WASHINGTON, DC — Former President Barack Obama’s administration “systematically disbanded” U.S. efforts to disrupt terrorist activity in the Western Hemisphere linked to Iran and proxy Hezbollah, a former American counterterrorism official told Congress.
During a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing late last week, Dr. David Asher, who previously served as an adviser to U.S. Gen. John Allen at the Pentagon and State Department, accused the former administration of a “serious miscarriage of justice” by interfering in U.S. investigations against Hezbollah, also spelled Hizballah.
The Obama administration, he claimed, acted out of concern that American law enforcement units would interfere with the United States nuclear deal with Tehran.
In his written testimony, Dr. Asher, now at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) think tank, declared:
Senior leadership presiding, directing, and overseeing various sections within the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, and portions of the U.S. Intelligence Community [during the Obama administration] systematically disbanded any internal or external stakeholder action that threatened to derail the administration’s policy agenda focused on Iran.
Top law enforcement officers working Hizballah, Iran, and Venezuela cases were reassigned from key investigative units and moved to peripheral assignments. Several top cops retired. Frankly, it was a mix of tragedy and travesty combined with a seriously misguided turn of policy that resulted in no real strategic gain and a serious miscarriage of justice.
U.S. officials have linked Hezbollah to various criminal activities, including drug trafficking and money laundering. The proceeds from the illegal activity are reportedly used to buy weapons for Hezbollah in Syria.
Venezuela’s socialist regime has been affiliated with Hezbollah’s illicit activities in Latin America, carried out in partnership with the Iranian and Syrian governments.
The Obama administration reportedly allowed the nuclear deal to take precedence over the terror threat against the United States posed by Iranian activities in the Western Hemisphere, a move that placed American citizens at risk.
Dr. Asher noted:
The result is that criminal states and criminal terrorist organizations continue to benefit from a type of implicit immunity from prosecution. Neither al-Qaeda nor Hizballah has ever been organizationally prosecuted for repeatedly attacking the United States, killing our citizens, and for being tied to a wide number of trans-national organized crimes in violation of our laws.
The same is true with the Islamic State [ISIS/ISIL]. Despite clear and abiding bodies of evidence and testifying witnesses, these terrorist organizations have, in effect, been shielded from mafia-style RICO [Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations] prosecutions that would aim to incarcerate their members for life, take away their sanctuary, strip them of their finances, and undermine their credibility.
Dr. Asher also suggested that the Obama administration may have threatened U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and other law enforcement officials with reprisals if they continued to investigate Hezbollah, which is part of their sworn duty to protect the American homeland.
“I have even heard statements of fear of reprisal should these terrorists be prosecuted from top DOJ officials as well as senior law enforcement agency leaders and intelligence analysts. I personally find this phobia, baseless, bizarre, and, moreover, against both the spirit and the letter of the laws we are sworn to uphold,” he testified.
“Today I am confident all of this is coming to an end,” also said Asher. “We have a White House and NSC [National Security Council] determined to attack and defeat not only the Islamic State and al-Qaeda but also take on Iran and Hizballah terrorist networks, finances, facilitators, and senior functionaries.”
Had the former Obama administration not allowed the nuclear deal to take priority over dismantling Hezbollah in the Western Hemisphere, the terrorist group’s terrorism financing networks could have been “taken apart,” according to the former official.
Asher pointed out:
For a very low financial cost we could have legally taken apart the finances, the global organization, and the ability of Hizballah to readily terrorize us, victimize us, and run a criminal network through our shores, inside our banking system, and—in partnership with the world’s foremost drug cartels—target our state and society.
Instead, in narrow pursuit of the P5 + 1 [United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, plus Germany] agreement, the administration failed to realize the lasting effect on U.S. law enforcement collaborative efforts and actively mitigated investigations and prosecutions needed to effectively dismantle Hizballah and [Iran’s worldwide terrorism network].
For years, the U.S. military has been warning against Iranian activity in the Western Hemisphere, particularly South America.
The U.S. military disagreed with an assessment issued by Obama’s State Department amid the nuclear deal negotiations in 2013 claiming that “Iranian influence in the Western Hemisphere is waning,” reported the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress’s investigative arm.