(House of Representatives - December 20, 2017)

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[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 208 (Wednesday, December 20, 2017)]
[Pages H10335-H10338]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                           PROJECT CASSANDRA

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of 
January 3, 2017, the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Jody B. Hice) is 
recognized for 60 minutes as the designee of the majority leader.

                             General Leave

  Mr. JODY B. HICE of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent 
that all Members may have 5 legislative days in which to revise and 
extend their remarks and to include extraneous material on the subject 
of my Special Order.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from Georgia?
  There was no objection.
  Mr. JODY B. HICE of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, today I rise to speak on an 
issue that is just now beginning to gain momentum and traction. 
Already, this issue of great importance is bringing great alarm and 
concern, as well as focus. I speak specifically in regard to the Obama 
administration's apparent decision to sacrifice the opportunity to take 
down Hezbollah and bring terrorists to justice.
  What most Americans know about Hezbollah is that it is an Iran-backed 
proxy militia based in Lebanon, which was responsible for a string of 
terrorist attacks against Americans in the 1980s, including the attack 
in 1983 of the Beirut barracks, which killed 241 American 
  Since that time, Hezbollah has openly attacked Israel. They have 
propped up regimes supported by Iran, like Bashar al-Assad in Syria. 
They are defined by their violence and human rights abuses.
  But what most Americans are not aware of, Mr. Speaker, is that over 
the last 30 years, Hezbollah has evolved beyond its origins as Iran's 
attack dog in the Middle East and they now run one of the world's most 
expansive and dangerous multinational criminal networks in the world.
  Hezbollah works directly with corrupt governments, like Venezuela and 
others, to create criminal networks across Latin America, Africa, 
Europe, and the Middle East. They have literally moved tons--metric 
tons--of cocaine across the world, laundered money, and trafficked 
weapons and individuals. They are a critical part of a network 
responsible for the use of IEDs in the Middle East, which have killed 
literally thousands of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  Hezbollah, Mr. Speaker, is a scourge not only in the Middle East, but 
throughout the entire world. The reason we know this--which has just, 
in recent days, started to become public--is because, in 2008, the DEA 
launched a campaign known as Project Cassandra, which amassed evidence 
over 8 years of investigation regarding Hezbollah's criminal 
activities. They used wiretaps, undercover operations, informants, and 
so forth to map Hezbollah's illicit networks with the help of some 30 
different U.S. and foreign security agencies. These DEA agents traced 
the activities all the way to the inner circles of Hezbollah and its 
state sponsors in Iran.
  But--and here is where all of this starts coming into play--when the 
time came to extradite and prosecute these terrorists, the Obama 
administration's Department of Justice and Department of State refused 
to move forward.
  That is unthinkable to me. It is unthinkable to many people in our 
  The Justice Department refused to file criminal charges against 
suspects that were already in custody in Europe. The State Department 
refused to put meaningful pressure on allied countries to extradite 
Hezbollah leaders to the United States.
  Why? Why did they refuse to get involved?
  According to an Obama administration Treasury official, in her 
written testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, 
investigations to Hezbollah were tapped down for fear of rocking the 
boat with Iran and jeopardizing the nuclear deal.

