Among the most comically disturbing moments in the ongoing national embarrassment surrounding the mercenary firm Blackwater was the November 2007 revelation that the brother of the State Department Inspector General overseeing the company was on its board. Now, Howard "Cookie" Krongard and his hermano Alvin "Buzzy" Krongard are involved in another conflict of interest, this time in Afghanistan. As CBS reported Tuesday, the dubious dealings of the brothers Krongard may be at the heart of a coverup regarding ArmorGroup, the out-of-control contractor nominally guarding the U.S. embassy in Kabul.
As CBS's Sheryl Attkisson detailed, Howard Krongard's office did nothing for two years after receiving complaints about the Animal House behavior of ArmorGroup from a United States Senator. The possible explanation? As with Blackwater, Buzzy Krongard sat on ArmorGroup's board of directors:
How that could've happened is even harder to explain when you consider who made the complaint: Sen. Joe Lieberman, head of the Homeland Security Committee. His staffers say they notified Krongard's office about security and fraud allegations made by high-level whistleblowers from inside ArmorGroup, the company that provides embassy security.
Asked if he remembers that, Krongard said, "No. I Have no knowledge of that whatsoever."
Pressed to explain his family ties, Cookie did what came naturally and played dumb:
ATTKISON: Did you know your own brother was on ArmorGroup's board of directors?
KRONGARD: No, I did not.
ATTKISON: Why didn't you know?
KRONGARD: Dunno. I guess No. 1 I'm not sure why I should've known, but No. 2 he never told me.
ATTKISON: You should have known, in the opinion of a lot of people, because it would've been a perceived conflict of interest.
KRONGARD: He was a senior official in the Central Intelligence Agency; he did not discuss his matters with me.
ATTKISON: Would you like to have known in retrospect?
KRONGARD: If you're asking me do I think that either ArmorGroup or he should have told me, yes. It wouldn't have made any difference, as I say, I never had anything to do with ArmorGroup.
Krongard insists there was no conflict because he and his brother "lead separate lives."
If that sounds familiar, it should. Two years ago before a House committee probing abuses by Blackwater in Iraq, Cookie crumbled.
That revelation came during Congressional hearings. Howard "Cookie" Krongard, the Inspector General for the Bush State Department had studiously avoided inspecting atrocities committed by Blackwater in Iraq; Henry Waxman's committee wanted to know why. On the morning of November 14th, 2007, Cookie denied a conflict of interest on the part of himself or his brother. When Waxman informed him that, "we have now learned that Mr. Krongard's brother, Buzzy Krongard, serves on Blackwater's advisory board," Howard responded:
"I can tell you, very frankly, I am not aware of any financial interest or position he has with respect to Blackwater. When these ugly rumors started recently, I specifically asked him. I do not believe it is true that he is a member of the advisory board that you stated. And that's something I think I need to say."
As it turned out, not so much.
The committee produced a July 26 letter from Blackwater CEO Erik Prince inviting Buzzy to join his company's board, as well as a September 5 correspondence welcoming him. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) told the inspector general that his brother Alvin was even scheduled to attend a Blackwater board meeting earlier that week in Williamsburg, Virginia. After a lunch-time break, the broken Cookie acknowledged the obvious regarding his brother's Blackwater connections:
"During the break I did contact my brother. I reached him at home -- he is not at the hotel. But I learned that he had been at the advisory board meeting yesterday. I had not been aware of that, and I want to state on the record right now that I hereby recuse myself from any matters having to do with Blackwater."
After Cookie crumbled, brother Buzzy stepped down from his advisory board role at Blackwater. Not before, as CNN, The Nation and Mother Jones all reported, he had already used his Langley connections to help line Erik Prince's pockets:
Until his resignation in 2004, Buzzy was the executive director of the CIA, where, in 2002, he reportedly facilitated Blackwater's first "black" contract--a $5.4 million deal for covert services in Afghanistan.
For its part, CBS brought the latest conflict of interest that is KrongardGate II to light. Sadly, the same cannot be said of the recent work of the Washington Post. In August, the Post published a story about low morale in the CIA in the wake of Attorney General Holder announced investigation of detainee abuse. The Post's source for describing the supposed discontent at Langley?
A.B. "Buzzy" Krongard.