Gunwalker’s Cousin: ‘Moneywalker’?
Reports surface of the Drug Enforcement Administration laundering cartel drug money.
December 7, 2011 - 12:00 am
Operation Fast and Furious and other alleged gunwalking operations run out of the Department of Justice have provided thousands of weapons to Mexican drug cartels, which have been traced to the murders of hundreds of Mexican nationals and two U.S. federal agents. It is a contender for worst political scandal in American history, despite a concerted effort by media to minimize or even apologize for the damage done.
The scope of the scandal may have gotten significantly worse. Reports have emerged that while the FBI and ATF were arming cartels, the DEA was laundering and smuggling millions of dollars in drug profits:
Undercover American narcotics agents have laundered or smuggled millions of dollars in drug proceeds as part of Washington’s expanding role in Mexico’s fight against drug cartels, according to current and former federal law enforcement officials.
The agents, primarily with the Drug Enforcement Administration, have handled shipments of hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal cash across borders, those officials said, to identify how criminal organizations move their money, where they keep their assets and, most important, who their leaders are. …
Agency officials declined to publicly discuss details of their work, citing concerns about compromising their investigations. But Michael S. Vigil, a former senior agency official who is currently working for a private contracting company called Mission Essential Personnel, said, “We tried to make sure there was always close supervision of these operations so that we were accomplishing our objectives, and agents weren’t laundering money for the sake of laundering money.”
Another former agency official, who asked not to be identified speaking publicly about delicate operations, said, “My rule was that if we are going to launder money, we better show results. Otherwise, the D.E.A. could wind up being the largest money launderer in the business, and that money results in violence and deaths.”
Those are precisely the kinds of concerns members of Congress have raised about a gun-smuggling operation known as Fast and Furious, in which agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowed people suspected of being low-level smugglers to buy and transport guns across the border in the hope that they would lead to higher-level operatives working for Mexican cartels. After the agency lost track of hundreds of weapons, some later turned up in Mexico; two were found on the United States side of the border where an American Border Patrol agent had been shot to death.
Understandably, DEA officials are trying to quash any comparisons between the DEA’s “Moneywalker” operation and the Gunwalker scandal already enveloping the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security, Treasury, and the White House.
Both the gunwalking and money-laundering operations would seem to require multi-agency coordination across several cabinet-level departments. Both appear to be in clear violation of federal criminal statutes, especially if the correct waivers were not obtained. And it appears neither scheme could have been approved without high level approval from within the Justice Department, probably coordinated at a high level with Treasury and Homeland Security.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa has been at the forefront of investigating Operation Fast and Furious, and was quick to notice the parallels between that operation and the DEA’s money laundering. He is now expanding the probe to encompass the money-laundering operation as well:
In a Monday letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Issa announced he’s investigating the allegations made against the DEA in the New York Times article.
“As you are fully aware, since March of this year, I have been investigating the reckless tactics — in particular gunwalking — used in ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious,” Issa wrote. “That operation, which you personally acknowledged was ‘fundamentally flawed,’ failed spectacularly to meet its objective of bring down Mexican drug cartels. Precisely because the ends do not justify the means, the law limits the conduct alleged in this story.”
“Apparently, this same goal of dismantling Mexican drug cartels motivated the Drug Enforcement Administration in aiding and abetting these same cartels in laundering millions of dollars in cash,” Issa continued. “In fact, The New York Times reports that agents needed to seek Department approval to launder amounts greater than $10 million in any single operation.”
Issa wrote that, according to the report, many agents said the $10 million requirement was frequently “waived” because it was treated more like a guideline. He said that means “hundreds of millions of dollars” could’ve been “laundered” into the hands of drug cartels by the Obama administration and Holder’s Justice Department.
Several thousand guns were provided to cartels in ten alleged gunwalking operations, and hundreds of millions of dollars were potentially laundered on their behalf. All of it was orchestrated in the Justice Department, apparently at the highest levels. This strongly suggests that not only does Eric Holder bear responsibility for these operations, but so does much of the DOJ’s long-term bureaucracy as well. The attorney general can certainly approve such operations, but the volume of guns walked and dollars laundered could not have taken place without the direct knowledge of long-term, high-level DOJ managers.
When the nation’s cops have become criminals, where can you turn?