With the tragic death of Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes, there has been a new discussion regarding the wisdom of Operation Kratos:
The police “shoot-to-kill” strategy will not be used indiscriminately, a key architect of the policy has said.
Tactics are constantly reviewed and any decision to allow police to kill must come from a senior officer, South Wales Chief Constable Barbara Wilding said.
But the threat of suicide attacks meant that shooting a suspect in the head was sometimes the “proportionate” response.
Ms Wilding spoke following criticism of the death of innocent Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell Tube.
Relatives and friends of Mr de Menezes, 27, who was shot in the head seven times after officers wrongly suspected him of being a suicide bomber, have marched in his home town in Brazil demanding that arrests be made.
Tony Blair said he was “desperately sorry” for the death, but insisted that the police must be supported as they carry out anti-terror operations “in very difficult circumstances”.
The shoot-to-kill policy, codenamed Operation Kratos, was put in place six months after 9/11.
Avedon Carol mentions a short-coming of this policy that I had not thought of, and one I have not seen mentioned elsewhere- the likelihood that suicide bombers may in the future install what is known as a dead man’s switch:
A dead man’s switch (also known as – mainly in Britain – a dead man’s handle) is a device intended to take some action if the human operator becomes incapacitated in some way, a form of fail-safe practice. Because the action is usually to slow down or stop a vehicle, this is also sometimes known as a dead man’s brake.
For example, most freight elevators, lawn mowers, jet skis and snowblowers in some countries use a dead man’s switch or a similar mechanism, causing them to respectively stop closing the elevator door or shut down if the switch is released. If a person faints while mowing the lawn, their hands will relax and the mower will shut off.
A very common use is in a locomotive; for that use, see dead-man’s control.
Software versions of dead man’s switches are used (usually only by technically competent people, and not many of those) to perform such tasks as notify friends or delete or encrypt data. The non-event triggering these can be almost anything, from failing to log in for a week consecutively, to not responding to an automated email ping, to a GPS-enabled phone not moving for a period of time, or even just failing to type the right magic sequence within a few minutes of the laptop booting. The motivations vary depending on the individual needs. Someone in a police state may be much more concerned about locking up their data securely (or deleting it) while others may just wish to alert friends or the authorities by email that something may be amiss.
Dead man’s switch devices have also been used in suicide bombing, to trigger the explosive if the bomber is shot or overpowered. This is a fail-deadly mechanism, rather than a fail-safe mechanism.
I read somewhere that most suicide car bombs in Iraq these days are being detonated by remote control for just this reason.
What exactly is left after you take 7 rounds to the head?
The only way to safely shoot a suspect carry a personal explosive device, even in the head, is after they are immobilized. Of course, at that point, why shoot them in the head?
I made this point on another forum with respect to several scenarios: 1) a dead man’s switch or 2) the possibility of hitting the explosives themselves — not a good thing with many less stable compounds.
Regarding point 2) I was told that you shoot them in the head. Now, I’ve been a shooter for 30+ years and I wouldn’t trust myself to make a reliable headshot from more than a few feet under stress. I’ve shot with many cops, believe me that you don’t want them taking those kind of shots either.
On the other hand, if the shooter is an honest to God HRT type, then refer to objection #1 (the topic of this thread).
Objecting to the actions of the British police isn’t just some kind of namby, pamby coddle the terrorist B.S., it is a question of efficacy.
… then several officers die in the line of duty, instead of a few dozen innocents on the train they blocked him from getting on.
Also, shooting for the head is the best way to ensure that if the device does have an active trigger it does not get triggered. Severing the brainstem is the most surefire way to keep the trigger from being set off. People who are fatally shot in the chest live for a surprisingly long time, hollywood movies notwithstanding, an eternity given the difficulty of pressing a simple button.
As has been said, a killer determined to give up his or her own life in kiling others is probably the hardest of all foes to deal with.
I’m beginning to wonder why there doesn’t seem to be more emphasis on counterterror propaganda. Publicize the utter futility and waste of becoming a suicide bomber. Demonize those who recruit and arm suicide bombers. Get responsible Muslims, preferably clerics with standing in their communities, to appear in public-service messages all over the media carrying the message that hateful killing and suicide don’t square with the Quran, despite what some who prey on the gullible might be saying. And so on.
In other words, try to dry up the well of potential suicide killers.
Well, it’s true that this is a possiblity… but if that’s the case what ARE you supposed to do then? If you don’t kill him he’ll just detonate the thing anyway, and you’re no better off than you were.
What worries me is this: What the hell do we do if this starts being common?
Andy, shots to the head aren’t the magic gambit you think they are. Bullets under a certain caliber aren’t guaranteed to penetrate the skull at all (so the bomb goes off); bullets that hit the wrong part of the brain can cause reflexive movement rather than no movement (so the bomb goes off); and if the bomber’s using a dead-man switch, even turning his brain into instant tapioca doesn’t keep the bomb from going off.
What to do? Well, until someone somewhere figures out how to make portable stasis-field projectors, maybe we should work on figuring out why there seems to be a growing number of people who are willing to blow themselves up in order to take other people with them.
I realize that makes me sound like a pinko lefty pacifist, but since the alternative seems to be either putting police in one kind of intolerable situation or putting the general population in another kind of intolerable situation, perhaps figuring out why and addressing *that* is worth considering.
