The Militarization of the Police: The Pentagon Is Called in to Track Down the DC Sniper

October 16, 2002

The Pentagon will begin patrolling the skies over the nation’s capital with secret surveillance planes to help catch the sniper in the Washington area.

War Secretary Donald Rumsfeld agreed Tuesday to deploy RC-7 Airborne Reconnaissance Low planes that are equipped with special sensors and detection capabilities.

This development comes as the Bush Administrations has called upon Congress to relax or repeal the law that forbids the military to get involved in civilian law enforcement. Their target is the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which says, in effect, that soldiers may not ride in posses or, more precisely, arrest and try civilians.


  • Christopher Pyle, teaches constitutional law and civil liberties at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass. He is the author of "Military Surveillance of Civilian Politics, 1967-1970." Pyle is a former army intelligence captain who blew the whistle on military surveillance in 1970 by publishing a pair of articles in Washington Monthly.