                              {time}  1930

  The nuclear deal is already deeply, deeply flawed in so many ways. 
The Iran nuclear deal apparently took precedence over crippling a 
foreign terrorist organization directly responsible for the deaths of 
American citizens and one of the world's largest drug and weapons 
trafficking networks.
  Hezbollah is responsible for procuring parts for Iran's nuclear and 
ballistic missile program, the very program that the nuclear deal was 
supposed to curtail. Hezbollah is supplying parts to them.
  Instead of prosecuting the leadership of Hezbollah and shutting down 
Iran's weapons pipeline, the Obama administration legitimized Iran's 
nuclear program and let Hezbollah leadership slip through the cracks 
and let them totally off the hook.
  After the conclusion of the Iran nuclear deal, the Obama 
administration shut down Project Cassandra. We lost all that we had 
gained in 8 years of investigations--all the information. We had them 
in our grasp, Mr. Speaker, after 8 years of investigation. We lost 
unprecedented insight into these global criminal networks.
  Mr. Speaker, this is morally reprehensible. It is stunning that we 
had our previous administration and that administration's Justice 
Department and State Department evidently involved, engaged, and 
deliberately letting these criminals off the hook.
  How in the world can our allies in the global war on terror trust us 
when we won't prosecute terrorists when we have the chance to do so?
  How can our allies in Latin America trust us when we refuse to 
prosecute leaders of one of the world's largest drug trafficking 
  I have a few colleagues here tonight who are going to address this 
issue as well. Before I introduce the first one, I want to bring up one 
more point.
  Ali Fayad is a suspected leader in Hezbollah. He is an operative and 
a major weapons supplier. He has been indicted on charges of planning 
the murders of U.S. citizens, attempting to provide materiel support to 
a terrorist organization and attempting to acquire, transfer, and use 
antiaircraft missiles.
  For nearly 2 years, this terrorist was held in custody in the Czech 
Republic. For 2 years, the Obama administration failed to provide 
enough pressure to the Czech Republic, our NATO ally. The Obama 
administration refused to put pressure to extradite that terrorist to 
the United States.
  Ali Fayad now, as we speak here tonight, is a free man and alleged to 
be back in the business of arming militants in Syria. This is 
  Mr. Speaker, I want to personally thank those who served on Project 
Cassandra for their service to our Nation and for the work they did. I 
want them to know that what they did mattered.
  I am appalled that the Obama administration did virtually nothing to 
stop Hezbollah's criminal activities. I think this warrants an 
investigation by the U.S. House of Representatives, and that is what 
this Special Order tonight is all about: getting to the bottom of what 
is yet another example of a swamp that stinks to high heaven that needs 
to be cleaned up and drained out.
  We need an investigation into what happened in the Obama 
administration, the Department of Justice, and the Department of State 
in allowing these

[[Page H10336]]

terrorists and this terrorist network to get off the hook.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield to the gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Biggs), a 
good friend. He has been a leader in issues such as this, bringing to 
our attention both the highlighting of dangerous, harmful activity such 
as this tonight. He has been a great champion.
  Mr. BIGGS. Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend from Georgia for yielding.
  This is a very important topic. I am going to touch on this by 
beginning with this idea of the distinction between the current 
administration and its foreign policy as outlined in the recent 
statement from President Trump and that of the previous administration.
  The distinction is very clear. The previous administration basically 
clung to an idea of neo-liberal institutionalism. That is to say, where 
there was a vacuum of power, we did not set the stage. America did not 
fill it. It remained a vacuum, with the idea being that an institution 
would fill that. Maybe the United Nations, maybe some other regional 
institution. But in doing so, we ceded over much of our sovereignty and 
failed to act to preserve and protect America's best interests.
  The current administration has taken a more realistic point of view. 
They are realists. That is, America's interests will be first and 
paramount. We will see to it, we will foster alliances, and we will 
foster participation with our fellow nations to preserve America's best 
  When America is strong, there is a greater chance for peace in the 
world. I believe that. That is the position of realists all the way 
back to Hans Morgenthau. Even neo-realists like Kenneth Waltz might 
  One thing that we know is that this particular episode that unfolds 
is a scandalous episode that put America in greater danger, probably, 
and perhaps, in order to foster political gains by the previous 
  One Treasury Department official who served in the Obama 
administration testified to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs 
that, under the Obama administration, these Hezbollah-related 
investigations were tamped down for fear of rocking the boat with Iran 
and jeopardizing the nuclear deal.
  That becomes the heart and the rationale for how the previous 
administration handled a political decision instead of a foreign policy 
national security decision.
  We know a number of things that took place, and this is why the House 
needs to conduct its own investigation: so we can know how this played 
out, why this played out, who is responsible, and we can resolve never 
to do this again.
  We had Project Cassandra. This was a DEA campaign designed to expose 
a money laundering scheme in which Latin American drug-running was 
being funneled to Hezbollah.

