While Barack Obama was President and attempting to sign a nuclear deal with Iran, agent Derek Maltz, a 28-year veteran of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), was attempting to shut down one of the many illegal operations Hezbollah was running from the United States.
What follows is our exclusive interview with Mr. Maltz.
Mr. Maltz has no interest in criticizing any president or political agenda. What he and his colleagues want is to raise the level of awareness of a very serious domestic threat Americans currently face. However, we did ask if the Obama administration killed Project Cassandra and if his administration stalled the operation against the Iranian-funded Hezbollah militants. We did get our answer directly from Mr. Maltz, the agent-in-charge of the operation.
Mr. Maltz waged war against the Hezbollah cartels, had major success under Project Cassandra, and, three years after retiring from the agency, is still attempting to raise the public’s awareness of the terror around us so they might in turn go to their congressmen and demand action.
Hezbollah is a Shi’a-based hard-left political party and a terrorist arm of the Iranian government based in Lebanon with outreach throughout the world. They have grown from a small, disordered assemblage of ragtag revolutionaries to a worldwide global jihad movement funded through illegal drug, sex, trafficking operations from the United States with branches throughout Europe, Asia and Africa.
Funding comes from violent criminal activity, often coordinated with the worst drug cartels in the world and have gained a foothold in South America.
Hezbollah is led by the hardened militants who fought in Syria and elsewhere. Beheadings and gang rapes are nothing to them. Merging with cartels like Los Zetas is a natural progression. They are here in the U.S. among us.
U.S. intelligence is aware that they currently use schemes involving hundreds of U.S. businesses to fund terrorism, all with the full support and encouragement of Iran. U.S. intelligence knows they are here in the U.S. and fears their operations are far more extensive than we even know.
Obama’s administration dropped the ball
Agent Derek Maltz served as Director of the Special Operations Division (SOD) in D.C. and he addressed the question of whether the investigation was hindered by the prior administration in order to cater to the Iranians as they tried to seal the Iran nuclear deal.
While there was an inexplicably lax attitude on the part of the past administration towards bringing these criminal terrorists to justice, it’s near-impossible to know the motivation, but there were many questionable actions by an administration that “dropped the ball”, for whatever reason.
President Obama in 2011 signed the Trans-National Organized Crime executive order as part of a “great strategy to fight these terror-crime organizations under the Department of Justice”, Mr. Maltz said. The strategy included efforts to share information among departments and use all national power, pulling together the agencies to fight these organizations. The problem then and now is there was and is no operational implementation plan and no one has been clearly put in charge of the results.
When the past administration had a chance to extradite and question the leaders of the operations, they didn’t, which the agents found “very strange”.
Also problematic was the fact that the planned alignment of agencies and robust coordination never happened.
As the supervisor of Project Cassandra, Agent Maltz explained that he had “great agents” and “unbelievable contractors”, dedicated, hard-working people on the case.
In addition, Mr. Maltz found Attorney General Eric Holder helpful and very concerned about the growth of Hezbollah drug operations in the United States and throughout the world. Holder was “alarmed” by what the unit told him and found it “unbelievable”. Holder asked the SOD team to brief the National Security division. The briefing never happened and Mr. Maltz wonders why, especially given Holder’s reaction.
The storyline is that the Obama administration shut down the effort to get the Iran nuclear deal through. As the agent in charge, he had no proof of that, and he deals in fact. He has no interest in picking on anyone and it doesn’t matter who the president was, he said.
However, a lot of things happened that raise questions.
but “the U.S. government didn’t fight to get him back to the U.S..” Columbia then “cut a deal to send him back to Venezuela.”
In one case, there was a Syrian-born man, a citizen of Venezuela, Walid Makled, who was once the most powerful drug trafficker in Venezuela and in the world. He was close to the Chavez government. Makled sent drugs all over the world.
“He was one of the biggest drug traffickers in the world, connected right to the Chavez government,”, Mr. Maltz said, “he was sending drugs all over the world. He was connected to the corruption in Venezuela, and he was connected to Hezbollah operatives who were building up their base in South America. He was helping facilitate.”
“He would have been of tremendous value on the intelligence side,” Mr. Maltz continued, given his ties to Hezbollah, but “the U.S. government didn’t fight to get him back to the U.S..” Colombia then “cut a deal to send him back to Venezuela.”
This was frustrating to the agents who worked so hard on the case, he recalled.
Then there was General Hugo Carvajal, a former Venzuelan military intelligence officer, accused by the U.S. of drug trafficking, who was arrested in Aruba and later freed. He went back to Venezuela to a hero’s welcome. “No one ever really fought hard to get him back, which was very strange to all of us,” he said.
Then the “icing on the cake” came in 2014 when they took down a major guy, Ali Fayad. He was a significant arms trafficker working with Hezbollah, providing arms to very bad actors in the world. The DEA set up a sting operation and he was arrested in the Czech Republic on various conspiracy charges, including trying to kill Americans.
His operation was part of the European Hezbollah cell and he was also tied to major drug traffickers in Columbia. Fayad was trading weapons for cocaine. He was indicted but “the Obama administration never really pushed hard to try and get him back”.
