Bloch: Making Some Sense

I’m going to revise what I said yesterday when I suggested there was no method to Scott Bloch’s madness. After reading the longer document summarizing the Office of Special Counsel’s Task Force investigations, several key patterns stick out:

  • For investigations pertaining to DOJ, the Task Force’s investigations got caught up in the turnover between Alberto Gonzales and Michael Mukasey
  • For the investigations pertaining to the politicization of federal agencies, the Task Force was presented with real jurisdictional issues that presented challenges for the inevstigation

This doesn’t mean Bloch is a particularly good manager or investigator. It appears, rather, that he got in over his head when he attempted to take on this high level investigation in May 2007 and, certainly by November 2007, had made these investigations personal.


The timing reflected in the document reveals some of the problems with the Task Force itself. It was formed in May 2007 to conduct larger investigations–primarily the politicization of government agencies (arising out of Henry Waxman’s own investigation of Lurita Doan), and the politicization of DOJ. Thus, it was started after both those events had significantly played out and (in the case of DOJ) many of the players had quit. The Task Force also inherited a couple of investigations started earlier–primarily an investigation into Rove’s travel started in March 2006.

That means the Task Force didn’t really get started until June 2007. On August 27, 2007, Alberto Gonzales resigned. Michael Mukasey was nominated on September 17, 2007, and approved by the Senate on November 8, 2007. Then this document was drafted on January 18, 2008. So what we’re seeing in the document–particularly as it relates to anything pertaining to DOJ–are the activities taking place after the trauma resulting from the USA Purge and through the period of transition between Gonzales and Mukasey. This explains at least some of the issues surrounding the investigations into DOJ.

For example, OSC had already begun an investigation into the Iglesias firing on May 4, 2007. Remember–that investigation was originally started because the Administration stated publicly that they fired Iglesias because he was an "absentee landlord" because he traveled so much in connection with his service in the Naval Reserve. Firing Iglesias for such a reason would violate the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, which prohibits firing a service member for absences due to military service. Somehow, by May 17, the newly-created Task Force was also investigating his firing as a possible Hatch Act violation, and by May 22, it was investigating the firing of all the USAs. So the OSC took an investigation over which OSC had clear jurisdiction and broadened it into one in which it didn’t.

As early as May 4 (that is, even before the Task Force was created), this investigation conflicted with DOJ’s joint Inspector General (OIG)/Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) investigation into the firings. On May 4 and May 29, DOJ complained about jurisdictional issues, even involving unnamed people in Office of Legal Counsel (OLC).

Now, at this point, I don’t necessarily fault Bloch for pursuing this investigation. Alberto Gonzales was attempting to bury the investigation by giving OPR sole jurisdiction, meaning the investigators would report directly to him and not produce a public report. And given the crap that has come out of the Bush OLC, who knows what OLC was saying to Bloch to justify their argument that he should drop his investigation?

The problem, though, is that OSC only would have jurisdiction if Bloch could prove that an executive branch employee–as distinct from a legislative branch employee or a local politico–pressured the USAs to conduct politicized investigations. In other words, if it was clear that Monica Goodling was pressuring Iglesias et al to prosecute Democrats, then Bloch would have jurisdiction; but if Senator Domenici and Heather Wilson did so, Bloch wouldn’t have jurisdiction. And the only way Bloch might get evidence that executive branch employees were involved would be to get the kind of information that DOJ and–especially–the White House refused to turn over to Congress.

As it happens, OSC requested those documents on August 13, 2007, just two weeks before Gonzales resigned. DOJ didn’t turn anything over by the OSC due date, September 13, after Gonzales resigned and just after Mukasey was nominated. The Task Force and Bloch spent the next several months wavering about whether to negotiate cooperation with DOJ or whether to subpoena documents. By the time they actually got into a real conversation with the now-Mukasey led DOJ about cooperating on January 16, DOJ was (according to public reports) deep into an OIG-led investigation into the firings. Since this document was published on January 18, just two days after DOJ asked OSC once again to hold off, we don’t know from the document what has happened in the last four months.

Now, the timing concerning the politicized hiring (Monica Goodling’s "over the line" stuff and civil rights hiring) is a little more curious. The Task Force apparently did not consider investigating this crystal clear violation of the Hatch Act until August 20. For some indication of how late that was, I first figured out that Goodling was issuing loyalty oaths on March 29, and Goodling testified to "crossing the line" on May 23. Bloch told the Task Force not to open an investigation into the politicized hiring on August 29, just two days after Gonzales resigned. Now, it appears that OSC did not move on the investigation because of the DOJ investigation into these issues. But it also appears they were learning about the DOJ investigation second-hand, via David Iglesias. In other words, unlike with the USA purge investigation, Bloch did not choose to fight with DOJ over this investigation, even though this one fits more squarely into OSC’s jurisdiction.

