The Islamic State took credit for the Las Vegas massacre, but investigators say the shooting has no connection to Islamic terrorism. But one terrorism expert explained in an interview with Newsweek magazine the "terrifying" reason why he believes federal investigators may not admit the Islamic State was behind the attack if they were.
What did he say?
Michael S. Smith II, a well-respected terrorism and intelligence analyst who advises government officials, told Newsweek:
If Islamic State did indeed cultivate [shooter Stephen] Paddock, as it has claimed was the case, the group surely has some evidence of its engagements with him. If it does, it may be the case the group is waiting on FBI and other agencies to dismiss its claim of responsibility for the Las Vegas attack before posting contradictory evidence online for the world to see.
[The] Islamic State has been very focused on undermining confidence among civilians in the West that their technologically-superior governments are competent managers of our collective security.
Waiting to release evidence that Paddock was an Islamic State “soldier” serves two purposes, Smith explained:
- To undermine the U.S. intelligence community and their ability to monitor terrorist activity and prevent potential attacks
- And to bolster the Islamic State's image as it continues to face massive territorial losses in Iraq and Syria
But the U.S. intelligence community understands this. So instead of being undermined by ISIS, completely dismissing the group's claim undermines them and forces the group to release evidence. But without concrete evidence, combined with recent PR failures, ISIS loses all-around.
What else did Smith say?
Smith also explained in an op-ed for Foreign Policy magazine that there is credibility to the terrorist group's claim for five reasons:
- ISIS has never claimed responsibility for an attack in the West that already materialized because doing so would be at odds with the group's strategy
- Taking claim for an attack that has no connection to them hurts their credibility in the West among potential recruits. It would also give Islamic State competitors, like Al-Qaeda, more ammunition to discredit them
- Being that Paddock was a 64-year-old white millionaire, he didn't fit the typical Western ISIS convert, making him a "trophy" for the Islamic State to tout
- Terrorists in confirmed ISIS-channels on encrypted networks discussed the Vegas shooting shortly after it happened in similar fashion to previous attacks
- The Vegas attack "shares some patterns with previous attacks, many of which followed a call to arms by Baghdadi or another top leader within ISIS"
"The shooting in Las Vegas happened only days after Baghdadi released a message encouraging his followers to incite more violence in the United States," Smith explained, noting that many ISIS attacks around the world also happened shortly after a call to arms from top terrorist leaders, like the Orlando Pulse night club shooting in 2016.
Have there been any other recent ISIS-related attacks in the West?
Giving more credence to Smith's fifth point is the fact that there were a number of ISIS-related attacks in the West during the same period as the Las Vegas shooting.
The terrorist group claimed responsibility for an attack in France on Oct. 1 that left two dead. There was an "ISIS-inspired" attack outside a mosque in Birmingham, England, on Sept. 30 that left a 14-year-old boy in the hospital. Also on Sept 30, a man with an Islamic State flag stabbed a cop and ran four people down in Edmonton, Canada.