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Attorney General Holder at the Announcement of the National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy
Albuquerque, N.M. ~ Friday, June 5, 2009

Remarks as prepared for delivery.

Thank you, Judge Webster for that introduction and for all that you have done and continue to do for the American people.

It is good to return to the Southwest, especially with my friends and partners, Secretary Napolitano and Director Kerlikowske. Fighting the cartels and preventing cartel-associated violence from spreading in our border region is one of this Administration’s most important tasks.

To the members of the Homeland Security Advisory Council, as well as the many state and local law enforcement agencies, we appreciate your efforts and hope we can help provide you with the support you need. It is you who are on the front lines, facing these issues every day and doing your best to protect our communities. We are grateful for your courage and hard work, and we are committed to ensuring your continued success.

The National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy we are introducing today is a central component of our comprehensive national response to the threat along the Southwest border.

Drug trafficking cartels spread violence and lawlessness throughout our border region and reach into all of our nation’s communities, large and small.  By focusing on increased cooperation between the U.S. and Mexican governments as well as enhanced communication within U.S. law enforcement agencies, the National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy we introduce today provides an effective way forward that will crack down on cartels and make our country safer.

The strategy complements the increases in border security resources recently announced by the Obama Administration; the Department of Homeland Security’s operations plan for border related contingencies; our cooperation with Mexico through the Merida Initiative; and our national effort to reduce the demand for illegal drugs at home. This strategy is tough, it is smart and it is balanced.

The Department of Justice, along with the Department of Homeland Security, ONDCP and numerous other state and local agencies all bring valuable expertise needed to disrupt the drug trafficking and related criminal activity that fuel the devastating violence in Mexico and diminishes the quality of life not only along the Southwest border but in many other areas of the United States. This fight must be a national priority.

Our success requires all related agencies to communicate and work together effectively. It also depends on our ability to continue working effectively with the Government of Mexico.

President Calderon has taken unprecedented steps to fight the cartels in his country. His administration is showing in its actions that they are committed to match and enhance our efforts. I am confident that this will ultimately yield sustained progress against drug cartel activities in both of our nations.

The National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy outlines steps we can take in the fields of intelligence and information sharing, border security, investigations and prosecutions, and law enforcement technology to continue building on our success and partnership on both sides of the border.

Of particular importance to me and the Department of Justice are the components of this new strategy aimed at enhancing investigations and prosecutions of drug traffickers, arms traffickers and money launderers.

To win this fight, we must pursue the most significant and strategic cases against these cartels, their leaders and their operations. But just as important, we must enhance coordinated action among federal agencies and identify areas for improved coordination with our state and local partners and bilaterally with the Government of Mexico.

These efforts, in part, will build upon existing successful programs like the interagency Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces, the El Paso Intelligence Center and our bilateral work with Mexican law enforcement. Ultimately, they will allow us to more effectively generate intelligence about cartel activities, target cartel vulnerabilities, and thereby give us a greater ability to arrest and prosecute cartel leaders and to dismantle cartel operations. It was a successful strategy that was employed against organized crime in the past and will be effective again.

Just yesterday, in the Eastern District of Texas, prosecutors announced the arrest and indictment of 17 individuals on drug trafficking and money laundering charges. These arrests were the result of a coordinated 2-year investigation by federal, state and local law enforcement of a drug trafficking ring alleged to have been responsible for the distribution of more than 1,000 kilograms of cocaine, worth approximately 22 million dollars.

Experience shows that the most effective means to attack sophisticated criminal organizations such as the Mexican drug cartels is through the use of multi-agency task forces. Such task forces allow each participating agency to bring its specialized knowledge and expertise to bear against a common target.

Through the pursuit of this strategy, we anticipate additional successes similar to what was achieved in Operation Xcellerator, a 21-month multi-district and bilateral narcotics trafficking and money laundering investigation targeting the Sinaloa Cartel. This operation combined numerous individual investigations in the United States, Mexico and Canada with a common focus on the drug trafficking activities of one of the largest Mexican drug cartels. With extensive cooperation and coordination with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, it resulted in more than 750 arrests and the seizure of $59 million in illegal drug proceeds, more than 12,000 kilos of cocaine, 1,200 pounds of methamphetamine, 1.3 million ecstasy pills and more than 160 weapons.

This new strategy will improve intelligence support to investigations and increase the number of agents, prosecutors and other criminal justice system personnel along the southwest border.

The strategy also acknowledges that drug-trafficking organizations deal in more than illegal narcotics. We will address the drug trafficking-related cash smuggling, money laundering and arms smuggling as well.

While this new strategy will not solve all of our problems related to drug trafficking along the Southwest border and throughout the United States over night, it lays out a practical and effective new approach that I am confident will yield measurable and significant results.

I look forward to working with our partners in the days and weeks ahead as we implement the strategy and bring to bear the full resources of the government against these organizations.

It is now my pleasure to introduce my friend, who I had the privilege to get to know as a fellow United States Attorney and who is now once again one of my most trusted colleagues, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

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