Department of Justice Seal

Prepared Remarks of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales
at the Ninth Annual United States-Canada Cross Border Crime Forum Lunch

Asheville, North Carolina
November 16, 2006

Thank you, and good afternoon.

I am pleased to be here with you at the ninth annual U.S.-Canada Cross Border Crime Forum, because I believe that the work being done by all of you is vitally important—both in our war against terror, as well as in our daily fight to keep our nations and citizens safe.

The attacks of September 11th taught us that the most beautiful day can suddenly be shattered by a determined act of evil. While terrorism is a primary concern for all of us, it is not our only job. Criminals are constantly searching for new ways to prey upon our communities. To stop them, we must maintain the same vigilance we show against the terrorists.

On Tuesday I visited Buffalo, New York, and I was reminded of the challenges that agents on both sides of the border are facing.

The convenience of multiple routes across the Niagara River is a boon for the free flow of commerce and tourists. But it also makes it easier for criminals to engage in "bridge shopping"—merely switching their route from the Peace Bridge to the Rainbow Bridge, to avoid law enforcement. And I saw how difficult it can be to adequately patrol the river itself, when the sheer size of our border is working against us.

Our success depends on close collaboration among all levels of law enforcement, domestically and internationally. It depends on the innovative thinking and the enthusiasm that come out of these meetings.

During dinner conversation last night and a wonderful bike ride this morning, I was reminded of the strong kinship we share with our northern neighbor. The friendship of the United States and Canada is as healthy as our common border is long. And in the last few years, we have secured unprecedented levels of cooperation between our criminal justice systems.

I know that there will be times when we disagree. The United States and Canada have different legal systems that guide what each of us can do in cooperating on cases. We must fight the temptation not to cooperate or share information as a result of other disagreements. In truth, we only hurt our own countries when we let our differences keep us apart.

Our partnership has had important successes and gatherings like this one have produced real results. For example, we decided in 2001 to establish Integrated Border Enforcement Teams, or IBETs. This past Spring, we had a major IBET success with Operation Frozen Timber, which targeted the smuggling of drugs across the border by six Canadian organized crime groups, working in British Columbia and Washington state.

The operation, known as "E Printer" in Canada, led to more than 40 arrests. Authorities seized 3,500 kilos of marijuana, 365 kilos of cocaine, three aircraft, and approximately $1.5 million. In one case, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were able to tip off U.S. agents about a helicopter carrying 150 kilos of marijuana into a Washington state wildlife area. Authorities tracked the helicopter and captured the Canadian smugglers and their American accomplices.

That's the kind of cooperation across borders and among agencies that we are here to develop and celebrate. The need for collaboration will only grow larger as our world grows smaller. More and more crimes know no borders–internet fraud, terrorism, child pornography. We must continue to build upon our success and look for opportunities to further coordinate our efforts.

As an important step forward, today we will be signing a Memorandum of Understanding on forensic firearms data. This agreement will enhance the ability of our countries to share forensic ballistics information electronically and in real time. It will improve our ability to identify and link crime scene evidence and will advance our joint efforts to fight gun crimes. The ATF and RCMP have played a critical role in making this important MOU happen and I thank them for their efforts.

Our shared responsibilities in fighting crime are vast, and neither of our countries can do it alone. Organized crime, narcotics, human trafficking, mass-marketing fraud, and border enforcement are just a few of the challenges we face every day. But I am optimistic, and I hope that our Canadian allies can look to us in the United States as we look to you: as teammates and as partners in guarding the peace and Democracy that we all cherish.

Our enemies--the criminals, terrorists, and gangs--have formed networks to advance their schemes. In response, our network must be stronger and, through efforts like the Cross Border Crime Forum, I know that it is. With outstanding coordination of partners and resources, flexibility, and a passion to succeed, we will prevail.

And so I want to thank you all for being here at this forum, to thank you for all you have done. The United States and Canada are great allies, and these are great times. And we will face our future stronger together.

But before Minister Day comes to speak, I would like to give a special thanks to Lee Heath, Chief U.S. Postal Inspector, for all of his hard work with the Forum for many years, and for his efforts in organizing this event. Lee would you please join me on stage? Lee will be retiring in December and we would like to present him with this plaque in recognition for his many years of hard work.

I’d now like to invite Minister Day to come and give his remarks.