Created on Friday, 16 November 2007 07:40
Written by Agence Global
Blackwater's Blues Brothers?
by Jeremy Scahill
very day, new revelations emerge in the mounting scandal rocking the Bush Administration and the mercenary company Blackwater Worldwide.
Much of the attention focuses on the now infamous shooting spree in Baghdad's Nisour Square on September 16, in which seventeen Iraqi civilians were killed and twenty-four wounded.
FBI investigators are now alleging that fourteen were victims of unjustified and unprovoked shooting -- some were shot while they were fleeing. Investigators also say they found nothing to substantiate Blackwater's claims of being fired on by Iraqis. This comes a month after a US Army investigation determined there was "no enemy activity involved" and labeled the shootings a "criminal event."
But while Blackwater gets hammered in the press, the behind-the-scenes actions of the company's paymaster, the State Department, grow more scandalous by the minute.
[republished at PFP with Agence Global permission.]
Almost from the moment the Nisour Square shootings happened, the
State Department has taken actions that give the impression of trying
to cover up the incident.
The department's initial report on the
shooting was drafted by a Blackwater contractor on official US
The FBI was not dispatched to investigate the
case until two weeks after the shootings, meaning that the initial
investigation was in the hands of a non-law enforcement agency, the
State Department, that just happens to be Blackwater's employer.
late October it emerged that the department had actually granted some
Blackwater operatives "limited use immunity" in return for their
statements on the shooting.
Some Blackwater agents have reportedly
refused to answer FBI questions, citing their State Department-granted
"immunity." This means that their statements, and information gleaned
from them, cannot be used to bring criminal charges against them.
State Department also offered to facilitate the payment of what
amounted to hush money to victims of the shooting, which it has done on
numerous occasions for Blackwater and other companies when they kill
Now this story has taken yet another dramatic twist.
Last week, the State Department Inspector General, Howard "Cookie"
Krongard, was in the hot seat on Capitol Hill, where he found himself
being grilled by Representative Henry Waxman's Oversight and Government
Affairs Committee. Krongard is the top State Department official
charged with investigating allegations of waste, fraud and abuse.
addition to all of the questionable actions by the State Department in
the Blackwater investigation, Krongard has faced charges that he
impeded a Justice Department investigation into Blackwater over
allegations the company was illegally smuggling weapons into Iraq.
bombshell at the hearing was the revelation that Krongard's brother,
Alvin "Buzzy" Krongard, recently accepted a position as a paid
consultant for Blackwater, where he serves on the company's advisory
board.Until his resignation in 2004, Buzzy was the number-three man at
the Central Intelligence Agency.
Waxman's committee broke the news of
Buzzy's Blackwater position as part of what can only be described as a
masterful ambush of the Inspector General. When Waxman revealed the
conflict of interest with the brothers Krongard and Blackwater,
alleging that Cookie Krongard had "concealed" his brother's
relationship with Blackwater, the Inspector General told Waxman:
can tell you very frankly, I am not aware of any financial interest or
position [my brother] has with respect to Blackwater. It couldn't
possibly have affected anything I've done, because I don't believe it.
And 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,
as you stated, and that is something I think I need to say."
statement would quickly thrust Cookie Krongard, who was testifying
under oath, in front of a firing line that would ultimately produce his
recusal from the Blackwater investigation. Moments after Cookie
Krongard denied that his brother had any involvement with Blackwater,
the committee produced a letter from Blackwater CEO Erik Prince to
Buzzy Krongard, dated July 26, inviting him to join the board and
offering him a $3,500 honorarium per meeting attended plus all expenses
"Your experience and insight would be ideal to help our team
determine where we are and where we are going," Prince wrote.
Krongard said his brother "has been involved in a lot of activities
involving security. So it's no surprise that someone like Erik Prince
would invite him to continue to support 'security, peace, and
freedom.'" But Cookie Krongard insisted his brother had not accepted
the position, saying, "I dispute that."
