4. Initiatives to Shield Our Frontiers

Flexible, In-Depth Interdiction

Drug traffickers are adaptable, reacting to interdiction successes by shifting routes and changing modes of transportation. Large international criminal organizations have nearly unlimited access to sophisticated technology and resources to support their illegal operations.

Consequently, the U.S. government will continue to conduct, and improve on, interdiction operations that anticipate shifting trafficking patterns in order to keep illegal drugs from entering our nation. Existing interagency organizations and initiatives will remain the building blocks for this effort, including: the ONDCP-established Joint Inter-Agency Task Forces, which coordinate interdiction in the transit zone; Customs' Domestic Air Interdiction Coordination Center, which monitors air approaches to the United States; Justice's Southwest border initiative, the Armed Forces' Joint Task Force-Six and Operation Alliance, which coordinate drug-control activities along the Southwest Border; as well as ONDCP's seventeen HIDTAs and the OCDETF program.

Efforts are also underway to improve interdiction through expanded bilateral and international cooperation. Implementation of the Justice and Security Action Plan agreed to at the Barbados Summit in May, 1997, will play a major role in this process. The Plan commits Caribbean nations and the United States to a broad drug-control agenda that includes modernizing laws, strengthening law enforcement and judicial institutions, developing anti-corruption measures, opposing money laundering, and cooperative interdiction activities. Central American nations and the United States similarly agreed at the San Jose, Costa Rica Summit to improve cooperative law-enforcement capabilities. The United States will work closely with the European Union and other donor nations to support these initiatives. We will also expand bilateral counter-drug agreements to assist partner nations enforce their laws, protect their sovereignty, and control their territorial seas and airspace.

Shielding the Southwest Border

The rapidly growing commerce between the United States and Mexico, across the world's most open border, is good news for America. It also makes the two-thousand mile border between our two countries one of the busiest borders in the world. During 1996, 254 million people, seventy-five million cars, and 3.5 million trucks and rail cars entered the United States from Mexico through thirty-nine crossings and twenty-four ports of entry (POEs). Unfortunately, about half of the cocaine on our streets and large quantities of heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine also enter the United States across this border. The Departments of Justice, the Treasury, State, and Defense, and other agencies that share responsibility for protecting our borders, are conducting a review of federal efforts to prevent drug trafficking across the Southwest border. A detailed assessment and action plan will be completed this summer. This plan will be carefully integrated with the Department of Commerce and Department of Transportation concepts to continue enhancing economic partnership between the United States and Mexico. Areas being examined include:

Improved Coordination: Improved coordination and integration between federal, state, and local agencies is essential. For example, no one agency has responsibility for coordinating counter-drug efforts along the border. The Departments of Justice and the Treasury and other agencies with responsibilities along the Southwest Border are working to enhance cooperation and planning.

Employment of technology: We must develop the capacity to subject trucks and rail cars that cross the border from Mexico into the United States to multiple levels of non-intrusive inspections to detect illegal drugs. This new technology must be carefully cued to high-risk cargo through improved intelligence system that works closely with Mexican authorities.

Infrastructure improvements: Access roads, fences, lights, and surveillance devices can prevent the movement of drugs between ports of entry while serving the legal, economic and immigration concerns of both nations. For example, along the Imperial Beach, San Diego section of the border, sixty murders took place and ten thousand pounds of marijuana were seized three years ago. Last year, after the installation of fences and lights and the assignment of more Border Patrol agents, no murders occurred and just six pounds of marijuana were seized. These new initiatives must create strong law-enforcement and Customs partnerships with Mexican authorities all along the border.

Reinforcement: The addition of inspectors and agents and provision of requisite technology can help reduce the flow of illegal drugs. We must create balanced packages of resources, technology, and personnel in the Border Patrol, Immigration and Naturalization Service, DEA, Customs, U.S. Attorneys offices, ATF, Bureau of Prisons, and National Guard to ensure that we have the capacity to maintain appropriate inspections, vigilance and the rule of law along this border.

Bilateral Cooperation with Mexico

The United States and Mexico have made significant progress against drug trafficking in recent years. President Zedillo identified drug trafficking as the principal threat to Mexico's national security. Mexico has criminalized money laundering, expanded law enforcement's authority to investigate organized crime, conducted coincidental maritime interdiction operations, maintained high levels of eradication and seizure, undertook an anti-corruption program, and passed laws to prevent the diversion of precursor chemicals. Since 1997, the United States and Mexico have signed three major drug-control agreements: a Binational Drug Threat Assessment; an Alliance Against Drugs; and a Joint Counter-Drug Strategy.

This year, we will implement the binational drug-control strategy. Key areas of cooperation include border task forces, corruption, demand-reduction, information sharing, interdiction, precursor chemicals, prosecution of drug criminals, technology, training, and weapons trafficking. The U.S.-Mexico Binational Demand Conference, to be held this month, in El Paso Texas, will mark the beginning the implementation of the binational strategy.

Working with the Private Sector to Keep Drugs Out of America

Agreements with the private sector can deter drug smuggling via legitimate commercial shipments and conveyances. As the primary drug-interdiction agency on the border, the U.S. Customs Service is implementing innovative programs like the air, sea, and land Carrier Initiative Programs, the Business Anti-Smuggling Coalition, and the Americas Counter-Smuggling Initiative to keep illegal drugs out of licit commerce. These initiatives have resulted in the seizure of over 100,000 pounds of drugs in the past three years.

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