When Sheriff Joseph Lombardo openly mused near the end of a packed news conference Tuesday evening that Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock may have been “radicalized,” he reopened speculation that maybe, just maybe, the Islamic State’s claim of responsibility for the bloody attack could be true.
“Did this person get radicalized, unbeknownst to us? And we want to identify that source [of the radicalization],” Lombardo said.
While this is a field littered with land mines, it remains an open question as long as federal investigators stay silent on the shooter’s motive for killing 59 people at a country music concert while wounding more than 500.
Video of shooting victims fleeing:
The silence itself is seen by some as an indicator of Islamic involvement, even if not directly connected to ISIS. That’s because of the track record of the FBI in recent terror cases, from San Bernardino to Orlando to Chattanooga and Boston – all of these attacks were immediately followed by strong denials of Islamic involvement, only to be followed up weeks or months later by admissions that Islamic inspiration was a key motivator.
It happened again in the Las Vegas case, when the FBI announced at a press conference Monday morning, about 12 hours after the attack, that there was no evidence of a connection to international terrorism.
This is counter productive and eats away at the FBI’s credibility, says Philip Haney, a retired Homeland Security officer and co-author of “See Something Say Nothing.”
“So here we go again. Just hours after the Vegas shooting, the FBI comes out and makes a declarative statement that’s not backed up by fact, saying, ‘Just trust us on this, there’s no connection to international terrorism,’ and little by little we find out in drips and drabs that there’s a whole lot more to this story than we were told.”
And whether it’s international or domestic, what’s the difference? Terrorism is terrorism, Haney says. “But for some reason, we’re supposed to feel better about it if it’s not international.”
ISIS, meanwhile, hailed killer Stephen Paddock for a third straight day on Wednesday, this time calling him a “Lion of Tawhid” who “avenged his brothers” in America.
“It’s safe to say, there are indicators,” Haney said. “For one thing, he surveilled his actions, there in the hotel room, for three days; it wasn’t a spontaneous outbreak. Everyone can agree on that. He set up cameras to monitor everything.”
Then there’s the mystery of his girlfriend, Marilou Danley, who travels to the Philippines just days before her boyfriend launches the attack.
“Which leads to his wiring of the $100,000 to the Philippines. These are all indicators of a carefully prepared plan. The indicators point in a certain direction, but we don’t have quite enough information yet for the picture to fully emerge,” Haney said. “But it’s still an indicator, and the compass meter is pointing in that direction. The woman in the Philippines, the wire transfer, why would you do that?”
Reports Wednesday emerged that Paddock bought 33 of his 47 guns within the last year, which also shows a pattern of preparation.
John Guandolo, president of Understanding the Threat and a former FBI counter-terrorism agent, is sticking with his original assessment that the attack was jihadist in nature. He told WND Wednesday he hasn’t seen or heard anything yet that would change that assessment.
“UTT’s position is that as the facts lay on the table now, it is reasonable and rational to consider this a jihadi operation until more facts move us to pursue another line of investigation.”
Regarding the sheriff’s comments on whether Paddock had been “radicalized unbeknownst to us?” Guandolo says he’s not sure what to make of them.
“I think he is searching for answers,” he said of the sheriff.
Watch Sheriff Joseph Lombardo’s news conference.
Guandolo said he feels certain the underlying motivation will come out at some point and that it will be either jihadist or Marxist in nature.
“None of this can be understood without understanding the Islamic and Marxist movements in the United States,” he said. “Outside of those, none of this will make sense. In light of a deep understanding of those, what happened in Las Vegas is easily understood as a part of the assault to take this nation down.”
Paddock’s girlfriend, Danley, was interviewed by the FBI Wednesday for more than six hours after returning to the United States from a two-week trip to the Philippines, her native country, though her citizenship is in Australia.
Danley did have an attorney present with her during the interviews.
She was undoubtedly asked about her boyfriend’s political and religious views and what she knew about his mental health and his weapons. Was he ever violent toward her? What was the money Paddock wired to her used for? And why did she recently travel to Dubai?
Then there’s the ammonium nitrate that was found in his car, the same ingredient used by Timothy McVeigh to blow up the federal building in Oklahoma City more than two decades ago.
Haney said it is entirely possible ISIS was not involved in the attack but is using it as a propaganda tool geared toward convincing the Islamic world that it is still relevant and coaxing non-committal Muslims to join the ranks of the global jihad.
“They gave the American shooter an Arabic name and said he was one of their warriors. There is a concept with this kind of warfare called ‘removing the grey area.’ That’s where, regardless of whether they actually were involved, they use the event as an opportunity to put a big gap between the Islamic and the non-Islamic worlds. And it’s a tactic to create chaos, to polarize the community, which is to their tactical advantage, because how are we going to follow up on this in terms of security for our president when he goes into a city with tall buildings, or for concerts, football games, etc.? How is the government going to protect us now?
“So the point is to sew mistrust between the Islamic and non-Islamic world because it forces the Muslim community to make a choice,” Haney adds. “You may be a lawful permanent resident, or naturalized citizen of America, but one day you will have to make your choice, either commit apostasy, blasphemy, and side with the unbelievers, violate Quran 5:51, which says ‘don’t make friends with unbelievers,’ or you are going to side with the jihadists.”
The more jihad that happens the more pressure these Western Muslims are going to be under to join one side or the other, Haney says.
“It forces them into an isolation and non-assimilation, where it becomes impossible for them to assimilate, which is really nice for people like CAIR who can turn around and point the finger at the non-Muslim community and say they’re persecuting the Muslims and you are racist, you are Islamophobic, you’re biased against them because they’re Muslim, which is a complete lie but it’s easier to sell if the Muslims are isolated.”