Not All Mass Murderers are Terrorists

By Robert J. Eatinger, Jr.

Bob has 35 years of experience practicing law in the fields of national security, intelligence, and international law. He is a solo practitioner at Robert J. Eatinger, Jr., PLLC, practicing federal law with a national security and intelligence law focus and the founding Principal of SpyLaw Consulting, LLC. Bob retired from the Central Intelligence Agency in 2015 where he was the Senior Deputy General Counsel. He served as CIA’s Acting General Counsel from October 2013 to March 2014.  Before being named the Senior Deputy General Counsel, Bob had held senior operational law positions and been chief of CIA’s litigation division.  Bob also served on active duty in the United States Navy, Judge Advocate General’s Corps, and retired in 2013 as a Captain with 30 years of combined active and reserve service.  

When Stephen Paddock indiscriminately rained bullets down on a crowd of concertgoers from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel on the evening of October 1, using rifles modified to fire as if fully automatic weapons, killing over 58 people and injuring 489 others, was he engaging in terrorism? As Aaron Blake noted, “plenty of people” had the question, “How could the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history not be terrorism?”

The answer is terrorism is defined not so much by how heinous, deadly, destructive or terrifying the act, but by the purpose of the actor – usually to intimidate or coerce a civilian population or government to act or not act in a given way, hereafter “to coerce.”

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