  Hezbollah is a pro-Iranian Lebanese malitia and has been a foreign 
terrorist organization since 1987, and so designated. It fosters 
alliances with rogue nations such as North Korea, Iran, and is 
violently anti-Israel and anti-United States.
  It has become a player in international cocaine trafficking--using 
the proceeds of that drug trafficking to purchase explosives, EFPs, 
which is the deadliest type of IED used against American soldiers in 
  EFPs killed hundreds of American soldiers, and they were supplied by 
the Iranian Government and its Hezbollah allies. EFPs were literally 
ripping M1 Abrams tanks in half. It is a weapon that makes all the 
armor protection they have irrelevant. Mere threats of EFPs shut down 
all ground supply routes near American bases on the Iranian border.
  The result: cut off the head or the financing of Hezbollah through 
these international cocaine distribution routes.
  Project Cassandra was born in 2008. It found clear evidence that 
Hezbollah had grown from a Middle East-focused military and political 
organization into an international crime syndicate, likely collecting 
somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 billion a year from drug and 
weapons trafficking, money laundering, and other criminal activities.
  For 8 years, DEA agents conducted high-stakes investigations--
dangerous investigations--using technology as well as undercover 
operations and informants. That type of capital is expensive and 
  The result was to map these illicit drug networks. They did this with 
the help of 30 U.S. and foreign security agencies. They saw worldwide, 
far-flung international drug trafficking from South America to Africa, 
from Europe to the Middle East, and in the United States, where drug 
funds were funneled through an array of businesses, including used car 
  What happened?
  As we saw the previous administration's desire and design to leave a 
signature legacy foreign policy win, the negotiations for the Iran 
nuclear deal got going and were in place. Project Cassandra's agents 
say the Justice and Treasury Departments repeatedly hindered their 
attempts to pursue these investigations--the prosecutions, arrests, and 
financial sanctions against the key figures in this far-reaching drug 
  This was a policy decision. It was a systematic decision.
  David Asher is quoted as saying: ``They serially ripped apart this 
entire effort that was very well supported and resourced, and it was 
done from the top down.''
  They didn't bring criminal charges. They didn't continue to pursue 
these Hezbollah members or the banks that were laundering those 
billions in drug profits. Instead, they tore down the apparatus that 
was working on apprehending the head of the snake.
  Well, we are going to go on with this. We need to go on with this. We 
need to investigate this further. This type of political decision that 
impacts and actually works cross-wise to our very purpose in the Middle 
East must be stopped, and we must find out why that happened. Those who 
allowed our men and women to be put in harm's way for a political 
decision need to be held accountable.
  So, Mr. Speaker, those who cling to the neo-liberal institutionalist 
mantra, who rely on multilateral institutions rather than putting 
America first, are the ones who produced this result.
  We are going to find out more in the coming weeks. My request is that 
the leadership in Congress, in this House of Representatives, instigate 
and prosecute an investigation to get to the bottom of this very 
heinous and very wrongheaded and dangerous decision.
  I thank the gentleman for allowing me to participate and for his lead 
on this tonight.
  Mr. JODY B. HICE of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, this highlights the 
importance of the issue that we are dealing with and the need for an 
  Hundreds, even thousands, of lives have been put in danger, not to 
mention our own Nation's national security interests.
  Next up is a tremendous leader, not only here in Congress, but in our 
military. He is a general who has done an outstanding job. I don't know 
that anyone understands the importance of the issue any more than my 
good friend.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield to the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Perry). 
I am honored to have him here addressing this issue.
  Mr. PERRY. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Jody 
B. Hice), my good friend. I thank him for bringing this issue to the 
attention of the Congress and for this Special Order.
  When I was growing up, Mr. Speaker, I believed that my government 
would do all it could to stop crime from happening in the community I 
lived in, including drug use.