Representative Elijah Cummings
then produced a September 5 e-mail from Prince to Buzzy saying,
"Welcome and thank you for accepting the invitation to be a member of
the board." Cummings told Cookie, "Prince invited your brother to be at
a board meeting to discuss strategic planning. And this meeting is
taking place right now, in Williamsburg, Virginia, this week as we
speak. Staff contacted the hotel to speak to your brother and the hotel
confirmed that he was scheduled to be there."
that he was not aware of this, adding, "By the nature of my brother's
work, you should understand that we have never discussed his work or my
work, so I had no reason to even think that he had any involvement with
Blackwater. But when these things surfaced, I called him and I asked
him directly, he has told me he does not have any involvement, he does
not have any financial interest. If you're telling me he does
absolutely I would recuse myself" from the Blackwater investigation.
a recess of the hearing, Cookie later said, he called his brother, who
confirmed for him that he had indeed accepted a position on the
Blackwater advisory board. Cookie abruptly announced he was recusing
himself from all matters relating to Blackwater.
is unlikely to be the end of Cookie's problems stemming from this
scandal. He may actually have perjured himself. After the hearing,
Buzzy Krongard told reporter Spencer Ackerman of TPM Muckraker that he
had informed Cookie weeks ago of his position with Blackwater. "I had
told my brother I was going on the advisory board," Buzzy said. "My
brother says that is not the case. I stand by what I told my brother."
When Ackerman asked Buzzy if Blackwater knew who his brother was when
Prince offered him the advisory board position, Buzzy said, "You think
I had to tell them? That they didn't know?" He added, "If [Cookie's]
got integrity it's not gonna matter one way or other.... If he doesn't
have integrity it's not gonna matter."
While Buzzy's new
position on Blackwater's advisory board is indeed a salacious
development, it is just the tip of the iceberg. In my book Blackwater:
The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, I explore in
depth the relationship between Buzzy Krongard and Blackwater founder
Erik Prince. The two men go back at least to 2002, when Buzzy helped
jump-start Blackwater's ultra-profitable role as a provider of
soldiers-for-hire in the "war on terror."
was founded in 1997, Blackwater Security Consulting -- its mercenary
division -- was incorporated in Delaware on January 22, 2002. Within
months, as the United States occupied Afghanistan and began planning
the Iraq invasion, Blackwater Security was already turning a profit,
pulling in hundreds of thousands a month from a valuable CIA contract.
of the players in forging that first Blackwater Security contract was
Buzzy Krongard, at the time executive director of the CIA, the agency's
number-three position. Krongard, who was named to that post in March
2001, had an unusual background for a spook, having spent most of his
adult life as an investment banker. He had built up Alex.Brown, the
country's oldest investment banking firm, into one of the most
successful, and eventually sold it to Bankers Trust, from which he
resigned in 1998. There have been some insinuations that Krongard was
working undercover for the CIA years before he officially joined the
agency in 1998 as a special adviser to George Tenet. But he won't
reveal how he met the CIA director, except to say that it was through
The Princeton alum, Hall of Fame lacrosse player and
former Marine boasts of having once punched a great white shark in the
jaw; and he keeps one of its teeth on a chain and pictures of the
animal in his office. Despite his bravado, some at the agency thought
of Krongard as a wanna-be, according to a 2001 Newsweek story published
shortly after his ascension to the number-three spot. "A wanna-be?
Maybe I am. Maybe I'm not. That's as much as you're going to get,"
While working under Tenet at the CIA,
Krongard acted internally, reorganizing divisions and pushing for
projects like an intelligence venture capital firm, but he did on
occasion speak publicly. In October 2001, he declared, "The war will be
won in large measure by forces you do not know about, in actions you
will not see and in ways you may not want to know about, but we will
Some three years later, in January 2005, Krongard
made news when he became the most senior Administration figure to
articulate the benefits of having not killed or captured Osama bin
Laden. "You can make the argument that we're better off with him [at
large]," he said. "Because if something happens to bin Laden, you might
find a lot of people vying for his position and demonstrating how macho
they are by unleashing a stream of terror.... He's turning into more of
a charismatic leader than a terrorist mastermind."
