If you needed any further evidence that it’s unwise to permit electronic surveillance to catch “terrorists”, USA Today has just provided it:
Dorner has been accused by police of the shooting deaths of three people, one of them a police officer and another the daughter of a former officer. […LAPD Police Chief Charlie] Beck said. “This is an act, and make no mistake about it, of domestic terrorism. This is a man who has targeted those who we entrust to protect the public. His actions cannot go unanswered.”
Dorner certainly seems to be guilty of multiple murders, and to have a beef with the LAPD over racist practices he witnessed as a serving police officer. But it seems that the chief of the nation’s second-largest police force has no goddamn clue what terrorism is.
Actually, maybe I’m being unfair. Chief Beck is merely employing the real definition of “terrorist” as used in practice by the US government – namely, anyone who targets any of the organs of the State for damage or embarrassment – as opposed to the definitions used by anyone other than the US government, which normally involve some notion of targeting civilians to create terror that will serve some sort of larger political aim (or “ism“).
It’s intolerable to the Organs that such a person should escape them. And so, for the first (or possibly second) time, and in order to catch one murderer, the Organs have brought the drone war home. Granted, they’re talking only about using the drone’s thermal imaging capabilities to catch Dorner; but that raises sufficient Fourth Amendment issues in itself.
In related news, the Obama administration just released one of its memos charting when State power could use lethal drones on American citizens abroad. When we couple the first story with the second, it becomes clearer that in truth, you don’t need to be a “senior commander of al-Qaeda or associated forces” in order to attract lethal attention from the State. You never did. You can be any kind of serious criminal, elastically defined, provided that your actions, intentions or relatives harm or embarrass the State, and they won’t give a crap about your due process rights if you do.
To help you in this situation, here is the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s current Google Map of jurisdictions in the US that have been authorized to use drones. Oh, hi there, University of Connecticut!
UPDATE: News coverage suggests that Dorner holed up in a cabin, and then a SWAT team surrounded it, fired the cabin, and watched as he burned. He may or may not have shot himself, or been shot, before the cabin burned.
During the course of this manhunt, the LAPD used lethal force at least three times, twice against people who were driving trucks that vaguely resembled the one Dorner was driving, and once against Dorner himself.
I have no doubt that Dorner would unhesitatingly use lethal force himself again against the LAPD. But there was nothing to stop the LAPD from surrounding the cabin, cutting the electricity and water supplies, and simply waiting until Dorner was ready to surrender for trial. Instead, they went for a quick, violent revenge-drama that a compliant media lapped up with few questions.
The fact is that a siege strategy would have been much more likely to result in Dorner being captured alive. The LAPD couldn’t be bothered. If their aim was to demonstrate that they shared with Dorner a casual disrespect for guilt or innocence and an angry contempt for human life, then they should consider this a job well done.