                              {time}  1945

  I have always been, my whole life, an ardent opponent of drug use. I 
have never used drugs, but yet I have seen the ravages and the 
devastation in the community I live in of this. You just knew in your 
heart that your government--the police, so on and so forth--were 
stopping those kind of things.
  Then years later, as I grew up and was privileged to serve in 
uniform, I ended up going to Iraq. I got a briefing on this new type of 
weapon that was being used in Iraq called an EFP, an explosively formed 
penetrator, for which we had very little defense. There were other 
kinds of IEDs, whether they were used with a cell phone or a pressure 
plate or whatever, but these things were particularly grave because

[[Page H10337]]

we didn't have anything to stop them. We all knew, from the briefing, 
that they were coming from Iran.
  And, of course, we thought, wearing the uniform, that our government 
would do everything it could to protect the servicemembers who were in 
harm's way and to protect our national security. That includes making 
sure that we got to the bottom of these EFPs, where they were coming 
from, and prosecuting and persecuting those who were providing them.
  So imagine my surprise and my dismay just a few short days ago 
reading an article from a publication here in Washington, D.C., that 
outlined how our government, essentially, sanctioned not only the use 
of these EFPs from Iran in Iraq and Afghanistan, but, essentially, 
allowed for them to be paid for and enabled the paying for them.
  There was this operation ongoing called Operation Cassandra to root 
out drugs coming into the United States being supplied by Hezbollah, a 
client of Iran. While this was ongoing, this nuclear agreement concern 
came into being. It was, apparently, so important that all of the work 
that was done in Operation Cassandra to stop these drugs from coming 
into the United States, that had to stop because we didn't want to 
irritate, we didn't want to disrespect, we didn't want to insult the 
Iranians when they were so close to getting a nuclear deal.
  So we said, well, all these people have been working on this for 
years--this Operation Cassandra--to identify these people from Iran who 
were using this operation of selling drugs, illicitly moving stolen 
cars, and laundering money to then sell drugs into the United States 
and Europe, but also to use that money that they got from selling the 
drugs and the used cars to make these EFPs, to send them to Iraq, to 
send them to Afghanistan to kill American soldiers. That all had to 
stop because, heaven forbid, we can't offend Iran. We can't offend 
  Now, I will tell you this, Mr. Speaker. Nuclear war is a grave issue 
and it is worth a lot. If we have to stop nuclear war and give up some 
things to do that, I get it, I get it completely. There are no second 
chances with nuclear war. Once the bomb goes off, it is over. So if you 
have to give a little bit to get something on that, that is something 
even I could understand, even though I find some of it objectionable.
  Where I come into conflict is this, Mr. Speaker. There is no 
question, at this point, whether Iran will have a nuclear weapon. There 
is no reason to be testing ballistic missiles except to deliver a 
nuclear weapon. They are not delivering leaflets, Mr. Speaker. They are 
going to deliver a nuclear weapon with that, which is why they are 
testing it.
  There is no reason to have centrifuges. There is no reason to enrich 
to the level that Iran is except to create a nuclear weapon. We don't 
need that to have a nuclear power plant, which is what Iran says it 
wants to do.
  And, of course, we all know, since the Ayatollah took over and took 
American hostages back in the day that Iran is a known liar. That is 
what they do. They lie. They obfuscate. They just say one thing and do 
another. It is not a question of if they will have a nuclear weapon, 
Mr. Speaker; it is a question of when.
  So what we did here was we said, look, let's not offend the Iranians. 
Even though they are killing Americans on the battlefield, and even 
though they are killing Americans in your hometown by selling drugs to 
them--and the two are working towards each other; they are selling 
drugs and using that money to buy the articles of war, the implements 
of war that are killing Americans--it is okay. We are going to allow 
that to happen as long as we delay Iran from having a nuclear weapon 
for 15 years. That is exactly what it looks like.
  Now, I didn't do the investigative reporting. It is, I think, 14,000 
words, so it is pretty in-depth. But I will tell you this. It is being 
discredited out there. These are a couple of rogue employees who just 
disagreed with the policy.
  Mr. Speaker, the Drug Enforcement Agency agent on the case, who has 
over 20 years of government experience tracking the financing of terror 
networks, said this of the leader of Hezbollah:

       I had no clue who he was, but this guy was sending money 
     into Iraq to kill American soldiers.

