US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered a review of a Drug Enforcement Agency investigation into the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terror group. The move follows a report from Politico that the Obama administration worked to hinder the DEA initiative in order to prevent it from undermining the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
In a statement Friday to Fox News, the Justice Department said the review of Project Cassandra was necessary “to evaluate allegations that certain matters were not properly prosecuted and to ensure all matters are appropriately handled.”
“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,” the report quoted Sessions as saying. “We will review these matters and give full support to investigations of violent drug trafficking organizations.”
According to Sunday’s Politico report, the DEA launched Project Cassandra in 2008 in order to monitor Hezbollah’s weapons and drug trafficking practices, which included funneling cocaine into the United States.
However, when investigators sought approval for prosecution from the US Department of Justice and US Department of Treasury, those two agencies were unresponsive, the report said.
“This was a policy decision, it was a systematic decision,” said David Asher, an analyst for the US Department of Defense specializing in illicit finance who helped set up and run Project Cassandra. “They serially ripped apart this entire effort that was very well supported and resourced, and it was done from the top down.”
In light of the report, Sessions said pursuing terrorist groups such as Hezbollah that are also involved in drug trafficking would be “paramount” in the the Trump administration
“Protecting our citizens from terrorist organizations and combating the devastating drug crisis gripping our nation are two of the Justice Department’s top priorities,” said Sessions. “Operations designed to investigate and prosecute terrorist organizations that are also fueling that drug crisis must be paramount in this administration.”
Praising the DEA for working “tirelessly on this front,” Sessions said he would provide the agency with “all the tools that they need to allow them to shut down these drug rings.”
“The Department of Justice is absolutely committed to investigating and prosecuting international drug trafficking organizations and with the assistance of our DEA and FBI agents we will leave no stone unturned as we work to making America safer,” said Sessions.
Unnamed DOJ officials also told Fox News the review could lead to prosecution of people with ties to Hezbollah.
Since the release of the Politico report, a number of Republicans have called for a review of its allegations, while a number of former Obama administration officials have dismissed the expose as “propaganda” backed by critics of the Iran nuclear deal.