Attorney General Prepared Remarks
[NOTE: THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OFTEN DEVIATES FROM PREPARED TEXT] Cross Border Crime Forum Ottawa, Ontario June 20, 2001
This is my first opportunity to visit Ottawa as Attorney General of the United States and I want to thank you for your warm welcome.
It's a particular thrill to be here with so many members of the Canadian law enforcement community. When I was growing up in Missouri I and every other boy I knew wanted to be a Royal Canadian Mounted Policemen like Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, who, of the radio and television show of the same name, fought crime with the aid of his trusty dog King ("On King - On You Huskie!).
From listening to that show I learned an adage that I have strived to follow ever since. I learned that life is like a dog sled team. If you ain't the lead dog, the scenery never changes.
It is a pleasure to be at this, the fifth meeting of the Cross-Border Crime Forum. And it's good to see Solicitor General MacAulay again. General MacAulay was among the first law enforcement officials to come and see me after I was appointed Attorney General by President Bush. I am very privileged and very grateful, not just to preside over this organization jointly with him, but for all the friendship and cooperation Canadian law enforcement has shown the United States.
Next month in Seattle Ahmed Ressam will be sentenced for his conviction by a Los Angeles jury for an attempted act of terrorism against the United States. Ressam was arrested at the U.S.-Canada border in Port Angeles Washington in December 14, 1999 attempting to enter the United States with home-made explosives and timing devices hidden in his car. He had reservations at a hotel in Seattle just blocks from where thousands of citizens were to gather to celebrate the coming of the new millennium on New Year's eve, 2000.
I want to personally thank Solicitor General MacAulay, Deputy Solicitor General Nicole Jauvin and the officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for your work in bringing Mr. Ressam to justice. This sentencing that will occur next week - this act of justice - would not have been possible without your help. The citizens of both Canada and the United States are safer today as the result of your efforts and we are grateful.
Each of us in this room has an awesome responsibility. We are stewards of justice. The 3,000 miles of border our countries share may be the rationale for our meeting here today, but the reason is our shared commitment to equal justice before the law.
Our shared values have built an economic relationship between the United States and Canada that is the strongest and most productive in the world. Our border sees the movement of more than $1 billion in two-way commercial traffic a day, as well as 200 million people a year.
But it is these same things - the openness of our two countries and the prosperity our citizens enjoy - that contribute to crime that crosses our border. As a practical matter, neither of us can do the work of justice on our border alone. This is why this forum is such a valuable tool. It's been especially valuable for me to hear first hand accounts this morning of the work the Cross-Border Crime Forum is doing. And I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate each of you on your dedication and commitment to the fight against transnational crime.
As the Intelligence Working Group demonstrated in its assessment today, there are at least three categories of criminal activity that occupy those who do the work of justice on our border. I'd like to spend a few minutes talking about these areas and the ways in which the Cross-Border Crime Forum is producing results.
The first area of focus is smuggling.
Illegal narcotics, aliens, weapons, alcohol, tobacco and currency are smuggled in both directions across our border, virtually wherever and whenever it is profitable.
Deterring and prosecuting those who traffic in other human beings is a particular priority of the United States Department of Justice. In the last few years, alien smuggling has evolved into a major organized crime activity. The U.S. Border Patrol estimates that clandestinely transporting aliens across borders is a $10 billion industry.
Jointly and separately, the U.S. and Canadian governments have responded vigorously to this growing threat. Just last year the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice established an Alien Smuggling Unit to help coordinate prosecutions.
And recently, INS officers in Detroit and Buffalo and officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police worked together in Operation "Relay" to shut down an operation that was believed to be responsible for smuggling 1,000 Korean and Chinese nationals into the United States from Canada each year. Agents were able to observe the smugglers moving the subjects into the U.S. from Ontario in the back of vans and in small boats. In March, 21 counts of alien smuggling were brought against 12 defendants in the U.S. and the RCMP arrested 14 individuals.
This is just one instance of many examples of effective cooperation. I want to recognize the efforts of the RCMP and the Ontario Provincial Police for their contributions to our success in targeting and taking action against these alien-smuggling operations.
The second category of cross-border crime is the result technological innovation in crimes such as telemarketing fraud and money laundering, which allow criminals to hide behind the border while defrauding innocent, often elderly, victims. Telemarketing fraud in particular has skyrocketed along with the means of telephone and other electronic communication. In 1997, the United-States Canada Working Group on Telemarketing Fraud found that telemarketing fraud accounts for as much as 10 percent of the total volume of telemarketing.
In the United States, our U.S. Attorneys offices have responded by aggressively pursuing criminal investigations against fraudulent telemarketers. And Canadian authorities have established several regional task forces in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver that have received the active support of U.S. law enforcement agencies.
Since 1999, for example, the FBI has conducted "Operation Canadian Eagle" in which agents serve side-by-side with RCMP officers in units dedicated to detecting and prosecuting telemarketing fraud. From May 1999 to May 2001, Operation Canadian Eagle resulted in 49 persons charged by indictment or information, 13 persons charged by criminal compliant and more than $2.2 million in funds returned to fraud victims.
Cross-border cooperation in this area has also focused on turning technology against the technology criminals. In one recent case, 16 victims of telemarketing fraud in the United States were able to give testimony in support of a Canadian prosecution by means of a video hook-up to Winnipeg. The taking of testimony was coordinated through the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty to avoid the time and expense of the victims traveling from the U.S. to Canada. And I'm happy to report that the three defendants ultimately pled guilty.