  The point is he had 20 years on the job. This wasn't some piker who 
just showed up on the job at Treasury and said: ``Hey, track this money 
and see what you can find.'' This is a guy who did this for a living 
for 20 years, and he ran into Hezbollah. He ran into Hezbollah, based 
on his investigation.
  And then they tracked him. They tracked the money. They tracked the 
drugs--not just a little bit, tons--tons of drugs coming into the 
United States, literally at a time when we have 60,000 Americans dying, 
annually, of drug overdose. That is more people than we lost in 
Vietnam, Mr. Speaker, in the whole time of Vietnam. A year, that is how 
many are dying in America based on drug overdose.
  These people tracked it. They tracked the weapons on the other side, 
and they were told to stand down. They went to get these guys. They had 
one in custody in Prague. He was arrested. The United States wanted him 
extradited and prosecuted.
  Do you know where he is right now, Mr. Speaker? He is back on the 
battlefield because we let him go.
  So not only did Iran get to sell drugs in the United States and kill 
American citizens in your hometown, but they used that money to then 
make EFPs to kill the soldiers from your hometown who went to defend 
America's freedom.
  And, oh, by the way, in less than 15 years now, you can expect Iran 
to be a nuclear armed power.
  Mr. Speaker, if nothing else, if absolutely nothing else happens here 
from this, we need to have hearings on this in both the Foreign Affairs 
Committee and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee to make 
sure that this never ever can happen again, that we don't trade the 
safety of the lives of American servicemembers overseas and American 
citizens at home for a bad deal overseas of something that we are never 
really going to be able to reconcile with, which is a nuclear-armed 
  We are going to have very few options at stopping them, like we do 
with North Korea right now. That is where we are headed. We will not 
only have North Korea to deal with, but we will also have a nuclear-
armed Iran.
  That circumstance can never happen again, which is why hearings are 
so critical, so that we get to the truth, so that we get to the bottom 
of this, so that there are no skeletons in the closet, Mr. Speaker, so 
we understand who did what for why, so we can rationalize was this 
worth it or was this just political expedience. We need to know that so 
that we learn from that, so that we never make those mistakes again.
  Mr. Speaker, again, I thank the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Jody B. 
Hice). I appreciate his interest in this topic, as I am, and bringing 
it to the floor.
  Mr. JODY B. HICE of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the gentleman 
so much. I just think it is critically important that in a Special 
Order such as this we have someone who has been there, on the front 
line, who knows exactly from the perspective of a soldier defending our 
country what has been taking place. I appreciate his expertise and his 
willingness to talk about it here this evening.
  Another colleague who is going to address the seriousness of the 
issue this evening is Ken Buck from Colorado, a good friend and another 
leader on this issue and many others like this. The American people 
deserve to know what happened. The dots are coming into play. The dots 
are being connected. We need to finish connecting those dots to find 
out what went on and let the American people know.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield to the gentleman from Colorado (Mr. Buck).
  Mr. BUCK. Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend and colleague, 
Representative Jody Hice, for the opportunity to speak this evening on 
such an important issue.
  We are here today to discuss the recent revelations that the Obama 
administration, in their pursuit of the Iran deal, blocked important 
efforts by U.S. law enforcement officials to fight the terrorist 
organization Hezbollah.
  The past administration's treatment of Iran reveals an imprudent and 
negligent approach to American foreign policy that must never be 
repeated. We see in their actions, at best, an incompetence born of a 
lack of clarity and information and, at worst, an administration 
determined to create a false foreign policy legacy so that America's

[[Page H10338]]

