Former Special Counsel Pleads Guilty to Contempt of Congress

Posted April 27, 2010 at 4:45pm

Scott Bloch, the former head of the Office of Special Counsel, pleaded guilty Tuesday to contempt of Congress for withholding information from the Oversight and Government Reform Committee about his decision to delete files from computers in his office.

Bloch had a rocky tenure during the administration of George W. Bush as the head of the Office of Special Counsel, an independent agency set up to protect public employees from workplace discrimination, particularly focusing on protecting whistle-blowers. His own employees accused Bloch of taking retaliatory and discriminatory actions against them, allegations which he denied. Bloch ultimately launched an investigation of the Bush White House, which critics characterized as an effort to protect himself from investigations into his own behavior.

In March 2008, Bloch sat for an interview with Oversight Committee investigators who were looking into a Wall Street Journal report that he hired the computer repair company Geeks on Call to erase files from OSC computers. According to charges filed by prosecutors, Bloch “unlawfully and willfully did make default by refusing and failing to state fully and completely the nature and extent of his instructions” to the company to erase the computers.

According to Bloch’s plea, in 2006 he had discussed with a third party the process seven-level wipe that permanently deletes files from a computer, and Bloch then hired Geeks on Call and directed the technician to perform the process on several computers. But he told the Oversight Committee in 2008 that he did not know what a seven-level wipe was and that he did not direct the technician to perform the process. “He just came in, said what he was going to do, and he did it,” Bloch told investigators.

U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Ronald Machen said Bloch faces a sentence of up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine, though under sentencing guidelines he is more likely facing a term of less than six months.