Bob Ingersoll: The Law Is A Ass #331: HE AVENGERS TAKE A.I.M. AT DIPLOMACY
I’ve been avoiding this one like the plague. Or The Stranger. Or other existential novels by Albert Camus. Read them in high school. Didn’t understand them. But, then, I didn’t understand some aspects of Avengers Assemble v 2 21, either. So I guess it’s onward.
Here’s what I can tell you. Spider-Girl, the Anya Corazón version– and don’t even ask about the May Parker Spider-Girl, who is the daughter of Peter Parker in either an alternate future or an alternate universe whose timeline started fifteen years before the main Marvel timeline, so May’s backstory is even more confusing than a Camus novel – came to the Avengers for help. New York had just experienced the Inhumanity event, when the Terrigen bomb exploded over Manhattan. The bomb’s mutating Terrigen mists covered New York and then, by way of the trade winds, covered the world even better than Sherman-Williams paint. The mist’s mutagenic properties either turned people who were latent Inhumans into super-powered Inhumans immediately or they formed Terrigenesis Cocoons around the latents where they would gestate and emerge with super powers later. (Terrigen Mists? Terrigen Bombs? Terrigenesis Cocoons? Gods, this is more confusing than Camus channeling Jean-Paul Satre.)
Anya’s social studies teacher, Mr. Schlickeisen, was one of the latents who went into a cocoon. Mr. Schlickeisen was taken to a hospital for observation. But someone stole both his cocoon and the cocoon in the bed next to him. Now Anya wanted the Avengers’ help in tracking down her missing teacher.
Most of the Avengers were busy battling Inhumans’ Inhumanity to man, but Spider-Woman and Black Widow went to help Spider-Girl find her teacher. Black Widow eschewed the suggestion that they go to the hospital where Mr. Schlickeisen had been. Somehow she knew – maybe it was her spy-der sense – that A.I.M. had taken the cocoons and where they had taken them.
Trouble is that A.I.M. wasn’t the Advanced Idea Mechanics of old. They were no longer the R & D branch of the terrorist organization Hydra. They were no longer a group of brilliant scientists who wore silly yellow beekeeper costumes and are dedicated to overthrowing all governments by technological means. At least not overtly. Seems a while back A.I.M. bought the Caribbean island of Barbuda and formed an internationally recognized government there. So now A.I.M. is a sovereign nation of scientists who still wear silly yellow beekeeper costumes and are dedicated to overthrowing all governments by technological means, but covertly. And that caused complications for the Avengers.
A.I.M. claims diplomatic immunity and officially the Avengers can’t approach them. Fortunately for the purposes of this story, Black Widow was a former spy who specialized in unofficial missions. So she and her Arach-Pack went to an A.I.M. temporary lab somewhere in the Meatpacking District in Manhattan’s lower West Side. They broke in and incapacitated most of the beekeepers they found. But this wasn’t some A.I.M.-less operation, the Arach-Pack kept one A.I.M. flunky conscious so they could interrogate him.
Which they were doing, when some twenty-one other A.I.M. operatives in the facility arrived, all aiming high-tech weaponry and took our heroines captive. Things looked bad for the Arach-Pack, especially when the A.I.M. leader showed up.
Kashmir told her underlings to kill the Avengers. She wasn’t worried about any consequences for killing three Avengers, because, A.I.M. has “diplomatic status,” and because under “castle law, the minute [the Avengers] busted in here I was entitled to confront [them] with lethal force.”
Things looked bad for the ladies. Did they escape? Were they killed? Well, that’s another story. Okay, it’s the same story, but it’s the story of another issue, because this issue was only the first part of a five-part story and it pretty much ended on this cliffhanger. So, in keeping with the story, I’m going to leave you hanging and go into the legal analysis stuff. (Okay, the Avengers weren’t killed. Duh.)
First, the castle doctrine. We discussed it last week and here it is again. You may remember, and if you don’t here it is again, the castle doctrine says people who are in their own house don’t have a duty to retreat before using deadly force to repel trespassers; as long as they reasonably fear the trespassers pose an immediate threat to inflict death or serious bodily harm. But unless the A.I.M. operatives were also living in this temporary lab somewhere in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, this building was a place of business, not a dwelling. The New York castle doctrine found in PL § 35.15 limits application of castle law to one’s dwelling and doesn’t extend it to one’s place of business. So, the A.I.M.-moral bad guys didn’t have the right to use lethal force as soon as the Avengers trespassed into this not-a-dwelling. Moreover, as the Avengers were bound to chairs and seemingly helpless – so didn’t pose an immediate threat of death or serious bodily harm to anyone – lethal force was off the table even if some of the beekeepers did call it hive, err home.
Now how about the other claim, “diplomatic status?” Well, Ms. Vennema pronouncements of immunity law may have been as expansive as maternity pants.
Yes, ambassadors from foreign countries have diplomatic immunity, so can’t be arrested or prosecuted. Nor can members of the ambassador’s administrative or technical staff. But other members of the diplomatic mission – the service staff, the consular officers, the consular employees, and the like – don’t enjoy such diplomatic immunity. They can be arrested and prosecuted for crimes.
The story didn’t give us any indication of Ms Vennema’s status Or of the gunmen serving under her. We don’t know whether she and they were part of the diplomatic mission of Barbuda. But we do know is that they were engaged in some illegal activities – kidnaping people encased in Terrigenesis Cocoons and selling those cocoons to other interested parties. And they were doing it out of a nondescript building in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan.
If A.I.M. has a Barbudan embassy, it clearly ain’t a nondescript building in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan. So the people found inside this facility were not the embassy staff and I doubt they were part of Barbuda’s diplomatic mission. So they probably didn’t have diplomatic immunity.
Why do I conclude that these less-than-A.I.M.-iable individuals aren’t part of the diplomatic mission? Well think about what they were doing. They were stealing Terrigenesis Cocoons and the Inhumans who were inside said cocoons and selling some of those cocoons, and the Inhumans inside them, to other interested parties. In New York those acts would constitute kidnaping and, depending on what those other interested parties wanted to do with the cocooned people after they hatched, human trafficking. (Or would it be Inhuman trafficking?) It’s unlikely that A.I.M. would have anyone so obviously engaged in such obvious criminal as part of its diplomatic mission. Why? Because, if they were part of the diplomatic mission and were doing such obviously illegal things and got caught, it would be embarrassing for the government of Barbuda. Governments tend not to put the obvious criminals on their diplomatic missions.
So, if Ms. Vennema or her staff isn’t part of A.I.M.’s and Barbuda’s diplomatic mission, and they probably aren’t, they have neither “diplomatic status” nor diplomatic immunity. New York would be free to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law for murdering the Avengers.
Hey, Kashmir, next time you want to cl-A.I.M. diplomatic status, you might want to check on your actual situation. If you don’t, you might find out your bosses have left you hanging out to dry. Like your sweatery namesake.