Fayad was released in the Czech Republic and sent back to Lebanon. “He was one of the biggest terrorist…criminals we ever came across”.
What makes this all very “bizarre” is in 2009-2010, by way of contrast, when they investigated Russian Viktor Bout, who was arrested in Thailand as the result of a DEA sting operation. The “entire U.S. government rallied around”, right up to President Obama, to put the pressure on the Thai government and, eventually, they extradited this guy Viktor Bout to the U.S. where he faced a jury trial. He wound up getting convicted.
But agents “didn’t see the same level of enthusiasm” for this guy Ali Fayad who basically had the same role as Viktor Bout. “When you start pulling these things together..,” Mr. Maltz said.
He added that there is “no smoking gun” but there is a “lot of smoke.”
Derek Maltz, the man in charge
Mr. Maltz’s background is important to know. He is a highly reputable source.
He served his country as the agent in charge of DEA’s Special Operations Division after losing his brother in the Afghanistan war. He wanted to find a way to give back to his country and honor the service of his brother.
His father, a DEA supervisor, encouraged him to go into the DEA but he still wasn’t settled in it as a career path. Things changed dramatically for him when his brother died — his job became a mission.
“My brother Mike went into the Air Force and in 2003, he died in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. His helicopter went down early in the war and Mike was aboard with five other men…he always wanted to do something more for his country and he was happy to go to Afghanistan for his country,” he said.
That is when Derek Maltz’s life forever changed. “What he was trying to do…sometimes things happen for a reason.,” he said.
For Derek Maltz, his service to his country was to take place in the DEA. As with so many of our courageous men and women in service of their country, it’s not simply a job.
Poor coordination among agencies is systemic and it’s dangerous
The SOD has grown from nine to thirty agencies when he was there from 2005 to 2010 but sometimes they are working alone without the unity of effort which is critical for maximum effectiveness. The coordination and interagency cooperation is still not there even 16 years after 911. The criminal investigators and the work force responsible for pursuing terrorist must unite and then walls need to come down.
Prior to 9/11, Mr. Maltz witnessed the chaos and inter-agency malfunction which continues to this day. “You would think after 9/11, the government would be much more engaged as far as making people coordinate, share information…,” he said.
His mission now is tell people of the danger of terrorist transnational gangs. People have no idea what is going on and, if they did, they would be beating down their congressman’s door.
“Terrorists are turning to crime…groups like al Qaeda, Hezbollah and all these other terrorist groups who want to destroy our country are looking for new funding sources all the time…drug trafficking, alien smuggling, human trafficking, cyber crime, all of these crimes are helping them do what they want to do.”
The unit began to see the unholy ties between drug cartels and terrorists and they are here, in the United States.
“The agents began to see a lot of crossover with major drug trafficking in South America and how they were connecting into some of the other non-traditional drug trafficking groups and that’s how we got to this Hezbollah situation…it was new to him personally…it was very alarming,” Mr. Maltz said.
One case his unit broke was a Lebanese-Canadian Hezbollah operation that involved selling used cars from the United States – as well as Latin American cocaine – in Africa to launder money from the sales through Lebanon as a way of funding Hezbollah.
“The monies would actually be guarded by Hezbollah and when the money landed at the airport…they control the airport…the monies went right into the exchange houses and the money was then routed through banks in Lebanon… the monies would be sent into the United States through corresponding bank accounts for used car businesses all over the country,”.
The car businesses don’t necessarily know the money is going to Hezbollah.
This trade-based money laundering scheme continues to this day and has grown.
Efforts to get all agencies working together have been largely futile. The problem is the system. The used cars are still moving from our communities to Africa to launder money through Lebanon to fund Hezbollah.
It’s not only used cars.
Hezbollah terrorists are involved in hundreds of businesses today. The businesses might not understand they are helping Hezbollah. It’s hard to know.
Terrorists are believed to be heavily involved in the drug trade in the U.S., even in the selling of bootleg cigarettes. Convenience stores are eyed as outlets for illicit activities to fund Hezbollah.
What Mr. Maltz found “very disturbing” is terrorist involvement in EBT fraud, cigarette trafficking, drug paraphernalia and synthetic drug distribution . The money is going to the Middle East and believed to be, including to al Qaeda in Yemen.
“One of my personal fears,” Mr. Maltz said, “was that if ever anything went bad between Iran and Israel, that here in America, we have all these cells of people that are operating these businesses that could turn bad on us immediately.”
It’s an emerging problem that Americans need to bring to the attention of their congressmen and senators, asking the questions that would generate interest.
Hezbollah is involved in sex trafficking, human trafficking, any illegal activity that will generate money.
“One of my personal fears,” Mr. Maltz said, “was that if ever anything went bad between Iran and Israel, that here in America, we have all these cells of people that are operating these businesses that could turn bad on us immediately.” They live here, have legitimate businesses, it’s hard to know who are the people we need to be concerned about.
We need to stop fighting each other and re-living battles of the past. If we don’t start fighting together, we will lose to the worst terrorists in the world.
Mr. Maltz is very optimistic that the Special Operations Division is well positioned with great partners to continue going after the greatest national security threats to the USA. He’s hopeful the center will get the necessary resources its needs to focus on their primary mission- keeping Americans safe.