Lest we forget: The troubling connection between screening agency, Uber and a NY terror 'mastermind'

Opinion piece

I could have been on London Bridge on June 6 but a last-minute change in plan possibly saved my life. It was the same day when three terrorists drove a van into pedestrians before attacking others with hunting knives. The terror attack in the heart of London had claimed seven innocent lives and left 48 injured.

The horror of this day returned to me again when I watched the news of eight people being killed and a dozen injured after a man ploughed his rented pickup truck through a bicycle lane near the World Trade Center in New York this weekend. The lone wolf attacker is an Uzbek citizen, identified as Sayfullo Saipov, who came to the US legally in 2010.

Read related story: Everything we know about New York terror attack

What shocked me the most, apart from the absolute brazenness of these recent attacks involving a vehicle, is how the Manhattan attacker had been working as an Uber driver for the last many months, had at least 1,400 trips under his name, and had even passed a background check. The ride-sharing company has since stated that it is “aggressively and quickly” researching Saipov’s driving history and banned him from using the app.

Even the US president Donald Trump has stepped up the heat and ordered Department of Homeland Security to begin its ‘extreme vetting program’.

I, however, feel this is not enough. As a society, we must throw a spotlight on a clearly dysfunctional hiring process of a tech giant and the ambiguous vetting process of third party screening agencies.

While Uber has maintained that they haven’t identified any rider complaints about Saipov’s safety as a driver, media records show that the attacker had received multiple traffic citations in the past. He was reportedly charged in Missouri two years ago with failure to equip a motor vehicle carrier with or maintain a required brake system. After he missed his court appearance in November 2016, the court entered a guilty plea on his behalf.

All this goes on to show how there were so many red flags around the case, which should have normally been raised for public safety, but went unnoticed.

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