President Reagan has authorized stepped-up military action to thwart drug trafficking by signing a secret directive that declared drugs a national-security threat, Vice-President Bush said Saturday. ``For the first time, the US government specifically states that the international drug trade is a national-security concern because of its ability to destabilize democratic allies through the corruption of police and judicial institutions,'' Mr. Bush told a news conference.
He said that Reagan signed the directive April 8, enabling the government to bring in military surveillance and intelligence capabilities under the scope of national-security measures. Bush released a fact sheet on the directive, which is a top-secret document.
Bush's press secretary, Marlin Fitzwater, later said that while some military activity already has been underway in the fight against drug smuggling, the directive is expected to expand those activities and give greater impetus to military involvement.
``This security directive identifies the international drug trade as a threat to US. security, and marshals our military, intelligence, and civilian forces to fight it,'' Mr. Fitzwater said.
Military surveillance planes currently fly over the southern border areas to monitor other aircraft and boats, but those flights have been sporadic, he said. Under the new directive, such flights will likely be augmented by radar-equipped military blimps that will maintain a more constant surveillance over the Mexico-US border, he added.
The national-security directive will also help coordinate military intelligence on terrorism with the anti-drug efforts, Fitzwater said, adding that terrorists are often involved in drug smuggling.
But the vice-president said the long-term solution to the problem lies with Americans themselves.
``There must be a dramatic reduction in the demand for drugs,'' he said.