Shock and Awe on M Street

By Justin Rood

May 7, 2008 11:09am

"Swift" and "total" are two words which come to mind after reading the morning-after accounts of the federal raids on the home and workplace of Office of Special Counsel Scott Bloch.

Twenty agents from the FBI and the Office of Personnel Management Inspector General’s office descended on Bloch’s office starting around 10:30 a.m.  Agents reportedly caught Bloch mid-phone call, served him a subpoena and interrogated him.

Senior OSC staffers sitting down to a morning meeting quickly found themselves talking to agents instead of each other.   Meanwhile, agents moved to shut down the office’s computer networks and email system, effectively shuttering a federal office, in an effort that former law enforcement officials told the Washington Post was "unusual, if not unprecedented."

In Fairfax Co., Va., still more agents searched Bloch’s home while his wife and children were there, reported govexec.com, which had some of the best details on yesterday’s events.  Still more agents reportedly showed up at an OSC field office in Dallas.

Bloch is thought to be under criminal investigation for allegedly obstructing justice by possibly destroying evidence on his computer that was sought by OPM IG investigators. Bloch has confirmed he erased data on his computer but said it was to get rid of a virus.

But the raids appear to have targeted documents and information on a number of topics and issues, leading some to suggest that Bloch’s troubles with the feds could multiply.

OSC sources told reporters that the grand jury subpoenas served by agents requested access to computers and emails from Bloch to other employees, Bloch’s expense reports and credit card receipts, "information regarding his use of storage facilities or safety deposit boxes," and "material related to testimony he has delivered at congressional hearings."

The subpoenas also requested access to documents from closed OSC investigations into former GSA administrator Lurita Doan and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was National Security Adviser to Bush at the time of the OSC investigation.

In 2004 Bloch concluded that allegations Rice had improperly used federal funds to appear at Bush-Cheney campaign events were unfounded. In 2007, he concluded Doan had violated federal laws barring officials from using federal resources for partisan political activity, charges Doan denied.

An apparently new allegation against Bloch rose to the surface in the Washington Post’s coverage, intimating wasteful spending by the Bush appointee. "Some staff members had complained that Bloch used agency funds to buy for his office restroom $400 hand towels decorated with a special OSC seal," the paper reported.

Then again — for a man under federal criminal investigation, clean hands can be priceless.

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