WASHINGTON -- Two proposals by the President's Commission on Organized Crime to combat U.S. drug trafficking prompted criticism Monday with opponents challenging a wider military role as well as on-the-job drug testing to discourage users.
Rep. Don Edwards, head of a House Judiciary panel on constitutional rights, said the commission proposal to expand the military's role in combatting drugs is 'a very bad idea' and clearly violates U.S. law expressly separating the military from civilian activities.
'We do not want the military acting like police,' Edwards said, adding that his subcommittee 'will resist that suggestion with much diligence.'
The commission, citing the $110 billion drug industry as the 'single most serious organized crime problem' in the country, recommended to President Reagan Monday that drug smuggling be redefined as a 'national security' risk, warranting a 'much bigger' military role and drug testing by employers when 'suitable.'
Barry Lynn of the American Civil Liberties Union said the proposal to increase military involvement in drug interdiction efforts violates the Posse Comitatus Act, which has 'been eroding over the years as the military is given a bit more power.'
'It is fundamentally bad,' Lynn said, 'to have civilian drug offenses investigated or in any way prosecuted with the use of military personnel' that have less stringent search-and-seizure standards.
In June 1985, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger also opposed extending the military's role in the war against drugs. 'Reliance on military forces to accomplish civilian tasks is detrimental to both military readiness and the democratic process,' Weinberger said.
On the drug testing for employees, which the report said should be mandatory for government contractors, Edwards said, 'Testing like that is repugnant in our system.
'It makes people prove their innocence in advance. It's just not acceptable,' the congressman said.
The American Federation of Government Employees, representing about 700,000 federal workers, said, 'We oppose the witch-hunt mentality. Wholesale drug testing, we believe, would violate the Fourth Amendment.'
Allan Adler, legislative counsel for the ACLU, agreed. 'We see no reason to treat millions of workers as if they were personally responsible for organized crime.'
Rodney Smith, deputy executive director of the commission, however, said 'in more cases than not it is appropriate.'
At a briefing for reporters, Smith said such tests are vital to curbing the demand for illicit drugs.
The report also urged 'every private employer to consider the suitability of such testing' despite conceding the tests now are not 100 percent accurate.
'I don't see any civil liberties problems,' Smith said.