If you think about it a dead man’s switch is designed to accomplish something other than suicide bombing. It’s primarily designed as a negotiating tool for the bomber and these people are not about negotiation.
A suicide bomber doesn’t want to stumble on stairs blow his load to minimal or lesser effect.
I challenge anyone here to provide documented evidence of the use of this technique by a suicide bomber.
We are going to need better intelligence. If the suicide bomber is wearing their bomb on the way to his (or her) target then we have already lost. There won’t be a hero who will shoot the terrorist just before he (or she) is going to blow himself (or herself) up. That’s just Hollywood crap.
That’s also the reason why I really don’t think that the terrorists will start to use dead man’s switches. But if they did I’m guessing they would be constructed to work something like if you don’t touch a button ever 10 seconds then the bomb goes off. So that they can stumble on stairs without blowing themselves up.
Actually, there are a lot of heroes in (police) uniform who would do exactly that. The problem is if there’re a lot of civilians around, the heroic self-sacrifice is for nothing, since everyone gets blown up anyway.
Silly, that would be focusing on root causes, which we all, and when I say all I mean Rick, know don’t exist.
Islamofascists reproduce parthogenetically, like Topsy and Fox News anchors.
I’m beginning to wonder why there doesn’t seem to be more emphasis on counterterror propaganda.
Because it’s a free society, and we can’t tell anybody what to think. You really think we could mount a WWII style propaganda campaign against anything other than guns, cigarettes, or fat people? To mount a propaganda campaign, the press has to be on your side. Otherwise, it’s just gubmint talking points, and the starting point for the spin cycle.
Maybe we should work on figuring out why there seems to be a growing number of people who are willing to blow themselves up in order to take other people with them.
I agree. A good starting point is with Osama’s demands, starting in 1993.
1. Get the U.S. out of the middle east, militarily and culturally. [That means no more oil, and putting an embargo on exports of U.S. movies, books, values (like universality of human rights) and so forth.]
2. Get the U.S. out of Africa. [That means no more humanitarian aid, no more trade, etc.]
3. Wipe out the Jew…er, Zionists. Eradicate Israel. [That means “never again” actually means “never again, not until you are pretty old, anyhow.]
4. Return all lands and people in Europe and Africa to the Dar al Islam, and avenge the Tragedy of Andalusia [The doctrine is that any place a Muslim stands, is legally part of the Dar al Islam, the House of Islam, and subject to sharia rule under an appropriately fundamentalist caliphate. That means Detroit, New York, LA, as well as France, Germany, Africa, and maybe even Antarctica. The Tragedy of Andalusia, of course, is the Reconquista, in which the Spanish and French, starting in 732 AD, drove the Caliphate out of Southern Europe, a project that took until 1492; it also encompasses the defeat of the Turks at the gates of Vienna in the 17th Century – yes, France and Austria are part of the Caliphate, as AQ views it.]
5. Do away with these stupid, anti-Islamic ideas, like Democracy [an enemy of Islam according to Zarqawi] and human rights [one of the objects Osama aims to destroy, according to his 9/20/01 video appearance.]
6. Stop insulting Islam – like Tony Blair’s “insulting of the idea of the Caliphate,” as Osama Saeed put it in Sunday’s Guardian newspaper.
That’s all it takes folks. We’ve been given a pretty clear list of non-negotiable demands. All we need to do is concede on this handful of simple points, and we can have peace in our time.
Was reading a blog from a security consultant who posted this:
This policy is based on the extremely short-sighted assumption that a terrorist needs to push buttons to make a bomb explode. In fact, ever since World War I, the most common type of bomb carried by a person has been the hand grenade. It is entirely conceivable, especially when a shoot-to-kill policy is known to be in effect, that suicide bombers will use the same kind of dead-man’s trigger on their bombs: a detonate that is activated when a button is released, rather than when it is pushed.
This is a difficult one. Whatever policy you choose, the terrorists will adapt to make that policy the wrong one.
CaseyL, what I meant was the chance of someone finding the terrorist and shooting him/her before they blow themselves up.
Al Malvia, how about doing things that will make the muslims more positive to us than Bin Laden? There will always be groups on both sides that never will give up, but the idea is minimize their support.
I’ve been reading Schneier since the Applied Cryptography days. He’s a level headed read. His politics may be a little left of center, but on security he’s very solid.
This is a difficult one. Whatever policy you choose, the terrorists will adapt to make that policy the wrong one.
Facile, perhaps, but still a strong argument. It certainly is the most concise case to be made against an extreme response to terrorism, because the less extreme the response is, the less extremely wrong it is.
(Counterterrorism propaganda isn’t the thing to do) “Because it’s a free society, and we can’t tell anybody what to think.”
To the contrary, the essence of last year’s presidential campaign was Bush, Cheney and the right-wing Republcan establishment saying, We bet $200 million Bush is going to get re-elected. And lo and behold, despite the worst overall record of any president in the memory of any living American, Bush got re-elected.
But your citing of anti-smoking and other such public information campaigns works against all the rest of your argument.
One final thought: When we’re talking about making arguments to discourage people from killing themselves, futilely, how brilliant a campaign do we need? It shouldn’t take that much convincing.