Updated and bumped: There are startling new developments in the Krongard corruption scandal this morning. Howard Krongard, the State Department Inspector General who is charged with protecting whistle-blowers, appears to be out to persecute them instead.
Krongard told staffers they could be fired if they helped a congressional inquiry into Iraq contractors, alleges Rep. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills).
"I am appalled by these reports," Waxman wrote. "Your office is supposed to be an example of how to protect whistle- blowers, not an example of how to persecute them." [...]
In his new letter, Waxman said two State Department investigators -- special agent Ron Militana and assistant special agent in charge Brian Rubendall -- had agreed to testify that they were threatened by Krongard aides. Militana kept "contemporaneous notes of these interchanges" and has agreed to provide the notes to the committee, the letter states.
According to Waxman's letter, the notes say Krongard's congressional liaison told Militana to "never do a voluntary interview in a million years."
"You have no protection against reprisal," Militana's notes state, according to Waxman. "You have no whistle-blower protections. Howard [Krongard] could retaliate and you would have no recourse."
The congressional liaison also allegedly told Militana that Krongard could fire him and that it would affect Militana's ability to get another job.
Dollars to donuts this guy goes down, big time -- and the impact a scandal of this size could have on the election is staggering.
Aides to State Department Inspector General Howard Krongard threatened two investigators with retaliation this week if they cooperate with a congressional probe into Krongard's office, the chairman of a House of Representatives panel and other U.S. officials said Friday.
The allegations are the latest in a growing uproar surrounding Krongard. Current and former officials in his office charge that he impeded investigations into alleged arms smuggling by employees of the private security firm Blackwater and into faulty construction of the new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
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New Signs of Republican Corruption - Blackwater
originally published: Sep 19, 07 12:15 PM
This could end up being a very big story:
A top House Democrat began an inquiry on Tuesday into accusations that the State Department's inspector general repeatedly interfered with investigations into fraud and abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan, including security defects at the new United States Embassy in Baghdad.
Representative Henry A. Waxman of California, the chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent the inspector general Howard J. Krongard (pictured above) a 14-page letter spelling out accusations made by several current and former employees of Mr. Krongard's office who documented their charges with e-mail messages.
Some of the accusers have sought whistle-blower status, which protects government employees from being punished for reporting possible malfeasance, Mr. Waxman said.
"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 U.S. taxpayers," Mr. Waxman wrote.
Krongard has informed the press that he looks forward to seeing the letter and responding.
The recent reports of security firm Blackwater USA being thrown out of Iraq seemed curious, and I asked the question a while back -- if Blackwater only has 1,000 contractors on the ground in Iraq, why is the Department of Defense so damned concerned about them being thrown out of Iraq?
A clue to that question appears in the following:
One facet of Mr. Waxman's inquiry reportedly involves Blackwater USA, the security company that was banned by the Iraqi government from working in the country after a shooting on Sunday that left eight Iraqis dead. Mr. Waxman told Mr. Krongard that he had been accused of impeding an investigation of a security company suspected of "illegally smuggling weapons into Iraq." The Associated Press reported that the unnamed company was Blackwater.
A Republican on the take? We're talking about huge sums of money being spent here, folks. Blackwater has an estimated $800 million in current U.S. contracts, and they -- it appears -- could be involved in smuggling operations that could account for many millions more.
Last year, when Republicans still controlled Congress, they tried to do away with the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, which had uncovered numerous construction abuses and contract violations. Mr. Waxman was furious, and he has made no secret of his relish in probing activities of the Bush administration now that Democrats are in control.[...]
Mr. Waxman wrote Mr. Krongard that his detractors have described "a dysfunctional office environment" in which he routinely bullied and berated employees, driving many away and undermining the agency.
Mr. Waxman said it appeared that Mr. Krongard had done nothing to investigate "wasteful spending or procurement fraud" in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the State Department has spent more than $3.6 billion on contracts. He said Mr. Krongard was also accused of thwarting investigations into possible procurement fraud in Afghanistan by "a large State Department contractor," which he did not identify in his letter.
More to come on this story...
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