Blackwater probe stifled by conflicts

WASHINGTON – The State Department’s acerbic top auditor wasn’t happy when Justice Department officials told one of his aides to leave the room so they could discuss a criminal investigation of Blackwater Worldwide, the contractor protecting U.S. diplomats in Iraq.The episode reveals the badly strained relationship between Bush administration officials over the probe into whether Blackwater smuggled weapons into Iraq that could have gotten into insurgents’ hands.

As a result of the bureaucratic crosscurrents between State’s top auditor and Justice, the investigation has been bogged down for months.

A key date was July 11, when Howard Krongard, State’s inspector general, sent an e-mail to one of his assistant inspector generals, telling him to “IMMEDIATELY” stop work on the Blackwater investigation. That lead to criticisms by Democrats that Krongard has tried to protect Blackwater and block investigations into contractor-related wrongdoing in Iraq.

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