[JURIST] Faced with chronic security problems along the US border with Mexico, the Pentagon is exploring options in which the military can be utilized to alleviate some of the burden on US border patrol agents who are stretched too thin. Giving the military greater authority to intervene in border control could, however, run up against the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 [text], which prohibits federal soldiers and National Guard troops under federal control from conducting law enforcement on US soil. Along with the work being done by the Pentagon, the House voted 252-171 [roll call] Thursday to allow Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld [official profile] to utilize military personnel at times to assist the Homeland Security Department with border security.
US officials debated whether to use active duty military during Hurricane Katrina [JURIST report] and its aftermath as a way to combat violence and looters in New Orleans. Others suggested putting the National Guard under federal control in that area, though neither option was ultimately used. Learn more about the history of the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act [USAF backgrounder; RAND Corporation backgrounder, PDF]. AP has more.