That's the Way 'Cookie' Crumbles

By |

State Department inspector general Howard 'Cookie' Krongard has come under fire for attempting to investigate Blackwater, while his brother "Buzzy" — the former number three at the CIA — serves on the board.

But this simple conflict of interest — and Cookie's inconsistent answers to congress about it — is hardly his worst sin. As I described in "Bush's Lapdogs" — Rolling Stone's look at the rampant cronyism and incompetence of the Bush inspector generals — Cookie headed up the State Department's investigation of whistle-blower accusations of trafficked labor being used to build the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

Krongard — in what investigators told me was a breach of every conceivable protocol in a case like this — took on the 'investigation' himself. But he gave the contractor, First Kuwaiti, several month's advance notice of his visit. He let the contractor select the six employees he would interview semi-formally. His evidence gathering consisted of chickenscratch notes "on the backs of things" because he didn't want people to feel "uncomfortable."

He then published an informal report whitewashing the whole incident saying he found nothing to validate the descriptions of whistleblowers like Rory Mayberry, who later testified to Congress of having witnessed Filipino workers — who thought they were headed to Dubai to work on hotels — instead having their passports seized and getting stuck on a plane and flown at gunpoint to Baghdad.

Mayberry's assessment of Krongard's work?: "I've read the State Department Inspector General report on the construction of the embassy, Mr. Chairman. It's not worth the paper it's printed on. This is a cover-up."

On a side note, you may remember that one of the last acts of the GOP controlled congress in 2006 was an attempt — ultimately reversed — to cut off funding for the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, Stuart Bowen, a longtime friend of Bush's from Texas who earned the contempt of his political patrons by actually doing his job. The Republican efforts would have shut down his office — which has exposed billions in waste, fraud, and abuse in Iraq — and have turned over his duties to ... you guessed it ... Cookie Krongard.

UPDATE: I just received an email from First Kuwaiti's PR firm, Saylor Company, seeking to discredit Mayberry's under-oath federal testimony by pushing this WSJ blog entry, which reads in part:

In his July testimony, Mayberry described being on a plane en route to Baghdad in 2006 when 51 Filipinos broke out in panic when they heard they were going to work in Baghdad instead of Dubai. A Philippines government inquiry last month found that only 11 workers were on the flight and that all of them knew there were going to Iraq.

Read the whole post, including House Oversight Chairman Henry Waxman's rebuttal and judge for yourselves.

It's also important to note that Mayberry isn't the only whistle-blower in this case. The broad strokes of his testimony are corroborated by the under-oath federal testimony of John Owens.

And there's this: The Justice Department has reportedly found the trafficking allegations compelling enough to launch an independent investigation.

UPDATE II: Here's the video of Mayberry's testimony.