The Army wants the right to search and seize mail from military post offices overseas and the U.S. Postal Service has agreed to sit down and discuss it. The problem is the military's efforts to staunch the flow of illicit drugs and other contraband through the military mails, which are operated by Army personnel under Postal Service regulations.

Susan Crawford, deputy general counsel of the Army, said in an interview that "the Postal Service does not recognize the authority of military judges to issue a warrant." The military wants that authority so that its investigators can search mail under certain conditions. She told Congress recently that the military mail system provides "an open conduit for drugs, for example, from Turkey to our troops in Germany."

If a GI postal worker spots a gun sticking out of a torn package, "the only thing he can do is send it to the dead-mail office in New York," Crawford said. He cannot, as a postal inspector could, alert other law enforcement officials to the problem, and no postal inspectors are assigned to military post offices.

Louis Cox, general counsel for the Postal Service, will meet with the Army to see if the problems can be resolved, but the first session has yet to take place.