From the Guardian Unlimited:
WASHINGTON (AP) – The State Department’s embattled inspector general, accused of impeding a Justice Department investigation of Blackwater Worldwide, announced his resignation Friday, saying a poisonous political atmosphere in Washington deters people from careers in public service.
Howard [“Cookie”] Krongard told President Bush in a letter that he would quit effective Jan. 15. He released a brief public statement that said recent congressional testimony and correspondence gives ample documentation of the reasons for his departure.
Krongard has said he never stood in the way of the Blackwater probe, and he and his lawyer have said he did not know his brother [Alvin J. “Buzzy” Krongard] was a Blackwater adviser. A letter from his lawyer, who has called the situation “he-said, he-said,” is one of the documents Krongard lists in his statement.
Blackwater Worldwide – a private contractor that protects U.S. diplomats in Iraq – is alleged to have smuggled weapons into the country. In November, Krongard was forced to recuse himself from any inquiries into Blackwater after it was disclosed that his brother had joined the company’s advisory board.
In addition to recusing himself from matters related to Blackwater, Krongard also said last month he was no longer involved in corruption investigations related to the flawed construction of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, a $600 million project that is beset by logistical delays and security concerns.
Howard Krongard’s brother, Alvin, quit as an adviser to Blackwater two days after his relationship with the security contractor was sharply criticized by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Krongard is the second high-ranking State Department official to leave in the wake of the Blackwater scandal and as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has faced congressional criticism of mismanagement.
In late October, Rice ousted the State Department’s security chief, Richard Griffin, after a review panel she convened found serious deficiencies in his office’s oversight of private contractors in Iraq. The assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security resigned under pressure, becoming the first political casualty after the fallout from the Blackwater incident.
Howard Krongard, who took over as the State watchdog in 2005 after a career in business, was unpopular with underlings who said he was abrasive and failed to understand the duties of the office. Numerous investigators quit or requested transfers during his tenure.
Krongard maintained he never interfered with any investigations, and he blamed allegations that he did on a dysfunctional office that he was attempting to transform.
He said he has no political ties and has never communicated with anyone in the White House since he took the job nearly two-and-a-half years ago.
Erik Prince, Blackwater’s top executive, said last month that the conflict-of-interest questions prompted Alvin Krongard to submit his resignation.
“I’m not my brother’s keeper,” Howard Krongard said when pressed to explain how he could have been unaware of the connection.
And that’s the way the Cookie crumbled. At least, that’s the Buzz!