Washington – The chairman of the Oversight Committee of the House of Representatives announced an investigation into a news report that undercover U.S. drug enforcement agents laundered millions of dollars from drug trafficking to investigate how Mexican cartels move and invest their money.
The lawmaker cited a story in The New York Times that reported that the Drug Enforcement Administration used tactics similar to those of "Operation Fast and Furious," a U.S. operation that allowed thousands of firearms to be smuggled into Mexico in an effort to trace the weapons to cartel bosses.
"The existence of such a program again calls your leadership into question," Issa said in the letter. "The managerial structure you have implemented lacks appropriate operational safeguards to prevent the implementation of such dangerous schemes. The consequences have been disastrous."
"It is almost unfathomable to contemplate the degree to which the United States Government has made itself an accomplice to the Mexican drug trade, which has thus far left more than 40,000 people dead in Mexico since December 2006," the lawmaker added.
Issa and Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa since March have headed the congressional investigation into Fast and Furious, in which the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives lost track of roughly 2,000 guns, two of which were found on the American side of the border at the scene where a Border Patrol agent was killed.
Based on the Times' story, Issa said it appears that DEA agents may have laundered "hundreds of millions of dollars."
"These allegations, if true, raise further unsettling questions about a Department of Justice component engaging in a high-risk strategy with scant evidence of success," the congressman said.
Holder has been summoned to a hearing on Thursday before the House Judiciary Committee regarding Fast and Furious, which has caused friction in relations between the United States and Mexico.
Issa asked for the Justice Department to turn over information on the DEA activities to his committee's staff no later than Wednesday.
Mexico and the United States maintain "an intense exchange of information" to detect and break up the money laundering networks and are carrying out joint investigations according to the abilities of each, the Mexican Attorney General's Office said Tuesday.
"Bilateral cooperation is developing strictly within the prevailing legal framework, including that which regulates the activities of foreign authorities on Mexican territory," said the AG's office in a communique.