State Dept. Accused of Wasting Millions, Bringing 'Worst of America' to Iraq

One of Washington's most prominent conservative lawyers, sent to Iraq to help the fledgling democracy develop its legal and judicial institutions, has charged in a blistering memo to U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker that the State Department and Foreign Service have "brought to Iraq the worst of America — our bureaucrats" and become "an albatross around the neck of the Coalition command."

Manuel A. Miranda, a former counsel to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, spent the last year as a State Department contract employee at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. His official title was Senior Advisor for Legislative Framework in the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office.

In a ten-page memo obtained by FOX News, Miranda told Crocker the career diplomats tasked with helping the Iraqi government meet its legislative and institution-building benchmarks "are simply not up to the task," that due to a "unionized attitude" and "built-in attention deficit disorder" at the Foreign Service and State Department headquarters, "hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are being wasted and poorly managed."

"Any American graduate school study group could do better," Miranda wrote.

Miranda lauded the security gains made by commanding Gen. David Petraeus and coalition forces, but charged their civilian counterparts have failed, through ineptitude and a lack of coordination with the Iraqis and each other, to capitalize on those gains.

"[T]he few civilian accomplishments that we are presently lauding, including the debathification [sic] law and the staffing of PRT's [provincial reconstruction teams] are a thin reed. It was regrettable to see the President recently grab on to it."

"The American people would be scandalized to know," Miranda continued, "that, throughout the Winter, Spring and Summer of 2007, even while our Congress debated the Iraq question and whether to commit more troops and more funds, the Embassy [in Baghdad] was largely consumed in successive internal reorganizations with contradictory management and policy goals....The fact that over 80 people sit in Washington, second-guessing and delaying the work of the Embassy, many who have been to Baghdad, is an embarrassment alone."

While lamenting the absence of a central information system that could prevent redundancy in the projects the Embassy undertakes, Miranda also accused Embassy leaders of "intentionally" withholding vital information from the White House, Petraeus, key State Department officials in Washington, allied nations and relevant international organizations.

"The dysfunctional failure to communicate and share information is beyond anything that can be imagined," Miranda wrote.

Though largely respectful of Crocker, Miranda at one point accused the ambassador himself of contributing to the management problems in Baghdad. After criticizing the Embassy's alleged failure to engage Iraqi lawyers more directly in the reshaping of the country's laws and legislative infrastructure, Miranda argued that the Iraqi State Council is the most "legitimate" institution in the law-making process, and added: "You, Mr. Ambassador, were at post for several months before you asked for a briefing on the State Council's role."

Assistant Secretary of State Sean McCormack told FOX News Miranda's memo reflects "one person's views."

"Needless to say," McCormack added, "it is a minority view not shared by most everyone else who has worked in or visited Iraq."

In the memo, Miranda offered to share a "list" of other contract employees who share his views.

McCormack's deputy, Tom Casey, joked to reporters Friday that Miranda "needs to tell us how he really feels."

"[Y]ou’ve heard from the president, Secretary Rice and many others about the job that Ryan Crocker is doing as the U.S. Ambassador to Baghdad," Casey added.

"There certainly are a lot of challenges in Iraq, not only on the security side but also on the side of political developments and reconstruction. But the important thing is that Ambassador Crocker and his team, as well as the secretary and many people back here in Washington, are working full speed on it, and we have great confidence in Ambassador Crocker and his team’s ability to carry out that job."

As an aide on the GOP staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the first Bush term, Miranda was investigated, but never prosecuted, for his role in the so-called "Memogate" scandal, in which he acknowledged accessing confidential e-mails written by his Democratic colleagues.

As the scandal mounted, he was later forced to resign from a job as counsel to the Senate majority leader. But Miranda remained active in conservative legal circles, advocating on behalf of President Bush's judicial nominees and speaking out on related issues.

He did not immediately respond to requests for comment.