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WaPo Cites Blackwater's Krongard on Low CIA Morale

August 30, 2009

One day after Newt Gingrich, no friend of the CIA, called on Attorney General Eric Holder to resign over his plan to investigate the agency, former Vice President Dick Cheney pronounced he was "offended as hell" by the probe. Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported "Ex-Intelligence Officials Cite Low Spirits at CIA." To make its case, the Post turned to one A.B. "Buzzy" Krongard. That would be the same Buzzy Krongard who until recently sat on the advisory board of Blackwater.
But reading the Washington Post analysis of the CIA's supposed morale problem, readers would never know the former number three man at the agency had close ties to Xe, the mercenary firm previously known as Blackwater and secretly contracted by the Bush Administration for a now-cancelled program to carry out targeted assassinations of terrorists worldwide:

A. B. "Buzzy" Krongard, the third-ranking CIA official at the time of the use of harsh interrogation practices, said that although vigorous oversight is crucial, the public airing of once-classified internal assessments and the prospect of further investigation are damaging the agency. "Morale at the agency is down to minus 50," he said...
Krongard, one of the few active or retired CIA officers with direct knowledge of the program willing to voice publicly what many officers are saying privately, said agency personnel now may back away from controversial [interrogation] programs that could place them in personal legal jeopardy should their work be exposed. "The old saying goes, 'Big operation, big risk; small operation, small risk; no operation, no risk.' "
"If you're not in the intelligence business to be forward-leaning, you might as well not be in it," Krongard said.

But as Americans - including his own brother Howard - learned from in November 2007, Krongard was also in the intelligence business for profit.
That revelation came during Congressional hearings featuring 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 Mother Jones 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, the Washington Post on Sunday included statements from John Helgerson, author of the recently released 2004 CIA Inspector General Report on detainee interrogation abuses. Helgerson, the Post noted, "said that the release, though painful, would ensure that the agency confronts difficult issues head on, instead of ignoring or trying to bury them."
Which is exactly what the Post itself did about Alvin "Buzzy" Krongard's checkered past.
UPDATE: Just 10 days ago, CNN described the background to Krongard's initial no-bid contract award to Erik Prince and Blackwater in the days following 9/11. "The two had lunch and Krongard immediately took a liking to the man," CNN noted, adding "so when terror struck the heart of America in September 2001, Prince called up his new friend Krongard and offered to help." Writing about the clandestine assassination program in The Nation, Jeremy Scahill cited a Blackwater employee who claimed Prince and Krongard "were good buddies." Prince was a regular visitor to CIA headquarters even before July 2007, "when Buzzy Krongard joined the company's board" and "Prince offered him a $3,500 honorarium per meeting attended plus all expenses paid."

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Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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