Josh Meyer’s fascinating report, The secret backstory of how Obama let Hezbollah off the hook, highlights the connections between the drug trade and terrorism:
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.
The untold story of Project Cassandra illustrates the immense difficulty in mapping and countering illicit networks in an age where global terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime have merged, but also the extent to which competing agendas among government agencies — and shifting priorities at the highest levels — can set back years of progress.
And while the pursuit may be shadowed in secrecy, from Latin American luxury hotels to car parks in Africa to the banks and battlefields of the Middle East, the impact is not: In this case, multi-ton loads of cocaine entering the United States, and hundreds of millions of dollars going to a U.S.-designated terrorist organization with vast reach.
What did the Obama administration do about it?
After 9/11 the DEA launched investigations into Venezuelan crime syndicates, links between Colombian drug-traffickers and Lebanese money-launderers, and the “suspicious flow of thousands of used cars” from the U.S. to Benin, Mr. Meyer explains. The U.S. military was also investigating links between Iran and Shiite militias with improvised explosive devices that killed hundreds of U.S. soldiers. “All of these paths eventually converged on Hezbollah,” he writes.
By 2008 the DEA had “amassed evidence that Hezbollah had transformed itself” into a global crime syndicate “that some investigators believed was collecting $1 billion a year from drug and weapons trafficking and money laundering,” Mr. Meyer reports. DEA’s Project Cassandra was born to take down the Hezbollah operation by busting its “innermost circle.”
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.
Additionally, (back to Meyer’s article),
As a result, 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. And other “Hezbollah facilitators”arrested in France, Colombia, Lithuania have not been extradited — or indicted — in the U.S., she wrote.
Billions of drug trade money funding terrorists. Tens of thousands of lives ruined. Read The secret backstory of how Obama let Hezbollah off the hook.
This warrants a most rigorous congressional investigation.
Cross-posted at WoW! Magazine.