characterized bin Laden "not as a chief executive but more like a
venture capitalist," saying, "Let's say you and I want to blow up
Trafalgar Square. So we go to bin Laden. And he'll say, 'Well, here's
some money and some passports and if you need weapons, see this guy.'"
not clear exactly what the original connection was between Prince and
Krongard. Some have alleged that Krongard knew Prince's father. In a
brief telephone interview conducted for my book, Krongard would only
say he was "familiar" with Prince and Blackwater. A former Blackwater
executive, however, asserted, "I know that Erik and Krongard were good
buddies." Whatever Krongard's involvement, it was during his tenure at
the CIA that Blackwater landed its first security contract, in April
2002. Krongard visited Kabul and said he realized the agency's new
station there was sorely lacking security. Blackwater received a $5.4
million six-month no-bid contract to provide twenty security guards for
the Kabul CIA station. Krongard said it was Blackwater's offering and
not his connection to Prince that led to the company landing the
contract, and that he talked to Prince about the contract but wasn't
certain who called whom, that he was "not sure which came first, the
chicken or the egg." He said that someone else was responsible for
actually signing off on the CIA contract.
"Blackwater got a contract
because they were the first people that could get people on the
ground," Krongard said in the interview. "We were under the gun, we did
whatever it took when I came back from Kabul.... The only concern we
had was getting the best security for our people. If we thought
Martians could provide it, I guess we would have gone after them."
relationship between Krongard and Prince apparently got chummier after
the contract was signed. "Krongard came down and visited Blackwater,
and I had to take his kids around and let them shoot on the firing
range a number of times," said a former Blackwater executive in an
interview for my book. "That was after the contract was signed, and he
may have come down just to see the company that he had just hired."
Prince apparently became consumed with the prospect of being involved
with secretive operations in the "war on terror" -- so much so that he
personally deployed on the front lines. Prince joined Jamie Smith, a
former CIA operative who originally headed up Blackwater Security
Consulting, as part of the original twenty-man contingent Blackwater
sent to fulfill its first CIA contract, which began in May 2002,
according to Robert Young Pelton's book Licensed to Kill.
CIA and other intelligence and security contracts are "black"
contracts, it's difficult to pin down exactly how much Blackwater began
pulling in after that first Afghanistan contract, but Smith described
it as a rapid period of growth for Blackwater. The company's work for
the CIA and the military and Prince's political and military
connections would provide Blackwater with important leverage in wooing
what would become its largest confirmed client, the US State
Department. "After that first contract went off, there was a lot of
romancing with the State Department where they were just up the road,
so we traveled up there a lot in Kabul and tried to sweet-talk them
into letting us on board with them," Smith said in an interview.
the State Department came on and there was a contract there, that
opened up some different doors. Once you get your foot in the door with
a government outfit that has offices in countries all over the world,
it's like -- and this is probably a horrible analogy -- but it's
something maybe like the metastasis of a cancer. You know, once you get
into the bloodstream you're going to be all over the body in just a
couple of days, you know what I mean? So if you get in that pipeline,
then everywhere that they've got a problem and an office, there's an
A year later, Prince's mercenary operations
would get the boost of a lifetime when Blackwater was handed a $27
million no-bid contract to serve as the elite bodyguards of the US
occupation of Iraq. To date that arrangement has brought Blackwater
about $1 billion in federal "security" contracts. Is it just a
coincidence that one of the key players in securing Blackwater's role
as the leading mercenary company of the Bush Administration has a
brother whose job it was to oversee Blackwater?Or that the Inspector
General stands accused of failing to do his duty and actually impeding
federal investigations into the company's potentially criminal
Is there a connection between the Krongards and the State
Department's systematic cover-up campaign for Blackwater?
Unsurprisingly, Blackwater's spokesperson, Anne Tyrrell, said, "We do
not see a conflict of interest." But these aren't questions for the
company's PR people. These are questions that must be answered by the
brothers Krongard under oath.
Jeremy Scahill writes
frequently for The Nation magazine, and is the author of the
bestselling Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary
Army, published by Nation Books.
Copyright Â© 2007 The Nation
Released: 16 November 2007
Word Count: 2,403
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