Department of Justice Seal

Prepared Remarks of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales
International Association of Chiefs of Police

Miami, FL
September 26, 2005 - 10:00 am

Good morning.

I am privileged to have this opportunity to address the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Let me begin by offering you a word of thanks on behalf of President Bush and the American people.

Police across the Gulf Coast region made decisions that saved lives and protected properties in the face of Hurricane Katrina and Rita. I also want to thank you for your leadership in combating crime, fighting illegal drugs, and waging the war on terror.

Hard work, innovative strategies, bold initiatives, and constant teamwork throughout the law enforcement community have helped to drive violent crime in the United States to its lowest level in thirty years. In fact, we just announced yesterday that violent crimes and property crimes have dropped more than fifty percent in the last decade.

Thanks to your efforts, generations of young Americans are growing up in safer neighborhoods, cleaner communities, and more secure cities from coast to coast.

The story is the same in many places around the world. More and more people have hope in their hearts and opportunity within their grasp. The technological revolution has bolstered economic prosperity in the furthest reaches of the globe and broken down many of the barriers to liberty and freedom. Today, technology has given more people a voice, and the vision of a better tomorrow.

Throughout history, there have been turning points of innovation that have improved the global condition.

Three hundred years ago, changes in farming techniques plowed the way for an Agricultural Revolution that increased the production of food and caused a boom in population.

Two hundred years ago, the first steam engine powered Europe into the Industrial Revolution.

About one hundred years ago, Henry Ford's assembly line systematically moved the world into the golden age of manufacturing – and widespread economic prosperity.

And as the 20th Century came to a close, the Internet and other advanced technologies shrank the global community and expanded the realm of our possibility.

Today, as we look forward into this new century of promise and stand in awe of the power of the Internet, it is important to also that our push for progress improves the lives of our fellow citizens.

In many ways, this job falls to the men and women of the law enforcement family. Just as the Internet has provided convenience, strengthened our economies, and transformed the world…it has also unearthed new perils and unveiled a new urgency for law enforcement.

We are still in the morning glow of the Information Age, with so much left to be determined about its impact on the human condition.

As stewards of justice, we have the opportunity to help write history. We have the opportunity to help dictate the path of this new frontier and guide the interconnected world toward peace and progress in a way that is consistent with our values and respectful of our constitutional rights.

It will not be easy. But the law enforcement community is uniquely qualified for the task.

In addition to your continued focus on more traditional types of crimes, cybercrime is a new frontier that demands law enforcement attention now and in the years to come.

Already, in several important areas we have harnessed the power of technology for the cause of justice. Today, we share information more quickly and more effectively than ever before. Today, we communicate across jurisdictional and international barriers with the ease of talking to a neighbor. Today, we can gather and analyze evidence in ways that would have been impossible just years ago. Today, victims and their families are made whole as we solve decades-old murders and rapes with the help of technological breakthroughs and advanced forensic analysis.

Today, you integrate new technologies, tools, and processes into your traditional crime-fighting efforts. The result is less crime, safer communities, and better lives for people around the world.

The Department of Justice, for example, has been an early and consistent supporter of the emerging field of DNA evidence. We want to see additional triumphs of justice over crime. Cutting edge technologies will help us achieve that goal, so we are working hard to support DNA information sharing and analysis as we direct the $1 billion from President Bush's DNA Initiative.

We're also using technology to better coordinate law enforcement efforts. Today, I am pleased to announce awards of $26 million that will help state agencies link to criminal record systems maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Better integration of these databases will allow law enforcement to immediately identify individuals with prior criminal records, histories of domestic violence or stalking, or who appear on the National Sex Offender Registry – which we announced this summer as an improved tool for citizens to track convicted sex offenders in their area and across the country simply by using the Internet. Under this national registry, you can now locate registered sex offenders in your area simply by typing in your zip code. We expect that all states will be online with this powerful tool by the end of the year.

The money we are announcing today means that offenders will no longer be able to victimize new communities as their criminal history slowly catches up to them.

These are just a few examples of the ways technology has improved the ability of law enforcement to protect their communities and safeguard their citizens, but technology, computers, and the Internet also present law enforcement with new challenges.

As technology has enhanced the ability of law enforcement to detect and deter crimes, the vast frontier of communications and pervasive reach of the Internet have given criminals more and better ways to commit them as well.

