U.S. congressmen are investigating reports that drug enforcement agents laundered millions of dollars for Mexican drug cartels as part of an attempt to monitor and disrupt their profit flows.
After the New York Times published a story last week which claimed that U.S. officials facilitated money laundering schemes in their efforts to crack down on Mexican drug cartels, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee has launched an investigation into the matter.
In a strongly-worded letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Representative Darrell Issa accused the Justice Department of doing more to promote illegal activity than fight it, claiming Holder had green-lighted a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) program which “lacks appropriate operational safeguards to prevent the implementation of such dangerous schemes,” with “disastrous” consequences.
Issa further alleged that such programs have made the U.S. an "accomplice to the Mexican drug trade," and requested that Holder’s office hand over information on the DEA’s money-tracking activities to his committee today.
Based on the Times article, however, there is no immediate evidence of foul play. While narcotics agents may have been involved in laundering money for Mexican drug trafficking groups, the circumstances behind this are unknown. As security analyst James Bosworth notes, this lack of data makes it difficult to judge the calculus behind the DEA’s operations.
What's more, Issa's indignation at the Times' report may have more to do with his own political agenda. As InSight Crime has reported, he has made a name for himself as a major opponent of the Obama Justice Department. Along with Senator Charles Grassley, Issa spearheaded the recent campaign against the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives (ATF's) controversial "Operation Fast and Furious," under which roughly 2,000 guns were allowed to cross the U.S. border.