Yesterday’s Government Oversight and Reform Committee hearing revealed that the State Department Inspector General, Howard “Cookie” Krongard, is likely just another dirty Bush Administration guy.

One of the two most dramatic revelations of the day was that Howard “Cookie” Krongard’s brother, Alvin “Buzzy” Krongard, is currently serving on Blackwater’s advisory board. The obvious conflict of interest that arises from the Inspector General of the State Department having a family member working for Blackwater, a company his job involves overseeing, is bad enough. But what was most revealing, and disturbing, is the way the Committee confirmed this information.

When Alvin “Buzzy” Krongard’s relationship with Blackwater was first mentioned in the beginning of the hearing today, Howard “Cookie” Krongard flat-out denied his brother had anything to do with Blackwater. He went out of his way to say,

“One thing just came up that really does bother me and that was an allegation concerning my brother. I can tell you very frankly I am not aware of any financial interests or position he has with respect to Blackwater. It couldn’t have possibly affected anything I’ve done because I don’t believe it. And when these ugly rumors started recently, I specifically asked him. I do not believe it is true that he is a member of the advisory board…”

But as the hearing progressed, we found out that Congressman Elijah Cummings had in his possession:

  • A letter from Erik Prince, the CEO and founder of Blackwater, inviting Alvin “Buzzy” Krongrad to the Blackwater Worldwide Advisory Board. The letter is dated July 26, 2007.
  • An email from Erik Prince thanking a group of people, including Alvin “Buzzy” Krongrad, for accepting his invitation to go to a board meeting on Monday and Tuesday of this week (November 12-13, 2007). The email is dated September 5, 2007. In addition, Congressional staffers called the hotel where the advisory board meeting was taking place and Alvin Krongrad’s name was indeed in their records.

When Howard “Cookie” Krongard was asked when he had spoken to his brother, Alvin “Buzzy” Krongard, about his relationship with Blackwater, Howard “Cookie” Krongard said the conversation took place sometime around early October. This means the conversation would have taken place about a month after his brother had apparently accepted the invitation to be on Blackwater’s advisory board, according to Erik Prince’s email. Before the hearing had ended, Howard “Cookie” Krongard admitted that his brother does sit on Blackwater’s advisory board.

Either Howard “Cookie” Krongard’s brother lied to him or Howard “Cookie” Krongrad sold his brother out to cover his own ass. His brother, Alvin “Buzzy” Krongrad, said this afternoon that not only did he tell Howard “Cookie” Krongard that he had accepted the position with Blackwater, but he said the conversation took place just a few weeks ago, not in early October as Howard “Cookie” Krongard had said. At the very least, even if you accept the unlikely explanation that Howard “Cookie” Krongard had absolutely no idea that his brother is working for Blackwater, Howard “Cookie” Krongard exhibited that he would answer questions definitively during a hearing without knowing for sure whether or not his answers were true.

Fortunately for our country, the hearing resulted in Howard “Cookie” Krongrad officially recusing himself from “any matters having to do with Blackwater”. Better late than never, I guess.

The other incredible moment of the hearing took place when Howard “Cookie” Krongard got caught red-handed reading aloud from an email that he had refused to hand over to the Justice Department. In an exchange you have to see to believe (forward to 2:32:20 ), Congressman Henry Waxman called out Howard “Cookie” Krongard’s omission from the public record, and boy, did Howard Krongard smirk and squirm! I wonder how many other omitted emails were sitting in the huge stack of papers he brought with him.

There were other issues addressed in the hearing with similarly insufficient explanations. Congressman Elijah Cummings from Maryland, at the end of the hearing, summarized Howard “Cookie” Krongard’s testimony. The impression he got from the hearing mirrored my own, and since I couldn’t possibly be as informed on the details as the Congressman, here is what he said:

“As I’ve listened… the Justice Department told us you impeded their investigation. You have told us that not only haven’t you blocked the Department’s work, but that the Department doesn’t believe you blocked its work. So you are telling us, you are right and the Department is wrong.

