a mother of two young sons, was on a trip to New York with her two sisters and her mother, Naessens said.

The President’s response

Hours after the attack, President Donald Trump tweeted that he’s ordered the Department of Homeland Security “to step up our already Extreme Vetting Program“, and he accused Sen. Chuck Schumer of not being tough enough on immigration.
Who is the NYPD officer who apprehended the suspect?Who is the NYPD officer who apprehended the suspect?
Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Trump called the suspect an “animal” and said that he planned to start the process of terminating the diversity lottery program.
“I am going to ask Congress to immediately initiate work to get rid of this program. Diversity lottery, diversity lottery. Sounds nice, it is not nice, it is not good. It hasn’t been good and we have been against it,” he said.
Earlier Wednesday, Gov. Cuomo criticized Trump’s tweets.
“The President’s tweets were not helpful. I don’t think they were factual. I think they tend to point fingers and politicize the situation,” he said.
“You play into the hands of the terrorist to the extent that you disrupt, divide and frighten people in the society. The tone now should be the opposite — on all levels.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said “the last thing we should do is start casting aspersions on whole races of people or whole religions or whole nations. That only makes the situation worse.”
De Blasio also warned against stereotyping all Muslims as extremists.
“Anyone who wants to come into this country should be very thoroughly vetted as an individual,” he said. “But the minute you start generalizing it, especially to a whole religion, then unfortunately we’re sending the exact negative message that a lot of our enemies want and the terrorist wants to affirm — that this nation is somehow anti-Muslim. We’ve got to do the exact opposite.”

Vehicles as weapons

The tactic of turning an ordinary vehicle into a lethal weapon is becoming increasingly common.
In 2014, an ISIS spokesman called for lone-wolf attacks using improvised weaponry. “If you are not able to find an IED or a bullet, then single out the disbelieving American, Frenchman or any of their allies. Smash his head with a rock or slaughter him with a knife or run him over with your car or throw him down from a high place or choke him or poison him.”
Vehicles as weapons: New York City crash is part of a deadly trendVehicles as weapons: New York City crash is part of a deadly trend
Since 2014, there have been 15 vehicular attacks in the West by jihadist terrorists, killing 142 people, according to a count by New America, a nonpartisan research institution. Those figures include Tuesday’s attack in Manhattan.
For the past few years, New York police have reached out to vehicle rental businesses to warn them about possible terror threats.
“We did extensive outreach to the truck rental business. We visited over 148 truck rental locations in this area,” Miller said Tuesday. “The industry has had a high level of awareness on this matter from the NYPD.”
Miller said that if a company is suspicious of a would-be renter, they usually delay or simply deny a rental to let police investigate.
In Tuesday’s incident, the suspect drove a Home Depot rental truck he drove from New Jersey, Miller said.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect the note claiming that the attack was made in the name of ISIS was found near the truck. It has also been updated to correctly quote Mayor Bill de Blasio on comments he made cautioning against casting blame on different groups of people.

CNN’s Shimon Prokupecz, Tal Kopan, Paul Murphy, Brynn Gingras, David Shortell, Topher Gauk-Roger, Curt Devine, Hilary McGann, Elizabeth Joseph, Athena Jones, Sarah Jorgensen, Nelli Black, Kristina Sgueglia and Patricia DiCarlo contributed to this report.

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Senators to Facebook, Google, Twitter: Wake up to Russian threat – Politico

Mark Warner is pictured. | AP Photo

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) listen during Wednesday’s Senate Intelligence Committee hearing. | Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo

Some Republicans doubt whether Russian influence helped elect Trump.

Senators from both parties blasted Facebook, Google and Twitter for failing to grasp the magnitude of Russia’s interference in the U.S. presidential election, but some Republicans sought to blunt Democratic concerns that the meddling helped Donald Trump win the White House.

The companies’ general counsels took sharp questions at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing Wednesday from lawmakers who charged them with not recognizing or properly investigating the scope of Russia’s influence operation as it surged through their networks.

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“I don’t think you get it. I think the fact that you’re general counsels, you defend your company,” Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said at the hearing about Russia’s use of social mediain the 2016 election. “What we’re talking about is the beginning of cyberwarfare.”

Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) chastised the companies about their responsibility, telling them: “This is about national security … [and a] deliberate and multifaceted manipulation of the American people by agents of a hostile foreign power.”

“We have no doubt that there are attempted efforts at interference,” Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch said. “It’s something we’re focused on addressing going forward. In terms of whether it had an outcome on the election, that’s not something we’re in a position to judge.” Each of the companies said their internal probes are not yet complete.

