Watchdogs criticize possible sentence for ex-chief of whistleblower protection office

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Watchdog groups are criticizing a possible probation sentence for the former head of a whistleblower protection office who withheld information from Congress about files he ordered be erased from office computers.

Scott J. Bloch pleaded guilty in April to criminal contempt of Congress. His sentencing, originally set for Tuesday, was rescheduled for Friday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson in Washington after admitting to withholding information from House investigators about having private technicians “scrub” computer files at the Office of Special Counsel in December 2006. The files had been used by Bloch and other political appointees.

“Mr. Bloch, perhaps as well as anyone, should have known that the federal government cannot conduct proper investigations if witnesses intentionally and unlawfully withhold information pertinent to those investigations,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Glenn Leon wrote the judge this month.

While the charge carries a sentence of up to six months in prison, prosecutors did not object to Bloch’s request for probation, noting that he has no criminal history and faces a likely sanction on his ability to practice law. Bloch works at the Tarone & McLaughlin law firm in Washington.

But groups that advocate ethics in government say the single charge “understates the true scope and impact” of Bloch’s abuses.


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