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US State Department Investigator Target of Congressional Probe

A U.S. congressman has opened an investigation into the actions of a top U.S. State Department official accused of blocking investigations into government fraud and abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan.

California Democrat Henry Waxman, who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, informed State Department Inspector General Howard Krongard of the probe Tuesday in a lengthy letter. Waxman says the allegations were made by several former and current investigators on Krongard's staff.

An inspector general is intended to act as an independent internal investigator of a government agency. Congressman Waxman says it appears Krongard believes his "foremost mission" is to support the Bush administration.

Waxman's letter says Krongard is accused of blocking internal probes into fraud and abuse in State Department contracts worth more than $3 billion.

Krongard is traveling in Iraq and Afghanistan and issued a statement Tuesday saying he had not seen Waxman's letter. But he said the allegations - as described to him - are filled with "inaccuracies including those made by persons with their own agendas."

Krongard is also alleged to have prevented his staff from cooperating with a Justice Department probe into fraud involving the construction of the newly built U.S. embassy in Baghdad.

Another allegation against Krongard is that he interfered with an investigation into Kenneth Tomlinson, the former chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the agency that oversees the Voice of America. Tomlinson resigned in January after a State Department investigation found he had used his government office for personal business and had improperly awarded a contract to a friend.

Krongard is alleged to have passed on information about the probe to Tomlinson.

Waxman also says Krongard is accused of blocking an investigation into a private security company suspected of illegally smuggling weapons into Iraq. The Associated Press says it has learned the firm is Blackwater USA, the firm banned by the Iraqi government this week from working in the country after a shootout that left at least 11 Iraqi civilians dead.

The congressman will hold a hearing on the allegations next month.