Reports about the radical and criminal history of the British citizen who was shot dead in the Texas synagogue siege after taking Jewish worshippers hostage are raising questions on both sides of the Atlantic about how he got past both countries’ intelligence services and gained entry into the United States.
Malik Faisal Akram, a British citizen from Blackburn, England, was shot dead by law enforcement last week after he took hostages at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. While no hostages were killed, Akram was heard demanding the release of a Pakistani national in prison for trying to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and who was dubbed “Lady Al Qaeda.”
The BBC reported that Akram entered the U.S. via John F. Kennedy Airport in New York earlier this month. British media initially reported that he entered on a tourist visa, while others have said specifically that he came in through the Visa Waiver Program. That program allows nationals of participating countries (including the U.K.) to travel to the U.S. for 90 days without a visa — instead having to go through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) verification process. ESTA, a U.S.-based system, checks the applicants details and any criminal history and gives an approval or denial within minutes. Travelers (as with all U.S. non-citizens) are given a brief questioning by a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on arrival in the United States.
Whether Akram came in via Visa Waiver or with a tourist visa, nothing prevented his entry, despite reports of a broad criminal and radical history.