By Devlin Barrett and Eileen Sullivan
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration plans to use a combination of new technology and old-fashioned police work to crack down on the extensive drug trade along the U.S.-Mexican border.
Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Janet Napolitano are due to announce a 2009 counternarcotics strategy at a press conference in Albuquerque, N.M. with White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske.
A summary of the strategy, obtained by The Associated Press, calls for a number of steps along the border to combat and detect smugglers, including:
• Develop better screening and detection technology at border crossings
• Develop new technologies to improve safety for officers protecting the border
• Create new methods of detecting underground tunnels used by drug networks to pass drugs across the border
The strategy is outlined in a document to be sent to Congress.
More than 10,750 people have been killed in Mexico by drug violence since December 2006. Mexico has deployed more than 45,000 soldiers across the country to fight the heavily armed cartels.
The Obama administration has pledged to provide more help in the effort, sending additional federal agents, officers, and equipment to the border and to Mexico to fight the Mexican cartels.
Speaking in Tuscon, Ariz., Thursday, Napolitano said the U.S. strategy would also focus on reducing demand from drug users.
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"This is not just about slowing or impeding the flow of drugs from Mexico and Central America into the United States, it's also about reducing the demand for those drugs," she said.