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Prepared Remarks of Attorney General

Alberto R. Gonzales at
the Operation Wildfire Press
Conference
Washington, DC
August 30, 2005
Good afternoon.

Last week, men and women from state, local, and federal law enforcement
completed Operation Wildfire — a massive, coordinated, nationwide operation to
fight the deadly scourge of methamphetamine.

I am pleased to be here today – joined by Karen Tandy, Administrator of the DEA,


and McGregor Scott, chairman of the U.S. Attorneys Methamphetamine Working
Group – to discuss the results of this operation.

Before doing so, I want to tell the story of a one-year-old infant named Chelton,
because behind the numbers today are individual stories of those we are trying to
help.

As many of you know, meth is highly addictive. It is easy and cheap to produce.
And for too many children in too many communities, meth leads to victimization,
abuse, and neglect.

Chelton’s parents were meth cookers. One day his father was cooking meth and
spilled a coffee pot filled with fuel onto a Coleman burner. The flame ignited a flash
fire. The house was filled with the toxic chemicals for meth cooking, so Chelton’s
parents grabbed his five-year-old brother and ran out of the home.

As fire quickly spread, Chelton was asleep upstairs. His parents soon realized
Chelton was still in the house. The father got a ladder and managed to rescue the
boy from the second story.

But Chelton had already been severely burned over 30 percent of his body, and he
had sustained serious internal injuries. For several months Chelton struggled to live,
but he eventually died of his injuries.
His parents did not bother to attend Chelton’s funeral or burial. Instead, they
became fugitives.

For the meth-cooking, meth-using parents, the little boy’s death meant little. When
law enforcement located Chelton’s fugitive parents, the mother and father were
stocking up on the precursor chemicals to build a new meth lab.

For our brave men and women in law enforcement, the tragic story of meth isn’t
limited to the addiction and decline of meth users or the greed of meth cookers. It is
the story of young lives lost and dreams and potential destroyed.

As a father of young children and as the chief law enforcement officer of the United
States, I am concerned about the scourge of meth. And Federal law enforcement and
our U.S. Attorneys, in conjunction with our state and local partners, have been
working valiantly to combat this problem. Over the last three years alone, law
enforcement has seized, on average, 45 small toxic meth labs or dumpsites each day
across America.

In Operation Wildfire, the Drug Enforcement Administration led a combined law


enforcement effort that attacked meth in 200 cities across the United States.

As a result of Wildfire, we arrested 427 people. We seized 208 pounds of


methamphetamine. We took 524 pounds of precursor chemicals off the street. That’s
more than 200,000 tablets of pseudoephedrine, 158 kilograms of pseudoephedrine
powder, and more than 220,860 tablets of ephedrine – enough to provide 284,000
people with a hit of meth.

In each of these busts, in every one of these cities, the men and women of law
enforcement put their lives—and their hearts —on the line. As the sad story of
Chelton shows, it is impossible to overstate the importance of Operation Wildfire or
to fully quantify what it means in terms of lives saved and children protected.

It was only two weeks ago that Director John Walters of the Office of National
Drug Control Policy; HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt; and I traveled to Nashville,
Tennessee to discuss this Administration’s nationwide plan for attacking meth.

At the Department of Justice we are focused primarily on enforcement and today,


we’re seeing the results of that law enforcement strategy.

Earlier this year, Administrator Tandy declared meth a top priority for the DEA’s
Mobile Enforcement Teams. The DEA commits more than $145 million per year to
combat meth.

The U.S. Attorneys Methamphetamine Working Group has been working to develop
effective strategies with members of Congress and state and local officials.
As part of our ongoing and expanding efforts, yesterday I spoke again with
Mexico’s attorney general, Daniel Cabeza de Vaca, about working more closely to
stem the tide of meth coming from Mexico.

We are making more arrests, there are more prosecutions. But our enforcement
success depends on our local, state, and international friends and allies. I want to
thank all the men and women of law enforcement who took part in Operation
Wildfire.

At the Department of Justice, we understand that the cause of justice is only as


strong as the bonds within the justice community. And as we strengthen those bonds
we do so knowing we strengthen the hope and opportunity in America.

Thank you.

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