Op-Ed Contributor – A Drug War Inside the Government –

THE Obama administration is taking aggressive measures to ensure that the drug violence in Mexico does not spill over more than it already has into this country. But a dispute between two federal agencies, if not remedied, will seriously hamper these efforts — and prevent thousands of experienced criminal investigators from doing their utmost to secure our borders.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement is the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security and, under current law, its agents can investigate any crime with a connection to the American border, from weapons trafficking to child pornography. Any crime, that is, except drug crimes. The ability to investigate such crimes, known as Title 21 authority, rests with the Drug Enforcement Administration, which is part of the Department of Justice.

Despite numerous efforts by the two agencies to reconcile their differences, too much animosity exists for them to resolve this problem on their own. The best solution is for Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, and Eric Holder, the attorney general, to work out this dispute once and for all. While Ms. Napolitano recently told the Senate that she has begun discussions with the Justice Department, there is no indication that this issue will be resolved soon.