A top Justice Department official on Wednesday confirmed the existence of ongoing investigations where agents have laundered drug-proceed money to Mexican drug cartels as part of a sting run, but he defended those probes against Republicans’ attacks.
Congress gave the Drug Enforcement Administration the authority to conduct such sting runs as far back as 1984, Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs Ronald Weich told Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., in a letter, obtained by Texas on the Potomac. In investigations during the Ronald Reagan administration, some in which agents laundered over $100 million, they gained access to the top levels of drug-cartel leadership, Weich wrote.
Weich wrote that he couldn’t discuss the specifics of any current ongoing operations, “the details of which, by their very nature, are not suitable for public discussion, particularly insofar as those operations touch on important national security concerns and implicate issues of agent safety.”
Issa has opened a probe into the current drug-money stings, tacking it on to another investigation he’s conducted with Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, into Operation Fast and Furious, a botched gun-trafficking sting.
“The existence of such a program again calls your leadership into question,” Issa wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday.
Weich said the Justice Department didn’t have enough time to honor Issa’s request for a briefing on the matter by Wednesday afternoon, the day before a House Judiciary Committee hearing today featuring Holder.
Holder already has come under fire for statements he’s made under oath on when he found out about Fast and Furious, in which agents operating from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Phoenix field office intentionally let illegally bought guns “walk” in seeking to follow them to drug-cartel kingpins. Dozens of guns ended up at Mexican drug-crime scenes. Holder has maintained his truthfulness throughout the controversy.
Issa has sought to draw a parallel between the “gun-walking” tactics used in Fast and Furious and the tactics used in the drug-money investigations. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, has said Fast and Furious and the money-laundering schemes bear “eerie similarities.”
Weich’s letter to Issa echoes a statement Tuesday from the DEA saying the U.S. “has been working collaboratively with the Mexican government to fight money laundering for years.” The statement doesn’t go into specifics about what types of tactics have been used.
“As a result of this cooperation, DEA has seized illicit transnational criminal organization money all around the world through our partnership with law enforcement,” the narcotics agency said.
Among the past money-laundering stings Weich mentioned, one involved the laundering of $175 million that the attorney general at the time, Edwin Meese, said was a “modest price” for the operation’s results. A separate one known as Operation Pisces involved laundering $116 million, and it resulted in the arrests of more than 200 drug dealers and the seizure of 11,000 pounds of cocaine, according to the Justice Department.
Operation Pisces and other investigations “have been described in detail in numerous reported cases, press statements, and press conferences over the last three decades,” Weich wrote.
– Article originally from Chron.com.