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New York suspect reportedly planned attack for a long time. What more could law enforcement do to prevent terrorism?

The suspect in the deadly New York attack, Sayfullo Saipov, was charged by the federal government for providing support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization. Special correspondent Marcia Biggs reports on how investigators are piecing together a clearer picture of what led to the attack, and Hari Sreenivasan talks to retired FBI counterterror official Jeffrey Ringel.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    The federal government charged the suspect in the deadly New York attack, Sayfullo Saipov, on two counts today — provision of material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, and violence and destruction of motor vehicles.

    According to the federal complaint, Saipov told authorities he started planning the attack about a year ago, rented a truck about a week before the attack to practice turns, and chose Halloween because he thought there would be more civilians nearby.

    President Trump today called Saipov an enemy combatant, threatening to send him to Guantanamo.

    The FBI says a second person is wanted for questioning, Mukhammadzoir Kadirov, a 32-year-old native of Uzbekistan.

    Marcia Biggs reports from Manhattan on the mood in the city and what we know now.

  • Yeimy Melo:

    I was sitting in class right there. And I was just nervous, because this is so close to where it happened over there, and I was looking out the window just in case.

  • Marcia Biggs:

    New Yorkers returned to school and work today, as forensic investigators and law enforcement officials piece together a clearer picture of what led to the deadly truck attack on a New York City bike path yesterday.

    Police today said the alleged truck driver, Sayfullo Saipov, had been planning the attack for weeks. Saipov immigrated to the U.S. from Uzbekistan in 2010 on a visa through the U.S. immigration lottery program. He worked as a commercial truck driver, and later as an Uber driver.

    Police found multiple knives, a pellet gun, and a paintball gun in the vehicle, and say they found a handwritten at the scene indicating the attack was likely ISIS-inspired and that Saipov was radicalized on U.S. soil.

  • John Miller:

    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.

  • Marcia Biggs:

    The victims of yesterday’s attack are two Americans, one Belgian and five Argentines celebrating the 30th anniversary of their high school graduation with a trip to Boston and New York.

    At 2-06 p.m., Saipov rented the truck from a Home Depot in Passaic, New Jersey, and drove east towards Manhattan, entering the city at 2-43 via the George Washington Bridge, and continuing southbound on the West Side Highway.

    At 3-04 p.m., the truck then entered the Hudson River bike path at the intersection of West and Houston Streets. It barreled down the path at a high speed for 16 blocks, hitting the eight victims before colliding with a school bus.

    Two adults and two children on board were injured. Witnesses and police say Saipov exited the vehicle waving a gun and yelling.

    Twenty-eight-year-old NYPD Officer Ryan Nash, one of three police officers to first on the scene, then shot Saipov in the abdomen. He was then taken into custody.

    Ryan Stroker uses the path every day to take his daughter to school.

  • Ryan Stroker:

    Picked her up at 3-00. And then, on the way back home, we were stopped at Pier 40, where we saw about six bikes that were completely destroyed. So, luckily, we just missed it.

  • President Donald Trump:

    We have to get much tougher, we have to get much smarter and we have to get much less politically correct.

  • Marcia Biggs:

    Speaking before a White House Cabinet meeting today, Mr. Trump called for the dissolution of the U.S. immigration lottery visa program, in favor of a move to a merit-based system.

  • President Donald Trump:

    Diversity lottery sounds nice. It’s not nice. It’s not good. It’s not good. It hasn’t been good. And we have been against it.

    This man that came in, or whatever you want to call him, brought in with him other people. And he was a point — the point of contact, the primary point of contact for, and this is preliminarily, 23 people.

  • Marcia Biggs:

    Fouziah and Riyadh Davids are visiting from South Africa. Riyadh plans to run in the New York City Marathon this Sunday.

    Did your heart sink at all when you heard that this was another Muslim that had…

  • Man:

    Oh, absolutely.

  • Woman:

    Absolutely.

  • Man:

    Absolutely. He doesn’t represent what we stand for.

  • Marcia Biggs:

    As Muslims, they say they were nervous at first to come here, but have felt nothing but welcome since they arrived.

    New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo warned against politicizing the matter.

  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo:

    You play into the hands of the terrorist to the extent you disrupt and divide and frighten people in the society. And the tone now should be the exact opposite.

