Dorner: A drone target on U.S. soil

The manhunt for cop-killing ex-cop helps inaugurate drone targeting within American borders

By Natasha Lennard

Published February 11, 2013 5:29PM (EST)

Updated, 1:30 p.m. ET: Ralph DeSio of Customs and Border Patrol has contacted Salon to state that reports that he confirmed the use of drones in the Dorner manhunt -- such as the comment cited by MSNNow below -- are incorrect. "Reports that U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s unmanned aircraft systems are being used are incorrect. CBP UAS are not flying in support of the search.”

However, a source named only as a "senior police source" reportedly told the U.K.'s Daily Express:

“The thermal imaging cameras the drones use may be our only hope of finding him. On the ground, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.”

Asked directly if drones have already been deployed, Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz, who is jointly leading the task force, said: “We are using all the tools at our disposal.”

Original post: Alongside the police shooting on two separate incidents of innocent individuals in the manhunt for cop-killing ex-cop Christopher Dorner, the frenzied search has also introduced the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (drones) to seek a target on U.S. soil.

According to MSNNow, "their use was confirmed by Customs and Border Patrol spokesman Ralph DeSio, who revealed the government's fear that Dorner will make a dash for the Mexican border."

A number of news sources, MSNNow included, stated that this was the first instance of airborne drones targeting a human target within the U.S. Not so: Among a handful of instances, police in North Dakota used a Predator drone (unarmed) in 2011 to track down the Brossart family -- anti-government separatists who refused to return cows that had wandered onto their land.

As Gizmodo's Eric Limer noted, the drones employed to search for Dorner are also "presumably" unarmed. "Should armed drones actually be authorized to fire on Dorner, then it would be a first, and frankly a terrifying precedent," wrote Limer.


Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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California Christopher Dorner Dromestic Drones Drones Lapd Manhunt