Why should the lives of law enforcement agents be risked to apprehend this suspected domestic terrorist?
guardian.co.uk, Monday 11 February 2013 13.25 EST
A major manhunt has been underway in the Los Angeles area for Chris Dorner, the former LAPD officer, Navy reservist, and trained marksman who is the prime suspect in the murder of three people, including the daughter of an LAPD captain (who previously represented him in a disciplinary proceeding) and her fiance. A lengthy Facebook messageattributed to Dorner vows that he will continue to kill not only members of the LAPD but also their children and spouses until he receives a public apology for what he believes was his unfair firing:
"This will be a war of attrition . . . . I will utilize OSINT to discover your residences, spouses workplaces, and children's schools. IMINT to coordinate and plan attacks on your fixed locations. . . . HUMINT will be utilized to collect personal schedules of targets. I never had the opportunity to have a family of my own, I'm terminating yours. . . . I know your significant others routine, your children's best friends and recess. I know Your Sancha's gym hours and routine. I assure you that the casualty rate will be high."
Surveillance drones are now being used to try to locate him. LAPD are so apprehensive that they have already mistakenly shot at innocent people when they saw vehicles resembling the one they thought belonged to Dorner. Authorities suspect he's hiding in "the icy wilderness" of Big Bear east of Los Angeles which, reported AP, is "filled with thick forests and jagged peaks, that creates peril as much for Dorner as the officers hunting him."
Here's my question: if the surveillance drones detect his location, should the lives of law enforcement agents be risked, along with other civilians, in an attempt to apprehend this highly-trained warrior? Why shouldn't an armed drone instead be immediately dispatched once his location is ascertained and simply kill him?
For those of you who believe it's possible to know someone's guilt without a trial, there is very little doubt about his guilt. Nobody has contested the authenticity of the confession posted in his name, nor the threats of further killing. He admitted and justified the killings on his Facebook entry.
For those of you who believe there is a clear definition of "terrorism", Dorner meets it easily. LAPD chief Charlie Beck today said that Dorner was engaging in "domestic terrorism". That's because he has not only threatened to kill random LAPD officers but also their children and family members in order to terrorize the department into publicly apologizing to him. He vowed to wage what he called "unconventional and asymmetrical warfare" in pursuit of his goal. As intended, the entire community is in terror. If that's not "domestic terrorism" under the conventional defintion, then nothing is.
Now obviously, if attempts are made to apprehend Dorner and he uses lethal force to resist, then shooting or killing him would be justified, uncontroversially so. The FBI just killed a kidnapper in Alabama when he began shooting at the agents who tried to arrest him, and nobody objected. Law enforcement agents always have the right to defend themselves against people they're trying to arrest if lethal force is used to resist. That's an easy case, and not what I'm asking.
Instead, suppose the LAPD locates Dorner in a cabin in a remote area of the California wilderness, just sitting alone watching television. Why should they possibly risk the lives of police officers to apprehend him? Why would anyone care if this terrorist's rights are protected? What's the argument for not simply killing him the moment he's located? Given that everyone seems certain of his guilt, that he's threatened further killings of innocents, that he declared himself at "war", and that the risk from capturing him would be high, what danger is created by simply shooting a Hellfire missile wherever he's found?
Or suppose that, as feared, he makes his way into Mexico. What's the objection to sending an armed drone to killing him there?
The impetus for my asking is obviously the widespread support for killing US citizen Anwar Awlaki without a trial or charges based on suspicions of guilt: it's far from clear that apprehending Awlaki would have been infeasible, and Dorner poses at least as much risk to Americans as Awlaki did, almost certainly more so. But leave that aside: independent of comparisons to any other case, including Awlaki, what would be wrong or dangerous, if anything, about simply droning this domestic Terrorist to death even in the absence of lethal resistance? What would be the harm from doing that? What are the reasons not to, if any?
Question posed on CNN
As Cenk Uygur notes in the video clip below, this question - why not send an armed drone to kill Dorner? - was posed with obvious sincerity by CNN's Erin Burnett late last week. Given how trained the citizenry has become to think this way, this sort of approach is inevitable and therefore deserves serious discussion:
This doesn't pertain to any of the substantive points raised here, but while some media reports (including the one linked above) have stated that surveillance drones are being used in the hunt for Dorner, other accounts call that claim into question.