Sooner Than You Think

by Dave Schuler on February 5, 2013

Do you remember when I asked when would be the first time that somebody was killed by a drone within the United States? It may be sooner than we think. In a report on the succcessful rescue of a child from a kidnapper following a lengthy stand-off with law enforcement officers there’s this snippet:

The FBI had borrowed from the U.S. military high-tech detection equipment similar to the technology used to discover homemade bombs in war zones, three Defense Department officials told CNN.

It was unclear whether the equipment, which is not readily available to civilian law enforcement, had been used by the FBI.

One of the defense officials said no members of the military were involved in the rescue. They would have been acting a technical advisers, the official said.

Earlier reports had suggested that a military drone had been used.

Note the key phrase, “which is not readily available to civilian law enforcement”. I think there are open questions. Is the equipment legally available to civilian law enforcement? Is making the equipement available a violation of federal law? From 18 U.S.C. § 1385 Section 15:

Sec. 15. From and after the passage of this act it shall not he lawful· to employ any part of the Army of the United States, as a posse comitatus, or otherwise, for the purpose of executing the laws, except in such cases and under such circumstances as such employment of said force may be expressly authorized by the Constitution or by act of Congress ; and no money appropriated by this act shall be used to pay any of the expenses incurred in the employment of any troops in violation of this section and any person wilfully violating the provisions of this section shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction thereof shall be punished by fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars or imprisonment not exceeding two years or by both such fine and imprisonments.

I find blurring the line between military and civilian imprudent to say the least even in a good cause.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

PD Shaw February 5, 2013 at 10:01 am

I would be more concerned about whether the “high-tech detection equipment” implicates the type of domestic spying the FBI is precluded from performing, though perhaps those restrictions are simply overcome by judicial approval.

BTW/ the law Dave is citing is the law that ended Reconstruction, it was supposed to stop the federal government from using the federal military to prevent harassment of blacks at the polling places. Washington and Jefferson and Jackson had called on a posse comitatus in their time.

jan February 5, 2013 at 10:17 am

I remember reading yesterday about the use of nano drones, toy-like devices created in the UK. They were able to produce clear film footage aiding troops in seeing what was hidden behind walls or what was ahead of them. I don’t know if it had any other uses, because of it’s small size — looked like it was only 6-8 inches, and could be hand-held.

Years ago I recall a sci-fi episode where tactical devices were built, the size of insects, peeking in citizen’s windows, that were deployed to spy on and kill people.

The present is catching up with the future….

Steve Verdon February 5, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Posse commitatus is essentially a dead law.

I find blurring the line between military and civilian imprudent to say the least even in a good cause.

I have to ask, did you write that intending it to be serious? That line barely exists these days…if it still does.

Oh and, I do believe I was the one who claimed 6 months and it would be a government operated drone.


Jimbino February 5, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Technical advisors? Are these like the 45,000 technical advisors we lost in Vietnam, after killing hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese?

Steve Verdon February 5, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Hi Andy!

Steve Verdon February 5, 2013 at 1:16 pm


In the future, the drone could be equipped to carry nonlethal weapons such as Tasers or a bean-bag gun, McDaniel said.

Sam February 5, 2013 at 4:53 pm

If the camera was in the red hot wheels car, remember who said it here first!

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