- - Thursday, October 12, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

It’s been a long week since the largest mass shooting on American soil, which shocked a nation battered by natural disasters. As the FBI searches the killer’s house a second time, we have a picture of how the attack took place, the meticulous planning and the heroism of first responders and everyday Americans. What remains a mystery is why? What caused a 64-year-old retired accountant of comfortable means to abandon the high life of a professional gambler and slaughter 58 innocent people?

Was Stephen Paddock radicalized?

Law enforcement is working to piece together this act of evil. Questions are swirling. Overheated conspiracy theories are promulgated online, and grounded, considered theories concerning the motive and execution proliferate. Official statements have been contradictory — particularly as regards Paddock’s girlfriend Marilou Danley.

So, what gives?

The most likely conclusion is that Steven Paddock was radicalized.

First, ISIS’ claim of credit matters. The Islamic extremist group rarely claims attacks they didn’t carry out. Furthermore, when ISIS doubles down on a claim, the likelihood of their involvement has proven to increase. They will claim responsibility if the attacker is sent or inspired by them.

ISIS claims Paddock was acting on his leader’s call for attacks against Las Vegas and has released more specifics: that Stephen Paddock radicalized six months ago and his Islamic name was “Abu Abdul Barr al-Amriki.” Details like this matter; it is the modus operandi of Islamic terrorism. So, yes, it may be opportunistic propaganda, but where there is smoke

Second, Paddock may have had extremist connections in the Philippines. There are 11 million Muslims, or roughly 10 percent of the country’s population. Abu Sayyaf is the most violent jihadi faction in the region. Its name means “bearer of the sword,” and it has declared allegiance to ISIS. Their victims have thus far been Australian, British, Canadian, German, and Malaysian, with Americans also targeted. Abu Sayyaf has stated, “We have been trying hard to get an American we want to fight the American people.”

Third, follow the money. Paddock wired at least $100,000 to an account in the Philippines a week before he opened fire. There are reports that Paddock was sending thousands of dollars a month to the Philippines before the massacre. To who and for what remains murky.

Ms. Danley claims the money was buy a house — if so, show us the money. Ms. Danley, an Australian citizen was in the Philippines, her native country, when Paddock pulled the trigger. Her background remains unclear. Two social security numbers, married to two men simultaneously — was she herself radicalized?

Last but certainly not least, credible sources within federal law enforcement have indicated that literature from the leftist domestic terror group Antifa was found in one of the gunman’s vehicles. This could be a symptom of the overheated narrative raging in this country or even a red herring to lead law enforcement astray, but it could also be a disturbing merging of these two anti-American terror organizations.

U.S. security agencies recently declared Antifa a “domestic terror” group, and the FBI warned to expect more Antifa attacks. Why law enforcement hasn’t revealed this detail to the American public is unclear.

We should consider the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in the context of Las Vegas. Omar Mateen, a radicalized Islamist killed 49 people in a terrorist attack at a gay club in Orlando. Mateen swore allegiance to ISIS during the murders. Yet there was a significant delay before authorities confirmed the link to Islamic terrorism. False narrative that Mateen was a jilted lover was debunked by the FBI and confirmed as ISIS-inspired terrorism.

We can also now begin to dismiss theories. Disinformation that’s swirling around social media and cable news.

Was Paddock driven to carnage by the political rancor engulfing the country? The debate around Black Lives Matter, Antifa, white supremacists, or maybe the NFL? Paddock’s political affiliations remain unclear but he was no activist.

Did his gambling debts overwhelm him? Paddock was a high-stakes gambler. He was a multi-millionaire with property across the country. Did he rack up huge debts which morphed into a hatred of country music lovers? It seems unlikely.

Maybe Paddock inherited a mental illness from his criminal father, Benjamin Paddock, a bank robber on the FBI Most Wanted list who was “diagnosed as psychopathic” with “suicidal tendencies.” Paddock’s brother Eric has said they never knew their father.

Las Vegas is blanketed by surveillance in every hallway, hotel corridor, casino and street corner. That footage hasn’t been released is curious. Particularly as it may help police investigators. Video undoubtedly exists, as does data from the killers own web cameras. Why is it being withheld?

The bottom line is no matter how evil a motive emerges, no matter how politically incorrect the truth might be, the American people will handle the news. Regrettably when the potential triggers for this tragedy are examined, the likelihood increases that Stephen Paddock was radicalized — the question is by whom?

• Greg Keeley, a retired commander, served with both the U.S. Navy and Royal Australian Navy. Jen Kerns is a Republican strategist.

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