House panel to hold another hearing on State IG
State Department Inspector General Howard Krongard and his brother, former CIA Executive Director Alvin (Buzzy) Krongard are standing by their conflicting accounts of a Halloween phone conversation, while the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee plans a December hearing to examine if Howard Krongard perjured himself before the committee.
The Krongard brothers differ over the Oct. 31 call, in which both agree Howard called Alvin to ask him about his ties to security contractor Blackwater Worldwide. House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., has argued Howard Krongard blocked inspector general's office investigators from looking into alleged weapons smuggling by Blackwater without revealing a potential conflict caused by Alvin having accepted a position on the company's advisory board.
At a committee hearing last Wednesday, Howard Krongard initially said Alvin Krongard told him he was not joining Blackwater's advisory board. Alvin Krongard disputed that account in interviews last week with reporters and committee aides.
According to a committee memorandum released Friday, Alvin Krongard said he told Howard Krongard, "I'm going on their board," prompting Howard Krongard to question his decision. After committee Democrats released e-mails during the hearing showing Alvin Krongard had accepted a seat on the board, Howard Krongard called his brother during a break and then confirmed Alvin Krongard was, in fact, on the board. Howard Krongard then publicly recused himself from all Blackwater-related investigations.
But Howard Krongard is standing by his description of the October call, according to information supplied by his lawyer, Barbara Van Gelder. She released a letter to Waxman late Friday, along with Howard Krongard's notes from the Oct. 31 call and phone records showing a 10-minute conversation. According to Van Gelder and other associates, Howard Krongard keeps meticulous records and regularly takes notes during calls.
Under the heading "ABK," Howard Krongard, apparently recording Alvin Krongard's words, wrote, "Was on short list for Advisory Board but is not taking it." But below that notation, Howard refers to a dispute, writing: "Me -- Why would anybody go on their board now? He argues and has good excuse -- was just on Board of a competitor." Howard Krongard also wrote that Alvin Krongard said he had "no financial interest whatever" -- a point on which both brothers agree, even though documents released by the committee show Alvin Krongard would have received payments of a few thousand dollars for the work, had he remained on the board. Alvin Krongard has since resigned.
Waxman wants both brothers to testify the week of Dec. 3, in a hearing he says will examine whether Howard Krongard lied during his Nov. 14 testimony. Discrepancies in the brothers' accounts raise "serious questions about the veracity of Howard Krongard's testimony before the committee," Waxman wrote in his Nov. 16 memo.
In her letter, Van Gelder asked Waxman not to hold a hearing. "There is no legitimate purpose to be gained by publically pitting the two brothers against each other," she wrote. The new scrutiny over the Krongards' Blackwater ties belies what Howard Krongard's backers see as a victory for the State IG. Committee Democrats, after accusing Howard Krongard in September of blocking various investigations in Iraq and Afghanistan to protect the State Department and Bush administration from embarrassment, last week backed off their claims about Howard Krongard's political motivations.
In a Nov. 14 report Republicans argued that interviews with State IG employees showed that while Howard Krongard has been an abusive manager, there is no evidence he tried to assist the administration by blocking probes.