“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison,” – Nelson Mandela, proof that the final form of love is forgiveness.
It is rare that one soul can impact all of ours – and make us more patient, more powerful and more human. Mandela was such a soul. And he will never leave us.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
It doesn't take a genius to connect the dots here. Why does our government tolerate this abhorrent conflict of interest?
"Misunderstanding?" I'll bet the "misunderstanding" lasted long enough to shred incriminating documents.
By JAMES RISEN
New York Times
Published: September 26, 2007
WASHINGTON, Sept. 25 — The Democratic chairman of a House committee complained Tuesday that the State Department was blocking his panel’s efforts to investigate the private security firm Blackwater USA and its operations in Iraq.
The department described the situation as a “misunderstanding.”
In a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Rep. Henry A. Waxman of California, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, wrote that the State Department had prevented Blackwater from cooperating.
“Blackwater has informed the committee that a State Department official directed Blackwater not to provide documents relevant to the committee’s investigation into the company’s activities in Iraq without the prior written approval of the State Department,” Mr. Waxman’s letter stated. The letter was made available to the news media on Tuesday.
In response, a State Department statement late Tuesday said: “There seems to be some misunderstanding with regard to this matter. All information requested by the committee has been or is in the process of being provided.”
The statement added: “Blackwater has been informed that the State Department has no objection to it providing information to the committee. We have offered to make available for testimony those officials in the best position to respond to the specific issues the committee has raised.”
Blackwater, the private contractor that provides security for American diplomats in Baghdad, has come under intense scrutiny since a Sept. 16 shooting involving Blackwater guards in which at least 11 Iraqis were killed.
The American and Iraqi governments have said they are conducting a joint investigation, which infuriated many Iraqis who believe that American contractors are not held accountable for their actions in Iraq. In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, citing Blackwater’s involvement in other violence, called for the company to be banned from working in Iraq. But the Bush administration has resisted such pressure.
The Blackwater shooting quickly came to be viewed as a test of the sovereignty of the Maliki government and of its ability to stand up to the Bush administration. Mr. Maliki met with President Bush in New York at the United Nations on Tuesday, and American aides said that the two discussed the Blackwater issue briefly. They said that Mr. Maliki discussed the matter more extensively in a meeting with Ms. Rice.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Go here to read this disturbing story.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Blackwater Accused of Engineering Prison Break
By Spencer Ackerman - September 20, 2007, 6:22PM
If Erik Prince of Blackwater shows up at the House oversight committee's hearing into his company's activities in Iraq, expect him to get an earful. It's not just about the Mansour incident, or the murky legal status the private-security firm possesses. According to the Iraqi government, Blackwater employees engineered a jailbreak to free a minister convicted of corruption charges.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki referred obliquely to the incident yesterday. But a Defense Ministry spokesman told Leila Fadel of McClatchy that Blackwater, in December, broke former Electricity Minister Ahyam al-Samarrai out of prison in the Green Zone, where he was awaiting sentencing for embezzling $2.5 billion in reconstruction money.
Until now, Iraqi officials hadn't named the private security company that they believe helped Samarrai, the only Iraqi cabinet official convicted of corruption, to escape from a jail that was overseen jointly by U.S. and Iraqi guards. He subsequently was spirited out of the country and is believed to be living in the United States.
The U.S. State Department made note of his escape in its December report on developments in Iraq, saying that "Iraq's Commission on Public Integrity (CPI) said they believed he fled with the help of members of a private security company."
But the accusation that Blackwater, which earned at least $240 million in 2005 from contracts to provide security to U.S. officials in Baghdad, assisted in his escape raises questions about what American officials might have known about the breakout.
It's possible that Maliki and the Defense Ministry spokesman are misrepresenting what happened. But should Prince testify -- and the committee expects he will -- it'll be interesting to hear his response to the accusation. And, if it's true, his explanation.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
One of them, [Howard] is the Inspector General for the State Department and under investigation for thwarting investigations into awarding contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The other brother, [A.B. "Buzzy"] was the Executive Director of the CIA (No. 3 position) and is a close personal friend of the founder of Blackwater.
AB "Buzzy" Krongard was instrumental in giving Blackwater its first major no-bid contract via the CIA. This contract opened up the opportunity for Blackwater to receive contracts from many other government agencies including "...State, the FBI, the Navy, Coast Guard and Defense Department."*
*"Blackwater" by Jeremy Scahill
For those of you who are not registered with the Washington Post, here's the story:
State IG Accused of Averting Probes
Wednesday, September 19, 2007; Page A21
Howard J. Krongard, the State Department's inspector general, has repeatedly thwarted investigations into contracting fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan for construction of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, and censored reports that might prove politically embarrassing to the Bush administration, the chairman of the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform charged yesterday in a 13-page letter.
The letter, addressed to Krongard and signed by the committee chairman, Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who released it yesterday, 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 demanded documents and testimony for a hearing next month into Krongard's conduct. A copy of the letter was sent to the committee's top Republican, Thomas Davis (Va.).
A statement released by Krongard's office said he had just completed a visit to Afghanistan and was "en route to Baghdad for the remainder of September." In the statement, he described the allegations as "replete with inaccuracies including those made by persons with their own agendas" and said he looks forward to the opportunity to respond fully to the committee. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino referred questions to the State Department, where spokesman Sean McCormack said he had not yet seen Waxman's letter.
The Senate confirmed President Bush's nomination of Krongard, who had no previous State Department experience, in May 2005. He previously worked for an international law firm and had been general counsel for Deloitte & Touche in the mid-1990s. Federal Electon Commission records indicate he has contributed to both parties: $1,350 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 2000, for a "roast" of then-Michigan Gov. John Engler (R), and $1,000 to Democratic presidential candidate Bill Bradley in 1999. Krongard's brother, A.D. "Buzzy" Krongard, served as the No. 3 CIA official under then- Director, George Tenant.
Waxman accused Howard Krongard of:
Refusing to send investigators to Iraq and Afghanistan to investigate $3 billion worth of State Department contracts.
Preventing his investigators from cooperating with a Justice Department probe into waste and fraud in the construction of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
Using "highly irregular" procedures to personally exonerate the embassy's prime contractor of labor abuses.
Interfering in the investigation of a close friend of former White House adviser Karl Rove.
Censoring reports on embassies to prevent full disclosure to Congress.
Refusing to publish critical audits of State's financial statements.
Among the e-mails obtained by the committee are exchanges in which staff members discussed Krongard's decision not to cooperate with the Justice Department on the embassy investigation.
"Wow, as we all [k]now that is not the normal and proper procedure," an investigator wrote to John A. DeDona, an assistant inspector general. DeDona forwarded the e-mail to Deputy Inspector General William E. Todd, saying, "I have always viewed myself as a loyal soldier but hopefully you sense my frustration in my voicemail yesterday."
Todd wrote back: "I know you are very frustrated. John, you need to convey to the troops the truth, the IG told us both Tuesday to stand down on this and not assist, that needs to be the message."
DeDona responded: "Unfortunately, under the current regime, the view within INV [the office of investigations] is to keep working the BS cases within the beltway, and let us not rock the boat with more significant investigations."
Waxman's letter also said that Krongard's actions have resulted in a "dysfunctional office environment in which you routinely berate and belittle personnel, show contempt for the abilities of career government professionals and cause the staff to fear coming to work." The letter said high personnel turnover has left the office with many senior-level vacancies and only seven of 27 investigator positions filled.
The embassy, whose cost of more than $600 million has made it the most expensive U.S. diplomatic mission in the world, has been the subject of repeated congressional questioning and allegations of wrongdoing in both construction and hiring practices.