Remember former U.S. Special Counsel Scott Bloch? Appointed under the Bush administration to head the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), which investigates federal whistleblower disclosures, Bloch quickly gained notoriety as a threat to the merit system and his own employees. Bloch was put under investigation in 2007, following a litany of allegations that he was pursuing personal political agendas over his mandate to protect whistleblowers. A quick and dirty attempt to wipe his own hands clean has landed him a month's worth of jail time, unless his own prosecutors give him a 'get out of jail free' card.
Last April, Bloch pleaded guilty to criminal contempt of Congress for withholding information from Congressional investigators. In 2006, he hired Geeks on Call to scrub his government-issued computer of evidence that he violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political activity. After Bloch withheld details from the House Oversight Committee of this evidential purging, a federal judge sentenced Bloch to a mandatory one-month minimum jail term.
Red flags went off in the whistleblower community earlier this month when Assistant U.S. Attorney Glenn Leon filed a motion for reconsideration to reduce Bloch’s jail term to probation. Bloch’s lawyers eagerly joined the motion. Apparently, Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson’s ruling threatened the plea deal that Bloch and his prosecutors arranged.
Last I checked, prosecutors don’t traditionally go out of their way, expending additional time and [taxpayer] resources, to soften a defendant’s sentencing. Its looks particularly bad when the defendant is responsible for having improperly closed countless whistleblower disclosures related to government corruption. It’s even harder to swallow when Justice is, on a parallel track, employing arcane secrecy laws such as the Espionage Act to criminally prosecute whistleblowers, including NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake. This DOJ seems to be sending the message that it’s a greater crime to report violations of civil liberties than to lie to Congress.
In light of DOJ’s recent motion – submitted just hours before Bloch was scheduled to be sentenced – an open-letter by the community of whistleblowers is calling for Attorney General Holder to recuse Mr. Leon and appoint a Special Prosecutor to this politically charged case. The letter asserts:
“Attorney General Holder, we have long waited for Mr. Bloch to be held accountable in a court of law. For too many of us, the erosion of the rule of law and ethical conduct in government came with a heavy price. With our whistleblowing activities, we sought, and continue to seek, a government of laws, not of men. Please help us restore this noble and long-standing principle by appointing a special prosecutor to lead .”
The sentencing has been rescheduled for March 10th at 2:30pm, DC Federal District Court. Instructions on filing a victim impact statement against former U.S. Special Counsel Scott Bloch can be found here.
Shanna Devine is Legislative Coordinator for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower advocacy organization.