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New York's Rep. Dan Donovan On Manhattan Attack

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It was a beautiful fall day. That's how people often begin recollections of the morning of September 11, 2001, before the World Trade Towers fell. The same was true yesterday. It was a beautiful fall day. Locals and tourists were enjoying the bike path in lower Manhattan along the Hudson River - bicyclists, runners, families. Terror then struck in an instant. A truck plowed up onto the bike path, killing eight people. Here's how the incident unfolded over radio dispatches throughout the day yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: So we're seeing another (unintelligible) pedestrian hit at West Street and Chambers.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Get ambulances to that location. Get a patrol supervisor forthwith. Stop questioning the units. Get them some backup.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: One Henry getting the shooter in custody.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: OK, One Henry has the shooter in custody. One Henry has the shooter...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Be advised, we have multiple people on the ground from Chambers all the way up to Houston.

MARTIN: Tape there from Broadcastify. The suspect has been identified by law enforcement as 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov. Officials say it's the most deadly terrorist attack in New York since 9/11. We are joined now by New York Republican Congressman Dan Donovan. He represents Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, and he also sits on the House Homeland Security Committee. Congressman, our thoughts and prayers with those of you in New York today.

DAN DONOVAN: Thank you so much, Rachel. It was a tragic day for our community yesterday, but the support we've found that we've received throughout the country has been overwhelming.

MARTIN: You have been briefed on the attack. What more can you tell us about the suspect?

DONOVAN: I think most of the things the public have already been announced. We know who he is. We knew what his homeland was. We know where he lived. Right now, the investigation will go on. It'll be jointly conducted by - the FBI will be the lead, but New York City Police Department will assist as well as the Department of Homeland Security. And a forensic analysis will be done on his telephones, on his computers. We'll look to see who his friends are on Facebook. They'll look through his - what websites he looked at. There will be a complete analysis, and they'll uncover everything about this human being that's possible.

MARTIN: As you note, he - we now know that he immigrated to the U.S. from Uzbekistan. He did have a green card. He was here in this country legally. Was he - was he on any kind of watch list?

DONOVAN: There was some talk earlier today about an investigation that had occurred in which he was - I'm not sure if he was the main subject or not, but he was part of, so he was on a radar screen. Whether it was a peripheral person on that investigation or whether or not he was the main subject is yet to be announced.

MARTIN: We have seen these attacks happen before, mainly in Europe, vehicles being driven into crowds to cause mass casualties and fatalities. Is there anything you would like to see New York do to prevent attacks like these? Is there anything from a tactical point of view that can be done?

DONOVAN: Well, it's not by accident, Rachel, that this is the first attack, deadly attack, that we've experienced since September 11 of 2001. So the police department in New York City doing a tremendous job and the information that citizens provide us in the active investigations that they conduct. But as we said, this is the new mode of attack. Inspire magazine tells radicals how to attack Americans, how to attack Westerners, and using a vehicle is one of the modes now. We're doing a very good job in protecting the hard sites, those national monuments, those very visible structures, the World Trade Center, the Empire State Building, our bridges and tunnels. It's these - these unpredictable attacks are much more difficult to prevent.

We've taken measures, security measures, in using bollards and things like that to stop an attack like this from happening at such a length. When you talk about going from Houston Street all the way down to Chambers Street, that's a long stretch on the West Side of Manhattan on a beautiful, as you described before, pedestrian way where people jog and people bicycle. So there are ways of reducing the amount of harm. Myself and another member of Congress have introduced a bill that would allow more funding for these types of deterrents. But, you know, listen, the police department, the FBI and DHS have been active in monitoring the Internet to predict when these are going to happen. It's just impossible to stop all of them.

MARTIN: Let me ask you - President Trump has said that extreme vetting, more extreme vetting, would help. You're on the House Homeland Security Committee. I mean, this suspect is from Uzbekistan. It's a country that's not on the list of travel ban countries. Do you think more extreme vetting, as the president is suggesting, would have made any difference here?

DONOVAN: It's hard to say whether or not it would have made a difference, but we do know that people get radicalized overseas. They also get radicalized in our country. Through the Internet, ISIS and other terrorist groups reach people they wouldn't ordinarily be able to reach. So I support the president's effort to ban people from our country who may be dangerous. We also have to figure out a way to stop the radicalization of our own citizens.

MARTIN: New York Republican Congressman Dan Donovan, thanks for your time this morning.

DONOVAN: Thanks for having me, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.