Thursday, April 22, 2010
Former top Bush administration official charged with contempt
Word from Washington that a former top Bush administration official has been charged with contempt of Congress for allegedly mistreating employees and deleting files from an office computer in 2006 is reassuring to those of us still waiting for the Obama government to fix the worst excesses of the previous administration. Federal prosecutors filed the criminal charge against Scott Bloch, the former head of the Office of Special Council, which ironically is responsible for protecting federal employees who report improper activities from retaliation, according to the Reuters international news service. Bloch had been under investigation for five years, and FBI agents seized his office computers and subpoenaed all 17 employees in a 2008 raid. Bloch resigned later that year. The charges apparently stem from Bloch's decision in 2006 to hire an outside contractor to purge a virus from his computer instead of using in-house technicians, and files mysteriously were deleted from his and other computers. The U.S. House of Representatives has been conducting its own investigation of that and of reports that Bloch had set up a separate office in Detroit to exile employees who displeased him. Bloch told the House Oversight Committee that he engaged the contractor to remove the virus. But documents filed by federal prosecutors in U.S. District Court on Thursday allege that Bloch "unlawfully and willfully withheld pertinent information from the committee" about the erasure. during an interview with the panel in March 2008, according to a criminal information filing by prosecutors in U.S. District Court. Such filings are typically used in plea agreements in which a defendant pleads guilty, Reuters said. Block's attorney, William Sullivan, would not confirm that a plea agreement was in place but told Reuters that was glad the investigation was over. Bloch had been appointed to a five-year term with the Office of Special Counsel in 2004 but ran into friction with the White House when he opened investigations into allegations that Bush adviser Karl Rove and other officials had used federal agencies for political activities, and whether laws were violated in the White House's firing of eight U.S. attorneys in 2006, Reuters said. Bloch had been a personnel lawyer at the Faith-Based and Community Initiatives office of the U.S. Justice Department before the appointment, Reuters said.