"The American people deserve answers to these disturbing allegations."

Today, U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, a member of the Senate Judiciary and Banking Committees, pressed the Justice, Treasury, and State Departments for answers on the Obama administration's handling of Hezbollah. According to a recent investigative report, the Obama administration's pursuit of a nuclear deal with Iran led to a "systematic" effort to “defang, defund and undermine” federal work to disrupt Hezbollah’s extensive criminal activity. 

"If the Obama administration failed to use the authorities that Congress has authorized to stop Hezbollah terrorists and their associates from pouring cocaine onto our streets to fund terrorism and acquire weapons of mass destruction, it was a colossal mistake," said Sasse. "If the administration did so in order to shore up its foolish nuclear deal with Iran, it was a mistake of historical proportions, a mistake the consequences of which reach from the battlefields of Syria to the streets of Omaha and Scottsbluff." 

The full text of Sasse's letter is available here:

Dear Attorney General Sessions and Secretaries Mnuchin and Tillerson,

I write to you today out of serious concern over the federal government’s failure to address the threats posed by Hezbollah. As you are well aware, this group has evolved significantly over the years since gaining notoriety for its terrorist activities in Lebanon, Israel, and Syria. In recent years, public reports indicate that it has expanded its operations as a transnational criminal enterprise engaged in a variety of illicit activities across a number of continents. These activities appear to run the gamut from drug running to diamond smuggling to trafficking components for the production and delivery of weapons of mass destruction. Any major criminal network engaged in these activities should warrant significant attention from our law enforcement and national security authorities, and Hezbollah’s status as a radical Islamic terrorist organization and its significant ties to rogue regimes such as Iran and Syria should make it all the more concerning.

It is precisely because Hezbollah presents such a disturbing reach and array of illicit capabilities that recent disclosures about the previous administration’s handling of the group prove so disturbing. According a recent investigative report, the Obama administration engaged in a “systematic” effort to “defang, defund and undermine” efforts across the Justice, Treasury, and State Departments to employ prosecutorial, financial, and diplomatic authorities to disrupt Hezbollah’s extensive criminal activity, in the words of one former official. The goal of the administration’s efforts directed “from the top down” was—according to the report and the public statements of multiple former officials—unambiguously clear: “These investigations were tamped down for fear of rocking the boat with Iran and jeopardizing the nuclear deal.” 

If the Obama administration failed to use the authorities that Congress has authorized to stop Hezbollah terrorists and their associates from pouring cocaine onto our streets to fund terrorism and acquire weapons of mass destruction, it was a colossal mistake. If the administration did so in order to shore up its foolish nuclear deal with Iran, it was a mistake of historical proportions, a mistake the consequences of which reach from the battlefields of Syria to the streets of Omaha and Scottsbluff.

The American people deserve answers to these disturbing allegations. As such, please respond the following questions and requests:

  1. How many prosecutions and extradition requests of individuals with known or suspected ties to Hezbollah or associated entities were declined from 2009–17?

     
  2. Please provide any document in your possession that refers to a specific potential prosecutorial, financial, or diplomatic action that was considered but not taken against Hezbollah, its members, associates, or related entity for criminal activity from 2009–17.

     
  3. Please provide any document in your possession that mentions both possible prosecutorial, financial, or diplomatic actions against Hezbollah, its members, associates, or related entities and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or U.S.-Iran relations generally.

     
  4. Can you provide a minimum estimate for the amount of controlled substances trafficked into the United States because of these declined prosecutions and any other policy decisions made to promote the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or U.S.-Iran relations generally?

     
  5. Can you provide a minimum estimate of the amount of money laundered by Hezbollah, its members, associates, and related entities because of these declined prosecutions and any other policy decisions made to promote the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or U.S.-Iran relations generally?

     
  6. What evolutionary developments of Hezbollah’s criminal enterprise have occurred because of these declined prosecutions and any other policy decisions made to promote the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or the U.S.-Iran relationship generally?

     
  7. Have the unclassified reports and classified annexes on narcotics trafficking and significant transnational criminal activity by Hezbollah required by Sections 201 and 202 of Public Law 114-102 been provided to Congress? 

     
    1. If so, were they provided on or before the statutory deadline?

       
    2. If so, please enclose a copy of the report with your response.

       
    3. If not, will the administration commit to complying with this statutory requirement within 30 days?

       

Please provide your responses in writing within 30 days. If you have any questions or concerns concerning the content or scope of these questions and requests, please contact my staff at (202) 224-4224. I understand that these questions likely involve significant amounts of classified and law enforcement-sensitive information, and I am eager to work with you to adapt my request in a manner that accommodates public safety and national security interests while ensuring maximum transparency for the American people.

Sincerely,
Ben Sasse

Chairman, U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights and Federal Courts
Chairman, U.S. Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Subcommittee on National Security and International Trade and Finance