Border Patrol used beanbags against armed bandits (Brian Terry)

From this:

Border Patrol agents shot beanbags at a group of suspected bandits before the men returned fire during a confrontation in a remote canyon, killing agent Brian Terry with a single gunshot, records show...

...The (FBI) documents say the group of illegal border entrants refused commands to drop their weapons after agents confronted them at about 11:15 p.m. Two agents fired beanbags at the migrants, who responded with gunfire. Two agents returned fire, one with a long gun and one with a pistol, but Terry was mortally wounded in the gunfight...

Terry's brother, Kent Terry, said the other agents who were there that night told him that they were instructed to use the non-lethal beanbags first. It's a policy that doesn't make sense to Kent Terry.

"You go up against a bandit crew that is carrying AKs, and you walk out there with guns loaded with beanbags - I don't get it," Terry said in a phone interview from Michigan. "It's like going to the Iraqi war with one knife. It boggles my mind. ... These guys (Border Patrol agents) are professionals; they should be able to use their judgment call on their own."

It's worth recalling the 2004 controversy surrounding the Border Patrol's use of non-lethal weapons. George P Bush - nephew of George W Bush - spoke out against those weapons and later somewhat backtracked. But, not before the Mexican government threatened to sue. No doubt there's a combination of reasons why the DHS would use beanbags: they're worried about unarmed people being shot, they don't really want to stop the flow of people and (perhaps less likely) drugs, and they're worried about suits from the Mexican government and their little helpers in the U.S. such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and MALDEF.

If you don't like the current situation, it's possible to somewhat neuter those last groups by helping discredit them. Unfortunately, and while I'm grateful for any help I've received, after years of not getting much help I'm not too hopeful. The loudest opposition to Barack Obama - the tea parties - concern themselves with not much more than trying to help the Koch family make more money. Discrediting groups that support illegal immigration is beyond their abilities, but so too is helping those who are able to discredit such groups.

3/9/11 UPDATE: Janet Napolitano appeared before Congress today (link):

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told a congressional panel Wednesday that U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and his fellow agents were not under orders to refrain from using lethal force in a December gunbattle near the Mexican border that resulted in Mr. Terry´s death.

Testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Miss Napolitano said agents are allowed to use lethal force “if you are under threat of serious injury or death.” She said she herself had asked whether the four agents involved in the Dec. 14 shootout with bandits on the border in Arizona had their hands tied by orders, and she said the answer is “absolutely not.”

“Our lethal force policy is the same as virtually every law enforcement agency in the country - that is, if you are under threat of serious injury or death, you may use lethal force,” Miss Napolitano said.

I believe that's what we already knew. The issue is that the agents might have been too scared - due to law suits and the like - to initially confront the smugglers with real guns.