The Justice Department and the agent you assigned to the Blackwater inquiry told us you put your Congressional and Public Affairs Officer in charge of obtaining relevant documents. You have told us that isn’t true, even though the Congressional and Public Relations Director confirmed the two other accounts. So again, you are telling us that you are right and they are wrong.

Your employees have uniformly told us of the abusive and hostile environment that you created. This morning you told us the problem wasn’t with you, but was a reflection of the low quality of the people working for you. In fact, you previously told them the Office of Inspector General was a “banana republic” and belittled the standards they followed. In response, your chief counsil, Erich Hart, told us that “Everybody in that room was personally offended by that statement. I was offended. I come from a military background and my standards are exceedingly high.” In this case, you are telling us you are right, and again, your senior employees were wrong.

Despite the recommendations of the head of your audit division, your chief council, and your deputy that you not allow the State Department to replace a qualified audit of its financial statement with a clean audit, you did this both in 2005 and 2006. This morning you told us that you did this to preserve the integrity of the audit process not withstanding the views of your top advisors and when they objected, you told one of them that he was “irrelevant”. Bill Todd, your deputy, told the committee that “Howard said I was wrong. Howard told DeDona he was wrong, and Howard told Erich Hart he is wrong.”

A number of your senior advisors told us your personal investigation into First Kuwaiti’s alleged labor trafficking was unorthodox, “didn’t comply with any standards”, was “an embarrassment to the community” and “an affront to our profession”. But this morning, you’ve stuck to your position and insisted you were right, and they were wrong.

A number of those same advisers and the Justice Department have also told us that they warned you that your supposed participation into an ongoing criminal inquiry was wrong and could taint the real investigation. Again, you’ve insisted today that you were right and they were wrong.

In fact, the only time today that you’ve admitted you were wrong relates to your brother “Buzzy” Krongard. You were adamant this morning that he did not serve on the Blackwater board. As a matter of fact, after you gave your statement, you were emphatic that you had talked to him about it and you gave me the impression that you had just talked to him recently, and then came back and it had been a while. I’m just saying, that was the impression I got. And Mr. Krongard, I just don’t believe that everybody is wrong and you are the only one who is right.”

Howard “Cookie” Krongard’s defense to just about every question can be boiled down to ‘Everyone else is lying’. (For the record, I can’t in good conscience avoid mentioning that Congressman Christopher Shays of Connecticut shamelessly did everything he could to help Howard “Cookie” Krongard out with his defense. Shays began the hearing by characterizing the allegations made by over a dozen different government employees working for both the State Department and the Justice Department as“water-cooler gossip and personality conflicts”, he threw a mini-fit over whether or not all the whistleblowers were officially under oath, and interjected himself into the conversation in defense of Howard “Cookie” Krongard when Congressman Henry Waxman had him squirming. Christopher Shays did a great job as the ‘Republican Obstructionist of the Day’, but certainly did nothing to help determine if the allegations made against Howard “Cookie” Krongrad were, in fact, true).

Unfortunately, for Howard “Cookie” Krongard, the pieces of the puzzle provided by the State Department whistleblowers make more sense than his explanations. After all, how could First Kuwaiti get away with using slave labor to construct the US Embassy, months after there was testimony about it in front of Congress, if the State Department Inspector General wasn’t turning a blind eye? How is it that after all the information available about Blackwater, be it documentaries, TV shows, books, or articles, how is it that the State Department Inspector General has investigated none of it? This guy has been the State Department Inspector General since May 2005. More should have been done by now. There’s also the very important fact that he is a part of a State Department that is headed by Condolleezza Rice, who is devoutly loyal to George W. Bush. And, while Howard “Cookie” Krongard testified that he has not met anyone in the Bush Administration (does that mean he’s never met his boss?), he is a Bush appointee.

At the end of the day, Howard Krongard said he had learned a good lesson:

“I’ll tell ya, I’ve learned a really good lesson through this and I’m going to think long and hard before hitting that ‘send’ button. Which we all should. Email is a terrible, a terrible thing.”

Gotta wonder… Is that the big lesson an innocent guy would learn from this experience?

Little Country Lost

Be Sociable, Share!