Inspector general at State forced out
By WARREN P. STROBEL
WASHINGTON — Embattled State Department Inspector General Howard Krongard submitted his resignation Friday, forced out for allegedly impeding ongoing criminal investigations into the construction of a new, $740 million U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and into the security firm Blackwater Worldwide.
A State Department official said that Krongard had become a political liability, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, through aides, asked him this week to leave. The official insisted on anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak about personnel matters.
Krongard came under fire from his own investigators and from a congressional panel for allegedly blocking probes into serious claims of wrongdoing in Iraq.
Those allegations include contract fraud and shoddy workmanship in the troubled Baghdad embassy and arms smuggling by Blackwater.
Krongard initially vowed to fight the accusations against him. But his position collapsed at a House of Representatives hearing last month when he was asked whether his brother, former top CIA official Alvin “Buzzy” Krongard, had accepted a position on a Blackwater advisory board. Krongard first denounced what he said were “ugly rumors,” then, after telephoning his brother, reversed himself.
Only then did he recuse himself from any more supervision of the growing Blackwater investigation. (His brother subsequently resigned from the Blackwater post.) Krongard had also been asked by the Justice Department to withdraw from the investigation into the embassy construction scandal.
In a 2 1/2 -page letter to President Bush, Krongard portrayed the decision to leave as his own and said he was departing with “a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment,” but he also suggested that he was the victim of partisan politics.
In a separate statement, he declined comment on the charges that have swirled around since mid-September.
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said in a statement: “Mr. Krongard’s decision removes an enormous distraction from the Inspector General’s office and will allow the office to focus on its important oversight responsibilities.”
The State Department’s inspector general is supposed to investigate criminal wrongdoing, audit contracts and inspect the agency’s embassies and missions worldwide.