Today’s Must Read

It’s just not enough that a number of administration officials have been investigated for malfeasance; the Bush Administration takes it the extra mile. The man who’s charged with investigating some of that malfeasance is himself under investigation. And he’s clearly no slouch at malfeasance.

Scott Bloch heads the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), an odd little agency that was set up to police federal employees of infractions that do not rise to the criminal level. The OSC’s main brief is enforcing the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from using government resources for political ends (so Bloch should be a busy man). He’s also supposed to make sure whistleblowers do not suffer retaliation. The OSC reports to the White House.

Bloch himself has been under investigation since 2005 for a variety of infractions, including retaliating against employees who took issue with internal policies and discriminating against those who were gay or members of religious minorities. At the direction of the White House, the Office of Personnel Management’s inspector general has been pressing on with an investigation of Bloch.

Which makes this all the more curious. From The Wall Street Journal:

Recently, investigators learned that Mr. Bloch erased all the files on his office personal computer late last year. They are now trying to determine whether the deletions were improper or part of a cover-up, lawyers close to the case said.

Bypassing his agency’s computer technicians, Mr. Bloch phoned 1-800-905-GEEKS for Geeks on Call, the mobile PC-help service. It dispatched a technician in one of its signature PT Cruiser wagons. In an interview, [Bloch] confirmed that he contacted Geeks on Call but said he was trying to eradicate a virus that had seized control of his computer….

Mr. Bloch had his computer’s hard disk completely cleansed using a “seven-level” wipe: a thorough scrubbing that conforms to Defense Department data-security standards. The process makes it nearly impossible for forensics experts to restore the data later. He also directed Geeks on Call to erase laptop computers that had been used by his two top political deputies, who had recently left the agency….

Geeks on Call visited Mr. Bloch’s government office in a nondescript office building on M Street in Washington twice, on Dec. 18 and Dec. 21, 2006, according to a receipt reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The total charge was $1,149, paid with an agency credit card, the receipt shows. The receipt says a seven-level wipe was performed but doesn’t mention any computer virus.

Jeff Phelps, who runs Washington’s Geeks on Call franchise, declined to talk about specific clients, but said calls placed directly by government officials are unusual. He also said erasing a drive is an unusual virus treatment. “We don’t do a seven-level wipe for a virus,” he said.

The punchline to all this is that even if Bloch were a paragon of integrity, his investigations of administration wrongdoing would be nearly pointless. For instance, Bloch launched an investigation of General Services Administration chief Lurita Doan after she asked her fellow employees “How can we help our candidates?” The comments had come after a political briefing by Karl Rove’s aide. Bloch’s investigation concluded that Doan should be fired. But that was in June. Bloch made his recommendation to the White House, which has done nothing since. And as for Bloch’s wide-ranging probe of Karl Rove’s political briefings to federal officials throughout the government? Don’t count on any results. It’s enough to make a man cynical.