Lawmaker says Rice interfered with Iraq inquiry

A leading Democratic lawmaker accused Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice of interfering in congressional inquiries into corruption in Iraq's government and the activities of U.S. security firm Blackwater.

"You are wrong to interfere with the committee's inquiry," Waxman said in a letter to Rice. "The State Department's position on this matter is ludicrous," added Waxman, a vocal opponent of the Bush administration's Iraq policies.

Waxman said security contractor Blackwater, which was involved in an incident in which Iraqi civilians were killed last week, said they could not hand over documents relevant to an investigation without State Department approval.

Blackwater provides security for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and has a contract with the State Department. The State Department is investigating the incident along with the Iraqis.

"[The State Department] directs Blackwater USA not to disclose any information concerning the contract without DOS (Department of State) preauthorization in writing."

Blackwater also urged the committee not to ask questions at the hearing that could reveal sensitive information "that could be utilized by our country's implacable enemies in Iraq." Such information included the size of their security staff in Baghdad, weaponry and the operation of convoys.

[Excerpt of a Reuters article by Sue Pleming]

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