US Attorney general Jeff Sessions has ordered the Justice Department to investigate 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.
At the time, the administration of President Barack Obama was eager to improve relations with Iran and stall its nuclear weapons program.
According to Politico’s report of December 17, the DEA launched Project Cassandra in 2008 in order to monitor Hezbollah’s weapons and drug trafficking activities, which included funneling drugs into the United States.
In a statement on Friday, 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 (Drug Enforcement Agency) agents to fully bring all appropriate cases under Project Cassandra, this is a significant issue for the protection of Americans,” the statement quoted Sessions as saying. “We will review these matters and give full support to investigations of violent drug trafficking organizations.”
Referring to the report, Sessions reiterated chasing terrorist groups such as Hezbollah that are also involved in drug trafficking would be “paramount” in 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,” noted 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.”
Sessions called allegations that Project Cassandra met resistance by high level officials troublesome.
"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 said in his statement.
Justice Department officials have so far declined to comment on who will conduct the review or any other details about the inquiry.
The POLITICO story has led to strong reactions by Obama administration officials who have denied that the former administration’s desire to reach a deal with Iran blocked any law enforcement operations.
“The narrative presented in this report in no way resembles reality … To the contrary, we aggressively countered Hezbollah’s terrorist plotting and other malign activities before and after the Iran deal” Former National Security Council spokesman Ned Price told Newsweek.