Warner also criticized the companies for not going far enough in their disclosures to congressional investigators about the extent of Russian meddling on their platforms.

Facebook initially told committee representatives last month that it found 3,000 Facebook ads purchased by the Russia-backed Internet Research Agency. Then Monday, the company revealed the existence of some 80,000 unpaid posts and other “organic content.” Now, it said 146 million users of Facebook and Instagram were exposed to Russia-linked content, including paid ads and organic content.

That number was up even from prior figures that the company shared earlier this week.

Warner told Twitter that the company “seems to be vastly under-estimating the number of fake accounts and bots pushing disinformation.” He asserted that Twitter has only uncovered a small percentage of activity from fake accounts.


Senate Intelligence Committee debates releasing Facebook ads: Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) urged Facebook to release the Russian-linked paid ads that it’s identified, saying there’s disagreement on the Senate Intelligence Committee about whether the committee should do so. Facebook’s Stretch said it would be better for the committee to release the ads rather than the company.

“We have a disagreement on this committee as to whether or not to release those. I would urge all of you as platforms to consider that kind of activity as well,” Heinrich said in response. James Lankford (R-Okla.) sided with Heinrich, saying sharing the ads with users could help them be aware of what Russian-linked efforts look like. The House Intelligence Committee released some ads at the hearing Wednesday.

Internal Russia probes not done: Representatives from each of the companies said they haven’t yet identified the full scope of Russian interference on their platforms. “Our investigation continues, so I would have to say no, certainly not with certainty,” Stretch said, responding to a question about whether it’s complete. The tech giants also committed to keep working with Congress and providing additional information as investigations into Russian election interference continue.

How Americans fell for Russia-bought content: Burr and Warner said Americans were sucked into seemingly innocuous Facebook groups without understanding that Russia elements were using them to manipulate the U.S. political landscape. Burr displayed a poster of a Facebook post that purported to be from a group promoting Texas secession. It read, “Texas — Homeland of guns, BBQ, and ur heart!” It had been placed by Russian-based actors, and sought to draw users to an offline rally, Burr said.

And Warner displayed posts from a Facebook group called “Army for Jesus” that for a time consisted of simply Bible quotes and similar material. More than 200,000 initially joined that group, and closer to the U.S. presidential election, its content suddenly shifted to political material, like one post depicting Hillary Clinton as the devil, with the tagline, “‘Like’ if you want Jesus to win!”

Facebook ‘failed’ at convening people, Burr says: The fact that Russian-linked groups infiltrated Facebook with divisive content means the social media company “failed” at its goal of bringing people together during the 2016 presidential election, Burr said, telling the company it “must do better to protect the American people.” Stretch said it is a “deeply painful lesson for us; it pains us.”

Wyden: Federal law allows tech companies to act against Russian manipulation: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) told the companies that they have the legal protection they need to go after bad actors on their platforms. Wyden said the internet firms “failed” in their response to the Russian meddling and called that “especially troubling, because the same federal law that allowed your companies to grow and thrive, the Section 230 law, gives you absolute legal protection to take action against those who abused your platform and damaged our democracy.” Wyden was referring to a section of the Communications Decency Act that allows companies to block and screen offensive material without fear of legal recourse.

Full house in the Senate: The arrival of Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) means that all 15 members of the Senate Intelligence Committee turned up for the hearing. That’s a sign of how high-profile this topic has become, as it is somewhat rare for every member of a congressional committee to participate in a public hearing.

Kings wants Zuckerberg, Dorsey, Pichai to show up: Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) expressed displeasure that the chief executives of Twitter, Google and Facebook did not appear before the committee.

“I’m disappointed you’re here and not your CEOs, because we’re talking about policy and the policies of companies,” he told the general counsels. “It’s fine to send general counsel, but I think if you could take a message back from this committee, we would appreciate seeing the top people who are actually making the decisions.”

Tally of Clinton, Trump spending on Facebook ads: Facebook’s Stretch said the campaigns of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton spent a combined $81 million on Facebook advertising during the 2016 presidential contest.

That newly released figured came during questioning by Roy Blunt, who suggested that the level of spending on Facebook ads by the Russia-based Internet Research Agency around the U.S. election — which the company has pegged at about $100,000 to promote some 3,000 ads — was insufficient to meaningfully shape how that election played out.

Steven Overly contributed to this report.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct Sen. Burr’s party affiliation.

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