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U.S., Canada sign pact to tighten border security

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June 9, 2000
Web posted at: 2:25 p.m. EDT (1825 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Top law enforcement officials from the United States and Canada signed an agreement on Friday aimed at improving efforts to plug gaps in security along their East Coast border.

The agreement, signed by Attorney General Janet Reno and her Canadian counterpart, Solicitor General Lawrence Macaulay, creates an integrated border enforcement team similar to one established on the West Coast three years ago. Officials say the West Coast team has improved border control between Washington state and British Columbia.

  MESSAGE BOARD
 

Security on the northern U.S. border has been a matter of special concern since December, when Algerian Ahmed Ressam was arrested and charged with attempting to enter the U.S. with bomb-making equipment.

"There is no doubt that the Ressam case has put a spotlight on our common border enforcement efforts," Macaulay said in a speech to 60 U.S. and Canadian officials at a Washington hotel. "Canadians and Americans continue to watch this very closely because when it comes to border security and enforcement against terrorism, they take notice and demand action."

Reno made only a passing reference to the Ressam case. The U.S. attorney general also called for improved sharing of intelligence data "to identify organized crime objectives, to identify patterns of crime, to provide opportunities for investigation that can make an extraordinary difference."

Undercurrent of cross-border tensions

Before conference organizers closed the doors to the fourth annual meeting of the Canada-U.S. Cross-Border Crime Forum, officials stressed cooperation.

In private, however, officials readily acknowledged tensions often exist between U.S. and Canadian law enforcement agencies on several issues.

Canada's relatively lenient immigration laws, combined with the largely open U.S. border, are a source of continued concern for U.S. officials who fear that would-be terrorists and other criminals could enter the United States. Canada has also become a haven for telemarketers targeting U.S. customers.

Canada struggles with illegal firearms shipments from the United States and the smuggling of tobacco products north across the border to customers seeking cheaper prices.

Drug smuggling, money laundering, organized crime groups, and missing and abducted children are all areas in which criminals attempt to cross the border and exploit differences in the two nations' laws.

Increasingly, computer crime has become a high priority for both countries. In a recent high-profile case, a Canadian teen-ager was apprehended in a major hacking incident that forced the shutdown of U.S. commercial Web sites.



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