Wednesday, September 19, 2007

State Dept. IG Skullduggery

Howard J. Krongard, the State Department's inspector general, has repeatedly thwarted investigations into contracting fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan, including construction of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, and censored reports that might prove politically embarrassing to the Bush administration, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform charged yesterday in a 13-page letter.

The letter, addressed to Krongard and signed by the committee chairman, Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), who released it yesterday, said the allegations were based on the testimony of seven current and former officials on Krongard's staff, including two former senior officials who allowed their names to be used, and private e-mail exchanges obtained by the committee. The letter said the allegations concerned all three major divisions of Krongard's office -- investigations, audits and inspections.

Waxman demanded documents and testimony for a hearing next month into Krongard's conduct. A copy of the letter was sent to the committee's top Republican, Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (Va.). ...

The letter alleges that Krongard "interfered with ongoing investigations to protect the State Department and the White House from political embarrassment." It said that "your strong affinity with State Department leadership and your partisan political ties have led you to halt investigations, censor reports and refuse to cooperate with law enforcement agencies." ...

Krongard's brother, A.D. "Buzzy" Krongard, served as the No. 3 CIA official under then-Director George J. Tenet.

Waxman accused Howard Krongard of:

  • Refusing to send investigators to Iraq and Afghanistan to investigate $3 billion worth of State Department contracts.

  • Preventing his investigators from cooperating with a Justice Department probe into waste and fraud in the construction of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

  • Using "highly irregular" procedures to personally exonerate the embassy's prime contractor of labor abuses.

  • Interfering in the investigation of a close friend of former White House adviser Karl Rove.

  • Censoring reports on embassies to prevent full disclosure to Congress.

  • Refusing to publish critical audits of State's financial statements.

Among the e-mails obtained by the committee are exchanges in which staff members discussed Krongard's decision not to cooperate with the Justice Department on the embassy investigation. ...

The embassy, whose cost of more than $600 million has made it the most expensive U.S. diplomatic mission in the world, has been the subject of repeated congressional questioning and allegations of wrongdoing in both construction and hiring practices.


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