Finally, the third category of crime we are entrusted to address involves the movement of criminals across the border to avoid arrest, evade prosecution and/or continue to commit crime.
As you know from previous presentations to this Forum, Integrated Border Enforcement Teams, known as I-BETS, are among our most innovative and successful cross-border cooperative efforts. During a 15-day period in 1997, these units operating along a 150-mile span of our western border made 32 arrests and seized contraband including drugs and weapons worth almost $1 million dollars.
In the years since, I-BETS units on our western border have continued to have tremendous results - so tremendous, in fact, that later this year a second I-BETS unit will become operational on a busy section of our border on an Indian Reservation near Messena, New York and Cornwall, Ontario. This new multi-agency unit will bring together the Border Patrol, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, the U.S. Customs Service, New York state and local law enforcement, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and provincial and local Canadian law enforcement.
I'd also like to acknowledge Project North Star, the association of cross-border law enforcement officers that meets regularly at the regional and local levels. The Forum gave its endorsement to Project North Star last year and this new association will form a critical U.S.-Canada law enforcement link to facilitate the exchange of information and criminal intelligence data. By means of a Memorandum of Understanding regarding Project North Star signed earlier this year, the Forum will provide guidance and assistance on the legal and policy issues affecting law enforcement at the regional and local levels.
Of course the most successful cross-border cooperation is the kind that doesn't generate big headlines. But an important part of my philosophy is that an infraction avoided is better than an infraction prosecuted. The increasing volume of law enforcement contact between our two countries has led to calls in recent years for U.S. officers to be posted in western Canada. Just a few months ago, the Department of Justice placed an Assistant Legal Attache from the FBI in Vancouver. The Drug Enforcement Administration intends to station an agent in Vancouver as well. And in the past year, the U.S. Marshals Service has received authorization to open an office in Canada.
These are all examples of effective cross border cooperation. But the reason we come together at this Forum each year isn't to rest on our laurels. There is much we can still do to be more effective stewards of justice at our shared border.
As close neighbors, we must be mindful that each nation's policies and practices affect the other. For instance, I am aware that the overwhelming majority of gun-related crimes in Canada involve weapons acquired, often legally, in the United States and then illegally smuggled into Canada.
Another issue on our border involves the availability in Canada of precursor chemicals which are used to produce such controlled substances as methamphetamine and MDMA which are popular with young adults and teenagers in both our countries. In just the past several months, U.S. law enforcement has seized two large shipments of these precursor chemicals that originated in Canada. In April U.S. Customs in Detroit stopped over 23,000 pounds of chemicals used to manufacture methamphetamine from entering the United States in the back of a Federal Express tractor-trailer. This is a serious and growing problem. I am committed to working together with Canada in this forum and others to combat this problem and to keep these drugs off our streets.
With respect to the illegal smuggling of guns from the United States into Canada, I understand that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, within the Department of the Treasury, is working closely with the new National Weapons Enforcement Team in Canada. The objective is to trace US-sourced weapons illegally brought into Canada to the dealer in the United States.
In the past, the ATF has had success in tracing weapons brought to its attention by the Ontario Weapons Unit, resulting in criminal prosecutions for guns sold in the United States in violation of our law. I will be following this new joint endeavor. I am a strong proponent of the enforcement of gun laws in the United States, and I will encourage our U.S. Attorneys to prosecute to the full extent of our law gun offenses in the United States, including those associated with weapons smuggled into Canada.
Another vital issue that commands our attention is organized crime operatives in Canada openly directing criminal activity in the United States. U.S. law enforcement authorities have been limited in their ability to fight cross border organized crime by an inability to work with their Canadian counterparts in reverse-sting undercover operations, except in those cases involving narcotics. We are pleased to know that a provision in Canada's recent Organized Crime Bill, passed only last Wednesday, now allows for such operations to be undertaken domestically. In the United States, we have found this type of undercover operation to be extremely effective against organized crime, when used appropriately. Its application can have real benefits in efforts to combat alien-smuggling and other areas of organized crime being discussed here today. I want to congratulate you on your new Organized Crime Bill.
We are also hopeful that the recent legislative changes to the Canadian Extradition Act, which are still undergoing constitutional challenges, ultimately will facilitate extradition and give us a greater ability to prosecute those criminals violating U.S. law from Canada.
I'd like to conclude by expressing my hope that we can take the tremendous partnership we've built in the Cross Border Crime Forum and expand it by reaching out beyond the professional law enforcement community.
To build law enforcement -- to be stewards of justice - we must reach out to the citizenship community and welcome the entirety of Canada and the United States into this process of respecting law and defending freedom. Law enforcement is ultimately the business of communities. I like to tell the folks at the Department of Justice that if we get the people to participate in law enforcement we cannot fail. But if we don't bring families and communities into our mission, we cannot succeed.
The persons, the property, and the potential of North Americans should be and can be defended effectively when we work together and we care together about what it means to be free. Our two countries -- standing alone and together in partnership in North America -- occupy a unique position in the history of mankind. We send a message about the value of freedom that resonates around the world. But democracy and freedom don't mean anything absent justice. I want to thank each and everyone of you for being messengers of freedom, and for being stewards of the great and noble cause of justice.
Thank you very much.