Prepared Remarks of Attorney General John Ashcroft
Cross-Border Crime Forum - Banff, Canada Monday, July 22, 2002
(Note: The Attorney General Often Deviates from Prepared Remarks)
Good afternoon. It is wonderful to be back in Canada with so many leaders in the Canadian law enforcement community. I am pleased especially to be here with Solicitor General Lawrence MacAulay. Besides being an outstanding leader, Lawrence is a good friend. I am privileged and grateful not just to preside over this organization with him, but also for the friendship and cooperation Lawrence and Canadian law enforcement have always shown the United States - particularly during the ten months since the events of September 11th.
It is commonly said that everything changed on September 11th. But one thing has remained constant: the friendship between our nations. We share more than a common border - we share common values. Equality, justice and freedom are threatened by terrorists who loathe equality, pervert justice, and above all, mistrust freedom. Today, as we join together to address the threat of terrorism and defend our common values, our partnership thrives more than ever.
Indeed, in the weeks following September 11th, Solicitor General MacAulay was among the first international visitors to the Justice Department, where he pledged his full commitment to work together against our common enemy. Canada began its aid on September 11th. You took in stranded travelers, and acted quickly to make appropriate arrests and detentions. You have willingly shared intelligence and law enforcement information. And you fought shoulder-to-shoulder with us in Afghanistan. Let me say that the American people will never forget you, and let me again express our sorrow at the loss of Canadian lives there in a tragic accident.
For ten months, we have protected the United States from another massive terrorist attack using every appropriate legal weapon in our arsenal.
For ten months, we have conducted a campaign to identify, disrupt and dismantle the terrorist threat. The Justice Department of Robert F. Kennedy, it was said, would arrest a mobster for spitting on the sidewalk if it would help in the fight against organized crime. In the war on terror, it has been the policy of the United States to be similarly aggressive. We have conducted the largest criminal investigation in our history. 129 individuals have been charged. 86 have been found guilty. 417 individuals have been deported for violations of our laws. Hundreds more are in the process of being deported.
But we are under no illusions. There remain sleeper terrorists and their supporters in North America who have not yet been identified in a way that will allow us to take preemptive action against them.
During its presidency of the G8, Canada has taken a leadership role in the fight against international terrorism. In this regard, I was pleased to have the opportunity to meet with my G8 counterparts in Mont Tremblant earlier this year.
I want to thank Canada for your support, your solidarity, and your friendship, particularly the outstanding work of Commissioner Zaccardelli and Director Elcock.
Similarly, I commend the work of all of you -- for our discussions have a direct bearing on the ability of our two nations to cooperate. When we gathered last June in Ottawa, for instance, we highlighted our prosecution of Ahmed Ressam, a convicted Al Qaeda operative. The cooperation that led to the capture and conviction of Ressam set the stage for our coordinated response to the events of September 11th and possible future terrorist attacks.
Both of our countries have responded to the attacks of September 11th by enacting new tools to empower our law enforcement and prosecutors to combat terrorists. Last Fall, Congress passed the USA-Patriot Act. And I commend Canada for enacting your own legislation to address these new threats.
The USA-Patriot Act authorized greater information sharing and
information-gathering tools. Intelligence agents now have greater
flexibility to coordinate their anti-terrorism efforts with our law
enforcement agencies. And the Patriot Act made clear that surveillance authorities created in an era of rotary phones apply to cell phones and the internet, as well.
The Cross-Border Crime Forum has become a valuable tool in the war on terrorism. It has fostered further cooperation between our nations so we can prevent terrorists - and criminals - from exploiting our open border.
One important element of that cooperation is Project North Star,
which brings together the full range of federal, state, provincial, local,
and tribal officers that patrol our shared border. Its members meet
regularly to facilitate the exchange of information and intelligence across our border, and to address important border-related law enforcement issues. Since September 11th, their day-to-day work to combat crime has become even more critical to our joint safety, and I am grateful for their service.
At last year's forum, we discussed the expansion of Integrated
Border Enforcement Teams (IBETs). These multi-agency, intelligence driven teams are designed to deter and combat criminals who exploit the different jurisdictions of our law enforcement agencies. As the Solicitor General just announced, nine IBETs are fully operational today.
I would like to congratulate one team in particular: the
Detroit/Windsor IBET. Under a program called "River Watch," the
Detroit/Windsor team adds the observant eyes and ears of the community along Lake Erie to its intelligence base. With this valuable community effort, the IBET team swiftly developed two separate alien smuggling cases, both of which were prosecuted and resulted in convictions.
Last month, an IBET team near the Saskatchewan border seized 350 pounds of hydroponic marijuana. A related search of a home in British Columbia resulted in the seizure of about $1 million dollars.
Our multi-jurisdictional cooperation has paid dividends in other
areas, as well. In the area of telemarketing fraud, for example, we were able recently to shut down in Quebec a group of fraudulent telemarketers posing as U.S. Customs officers. Canadian officials also restrained a related bank account for the first time under our Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, and we anticipate its contents will be returned to an elderly victim in the United States who had been duped by these swindlers.
An Organized Crime Subgroup has been set up within the forum, and joint intelligence threat assessments have been completed in cross-border firearms trafficking, drug trafficking, and alien smuggling.
Since the forum gathered last year, we have intensified bilateral
law enforcement efforts to curtail the illegal cross-border firearms trade. Several successful prosecutions have resulted from the joint efforts of ATF's National Tracing Center, the Canadian Criminal Intelligence Service National Tracing Center, and Ontario's Weapons Enforcement Unit.
We are also working to combat the illegal trade of drugs between our nations. Canada's new legislation, designed to curb the flow of essential and precursor chemicals, is a critical first step toward controlling a massive - and growing - problem. We need to work together, however, to take the next steps to control precursor chemicals. We cannot stand by and lose a generation of children to so-called designer drugs such as Ecstasy. I urge all involved to share information and work together on this growing challenge in order to educate and to protect our young people from these drugs.
The United States is committed to continuing to improve the security along our common border. Last month, President Bush asked the U.S. Congress for border program improvements totaling $856 million dollars in order to fund new INS positions, the Border Security Initiative, a more comprehensive Entry/Exit system, and the integration of information systems. President Bush also requested $141 million dollars to hire 570 new Border Patrol agents, increasing the total number of agents to a record level of 11,000.
We are making great progress to secure our border and protect our citizens, but there is more to be done. First, a serious problem that both our nations are working to resolve is communication among our officers along the border. Radio frequencies reserved for law enforcement in one country are reserved for commercial purposes in the other. We need to solve this problem so that our law enforcement officials can talk to each other on secure and discrete frequencies.
Second, officers and agents now working the border area are forced to take extraordinary measures to carry or dispose of their service weapons if they find that duty carries them to the other side of the border, which is not always clearly marked. We need a seamless border area where properly trained and certified law enforcement officers can cross the border at will -- both on routine missions and in emergencies. Each nation has a working group assigned to this vital matter, and I urge us all to work toward a prompt resolution.
September 11th alerted us all to our vulnerabilities, but also
reinforced our values. Our two countries - standing together - send a
message that resonates the world over. We are nations that value justice and freedom. We are partners in the mission that history has placed before us: to preserve, defend and champion these values.
We have learned that we can effectively respond to the panoply of problems our nations confront when we join forces. To secure our border and protect our citizens, we must continue to work together. Without the cooperation and coordination illustrated so clearly by this forum, our citizens are more vulnerable. But with full partnership, our peace-loving people can prosper in safety without fear.
Thank you all again for your hard work and dedication to our mission. May God bless both our nations.