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Sun

23

Sep

2007

Foreign Service Officers call on Embattled I.G. To Step Down
Sunday, 23 September 2007 10:42
by William Fisher

The organization that represents America’s diplomats is calling on the State Department’s Inspector General to step down “pending the resolution of grave allegations of malfeasance leveled against him by numerous current and former career government officials.”

John K. Naland, President of the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), said allegations against the Inspector General (IG) cover all investigations, audits, and inspections. “They include allegations of his blocking investigations into possible sub-standard construction at the US Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, which may leave employees there unacceptably vulnerable,” Naland said.

He noted that the 13-page list of allegations released earlier this week by Rep. Henry A. Waxman, (D-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, “revealed that AFSA also has been approached in recent days by several concerned former State Department employees with direct knowledge of some of the events in question.”

Naland was referring to the letter Waxman sent to the embattled IG, Howard J. Krongard, suggesting he repeatedly blocked investigations into waste, fraud and mismanagement in Iraq and Afghanistan, including construction of the massive new US Embassy in Baghdad to protect the Bush Administration from political embarrassment. Waxman plans to convene hearings next month into the charges leveled against Krongard.

Naland added, “The worse-case scenario in corruption is when it endangers lives. The worse-case scenario in public service is when the watchdog becomes the suspected violator. Both of these allegations have been leveled against Mr. Krongard. As long as he maintains day-to-day control, his office’s ability to do its vital job with full credibility will be compromised. He should step down until the allegations are resolved one way or another.”

The American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), established in 1924, is the professional association of the United States Foreign Service. With 13,000 dues-paying members, AFSA represents 26,000 active and retired Foreign Service employees of the Department of State and Agency for International Development (AID), as well as smaller groups in the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), US & Foreign Commercial Service (FCS), and International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB).

AFSA's principal missions are to enhance the effectiveness of the Foreign Service, to protect the professional interests of its members, to ensure the maintenance of high professional standards for both career diplomats and political appointees, and to promote understanding of the critical role of the Foreign Service in promoting America's national security and economic prosperity.

According to Rep. Waxman, government officials have accused Krongard of repeatedly blocking investigations into contracting fraud and censoring reports that might prove politically embarrassing to the Bush administration.

Waxman’s letter to Krongard said the allegations were based on the testimony of seven current and former officials on Krongard's staff, including two former senior officials who allowed their names to be used, and private e-mail exchanges obtained by the committee. The letter said the allegations concerned all three major divisions of Krongard's office -- investigations, audits and inspections.

Waxman’s letter to Krongard charged that “One consistent element in these allegations is that you believe your foremost mission is to support the Bush administration."

The California congressman wrote that Krongard's subordinates said he showed “contempt'' for career employees, and some staff members fear going to work.” He added that “Several top officials have resigned since Krongard took the helm and haven't been replaced.”

According to Waxman, Krongard refused to look into problems with a Kuwaiti company hired to lead construction of the US Embassy in Baghdad. The Justice Department in January asked for help looking into allegations of misconduct by the company, but Krongard told his staff to stand down, Waxman's letter said.

Meanwhile, a watchdog group known as Concerned Foreign Service Officers (CFSO) claims that Krongard’s office issued a “whitewash” in a 2006 investigation into whether State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) was unfairly revoking and denying security clearances. Krongard's office found no wrongdoing, but the CFSO claimed Krongard's office “made no attempt to conduct a serious inspection.”

CFSO asked Krongard’s office to look into allegations that Foreign Service Officers’ security clearances were being suspended – and often later revoked -- without effective due process on the basis of unsubstantiated and frivolous allegations from undisclosed sources.

Without their security clearances, senior Foreign Service Officers essentially lose their careers, are barred from serving in overseas posts, and are assigned to pushing papers at State’s headquarters in Washington.

Krongard’s 2006 report concluded that DS “equitably administers the process for the revocation of security clearances.”

It determined that “investigators and adjudicators’ actions appeared free of bias or prejudice and were based upon specified investigative and adjudicative guidelines and upon Executive Orders and Department of State standards, as published in the Foreign Affairs Manual.”

The CFSO dismissed most of Krongard’s findings as irrelevant to the core issues.

Krongard’s 2006 review was prompted in part because a congressional office had provided The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) with a constituent’s allegation that DS does not promptly, efficiently, and fairly investigate and adjudicate security clearance suspensions, resulting in a waste of government resources and placing Department employees’ careers and reputations at risk.

Waxman’s letter to Krongard also suggested that the IG tipped off a controversial Bush appointee about a whistleblower investigation into the official's alleged misconduct. In 2005, congressional lawmakers sent a letter asking Krongard to look into complaints that Kenneth Tomlinson, then head of the governing board of Voice of America, sought to collect pay from the board while he did work for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which he also ran.

Waxman said Krongard had the congressional letter faxed directly to Tomlinson's office, jeopardizing the investigation. Tomlinson is a “close associate'' of recently resigned White House political operative Karl Rove.

“These actions caused an important source to become wary of cooperation with the investigation because of fear of retaliation,'' Waxman wrote.

Krongard has called Waxman’s allegations “replete with inaccuracies." He said he has tried to assist other agencies without overlapping with other investigations.

Krongard was appointed by President George W. Bush as Inspector General of the Department of State and the Broadcasting Board of Governors in May 2005. A graduate of Harvard law school, he has a long history of associations with establishment organizations and law firms.

Inspectors General are appointed by the president and confirmed by the senate. The IG’s mission is to independently investigate and make corrective recommendations regarding waste, fraud and improper conduct within their respective departments and agencies. IGs serve in all major government department departments, and smaller agencies, as well as in the military.

While the IG Act of 1978 requires that IGs be selected based upon their qualifications and not political affiliation, IGs are considered political appointees and are often selected in part because of their political relationships and party affiliation.
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