The inspector general says he will step aside from any future probe of the security contractor because his sibling is a member of its advisory board.
by Paul Richter
Los Angeles Times 
WASHINGTON — The State Department’s internal watchdog, accused of politicizing his office, told a congressional panel Wednesday that he will step aside from any future probe of Blackwater USA because his brother serves on the advisory board of the controversial security contractor.
The testimony by Howard J. Krongard, the department’s inspector general, came as a surprise at a congressional hearing about his performance. At first, Krongard denied that his brother, former CIA official Alvin B. Krongard, had any interest in Blackwater, the State Department’s primary private security contractor in Iraq being investigated for deaths of civilians.
However, members of the House panel suggested he was in error. During a hearing break, Krongard called his brother and said he learned that, in fact, Alvin Krongard agreed earlier this year to be a member of Blackwater’s advisory board, a position that pays travel expenses for meetings and offers $3,500 for each gathering attended.
“I had not been aware of that,” Krongard said after the break. “I want to state right now on the record that I recuse myself from any matters having to do with Blackwater.”
Krongard, a former corporate lawyer, has been under fire from Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D‑Beverly Hills), House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman, for impeding State Department investigations, including a Blackwater probe.
Republicans on the committee have argued that the accusations were politically motivated, but the disclosure by Krongard’s brother put them on the defensive and undermined their defense of the inspector general.
“He has done you tremendous damage,” Rep. Christopher Shays (R‑Conn.) told Krongard. “I don’t know what kind of conversation you had with him, but I would have been one unhappy guy.”
Blackwater has been the department’s principal security contractor in Iraq. It has become the target of several investigations in the aftermath of a Sept. 16 incident in Baghdad that killed 17 Iraqi civilians.
Waxman has accused Krongard of poor management and of impeding several investigations to protect the Bush administration from political embarrassment. He and others on the committee have charged that Alvin Krongard’s ties to Blackwater were the reason Howard Krongard sidelined an investigation into weapons smuggling charges.
Democrats produced a letter from chief executive Erik Prince inviting Krongard to join the panel, which advises Blackwater on how to expand its business.
Howard Krongard has denied the charges leveled at him by seven current and former State officials. “I want to say in the strongest terms I never impeded any investigation,” he said.