A stunning report released on Sunday revealed that the Obama administration ended a major federal law enforcement operation that targeted the Iranian-sponsored terrorist group Hezbollah because it wanted to secure a nuclear deal with Iran — a deal that some experts have called a complete "joke."
The operation, named Project Cassandra, launched in 2008 after the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) had gathered a substantial amount of evidence that Hezbollah had grown from a “military and political organization” that operated solely in the Middle East into an international criminal enterprise that was earning approximately $1 billion per year from “drug and weapons trafficking, money laundering and other criminal activities,” Politico reported.
Key takeaways from Politico’s nearly 14,000-word report:
- Over a period of eight years, federal agents used a top-secret facility in Virginia to conduct undercover operations that aimed to chart Hezbollah’s massive criminal enterprise. The operation relied on assistance provided by 30 U.S. and foreign security agencies.
- Project Cassandra tracked cocaine shipments from Latin America to West Africa where the shipments were then routed to Europe and the Middle East. The money from Hezbollah’s criminal activity was laundered by “buying American used cars and shipping them to Africa.”
- Agents indicated that the origins of the criminal conspiracy were in the “innermost circle of Hezbollah and its state sponsors in Iran.”
- The Obama administration intentionally sabotaged Project Cassandra by throwing “increasingly insurmountable series of roadblocks in its way.”
- Obama’s Justice Department and State Department refused to help Project Cassandra with a variety of necessary law enforcement actions including filing criminal charges against Hezbollah’s top players and “lur[ing] high-value targets to countries where they could be arrested.”
- By refusing to help, the Obama administration allowed Hezbollah to traffic multi-ton quantities of cocaine into the U.S. and allowed hundreds of millions of dollars to flow from the U.S. to the terrorist organization.
- Obama colluded with Russian President Vladimir Putin to release Lebanese terrorist Ali Fayad who was responsible for the deaths of Americans.
- As a result of the Obama administration’s decision, “some Hezbollah operatives were not pursued via arrests, indictments, or Treasury designations that would have blocked their access to U.S. financial markets, according to Bauer, a career Treasury official, who served briefly in its Office of Terrorist Financing as a senior policy adviser for Iran before leaving in late 2015.”
- Obama’s decision derailed U.S. intelligence efforts to track cocaine shipments from “various Hezbollah-affiliated networks coming into the United States, especially from Venezuela.”
- “At the same time, DEA agents in West Africa were investigating the suspicious flow of thousands of used cars from U.S. dealerships to car parks in Benin.”
- The DEA uncovered one of the biggest drug smuggling and money laundering networks they had ever seen led by Lebanese businessman Ayman Joumaa.
- “Joumaa’s network rang alarm bells in Washington when agents discovered he was working with Mexico’s brutal Los Zetas cartel to move multi-ton loads of cocaine directly into the United States, and washing $200 million a month in criminal proceeds with the help of 300 or so used car dealerships. The network would funnel huge amounts of money to the dealerships to purchase used cars, which would then be shipped to Benin, on Africa’s west coast.”
- David Asher, who helped establish and oversee Project Cassandra as a Defense Department illicit finance analyst, believed that “the task force wasn’t overhyping the threat posed by Hezbollah’s criminal activities, it was significantly underestimating it. Because Hezbollah’s drug trafficking was bankrolling its Islamic Jihad military wing and joint ventures with Iran, as Asher would later testify before Congress, it represented ‘the largest material support scheme for terrorism operations’ the world had ever seen.”
- The dirty money from the drug proceeds was laundered and wired to “300 U.S. used-car dealers to buy and ship thousands of vehicles to West Africa.”
- The car dealerships in western Africa raked in billions of dollars in profit that was then sent to banks that were friendly toward Hezbollah.
- Federal agents working on Project Cassandra “were most alarmed, by far, by the havoc Hezbollah and Iran were wreaking in Latin America” where cocaine shipments to the U.S. increased by 500%.
- Under the Obama administration, the “used-car money-laundering scheme was flourishing in the United States and Africa. The number of vehicles being shipped to Benin had more than doubled from December 2011 to 2014, he wrote, with one dealership alone receiving more than $4 million.”
- Jack Kelly, the veteran DEA supervisory agent who created and led the task force, said, “The FBI and other parts of the USG [U.S. government] provide a little or no assistance during our investigations. The USG lack of action on this issue has allowed [Hezbollah] to become one of the biggest transnational organized crime groups in the world.”
- Jack Riley, top DEA special agent who helped run the drug agency under the Obama administration, said, “[Hezbollah’s criminal operations] provide a revenue and weapons stream for an international terrorist organization responsible for devastating terror attacks around the world.”