A “robot” (actually, a remote-controlled “all terrain platform”) and a pound of C-4 were used by Dallas Police to take out the racist murderer targeting police officers, CNN reports. Chief David Brown gave the order to deploy the Northrop Grumman Remotec Androx Mark V A-1 “after a 45-minute gun battle and two hours of negotiating with [the] sniper.”
Per the chief, the killer “was basically lying to us, laughing at us, singing and asking, ‘How many did he get?’ and saying that he wanted to kill more.” The killer was said to be “still sniping, intent on continuing to kill.”
Questions have begun to be asked, including about the use of C-4 in the situation. Importantly, technology, finance and politics blogger Karl Denninger of The Market Ticker sees profound “rule of law” fallout from this law enforcement “first.”
“[T]he shooter in Dallas was cornered – ‘treed’ if you will, isolated in a parking garage from which he could not escape,” Denninger writes. [Per The Washington Post, “descriptions of where [the murderer] was killed by police — in a ‘garage’ — are inaccurate. In fact, [he] was on the second floor of a college building that occupies much of an entire city block.”]
“Rather than wait him out and arrest him, then go through this entire pesky ‘due process’ thing including a trial and sentence even though he was not presently shooting at anyone the police instead mounted a bomb on a robot and blew him up,” Denninger continues. “If one person has no right to due process of law THEN NEITHER DOES ANYONE ELSE — including the cops.”
Whether Denninger is off about the specifics of the sniper location or not, his take on due process concerns, and how leaving someone with nothing to lose means some will end up acting like it, presents valuable insights to consider. As for the “legality” of the operation, Eugene Volokh of the UCLA School of Law offers his view:
If the police reasonably believe that someone poses an imminent danger of death to others, and that killing him is necessary to prevent that danger, they can try to kill him, whether with a rifle or a bomb-carrying robot.
That’s tempered with a consideration from the ACLU:
[T]he easy and relatively safe use of ground robots that can deploy deadly force could mean they could be overused: “Remote uses of force raise policy issues that should be carefully considered … and should remain confined to extraordinary situations.”
The thing such academic discussions seem to miss is the potential for the entire paradigm to change. The Dallas attack was an epiphany for some bent on rebellion, that the seemingly all-powerful state is vulnerable, and that it can be challenged with a devastating level of “success” by a determined individual. Those intent on destruction and disruption are watching and learning what “works.”
Add to that volatile mix radical racist elements with specialized military experience resorting to ambush and insurgency tactics, to IEDs, radio control devices and the like, with tactical targets in mind to complement and inspire general mob mayhem, and it’s not hard to imagine the upcoming Republican and Democrat conventions presenting untold opportunities to capture the horrified attention of the world and shake the political order (not to mention the American public) to its core.
That in turn will be all the excuse the state needs to assume emergency powers. And if Constitutional scholars can justify remote control ground “robots” delivering bombs, why not also find justification for killer aerial drones?
The genie is out of the bottle and can’t be put back in. It’s very unsatisfying that a platitude like that is all that can be offered, but the unknowable unfolding of events makes any specific recommendation problematic, other than be true to your oath, train and prepare as much as practicable, and set an example/exhibit leadership when opportunities arise.
Perhaps the best that can be done at this time is to invite discussion on the key points raised here, to see if new insights into the eternal struggle to secure liberty can be gained. Under what circumstances, if any, would you support civil authority using remote explosive devices to resolve domestic conflicts, and what controls would there need to be to minimize abuses? How do such devices fit in with Tench Coxe’s observation that “swords and every terrible implement of the soldier are the birthright of Americans”? Do you envision seeing more insurgency tactics used by racist “revolutionaries” and government-imported terrorists and criminals? What impacts do you see with these developments on freedoms we currently take for granted?