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Schumer wants feds to detail new counternarcotics strategy

TIMES WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT
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WASHINGTON — A law requiring a separate drug-fighting strategy on the northern border has been on the books for nearly all of this year, but the Obama administration has yet to say what the plan of attack will be.


Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., pressured the administration Tuesday to move faster, demanding that the Office of National Drug Control Policy release to him its plan for the northern border counternarcotics strategy. By law, the administration was supposed to release the strategy July 5.


"When it comes to shutting down drug smugglers, people living near the northern border don't want to hear 'the dog ate our homework' — this law needs to be presented now," Mr. Schumer said in a news release.


The senator wrote to the director of the agency, R. Gil Kerlikowske, expressing "deep frustration" and asking for the strategy to be released within a week of receiving his letter.


The media affairs office at the agency did not respond to an emailed request for comment. Despite ongoing efforts by Mr. Schumer to see the strategy through to reality, his office has received no indication of when the policy might be forthcoming or a response to his calls for quick action, said the senator's spokesman, Matt House.


Mr. Schumer and Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, played roles in passing the legislation calling for the strategy, which Congress approved late last year and President Barack Obama signed into law Jan. 4. They said the characteristics of the northern border — rural, isolated in places and covered in water in others, as well as split among state, provincial and tribal jurisdictions — requires a tailored approach to drug smuggling.


The strategy is supposed to set out how agents and equipment are deployed to the area and to aid communication among police agencies along the border.


Lawmakers have cited smugglers' use of the northern border to ship cocaine and Ecstasy. The northern border is now the main gateway for Ecstasy into the United States, Mr. Schumer's office reported.


The strategy is one of several measures lawmakers are pushing in the fight against smuggling on the northern border. Mr. Schumer and Mr. Owens backed the region's inclusion in a high-intensity drug trafficking zone, which directs more federal law enforcement funding to the area.


The two lawmakers also have proposed creation of a northern border cooperative operations center at the former Lockwood Army Reserve Center in Malone and have written to Army Secretary John M. McHugh on the subject.

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