What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

In a maneuver that has been known to occur in Maryland a time or two, a bill banning the police from weaponizing drones was hijacked by the law enforcement lobby and turned on its head.

There’s a new sheriff on the high plains. Or rather, just above them.

North Dakota’s police agencies can fly drones armed with Tasers, tear gas, bean-bag cannons, and other “less-lethal” weapons, thanks to fierce lobbying from the law enforcement industry on a bill that was initially meant to restrict police use of the flying robots rather than outfit them with weapons. While other local police departments have flirted with weaponizing their drones, North Dakota is the first state to explicitly allow the armaments.

When State Rep. Rick Becker introduced H.B. 1328, the law both banned weaponized drones and established a procedure for law enforcement to seek a warrant before using drones in searches. Only the warrant requirement survived. After stiff lobbying and a multi-stage public relations effort by law enforcement and drone proponents, first reported by The Daily Beast, the version of the bill that ultimately passed authorized police to arm their unmanned aerial vehicles with sound cannons, pepper spray, and other weapons not designed to kill.

The U.S. military has a sterling record of massive “collateral” carnage and mayhem with drones.

Some 24 men specifically targeted in Pakistan resulted in the death of 874 people. All were reported in the press as “killed” on multiple occasions, meaning that numerous strikes were aimed at each of them. The vast majority of those strikes were unsuccessful. An estimated 142 children were killed in the course of pursuing those 24 men, only six of whom died in the course of drone strikes that killed their intended targets.

In Yemen, 17 named men were targeted multiple times. Strikes on them killed 273 people, at least seven of them children. At least four of the targets are still alive.
Available data for the 41 men targeted for drone strikes across both countries indicate that each of them was reported killed multiple times. Seven of them are believed to still be alive. The status of another, Haji Omar, is unknown. Abu Ubaidah al-Masri, whom drones targeted three times, later died from natural causes, believed to be hepatitis.

That’s a record that any corporate mogul trying to sell drones to police departments should be damned proud of. I’m sure the North Dakota police will prove superior in their restrained and cautious use of drones.

And I’m also sure that noted libertarian Rand Paul will be unavailable for comment when the inevitable catastrophe comes down the pike.

And finally, the company that sold the technology will prevail upon the same state legislators who allowed the drone use to pass a bill shielding them from liability. Just the way of the world. Nothing to see here.

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