Sessions: Let's get to the bottom of alleged Obama-era obstruction of Hezbollah prosecutions

A lack of media interest in Project Cassandra will not prevent an accounting of it if Jeff Sessions gets his way. The Attorney General released a statement late yesterday declaring that the Department of Justice will follow up on a lengthy and well-sourced exposé from Politico’s Josh Meyer that detailed a concerted effort to suppress prosecution of key Hezbollah figures during the Obama administration. Sessions expressed hope that the claims would prove unfounded, but said that national security demands a thorough review:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered the Justice Department to dig into allegations in a POLITICO report that a series of potential drug prosecutions related to the pro-Iranian militant group Hezbollah were abandoned as the Obama administration pressed to strike a deal with Iran over its nuclear program.

Sessions indicated that he was troubled by allegations that Project Cassandra — the Drug Enforcement Administration’s drive to target Hezbollah’s foray into drug trafficking — ran into high-level roadblocks that stymied many of the cases agents wanted to bring as well as efforts to get suspects extradited from overseas to the U.S.

“Operations designed to investigate and prosecute terrorist organizations that are also fueling that drug crisis must be paramount in this administration,” Sessions said in a statement released to reporters Friday evening. “While I am hopeful that there were no barriers constructed by the last administration to allowing DEA agents to fully bring all appropriate cases under Project Cassandra, this is a significant issue for the protection of Americans. We will review these matters and give full support to investigations of violent drug trafficking organizations.”

Sessions’ statement comes after members of Congress demanded action over Meyer’s allegations. Sen. Ben Sasse hailed Sessions’ response:

“I’m encouraged that the Justice Department recognizes that this is important and I hope that they will swiftly provide answers,” he said in a statement. “Terrorists don’t get a pass to exploit drug addiction here at home and use American dollars to fund their global violence.”

According to Meyer, they did. Investigators at the DEA and FBI who worked for years on Project Cassandra told Meyers that the DoJ obstructed their efforts to get indictments, and for those indictments they did get, hampered their ability to proceed with prosecutions. The message that investigators got was that the nuclear-weapons negotiations with Iran was more important than dismantling Hezbollah’s drug, arms, and money-laundering operations — even though the Iranian-backed terror group was conducting all three in the US.

Oddly, even though Meyer’s report was well sourced and based on both testimony and documentary evidence, most major media outlets simply ignored the story. Sessions’ decision to investigate the demise of Project Cassandra finally merited a mention in the self-styled “Paper of Record” today — the first time they’ve bothered to report on it:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday ordered a review of the Obama administration’s handling of a Drug Enforcement Administration program targeting drug trafficking by Iranian-backed Hezbollah.

Sessions didn’t say what prompted the review and stopped short of accusing the prior administration of wrongdoing. But the announcement comes after a Politico report that raised questions about whether Obama administration officials thwarted investigators’ work on the program for fear of jeopardizing a nuclear deal with Iran.

A search of the New York Times archives for “Cassandra” shows this to be the first mention of Meyer’s reporting. Give them credit for five paragraphs on Sessions’ statement, though. A Bing search of news sources for “sessions cassandra” over the past week only finds reports at Fox News, The Hill, the New York Daily News, Newsweek, and foreign outlets AFP and Ha’aretz. No NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN.

The Washington Post, where “democracy dies in darkness,” ran an Associated Press story despite having DC as its beat. The only other coverage the Post has given the Project Cassandra story was a media-critic review by the estimable Erik Wemple that prominently featured denials from Obama-era officials. Wemple correctly concludes that the story “is a tough topic for a media critic to adjudicate,” which should prompt the question as to why the Post didn’t put its national-security reporting team onto the story rather than its media critic.

Sessions statement and investigation might at least have the salutary side effect of forcing media outlets to abandon their editorial bias. The real story, though, is just how much the Obama administration was willing to pay for its execrable deal with Iran. Hopefully Congress will start conducting its own investigations to answer that question.

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David Strom 12:01 PM on October 07, 2022