Issa expands Fast and Furious probe to include alleged money laundering

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has requested a briefing with the Justice Department over a news report that U.S. law enforcement officials helped Mexican drug cartels launder millions of dollars into the country.

The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee made the request in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, in which he questioned DOJ head’s ability to lead the agency.

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Issa has been investigating the DOJ’s authorization of a botched gun-tracking operation for most of the year and has increasingly criticized Holder, who is set to appear before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

“The existence of such a program again calls your leadership into question,” said Issa in his letter. “The managerial structure you have implemented lacks appropriate operational safeguards to prevent the implementation of such dangerous schemes. The consequences have been disastrous.”

According to an article published in the New York Times on Sunday, undercover agents with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) helped transport millions of dollars in cash across the U.S.-Mexico border in an effort to study and dismantle the trafficking routes of drug cartels.

The article said the DEA allowed the drug cartels to continue functioning as they tracked their money moving methods.

A spokesperson for the DEA said the agency was not planning to reveal the details of particular operations to the public, but declined to state whether it would do so for members of Congress.

"We have been working collaboratively with the Mexican government to fight money laundering for years," said Dawn Dearden, a spokesperson for the DEA, in a e-mail. "As a result of this cooperation, we have seized illicit transnational criminal organization money all around the world through our partnership with law enforcement. We do not discuss the operational aspects of law enforcement activities."

The tactics are similar to those employed under Operation Fast and Furious, in which agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) monitored the sale of thousands of firearms in the Southwest region to known and suspected straw buyers for Mexican drug cartels in an attempt to study and dismantle their trafficking patterns.

But, agents have testified before Issa, the operation didn’t provide adequate surveillance of the weapons, allowing them to “walk,” only to be discovered later at crime scenes. Two guns solde under Fast and Furious were found last year at the murder scene of Border Patrol Brian Terry.

Issa and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, have been investigating the matter ever since. Holder directed the DOJ’s inspector general (IG) to conduct its own investigation, which is ongoing.