WASHINGTON – The State Department may have withheld critical information from the Pentagon about a fired Blackwater USA guard, a misstep that allowed the man to find work in the Middle East two months after he allegedly killed an Iraqi security worker, a senior House Democrat said Friday.
In an Oct. 5 letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., also questioned the accuracy of statements made by Blackwater's top executive and State Department representatives at a hearing Tuesday by the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Waxman.
According to Waxman's letter, he and other committee members were told Andrew Moonen was fired by Blackwater after the Dec. 24, 2006, shooting and had his security clearance canceled.
As a result, his employment prospects, especially with a defense company, should have been dim. He was drunk when he shot the guard.
But two months after Moonen was whisked out of Baghdad, he got a job with Combat Support Associates, a Defense Department contractor based in Orange, Calif., that provides logistics support to U.S. troops at bases in Kuwait, said Waxman, who cited a CNN report. The job ended in August.
Waxman also cited a Feb. 13, 2007, e-mail from an Army criminal investigator who reported seeing Moonen in Baghdad, according to Waxman.
Gary Lewi, a spokesman for Combat Support Associates, confirmed Moonen worked for the company. A "due diligence" review required of all prospective employees found nothing "untoward," he said.
Lewi declined to say what job Moonen performed or whether a security clearance was required.
Moonen has not been charged with any crimes stemming from the shooting.
At Tuesday's hearing, Richard Griffin, head of the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, said his office maintains records of fired guards to ensure they don't return to work with another security company with a department contract.
"It is hard to reconcile this development with the State Department's claim that, 'We are scrupulous in terms of oversight and scrutiny not only of Blackwater but all of our contractors,"' Waxman wrote Rice.
Whatever steps were taken, Waxman said, they "were apparently insufficient to prevent Mr. Moonen from securing re-employment in the Iraq war."
By Oct. 12, Waxman wants the State Department to provide his committee with all records it has of Moonen, details of the shooting and any documents indicating the department attempted to alert the Pentagon and other government contractors of Moonen's involvement.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said there was little he could say about the issue because the Justice Department continues to investigate December shooting.
"We in the State Department want to make sure that if somebody violates the law or breaks the rules that they are held to account," McCormack told reporters.
Moonen, 27, lives in Seattle. His attorney Stewart Riley said Waxman's claim that Moonen was in Iraq in February is "totally false."
Riley would not confirm, however, whether Moonen was in Kuwait earlier this year.
"It seems that everyone has convicted my client when he hasn't even been charged with anything," Riley said. "Being drunk, yeah, maybe that's the basis for being fired. But I don't think it's necessarily inappropriate for another defense contractor to hire somebody because they happen to be drunk once in their life with some serious consequences."
Moonen is a former Army paratrooper who served in Iraq from August 2003 to April 2004, Riley said, and he was honorably discharged. He grew up in Kalispell, Mont.