  • Marcia Biggs:

    And John Miller, of the NYPD’s Counterterrorism Unit, cautioned against blaming an entire group of people for the attack.

  • John Miller:

    This is not about Islam. It’s not about what mosque he attends.

  • Marcia Biggs:

    Hari, as the victims’ family begin to grapple with what happened yesterday, and the city begins to get back to normal, it is important to remember that there are nine people still in the hospital tonight, four with critical injuries, one with a double amputation.

    So people here still fighting for their lives tonight, Hari.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Marcia Biggs in New York, many thanks.

    And moments ago, authorities said they located the second person of interest, Mr. Kadirov.

    As law enforcement officials put the pieces of this attack together, I’m joined by Jeffrey Ringel. He worked at the FBI for more than two decades focusing on counterterror investigations at the New York field office and abroad. He is now at The Soufan Group.

    Mr. Ringel, what stage of the investigation are we at? What are they doing right now?

  • Jeffrey Ringel:

    Right now, they’re still trying to discover more about the attacker, people he associated with, places he went, basically building the background, building the story on him.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Now, there’s this overwhelming sense of kind of despair in the idea that the authorities have these people on the radar, but they cannot take any action against them. Why is that?

  • Jeffrey Ringel:

    Well, it’s a little frustrating.

    And I think people need to understand that law enforcement, the NYPD, the Joint Terrorism Task Force are investigating thousands of individuals who have been brought to their attention by people calling in suspicious activity or reporting something that they didn’t like.

    The Joint Terrorism Task Force will do an investigation, and then determine if there needs to be more investigation, if the accusations have been validated. If not, the investigations are closed.

    But there are so many of these allegations coming in, that basically the FBI is overwhelmed. Joint Terrorism Task Force are overwhelmed.

  • Hari Sreenivasan: 

    We just learned from the most recent press conference that they found hundreds of videos on his cell phone, images of ISIS videos, beheadings, and so forth.

    It seems the radicalization was happening here, that he didn’t have to go to a terror training camp.

  • Jeffrey Ringel:

    Absolutely.

    And that is the problem that’s going to face law enforcement and the intel community for decades to come. Social media has made it so easy for these hate-mongers overseas to press their message to disillusioned individuals here in the United States and throughout the West, that one of the trip wires we used to look for, the travel of subjects to terrorist areas, that no longer needs to be done.

    They’re being radicalized over social media.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    So how do you stop that? Do you stop all videos that are coming in and are questionable? YouTube seems paralyzed to try to figure out the answer to these things.

  • Jeffrey Ringel:

    Well, now you’re walking that fine line between constitutional rights, freedom of expression, you know, freedom of religion and criminality.

    And that’s where — and this is where I’m saying that the law enforcement, the Joint Terrorism Task Force are overwhelmed, because they may be following people, or they know about people who have these videos or have contact with suspicious e-mail addresses or suspicious Web sites, but that in itself is not enough to arrest somebody.

    That is a piece of the investigation. The Joint Terrorism Task Force will try to do more investigation, put sources up against the subject, try to get that person to do something where they can then be arrested. But until some violation of law happens, law enforcement somewhat have their hands tied.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Now, this attack followed almost a textbook. And I think there was an ISIS magazine that put this out, kind of a booklet on how to do this, but we have seen this now in France, in Germany, in Spain, recently.

  • Jeffrey Ringel:

    Yes, it’s the weaponization of everyday items, cars, knives. It is — it’s almost ingenious on the part of the ISIS propagandists to put the message out that just stay where you are and create hate and discontent in your neighborhoods. And some people take that message up.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    And, finally, is declaring him an enemy combatant a smart move?

  • Jeffrey Ringel:

    I don’t think so.

    I think that our law — our legal system has done a tremendous job of trying people in our legal system in the open, presenting the evidence against these individuals, and then convicting them and basically incarcerating them for long periods of time.

    Once you make them an enemy combatant and you create a different legal system, there’s always going to be — it’s not the way to go. We have a legal system. Let’s use our legal system.

  • Hari Sreenivasan: 

    All right, Jeffrey Ringel of The Soufan Group, thanks so much.

  • Jeffrey Ringel:

    Thank you.

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