Northern border drugs strategy calls for more efficient wiretapping

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A White House strategy for combatting drug smuggling along the Canadian border released Jan. 20 calls for, among other things, expedited information sharing from electronic communication service providers.

Law enforcement agencies have increasingly said that the growth of Internet-based communications has undermined their traditional ability to wiretap. The northern border anti-drug strategy calls on the federal government "to increase the capabilities of law enforcement investigative agencies to obtain information from electronic communication service providers" and to share intercepted information in a more timely manner with Canada.

Transnational criminal organizations bringing Canadian-produced marijuana and Ecstasy into the United States and smuggling South American cocaine into Canada via the United States make use of encrypted communications, the strategy says.

The strategy also calls for attacking "the entire financial infrastructure" of smugglers, an effort the strategy says will require new protocols under the U.S.-Canada Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty on Criminal Matters. The treaty already contains legal mechanisms for obtaining bilaterally international financial records and for freezing accounts, the strategy says, but they "are often too slow."

The 5,225 mile U.S.-Canadian border is the longest in the world, but smuggling tends to be concentrated in corridors near Blaine, Wash.; Detroit, Mich.; and Buffalo, N.Y., the strategy says. The St. Regis Mohawk Reservation, which straddles the border and includes a portion of the St. Lawrence River is also a known drug smuggling point, the strategy adds.

The use of technology is emphasized throughout the strategy, with the strategy also calling for deployment of thermal cameras, license plate readers, unmanned aerial vehicles, remote video surveillance systems and other surveillance tools.

The El Paso Intelligence Center will also be pressed into service to develop and disseminate a "common intelligence picture" of the northern border, the strategy says. Federal agencies will also work to fuse U.S. and Canadian sensor data together, it says.

For more:
- download the National Northern Border Counternarcotics Strategy (.pdf)

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