Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

  Waxman blasts State Dept. IG for obstructing investigations

In a stunning fourteen-page letter, which ought to be read in its entirety, Rep. Henry Waxman accused Howard J. Krongard, the State Department Inspector General, of obstructing and undermining a string of important investigations concerning Iraq. Waxman charges Krongard with having "interfered with ongoing investigations to protect the State Department and the White House from political embarrassment."

The Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has the goods on Krongard. Seven current and former employees of the IG's office have offered damning testimony about Krongard's frequent, partisan, and improper interference into investigations. These include the former Assistant IG for Investigations, John DeDona, and his Deputy, Ralph McNamara, both of whom resigned after Krongard "halted or impeded investigations undertaken by their office." They've also given Waxman plenty of documentation, including some extremely embarrassing inter-office emails among investigators who resented Krongard's abuse of his office.

The Committee got this damning testimony after Krongard had testified to the Committee on July 26, trying to justify his own actions and particularly his own investigation into the construction of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Waxman plans to hold another hearing into Krongard's conduct on October 16.

From Waxman's letter to Krongard requesting his testimony at that hearing:

One consistent element in these allegations is that you believe your foremost mission is to support the Bush Administration, especially with respect to Iraq and Afghanistan, rather than act as an independent and objective check on waste, fraud, and abuse on behalf of the U.S. taxpayers. According to the officials [who testified to my Committee], 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. The officials also report that you are dismissive of your statutory obligations to Congress.


As to specific allegations, the most damaging are:

-that Krongard has not permitted any investigators to travel to Iraq to look into fraud in any of the $2.6 billion of State Dept. contracts there;

-that he prohibited employees of his office from cooperating with investigations into various abuses by the builders of the new, ginormous U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, and that without an adequate investigation he improperly exonerated the main contractor of charges of treating construction workers like slaves.

-that he interfered into an investigation into illegal conduct by Kenneth Tomlinson, the notoriously partisan Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (VOA) and a close friend of Karl Rove, by passing information about the probe secretly to Tomlinson. (Tomlinson was being investigated for using his office to run a horse racing operation, among other illegal practices.)

However the list of Krongard's alleged abuses is long and astounding. In addition, Krongard stands accused of harassing employees who tried to do their jobs assiduously, and creating a "dysfunctional office environment in which you routinely berate and belittle personnel, show contempt for the abilities of career government professionals and cause the staff to fear coming to work." There is a very high turn-over rate in his office; at the moment, only 7 of the 27 Investigators' positions are filled.

Furthermore, Krongard has all but stonewalled the Committe investigation into his conduct of the Embassy contractor investigation. The IG interviewed only six workers on the project, and only those whom the contractor had selected for him to interview. The Committee has asked him to turn over his work notes relating to this investigation, but Krongard has turned over a total of only six pages.

You'll want to read the full Waxman letter. The Washington Post and NY Times have write-ups of it.

For background on the shocking allegations that the Embassy contractor, First Kuwait Trading & General Contracting, had dragged workers on false pretenses to Baghdad and held them there as virtual slave laborers, see articles here and here and here.

Krongard has been Inspector General of the State Department only for two years. You can get some sense of how famously and openly partisan Krongard has been from the fact that, when Bush partisans decided in 2006 to close down Stuart Bowen's embarrassing investigations as Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, Howard Krongard was one of their point men. Republicans justified the attempt to eliminate SIGIR (later abandoned) by arguing that the State Department and Pentagon Inspectors General could take over all the necessary investigations in Iraq:

“I think we are competitive to do what they ask us to do,” Mr. Krongard said, referring to Congress.


What the Republicans in Congress were angling for, of course, was to shut down the investigations. Krongard definitely was willing and able to do that for them.

This man should be forced out of the State Department as soon as possible. Krongard is yet another corrupt Republican Party hack put in charge of reining in the government's investigative machinery. Alberto Gonzales was just the most notorious of many such crooks in the Bush administration.

crossposted from unbossed.com

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