Pubdate: Sat, 06 Jun 2009
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2009 The Washington Post Company
Author: Spencer S. Hsu, Washington Post Staff Writer
Referenced: The 65-page ONDCP document


Better Technology, Intelligence Stressed

The Obama administration released yesterday a counternarcotics
strategy for the U.S.-Mexico border that calls for deploying new
technology, stepping up intelligence gathering and increasing
interdiction of ships, aircraft and vehicles that are smuggling drugs,
gun and cash.

Among other things, the 65-page White House Office of National Drug
Control Policy document says federal agencies should modernize
airborne sensors and extend surveillance of boats "from the coast to
beyond the horizon." It also calls for improving tracking devices that
can be hidden in illegal shipments and, when necessary, allowing more
banned items to move through smuggling networks to expose their leaders.

The report comes as President Obama has pledged to support and
increase cooperation with Mexico President Felipe J. Calderon's
crackdown on drug cartels by expanding the focus of U.S. efforts to
contraband flowing in both directions between the two countries. The
report emphasizes plugging gaps in U.S. intelligence about what goes
undetected in the vast movement of goods between the two sides, and
also stepping up investigative resources.

"The best way to partner with President Calderon and the Mexican
authorities is for us to gain a deeper understanding of these
trafficking operations," drug czar Gil Kerlikowske said, releasing the
strategy in Albuquerque with U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.
and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

The strategy revives an interagency intelligence-coordinating group
and urged federal, state and local cooperation to conduct complex
investigations. It also calls for improved nonlethal technology to
stop vehicles and to detect tunnels, and for barriers at border
checkpoints so spotters cannot see when or how agents are inspecting

The administration announced this year it was moving to the border 450
additional federal agents and screening technology such as
license-plate readers and X-ray machines.

The administration also asked for $350 million as part of a
supplemental war-funding bill to support border efforts to speed up a
three-year, $1.4 billion countertrafficking aid program for Mexico.
The House and Senate have approved $820 million and $666 million,
respectively, in bills that must be reconciled.

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland
Security Committee, praised the strategy but added: "I am disappointed
that it does not call on Departments of Homeland Security and Justice
to resolve their long-standing turf battles over drug

DHS's Immigration and Customs Enforcement has long sought permission
for more of its agents to investigate drug cases from the Justice
Department's Drug Enforcement Administration, which has resisted.

Spokesmen for the Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy group that
promotes alternatives to the "war on drugs," said that although Obama
officials acknowledge the importance of reducing Americans' demand for
drugs, the strategy sets no clear steps to increase access to
substance-abuse treatment.

"It is disappointing that our federal officials today remained focused
on targeting the supply side of the Mexican drug war," said Julie
Roberts, acting director of the group in New Mexico. "We also need to
develop a public health plan for safely reducing drug demand in this
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake