Is There A Drug War Going On Inside the U.S. Government?

By Matthew Harwood

That's what Bradley C. Schreiber, a former senior adviser at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from 2007 to 2009, argued on The New York Times op-ed page yesterday.

According to Schreiber, a turf war has broken out between the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), an agency within the Department of Justice, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an agency within DHS, over giving ICE agents Title 21 authority—or the ability to investigate drug crimes at the U.S. border.

Here's why:

While fears of ceding jurisdiction are not new to federal agencies, the worries at the D.E.A. are groundless. The agency is second to none as the country’s primary drug investigation force. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, on the other hand, is a multi-mission agency whose criminal investigation jurisdiction will continue to be limited to offenses connected to the American border. The immigration and customs enforcement agency does not have the capacity to take over the D.E.A’s role nor would it want to do so, given its other duties.

However, allowing Immigration and Customs Enforcement to handle drug investigations at our borders, where it already has a significant presence, would greatly strengthen our efforts to stop the flow of narcotics that fuels the drug violence both here and in Mexico. It would also let the D.E.A. shift its own resources to other domestic and international investigations.

Schreiber says there's three reasons why ICE should be given such authority: to stop the violence associated with the Mexican drug war from firmly crossing U.S. borders, to plug up holes left from the FBI's shift from counternarcotics to counterterrorism after 9-11, and to add thousands of drug investigators to government rolls without spending additional money.

According to Schreiber, roughly 1,500 ICE agents have Title 21 authority out of approximately 6,000. The time, he says, to give ICE agents "full and permanent Title 21 authority" is now if the Obama administration wants to "help strengthen our border — quickly, cheaply and decisively."

Photo by D.C.Atty/Flickr



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