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Military to assist in sniper hunt

Investigators search for clues at the scene of this week's sniper shooting in Falls Church, Virginia.
Investigators search for clues at the scene of this week's sniper shooting in Falls Church, Virginia.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has signed a deployment order that allows Army airborne surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft to be used in the hunt for the Washington-area sniper.

The order, signed Tuesday night, authorizes the use of RC-7 and U-21 aircraft. Law enforcement authorities will request the equipment as needed.

Military sources said that troops would operate the equipment and point out potential targets to law enforcement, which would handle all other aspects of the operation.

This procedure would avoid any potential conflict with the Posse Comitatus Act, an 1878 law that prohibits the military from direct involvement in civilian law enforcement.

Troops have worked with civilian authorities before in drug interdiction -- helping search for suspects but not participating in arrests.

An FBI agent would be on each aircraft to determine what targets to pursue. Local police jurisdictions and the FBI requested the help.

The Pentagon, concerned that the sniper could have an understanding of how the military operates, is reluctant to provide details. It is not saying how the equipment will be used, how much it will fly over the Washington area or when it will fly.

Nine people have been killed and two others wounded in a series of sniper shootings that has terrorized the Washington area since October 2.

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