The secret backstory of how Obama let Hezbollah off the hook.
In its determination to secure a nuclear deal with Iran, the Obama administration derailed an ambitious law enforcement campaign targeting drug trafficking by the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, even as it was funneling cocaine into the United States, according to a POLITICO investigation.
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.
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 Justice Department declined requests by Project Cassandra and other authorities to file criminal charges against major players such as Hezbollah’s high-profile envoy to Iran, a Lebanese bank that allegedly laundered billions in alleged drug profits, and a central player in a U.S.-based cell of the Iranian paramilitary Quds force. And the State Department rejected requests to lure high-value targets to countries where they could be arrested.
“This was a policy decision, it was a systematic decision,” said David Asher, seasoned illicit finance expert who helped establish and oversee Project Cassandra as a Defense Department illicit finance analyst.
“They serially ripped apart this entire effort that was very well supported and resourced, and it was done from the top down.”
The Obama administration is believed to have deliberately put the kibosh on charging numerous drug dealers and arms dealing, such as Hezbollah operative nicknamed the ‘Ghost,’ and Abdallah Safieddine, the terrorist organization’s de facto envoy to Iran. All the while both Hezbollah and Iran made massive sums selling “drugs, weapons and used cars, [along with] diamonds, commercial merchandise and even human slaves,” say ex-Project Cassandra agents.
According to Meyer, Project Cassandra’s finding were so damning that the Obama administration began to believe it threatened fragile nuclear negotiations with Iran.
They said senior Obama administration officials appeared to be alarmed by how far Project Cassandra’s investigations had reached into the leadership of Hezbollah and Iran, and wary of the possible political repercussions.
As a result, task force members claim, Project Cassandra was increasingly viewed as a threat to the administration’s efforts to secure a nuclear deal, and the top-secret prisoner swap that was about to be negotiated.
“The intelligence community fundamentally doubted the intel,” from the DEA, one source told POLITICO. It’s important to note that John Brennan, who was a staunch proponent of the Iran deal and believe in boosting “moderate,” factions with Hezbollah, was Obama’s top counterterrorism advisor during the operation.
“During the negotiations, early on, they [the Iranians] said listen, we need you to lay off Hezbollah, to tamp down the pressure on them, and the Obama administration acquiesced to that request,” a former CIA agent revealed to POLITICO.
With the operation largely neutered due to the Iran deal, Asher had no choice but to bring many of his findings public before a congressional hearing in May 2015.
Shortly after the Iran deal was signed, U.S. and EU law enforcement officers arrested a network of Hezbollah in France.
In announcing the arrests, the DEA and the Justice Department disclosed for the first time the existence of Project Cassandra
These dealers were small potatoes compared to the big fish the Obama administration seemingly refused to charge.
Under the Trump administration, the operation has picked back up.
Source: Resist Collectivism