Technology can be an impressive tool for law enforcement and a powerful weapon for harm. The depth and breadth of globalization has given birth to new crimes&hellp;and facilitated traditional ones. It has allowed for more victims and a more intense victimization.

As criminals work to exploit the advantages of technology, we must stay one step ahead. Simply responding is not enough. We cannot afford to get mired in yesterday's thinking or last year's trends…we need to be developing tomorrow's answers and next year's technological advancement today.

There is no doubt that the evolving criminal world of Internet-based crimes, such as online piracy, widespread obscenity, identity theft, and countless types of fraud will test the mettle of the law enforcement community. But I am convinced that we can overcome these challenges if we continue to work together, share best practices, and combine our resources to remain a step ahead of our ever-changing adversaries.

First, let's take stock of what we're up against.

Everyone in this room understands that as the power and reach of the Internet has increased, so has its use for criminal activity.

Computers have given terrorists powerful weapons in their war against freedom. For instance, we know that terrorist operatives use the Internet – chat rooms and websites – to communicate about plots and conduct reconnaissance for future attacks.

The same sophisticated technologies have allowed common criminals to expand the scope and reach of their illicit activities. They have given criminals new ways to find victims, new ways to cloak their schemes, and new ways to evade the law.

The technology revolution has brought the power of information into virtually every home, but also dangerous materials that harm our children. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, we know that Internet Service Providers are reporting more than 1,000 suspected cases of child pornography every week.

The Internet has made traditional crimes easier to commit and harder to detect and prosecute. We must communicate, cooperate, and coordinate our law enforcement efforts in order to stop those who would turn our generation's greatest achievements into our most dangerous weapons.

I'd like to point out a few of the new realities that will shape our ability to write history in our favor. They highlight the scope of our challenge as we confront a technologically savvy criminal and remind us why we must forge stronger partnerships as we fight against high-tech crimes.

First, in many cases, computer crimes cross jurisdictional boundaries. The phrase "world wide web" says it all. Cable lines, cellular signals, and, of course, the Internet give criminals the ability to operate beyond the reach of those they victimize. While a "purse snatcher", for example, is limited to a certain geographic area, today's criminals can commit crimes in several jurisdictions – around the world even – from the comfort of their living room. Or, a group of criminals from five different states – or continents – can work together to execute a single criminal conspiracy without ever meeting face to face.

Here's an example. A CEO allegedly caused more than two million dollars of lost revenue for his rivals. According to investigators in "Operation Cyberslam," a Massachusetts-based CEO of a satellite-television company hired a hacker in Ohio to attack the websites of his competitors. The alleged hacker then allegedly employed hackers in Louisiana, Arizona, and Great Britain to assist in the scheme. The hackers used "bots" and "zombie computers" to flood and overwhelm targeted websites, at one point using Internet worms designed in Germany.

The investigation of this conspiracy required the sustained efforts of law enforcement from a variety of jurisdictions as well as international cooperation. That is one reason why we have at least one Assistant U.S. Attorney in every U.S. Attorney's office to work with state and local law enforcement on these types of complex cases.

Second, cyber crimes have changed the nature of collecting evidence. Chat boards and instant messages allow criminals or terrorists to exchange information and plot together, but oftentimes the electronic evidence they leave behind can be deleted with a single click of a mouse.

Breaking up a criminal group that uses the Internet often depends on capturing key members of the conspiracy before they can cover their tracks.

Third, computer capacity and technological advancements are challenging our forensic analysis. If you consider the sheer volume of electronic memory available to criminals – every hard drive, flash card, memory stick, iPod, camera phone, and removable media – extracting evidence from this sea of information is a daunting task for investigators.

For instance, any sexual predator with a basic understanding of computers – and a couple of hundred dollars worth of technology – can produce and reproduce thousands of images of child pornography. And they could store this mountain of evidence with a click of a button on just a couple of compact discs or on a hard drive that fits in their pocket.

This presents a formidable and constantly changing challenge, as we work to keep pace with the rapidly advancing technology of data storage.

Fourth, the interconnected environment of high-tech crimes force law enforcement to confront this disturbing behavior not only at the source, but also through the vast web of distribution.

Just as people harness the lightning fast distribution channels of the Internet to spread goodwill or share photographs of the grandkids, criminals can distribute illicit materials to thousands, even millions, of unsuspecting victims with one keystroke. What starts in Miami, Florida can be in Maine or Mozambique in a fraction of a second.

