Sen. James Lankford on vetting process in wake of NYC attack, social media testimony on Hill

In the wake of the deadly terror attack in New York City on Tuesday, Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma, who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, spoke to "CBS This Morning" about the probe into the suspect's actions and motives and whether changes might be needed in the U.S. immigration system vetting process.

"You might have individual come in with a clean record but there's also family connections of terrorism so you have to be able to  evaluate the whole of it," suggested Lankford on "CBS This Morning" on Wednesday. 

Referring to the president's tweets on Tuesday urging a ramping up of the Department of Homeland Security's "extreme vetting program," Lankford said, "We've seen family members reach out to other family members once they reach western countries so I'd assume that's what he means but I'd give the White House a chance to speak on that."

Lankford said there has been a "long-standing connection" to terrorism in Uzbekistan, the country where the New York City attacker, 29-year-old Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, immigrated from in 2010. 

He said that those acts of terrorism have typically been directed toward Russia, "but there's also been a long-standing relationship between several radical islamic terrorist groups in that region as well."

Lankford said that there is still a "long ways to go" for investigators in tracing the suspect's social media contacts and any potential communications he had, as well as determining if he was in communication with a terror cell or was acting alone.

Meanwhile, Lankford and his Senate colleagues are set to hear from Facebook, Twitter and Google executives in their second day of testimony on Capitol Hill about their knowledge of Russian interference in the 2016 election. 

He said social media companies are starting to "do more" to prevent further meddling in future elections like hiring more staff and shutting down nefarious accounts and ads, but he warned "that job is not finished yet, we think it can be and something they need to do."

"We should not have to step in and oversee a free speech platform," said Lankford, adding that social media sites should be able to monitor themselves without the help of Congressional investigators. 

  • Emily Tillett

    Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital