A panel of ranking administration officials, led by Attorney General Edwin Meese III, defended the Reagan administration's war on drugs yesterday and claimed victory in changing the public's attitude toward drugs through the First Lady's "Just Say No" campaign.

However, Secretary of Education William J. Bennett, distancing himself from eight other Reagan administration officials appearing at the White House Conference for a Drug Free America, called for "a transformation of government policy to match" the altered attitude, including use of unilateral military forces abroad to stem the growth, manufacture and smuggling of illegal drugs into the United States.

And New York Mayor Ed Koch, rebuffed in an attempt to question the panel, later told reporters, "It's just a back-scratching conference, not an opportunity for dialogue. It's kind of a rigged jury up there."

Moments later, Nial Kuumbu, a member of D.C.'s antidrug group Mothers on the Move Spiritually {MOMS}, angrily confronted Koch, accusing him of sending "an influx of pushers from New York" to the District and exporting turf wars and violence that have left scores of Washington area residents dead in the last year. "We have a jurisdictional problem -- tighten up your boundaries," Kuumbu yelled as Koch, surrounded by television cameras, hurried off.

It was a day of finger pointing and politics at the conference created by Congress in 1986 and charged with recommending solutions to America's deepening drug crisis. Administration officials blamed society and the media for laissez-faire attitudes toward drugs; local officials blamed federal officials for failure to crack down on Latin American governments that ship narcotics to the United States, and law enforcement officials blamed the court system for being too easy on convicted drug dealers and users.

William von Raab, commissioner of the U.S. Customs Service, even blamed unnamed bureaucrats who complain about inadequate drug abuse prevention budgets for being "shirkers . . . conscientious objectors . . . fourth columnists {an apparent reference to the fifth column, or those in Madrid who aided the forces of Gen. Francisco Franco in his uprising against the Spanish republic}" in the war on drugs.

Bennett told the 2,500 conferees, "What is now needed is a transformation of government policy to match, and build on, the transformation of public sentiment. This means that we in government must move beyond the very sound but piecemeal and incremental steps that we have taken so far.

"We cannot win simply by doing more of the same. We must consider a qualitative change in how we conduct our war against drugs." Bennett later acknowledged that his speech had not been cleared by administration officials.

During the Reagan administration, $21.54 billion has been spent combating drugs on two main fronts: supply and demand. But the $16.5 billion poured into the effort to cut supply has had little effect on imported cocaine, the current drug of choice. Its use has increased, and it is cheaper, easier to find and purer than ever, according to recently released reports.

Critics, pointing to the lack of a national policy on drugs, have said that the administration should develop national drug abuse treatment programs, increase law enforcement efforts on city streets and at the nation's borders and halt aid to narcotic-exporting countries, particularly those in Central and South America.

On the streets of Washington and other cities across the nation, drug-related killings have soared even as the overall murder rate has declined, according to FBI statistics. Narcotics-related arrests have risen nationally and those arrested include unprecedented numbers of juveniles.

Drug dealers are more heavily armed than police officers, prompting many departments -- including those in the District, Maryland, and Prince George's County -- to consider trading in revolvers for more powerful semiautomatic weapons that can fire 16 rounds or more without a pause to reload.

Amid such dispiriting signs, Reagan administration officials yesterday made these statements:

Bennett called for increased authority to search cargoes and mail entering the country and restriction of air traffic to "specific and constantly monitored air lanes." He said that tougher laws, more prisons and expanded forfeiture laws are needed. Drug dealers should be made to pay law enforcement, court and jail costs, he said.

Von Raab announced that later this month customs officials will begin seizing passports of people convicted of drug trafficking, a plan that was rejected earlier because of constitutional concerns.

Secretary of Transportation James H. Burnley IV said that administration officials will appeal to the Supreme Court a recent 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that struck down a Federal Railroad Administration rule requiring train crews to be tested for drugs and alcohol after serious accidents.

Donald Ian Macdonald, Reagan's special assistant for drug policy, suggested sanctions for drug users similar to those imposed on drunk drivers. "Are we willing to say no for those who can't or won't say no?" he asked.