best interests were thrown to the wayside.
  In a recent report from Politico mentioned by some of my colleagues 
already, we have learned that the Obama administration allegedly 
blocked efforts by U.S. law enforcement officials to fight Hezbollah's 
transnational drug and weapons trafficking operations.
  Hezbollah, Iran's terrorist proxy organization, has also become one 
of the world's most powerful and dangerous criminal organizations, 
receiving over $1 billion every year from their illicit activities. We 
have learned that, through an expansive criminal trafficking network, 
they funnel cocaine throughout the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Latin 
America, and the United States.
  It has also come to light that Hezbollah launders millions of dollars 
through schemes involving used car purchases in the United States, and, 
ultimately, the money earned through these activities can be used for 
violent terrorist activities aimed at spreading fear and pain 
throughout the world.
  Politico quoted the following from a confidential DEA report on 
Hezbollah's criminal activities: Hezbollah ``has leveraged 
relationships with corrupt foreign government officials and 
transnational criminal actors . . . creating a network that can be 
utilized to move metric ton quantities of cocaine, launder drug 
proceeds on a global scale, and procure weapons and precursors for 
  It ``has at its disposal one of the most capable networks of actors 
coalescing elements of transnational organized crime with terrorism in 
the world.''
  The DEA's acting deputy administrator in 2016 stated that Hezbollah's 
criminal operations ``provide a revenue and weapons stream for an 
international terrorist organization responsible for devastating terror 
attacks around the world.''
  Certainly, an organization like that deserves America's utmost 
scrutiny; and for years, the men and women of the Drug Enforcement 
Administration's Project Cassandra poured their lives into 
investigating Hezbollah's criminal activities. These agents tracked 
financial transactions, cultivated sources, and trailed operatives. 
But, in several cases, when the DEA asked for prosecutions, arrests, or 
sanctions, President Obama's Department of Justice delayed or denied 
their requests. The State Department also reportedly declined to demand 
the extradition of important suspects who could have aided the 
investigation and spearheaded the downfall of this international 
  Unfortunately, thanks to multiple sources involved in the matter now 
coming forward, we have learned that the Obama administration likely 
stalled the Hezbollah investigations and prosecutions in order to keep 
Iran happy and nuclear deal talks on the table. If the DEA rocked the 
boat by arresting and charging key members of Hezbollah's drug and 
weapons trafficking operations, then Iran might walk away from the 
negotiating table.
  This thinking reveals a fundamental blindness to reality. Hezbollah 
is funded by Iran. Hezbollah is Iran. While negotiating with Iran, the 
former administration turned a blind eye to Hezbollah's extensive 
criminal activities that were only worsening the drug crisis here in 
the United States and feeding weapons to terrorists in the Middle East 
  American foreign policy can be pragmatic, but this was not 
pragmatism. This was foolishness. U.S. foreign policymakers traded an 
end to Iran's nuclear program for the protection of Iran's terrorist 
program. And even then, we can't even trust Iran to abide by the 
agreement meant to end their nuclear program.
  So we are left with a bad deal. I have said it many times before. But 
now we know the deal is even worse than we suspected. Aside from just 
delivering pallets of cash to Iran, aside from just freeing billions in 
frozen assets, aside from just lifting important sanctions, we are also 
giving a transnational criminal organization and terrorist network free 
rein over the world.
  We are here today to affirm to the world that Iran and its affiliated 
terrorist organization, Hezbollah, are enemies of the free world.
  We should never negotiate with terrorists. I urge President Trump and 
America's law enforcement community to once again turn its attention to 
Hezbollah. This terrorist organization has spread its evil influence 
throughout the world, and we have a duty to fight it.
  Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend, the gentleman from Georgia, for this 
opportunity today, and I thank him for bringing this issue up and 
shining some light on this important subject.
  Mr. JODY B. HICE of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, I thank Representative Buck 
in his leadership on this, as well.
  Mr. Speaker, I just want to say, not only to Mr. Buck, but to all of 
the participants in our discussion this evening, a big thank you for 
coming and being a part of this.
  As more information is beginning to come to light, I am convinced 
that we are just at the tip of the iceberg of gaining information as to 
what has taken place here that has jeopardized our national security. I 
believe it is incumbent upon Congress at this time to fulfill the 
obligation that we have to exercise oversight over the executive branch 
and follow through with a thorough investigation of the Obama 
administration's refusal--absolute refusal--to follow through on the 
work that was done by the DEA.

                              {time}  2000

  We had these terrorists in our grasp, Mr. Speaker, and we let them 
go. How could this happen? The American people deserve to know why, and 
we need to get to the bottom of this.
  That is why tonight we are calling for an investigation into all 
aspects of this Hezbollah scandal, regardless of where it leads us: to 
the very top of the Obama administration, the Secretary of State, the 
previous Department of Justice, wherever it may lead. We need to get to 
the bottom of this, and we are calling for an investigation.
  Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.