The State Department barred its officials from discussing government corruption in Iraq with congressional investigators, according to one prominent Democrat whose committee is conducting a formal probe.
House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) blasted Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Tuesday for impeding his investigation.
Waxman sent Rice a letter questioning State Department guidelines restricting agency personnel from “characteriz(ing) the quality of Iraqi governance” or how that government deals with corruption. Agency guidelines further prohibit committee personnel from disclosing an criticism that does emerge during the probe.
“The State Department is taking the position that investigators for the committee may speak with these individuals, but that the investigators may not ask them questions that could embarrass the Maliki government unless the committee agrees to refrain from public discussion of their answers,” Waxman said in the letter.
Committee investigators were limited in the questions they could ask a State Department official who handles government accountability in Iraq on Tuesday, according to the letter.
“The interview was worthless,” Waxman argued. “The State Department officials participating on the call would not let (the accountability officer) answer whether there is large-scale corruption in Iraq, whether Iraqi ministers are blocking corruption probes or whether corruption is undermining U.S. efforts.”
Waxman also wrote that the official, Vincent Foulk, had been informed of these restrictions Tuesday morning before his call with committee investigators.
The oversight committee also received notification from a lawyer to Blackwater USA, the private security firm in the crosshairs of Waxman’s committee, that State Department officials directed the company not to provide the oversight panel with documents related to the investigation.
Blackwater, which has been contracted to protect State Department officials in Iraq, is being scrutinized in the U.S. and Iraq in the wake of a shooting last week in which several civilians were killed.