In Operation Crying Eyes law enforcement vigorously pursued not just one suspect, but the many suspects who were part of a horrific distribution network.

In 2003, America Online reported an incident to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in which an individual was trying to email images of possible child pornography through the AOL system.

The zip code of the user was identified and local police launched an investigation. Investigators soon identified Devin Goodell, who, it was later revealed, had images of child sexual exploitation on his computer.

Forensic examination in this case then led to 70 additional potential leads around the United States. As officers conducted full-scale investigations into those leads, 130 individuals were found suspected of distributing child pornography or sexual exploitation.

Lastly, the Internet has made traditional crimes easier to commit and more devastating in their effects when successful.

Financial frauds, identity theft, and copyright infringement are just a few examples of crimes that didn't begin with the invention of the Internet, but have thrived thanks to its advancements.

Here's a recent example. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, a devious few sought to take advantage of the outpouring of charitable support for victims by committing charities fraud and insurance fraud. Within a week of the flooding from Hurricane Katrina, there were over 2,000 websites dedicated to relief efforts – there are more than 4,000 now – and a fraction of these turned out to be criminal fronts designed to prey on generous contributors.

Charities fraud is not new. But thanks to the abundance of online giving, what might have been possible during Hurricane Betsy that hit New Orleans in 1965 was increased by an order of magnitude in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Rita.

I am pleased to report that law enforcement acted quickly and decisively. At the President's direction, I created the Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force and working with state attorneys general and local officials, and private-watchdog groups, we've been able to shut down fake sites and identify potential cases of fraud for investigation. We will continue to apply this same level of diligence to any fraud stemming from Hurricane Rita.

More costly in terms of large-scale economic damage is intellectual property theft of movies, music, and computer software. Less than twenty years ago, this was limited to teenagers dubbing songs off the radio or recording movies onto a VHS tape. Today, of course, the story is very different.

Just a few months ago, I was pleased to announce the results of Operation Site Down, one of the largest international law enforcement actions to date dedicated to stopping intellectual property theft occurring on the Internet.

Operation Site Down identified and helped to dismantle several large-scale criminal enterprises that illegally obtained, copied, distributed, and traded in copyrighted software, music, movies, and video games.

Thanks to a cooperative effort that included 11 nations, 25 U.S. Attorney's offices, and 32 FBI field offices, we identified more than 120 leading members engaged in this criminal enterprise.

When we took down this criminal enterprise we seized an estimated $50 million in pirated works. And that was only a fraction of the losses already inflicted by these online distribution hubs.

Computers have given citizens the power to do more. But they have also given criminals the power to steal more. A few individuals can cause tremendous economic damage or be the conduit for widespread illegal activity.

A single hacker can design a computer virus, Trojan horse, or worm that can cause millions in damage. One such virus caused over $4 billion in economic losses to companies and individuals who use the Internet. And a single child pornographer can be the distribution hub for hundreds of thousands of illicit images.

The size and scope of criminal activity on the Internet must be matched by the strength of our law enforcement partnerships. I shared just a few stories of cooperation to show that while the challenges of technology are significant, they are not insurmountable.

I believe the justice community can point to success after success—cases and operations where we worked together to overcome technological obstacles.

Through communication, training, and task forces designed to tackle Internet-related crimes, we can build the state, local, federal, and international teams to take on the worst cyber criminals and cyber conspiracies.

As it has countless times before, history has presented us with a test…and an opportunity. As we stand on the edge of a new era of technological advancement – one that continues to impact the quality of the human experience – our moment for action is now.

The steps we take in the coming months and years – and the dedication we show toward this vital task – will shape events for our children and their children for generations to come.

The same techniques that helped us reverse the rising tide of violent crime can be applied to Internet and technology crimes: We must seize the initiative, attack problems at the source, seek innovative solutions, police the areas where criminals operate, and increase penalties through legislation. We must do this without stifling innovation or infringing on civil liberties.

This may seem difficult in the world of cyber-crime. But it can be done. Technology has made law enforcement more effective and better connected. It is up to us to ensure that technology remains a gateway to opportunity and innovation rather than an underworld for theft and exploitation.

Thank you for all your efforts. I look forward to working to build stronger ties and closer partnerships as we seek to protect the cause of justice from every new threat—wherever it originates.

Thank you.