September 29, 2007 in Nation/World

Blackwater investigators threatened

Warren P. Strobel McClatchy
 

WASHINGTON – 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.

Krongard has denied the charges and is due to appear before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee next month.

In a statement e-mailed to reporters Friday, his office said it was cooperating with investigators.

“The Office of the Inspector General has cooperated with and will continue to cooperate with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s investigation,” the statement said.

Officials at the State Department and other agencies said support for Krongard appeared to be slipping and that it remained uncertain whether he could keep his job.

The probe into Krongard’s office is being led by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., the chairman of the House oversight committee.

The two investigators said they were threatened with retaliation – perhaps including losing their jobs – if they cooperated, Waxman said in a letter to Krongard.

According to the letter, Krongard’s congressional liaison told one of the two, Special Agent Ronald A. Militana, “Howard can fire you. It would affect your ability to get another job.”

In a telephone interview, Militana confirmed that he’s filed a complaint with Waxman’s panel and said the congressman’s letter quoted him accurately. He declined to comment further.

Militana and the other investigator, Assistant Special Agent in Charge Brian Rubendall, were among those pressing for an investigation into whether employees of Blackwater were illegally shipping automatic weapons and other military goods to Iraq without a license.


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