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Rumsfeld OKs military assist in sniper hunt

From Barbara Starr
CNN Washington Bureau

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

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Tuesday approved the use of military reconnaissance and surveillance equipment in the hunt for the Washington area sniper.

He acted at the request of federal law enforcement. The Pentagon did not disclose what type of equipment might be used because of concern of jeopardizing the investigation.

The plan would mandate that civilian law enforcement officials work closely with the military. Military sources said troops would be used solely to operate equipment and point out potential targets to law enforcement.

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

This would not be the first time the military has assisted law enforcement, however. For several years, troops have worked alongside civilian authorities in drug interdiction, the troops looking for suspects but not participating in arrests.

Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, signed the order that permits the equipment to be used.

The sniper has killed nine people and wounded two in Washington, Maryland and Virginia since October 2. The most recent shooting happened Monday night outside a Home Depot in Falls Church, Virginia. (Full story)

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