Prepared Remarks of Attorney General John Ashcroft
U.S.-Canada Border Security Agreement Signing Ceremony (NOTE: THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OFTEN DEVIATES FROM PREPARED REMARKS) Ottawa, Canada December 3, 2001
Today, two great friends have united to form a common defense against a common enemy.
The law enforcement and justice officials of the United States and Canada have built an extraordinarily close and cooperative relationship. This relationship pre-dates September 11, but it has deepened in the months since then with the recognition that the United States and Canada have a fateful choice to make: Either we will stand together to combat terrorism, or we will fall together to those who hate our freedom and seek to see it extinguished. The United States and Canada have chosen to stand together against terrorism, and North America is a safer place as the result.
Earlier today in Detroit, Michigan, our two nations announced a cooperative agreement strengthening security along the United States-Canada border. It is an honor to be here in Ottawa to formally sign this agreement and another accord marking a new era of cooperation between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
I again want to express the gratitude all Americans feel for the friendship and partnership of Canada during this time when all freedom loving nations are under assault. I thank Solicitor General Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Elinor Caplan, and Deputy Prime Minister Herb Gray for their hard work and dedication to justice.
With the signing of these agreements, border security and law enforcement cooperation between the United States and Canada will undergo a sea change – from local, state and provincial law enforcement to the highest levels of our two federal systems.
Under the border security agreement, joint teams of U.S. and Canadian law enforcement officials will widen and deepen their enforcement of security along the border. We will expand our Integrated Border Enforcement Teams – or I-BETS – to cover more areas and target priority ports of entry.
This agreement also initiates a new era of coordinated visa policies between the United States and Canada. It increases the number of Immigration and Naturalization Service officers and Canadian Immigration Control officers who work overseas to detect and intercept inadmissible persons before they enter our two countries. We have agreed, as well, to redouble our efforts in joint training of airline personnel. We will enhance the sharing of intelligence in document fraud, irregular migration and criminal activity.
Additionally, I am honored to sign a cooperative agreement between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Royal Canadian Mounted Police that will improve the criminal justice capabilities of both our nations.
The United States and Canada have agreed that the FBI will provide the RCMP with electronic access to the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, or IAFIS. The IAFIS is the United States' national repository for digital criminal fingerprint images and currently houses over 42 million records.
The Integrated Distributed Imaging System, currently used in all FBI field offices, will allow the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to access these critical fingerprint images. This system has been employed at major domestic and international events and critical incidents, such as the Olympics and the World Trade Center and Pentagon bombings. Our agreement today marks the first international cooperation and access to Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System.
With improved exchange of fingerprint data, the United States and Canada are equipped with yet another tool to meet the challenges of securing our shared border and protecting our citizens. It bears repeating that the attacks of September 11 were not directed against any one nation but against all freedom loving nations. When the United States and Canada act today in defense of our common border, we act in defense of our common values. May our partnership, and the values of freedom and opportunity on which it is based, continue to deepen and grow in the months and years ahead.
Thank you and God Bless.