State Dept official asks to cancel Blackwater hearing
Reuters (2007-11-17) Arshad Mohammed
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Saturday, November 17, 2007; 7:35 PM
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The lawyer for State Department Inspector General Howard Krongard asked on Saturday that he not be called to testify before Congress on discrepancies between his statements and those of his brother over the brother's ties to the Blackwater security firm.
"There is no legitimate purpose to be gained by publicly pitting two brothers against each other," Barbara Van Gelder wrote in a letter to Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the government oversight panel.
The two brothers had differing recollections about whether Alvin "Buzzy" Krongard told Howard Krongard he was taking an advisory board position with Blackwater, which protects U.S. diplomats and other State Department officials in Iraq. Howard recalled Alvin stating he was not taking the position, and Alvin recalled saying he was taking it, the lawyer wrote.
"Alvin does not claim to have ever made any effort to inform Howard of the Blackwater position despite its obvious relevance to Howard's oversight responsibilities," Van Gelder wrote. The letter asked Waxman not to hold the hearing.
Waxman's committee is examining allegations by current and former officials in Krongard's office that the inspector general thwarted probes into waste, fraud and abuse in Iraq, including alleged arms smuggling by Blackwater.
Waxman decided to call Howard and Alvin Krongard to the same hearing after they separately gave the committee conflicting accounts about Buzzy's ties with Blackwater.
Earlier this week, Howard Krongard recused himself from probes into Blackwater after saying he had just discovered -- during a break in a hearing of Waxman's government oversight panel -- that his brother had attended a meeting of Blackwater's advisory board.
Howard Krongard, who acts as the State Department's independent internal investigator, had begun the hearing by denying the "ugly rumors" that his brother was associated with the company, which is under scrutiny for a September 16 shooting incident in Baghdad in which 17 Iraqis were killed.
Waxman said in a memo to his committee members on Friday that Buzzy Krongard had called committee staff to assert that his brother was previously aware of his Blackwater ties.
"The information from Buzzy Krongard raises serious questions about the veracity of Howard Krongard's testimony before the committee," Waxman said in announcing the hearing.
Waxman, a California Democrat, has accused Krongard of interfering in investigations to protect the State Department and White House from political embarrassment -- a charge Krongard denies.
Buzzy Krongard is a former executive director of the CIA. Howard Krongard is a former general counsel at the auditing firm Deloitte & Touche.
The New York Times reported on Saturday that Buzzy Krongard resigned on Friday from the Blackwater board.
(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Writing by Jackie Frank, editing by Todd Eastham)
© 2007 Reuters