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FBI Raids Office of U.S. Special Counsel

Tuesday, 06 May 2008 05:17 PM

By Rick Pedraza

The FBI has raided the office and home of U.S. Special Counsel Scott Bloch in connection to an obstruction of justice case.

Agents served grand jury subpoenas in an inquiry of whether Bloch obstructed justice by having his files erased and seized computers and documents belonging to Bloch and his staff.

Investigators say Bloch is suspected of hiring an outside company to scrub his computer amid a federal investigation of alleged misconduct in his office.

The raid appeared connected to a 2006 inquiry into Bloch’s office, which itself is designed to protect those alleging government impropriety and fraud.

Bloch contacted the private-sector computer help company Geeks on Call in late 2006 to erase information from his computer and from two of his staff members' computers and has told investigators that it was to remove a virus. He claims to have deleted no work-related files, but investigators believe he might have deleted data as part of a cover-up.

The inquiry has been under way for more than a year and is looking into charges of intimidation and retaliation against whistle-blowers among staff members working in Bloch's agency. Bloch has been under investigation since 2005 by the Office of Personnel Management for allegedly overstepping his authority and alleged retaliation against employees.

The Office of Special Counsel is responsible for protecting the rights of federal workers and ensuring that government whistle-blowers are not subjected to reprisals.

The independent agency, created by Congress in the wake of the Watergate scandal, is charged with protecting federal employees and deciding whether their complaints merit full-scale investigation -- a first line of defense against fraud and mismanagement in government. It also enforces a ban on U.S. employees engaging in partisan political activity.

Before the departure of White House political director Karl Rove, Bloch's staff was looking into whether he or other White House officials improperly used federal agencies to help re-elect Republicans in 2006.

Mr. Bloch was in the office during the raid but couldn't be reached for comment.

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