PREPARED REMARKS OF ATTORNEY GENERAL ALBERTO R. GONZALES
AT THE NINTH ANNUAL UNITED STATES-CANADA CROSS BORDER CRIME FORUM
ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA
I am joined today by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Acting Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Michael Sullivan.
We have been having very productive meetings yesterday and today to discuss a variety of law enforcement issues of importance to the people of the United States and Canada.
The friendship of our two countries 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.
On Tuesday I visited Buffalo, New York, and was reminded of the challenges that law enforcement agents on both sides of the border are facing. And I saw evidence of the strength of our collaboration with Canada, and our shared commitment to keeping our people safe from crime.
Every day, American law enforcement works side-by-side with our Canadian partners to shut down criminal operations and protect our citizens. Today we share more information, we train together, we conduct joint operations. We are safer, but not yet safe. We must continue to build upon this cooperation, and we must take full advantage of the partnerships formed at gatherings like this one.
The Memorandum of Understanding Regarding Accessing Forensic Firearms Data I have just signed will be a part of our efforts. 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.
Currently, the ATF uses the same ballistics collection and identification technology as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. This technology allows us to collect and search images of bullets and cartridge cases recovered from crime scenes, and from firearms seized by law enforcement officers. The Integrated Ballistics Identification System, or IBIS, allows information to be collected nationwide in Canada and the United States.
Before today, ATF and the RCMP shared IBIS data on an ad hoc basis—a viable but cumbersome solution. We could be much more efficient by better connecting our systems, and that is what this agreement seeks to do. The technology has recently been developed to allow us to link these networks, and now we have an agreement in place allowing for a much more integrated process.
Previously, a cop investigating a gun crime in New York, who suspected a connection to a similar crime across the border in Toronto, would face such a complicated and labor-intensive ordeal in pursuing that lead, it was likely to just never happen. Now, he will be able to follow a streamlined electronic trail directly through the IBIS network. Lab techs will be able to compare evidence in both systems, and our law enforcement officers will save valuable time in their investigations—allowing them to concentrate on solving crimes instead of filling out paperwork.
It is an important step forward and a concrete example of how we are tearing down barriers to law enforcement, and constantly strengthening our international partnerships.
And now I would like to invite Secretary Chertoff to make a few comments.