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Pentagon Likely to Assist in Search for Sniper - 2002-10-15

The Pentagon is poised to throw military assets into the hunt for the Washington area sniper whose shooting spree has so far claimed nine lives.

A defense official says at the request of the Federal Bureau of investigation, the Pentagon is likely to deploy military surveillance aircraft to help look for the elusive sniper.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, says these will be manned planes capable of what are termed "visual observation" missions and direct communications with law enforcement authorities on the ground.

The official indicates that while the aircraft and on-board equipment will be operated by military personnel, FBI agents will also be on board, an apparent concession to laws that bar the military from direct engagement in law enforcement activities and limit the Pentagon to a supporting role only.

The official says it is unclear how soon the aircraft will begin flying over the Washington area.

On a related matter, a Bush administration official says Army investigators are now working with Justice authorities to review the military records of soldiers with sniper training. The official provides no details.

However Pentagon officials stress there is still no reason to believe the sniper responsible for the Washington area killings has a military background.