The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation says it has asked Congress for more money to increase its permanent presence in Canada to prevent terrorist attacks and deter cross-border crime.
The special agents, known as legal attachés, would exchange information with Canadian law-enforcement agencies and aid investigations of terrorism, drug-trafficking and fraud on both sides of the border.
"The world of crime . . . is expanding so rapidly internationally," said Stuart Sturm, the FBI's legal counsel in Ottawa. "This of course bolsters that argument that resources are needed overseas for not just the FBI but other agencies."
Mr. Sturm could not say whether or when the FBI's budget proposal would be approved.
Canadian and U.S. law-enforcement officials have been working together for years, but their relationship has grown closer since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The FBI launched the largest investigation in its history following the devastating hits, deploying 4,000 agents and 3,000 support personnel to every region of the globe.
In the Toronto region, FBI agents have supplied an antiterrorist unit with intelligence on terrorism suspects living in Canada.
Recently, Solicitor-General Lawrence MacAulay and U.S. Attorney-General John Ashcroft signed a deal to improve the exchange of fingerprint data between the RCMP and the FBI.
"The relationship between our two law-enforcement communities is absolutely unprecedented," said Buck Shinkman, a spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Ottawa. "The sharing of information . . . has only been enhanced since Sept. 11."
FBI offices are housed in the U.S. embassy in Ottawa and the U.S. consulate in Vancouver. Each is staffed by at least one agent.
Two FBI agents are on temporary duty with antifraud task forces investigating bogus Canadian telemarketing companies that target senior citizens, mostly in the United States. One agent is based in Montreal, the other in Vancouver.
As well, the FBI runs offices in 43 countries on six continents. Officials were tight-lipped about the number of extra agents they requested for Canadian postings and refused to reveal the number of staff members working in Canada.
The RCMP operates a liaison office in Washington, but the Mounties would not say how many people work there, citing security concerns.
Since they're outside their jurisdiction, U.S. law-enforcement agents working in Canada can only assist police and can't play an active role in investigations.
"The FBI has no peace-officer status in Canada," RCMP spokesman Kevin Fahey said from Ottawa.
"When the RCMP request something of them, they provide a support role."
But Mr. Fahey said the agents aren't monitored around the clock to ensure they don't make phone calls to witnesses or track down suspects on their own.
"Canada's a pretty free country."
The Canadian government must approve any expansion of the FBI's presence in Canada, said a spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department in Washington.