Did the Obama administration shut down attempts to stop Hezbollah’s arms and drug operations, including into the US? An in-depth report from Politico’s Josh Meyer has members of Congress interested in getting an answer to that question, and potentially the people who will have to answer it. Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo reports that the House has ordered the Department of Justice to submit all documents relevant to Project Cassandra, and whether Obama-era officials allowed the Iranian proxy a free hand in exchange for the deal on nuclear-weapons development:
Congress instructed the Department of Justice on Thursday to turn over all documents and communications that may be related to newly disclosed efforts by the Obama administration to handicap an investigation into the terror group Hezbollah and its Iranian benefactors, according to a letter sent to Attorney General Jeff Sessions obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. …
Congressional leaders have begun a formal investigation into the matter and petitioned the DOJ to hand over “all documents and communications” that may shine light on “interference with the DEA’s law enforcement efforts against Hezbollah,” according to a letter sent by Reps. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.) and Jim Jordan (R., Ohio.).
“We have a responsibility to evaluate whether these allegations are true, and if so, did the administration undermine U.S. law enforcement and compromise U.S. national security,” the lawmakers wrote to Sessions, according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Free Beacon.
The lawmakers are requesting the DOJ hand over to Congress all materials relating to a DEA operation known as Project Cassandra, which Politico first reported was part of an effort to investigate Hezbollah’s drug activities across Latin America.
Sessions has a heavy workload over the Christmas season, no? Just to refresh the memory, Meyer summed up his blockbuster exposé at the beginning:
The campaign, dubbed Project Cassandra, was launched in 2008 after the Drug Enforcement Administration amassed evidence that Hezbollah had transformed itself from a Middle East-focused military and political organization into an international crime syndicate that some investigators believed was collecting $1 billion a year from drug and weapons trafficking, money laundering and other criminal activities.
Over the next eight years, agents working out of a top-secret DEA facility in Chantilly, Virginia, used wiretaps, undercover operations and informants to map Hezbollah’s illicit networks, with the help of 30 U.S. and foreign security agencies.
They followed cocaine shipments, some from Latin America to West Africa and on to Europe and the Middle East, and others through Venezuela and Mexico to the United States. They tracked the river of dirty cash as it was laundered by, among other tactics, buying American used cars and shipping them to Africa. And with the help of some key cooperating witnesses, the agents traced the conspiracy, they believed, to the innermost circle of Hezbollah and its state sponsors in Iran.
But as Project Cassandra reached higher into the hierarchy of the conspiracy, Obama administration officials threw an increasingly insurmountable series of roadblocks in its way, according to interviews with dozens of participants who in many cases spoke for the first time about events shrouded in secrecy, and a review of government documents and court records. When Project Cassandra leaders sought approval for some significant investigations, prosecutions, arrests and financial sanctions, officials at the Justice and Treasury departments delayed, hindered or rejected their requests.
The economic operations of Hezbollah alone, as Meyer depicts them, should have Congress alarmed. According to Meyer, Hezbollah has hundreds of car rental operations in the US, operating them as fronts to move money through legal channels for illegal purposes. They also run cocaine into the US to boost their revenue, feeding the addictions of Americans as means for funding terrorism. And every time the DEA and FBI got close to shutting down these operations, the Obama-era DoJ found ways to stall them or obstruct their progress.
It’s a good thing that Congress is getting curious about these actions. So far, most of the national media has barely covered Meyer’s stunning report, let alone the implications of it on national security, crime, addiction, and terrorism. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board addressed it today, calling for a formal congressional investigation:
Three major suspects involved in weapons and drug trafficking got away. Ali Fayad, a Lebanese arms dealer alleged to work for Russia supplying weapons in Syria and Iraq, was arrested in the Czech Republic in 2014. He had been indicted in the U.S. but the Administration “declined to apply serious pressure on the Czech government to extradite him,” says Mr. Meyer. He was sent to Beirut where he continues to ply his trade.
Alleged Venezuelan drug kingpin Hugo Carvajal was arrested in Aruba in 2014. Venezuela’s close alliance with Iran is no secret and reeling in “the chicken,” as Carvajal was known, would have generated key intelligence about cocaine trafficking to the U.S. and North Africa. The Netherlands mysteriously intervened and returned him to Venezuela.
When Colombia arrested Walid Makled, a Syrian-born Venezuelan who was alleged to be shipping ten tons of cocaine to the U.S. each month, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos refused U.S. extradition requests and sent him to Venezuela. Mr. Obama repaid Mr. Santos by backing his amnesty for the FARC, the largest drug cartel in the Americas.
Mr. Meyer reported that former Obama officials assured him that they had not “derailed any actions against Hezbollah or its Iranian allies for political reasons.” But many government officials believe otherwise, which is why this warrants a congressional investigation.
It warrants a congressional investigation for many reasons, but also to draw more attention to this issue. When congressional hearings begin, it will be difficult for media outlets to continue to ignore the story, or simply to frame it with denials from Iran-deal figure Ben Rhodes and others. If even half of what Meyer reported was accurate, this goes way beyond Uranium One and the nothingburger-so-far on Russian collusion.
We need sunlight on the full scope of what we have up for that terrible deal with the Iranians, and we need it now. Pallets of cash on an airplane to Tehran may end up as the least objectionable concession.