12.07.2005 | Déjà vu

After a similar shooting in London earlier this year, U.S. air marshals have opened fire on a bombing suspect at the Miami airport. Not only was the man they shot not on the plane, but he obeyed their order to leave the plane.

I don't want to jump to conclusions – the media was rife with speculation that if a Marshal had opened fire there "must have been a grave threat." I don't want to say that there wasn't. But this latest incident raises the question of whether a shoot-to-kill policy is the best to follow in protecting people from terrorist attacks

Why isn't it possible, for example, for non-lethal rubber bullets or tasers to be used? In fact I had assumed up until this point that marshals were armed with tasers. It's disturbing to me that these people can fire live rounds on an airplane.

While it can be argued that these measures are necessary for our safety, I wonder how much further we will be willing to tolerate the loss of innocent life at the hands of policies like these. In the London case the man was posthumously exonerated and found to be an innocent victim of misunderstanding – it was also later revealed that he didn't jump a subway turnstile as police had claimed. All signs seem to point that a similar misunderstanding may have taken place here.

I was especially disturbed by the appearance of a Florida Congressman on CNN (presumably a Republican) who said he didn't "really care" about the fact that the shooting victim might have been a victim of bipolar disorder. He called the death "unfortunate" and cited the billions of passengers who have flown with air marshals who hadn't been shot. As if that were some sort of comfort.

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