Special Counsel Staff Feared Being Seen as 'Disloyal'

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The investigation into Special Counsel Scott Bloch is much broader than originally believed. Investigators are looking into whether Bloch abused his authority as the head investigator for government whistleblower claims. A grand jury issued at least 17 subpoenas and the first witnesses from the Office of Special Counsel are scheduled to testify on Tuesday.


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Michele Norris.

More details are coming out on the probe of the U.S. special counsel. Yesterday FBI agents raided the office of Scott Bloch. Now it appears the investigation is much broader than originally believed.

Investigators are looking into whether Bloch abused his authority as the head investigator for government whistle blower claims. The first witnesses from the office of special counsel are scheduled to testify before a grand jury on Tuesday.

Here's NPR's Ari Shapiro.

ARI SHAPIRO: When FBI agents showed up at Bloch's home and office yesterday, they carried a fistful of subpoenas. According to sources who've seen the documents, one demanded information about a 2004 investigation into Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Bloch concluded that Rice, who was then National Security adviser, did not misuse government money to campaign for President Bush's reelection. But career employees at the Office of Special Counsel say Bloch handled the investigation in an unusual way. He gave it to political appointees rather than the typical practice of leaving in the hands of career investigators. Then, employees say, Block purged computer evidence of what he'd done.

Another subpoena demanded information about Bloch's investigation of Lurita Doan. She's the chief of the General Services Administration who resigned under pressure last week, amid allegations that she abused her power to help her friends.

Agents also wanted information on a woman at OSC named Rebecca McGinley. According to a complaint that career attorneys have filed with the White House, OSC employees viewed McGinley as a spy who would report disloyalty to Bloch.

Travis Elliot used to work at OSC. He says he left after Bloch tried to force him into being reassigned to Detroit.

Mr. TRAVIS ELLIOT (Office of Special Counsel): The staff was really afraid to be viewed at all as disloyal for fear that they could be the next individual to be reassigned to Detroit, and in failing to take that, would be ultimately removed from their position. At some point, the atmosphere became so poisoned that it was literally impossible for people to complete their work.

SHAPIRO: The man leading this inquiry is has an unusual background for a prosecutor. James Mitzelfeld is a former reporter who won a Pulitzer Price with the Detroit News in the '90s. That was for his investigation of abuses at the state of Michigan's House Fiscal Agency. Now he's a prosecutor in Washington, investigating federal government abuses. Neither he nor Bloch have commented on the case, and nobody's been charged with a crime.

Scott Bloch had an autobiography in the works when yesterday's FBI raid took place. The book's working title: "Corruption in the Capital."

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Washington.

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Special Counsel Case May Extend Far Beyond Bloch

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The federal inquiry into Special Counsel Scott J. Bloch, who oversees protection for federal whistle-blowers, appears to be broader than originally believed.

Sources close to the investigation tell NPR that subpoenas issued Tuesday sought documents and information on a wide range of subjects, including a 2004 investigation into Condoleezza Rice, who was then President Bush's national security adviser and is now secretary of state.

FBI agents raided Bloch's home and office on Tuesday morning. The agents seized computers and shut down e-mail service as part of an obstruction of justice probe, as first reported by NPR News.

Multiple sources say a grand jury in Washington issued 17 subpoenas, including several for Office of Special Counsel employees. The sources described the investigation on condition that their names not be used.

The first OSC employees to appear before the grand jury are scheduled to testify next Tuesday.

One subpoena demanded information about Bloch's 2004 investigation into whether Rice violated the Hatch Act by using federal money to campaign for President Bush's re-election. Bloch found no wrongdoing by Rice.

Another subpoena focused on Lurita Doan, who resigned last week as head of the General Services Administration. Bloch's office had been investigating Doan. The White House asked her to resign amid accusations that she gave contracts to friends and abused her office for political purposes.

The man handling the OSC inquiry has an unusual background for a federal prosecutor: NPR has learned that James Mitzelfeld is the man who signed off on the subpoenas.

In 1994, Mitzelfeld won a Pulitzer Prize as a reporter for The Detroit News, where he uncovered spending abuses at Michigan's House Fiscal agency. Mitzelfeld went on to work in Detroit's U.S. attorney's office; he is now at the U.S. attorney's office in Washington, D.C.

Mitzelfeld also subpoenaed information about a woman at OSC named Rebecca McGinley. According to sources, the subpoena refers to a problem with compensatory time that McGinley logged during a special assignment a year and a half ago.

Despite the stream of subpoenas, no one has been charged with a crime in the case.

Bloch has been a controversial figure ever since taking over the Office of Special Counsel in 2004. One of his first official actions was to refuse to investigate any claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation.

When the news of his refusal was leaked to the press, career employees in his office say, Bloch blamed them for the leak. He retaliated, the employees said, by creating a new field office in Detroit and forcing them either to accept assignments there or resign.

The Office of Personnel Management's inspector general has been looking into allegations that Bloch retaliated against career employees and obstructed an investigation.

Bloch has admitted to hiring Geeks on Call — a computer servicing company — to purge his computer and two of his deputies' computers. But he said the computers contained a virus, which necessitated a purge. Investigators are looking into whether the purge was meant to destroy evidence related to the current investigation.

OSC employees for months have called on President Bush to ask for Bloch's resignation. The White House has declined to comment on the developments, as did Bloch's lawyers.



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