That obviously ought to raise questions–why investigate the firings, when jurisdiction is a stretch, and not the hirings, where jurisdiction is clear? That’s where I stop understanding Bloch’s decision. Still, given all the rest of his decisions, it wouldn’t surprise me if he was just struggling to turn these investigations into something meaningful with little real consideration of what his real mandate was.

There are two more investigations that fall under this timing: Siegelman and Schlozman. Both, though, fall into that grey transition time between the resignation of Gonzales and the start of Mukasey. The Task Force started investigating the Siegelman case in September 2007, and was told not to convene the investigation in October 2007. The Task Force started investigating the Schlozman case in November 2007 and was told not to open a case a week later.


The decisions surrounding OSC’s investigation of the politicization of executive branch agencies seem to come from jurisdictional issues created by the way BushCo hid their politicization on the RNC server.

The short history of the OSC investigation into the politicization of executive branch agencies goes like this:

June 2007: The Task Force begins the investigation by requesting information from 25 executive branch agencies and the White House

September 2007: The Task Force begins to receive information in response to requests to agencies

October 2007: The Task Force receives information from White House

November 14, 2007: Bloch directs the Task Force to do some consolidation of investigations–and to close some other investigations

November 14, 2007: Bloch directs the Task Force to go after RNC emails–the Task Force registers an objection based on jurisdictional grounds

November 14, 2007: Bloch directs the Task Force to go after a large range of information wrt the Office of Public Affairs (Rove’s old shop)–"the Special Counsel wants us to draft a ‘hard hittting’ [request] that will explain everything there is to know about OPA"–the Task Force again expresses concerns about the breadth of the requests

November 21, 2007: Bloch tells the Task Force to request all grant awards–Task Force objects that there is no evidence that suggests such information is necessary

November 26, 2007: The Task Force begins to go after RNC emails released to Congress pertaining to the USA purge

November 28, 2007: WSJ reports on Office of Personnel Management investigation of Bloch (updated per WO’s comment)

December 14, 2007: The Task Force submits a draft subpoena for the RNC emails released to Congress pertaining to the USA purge

January 16, 2008: Bloch tells the Task Force to go much broader with its request for RNC emails–to cover 10 different topics

January 18, 2008 (the day this summary was completed): The Task Force subpoenas all RNC emails concerning grants and other executive branch agencies

I find this investigation a lot more curious than the investigations related to DOJ. At one level, after the OSC started receiving a bunch of information in November, it appeared that investigators judged there wasn’t much there, and got uncomfortable with the scope of the requests Bloch was forcing them to submit. That suggests that Bloch was determined to find something, even if there was no evidence there. At around the same time, Bloch was pushing the Task Force to push a second investigation into Lurita Doan, so it appears that in November, Bloch was desperate to prove that his signature investigations had real substance.

There’s one thing I don’t particularly buy about that reading, though. One of the biggest smoking guns from the Lurita Doan/GSA investigation was the treatment of email from Scott Jennings (Rove’s lackey) to Doan. The email, remember, went through the RNC server. And those involved wanted to keep it hush hush. In other words, BushCo deliberately tried to hide the way it was politicizing agencies by keeping all communication about it off of government servers.

Which is why I find the investigators’ proposed actions surrounding the RNC emails inexplicable. While I respect their contention that asking for all emails sent by OPA employees using the RNC server may be too much, I also think there’s ample reason to believe that those emails were deliberately used to hide stuff. And remember, we already knew by this time–in November 2007–that the RNC said it didn’t have a bunch of these. So part of me wonders whether the investigators–and not Bloch–were trying to cover up BushCo Hatch Act abuses. Add in the fact that the Task Force’s first request was even more inexplicable. How are emails turned over relating to the USA purge going to reveal anything about political briefings? In other words, after complaining that the Bloch’s request for emails from the RNC was too broad, investigators then tried to request only emails that had nothing to do with the subject of the investigation!

So I don’t know what to make of Bloch’s big requests in November 2007. On one hand, they appear to be the work of a man obsessed, who found nothing on first glance and then decided to make hugely ambitious requests. On the other hand, his investigators seem–either out of genuine concern for their jurisdiction or because they don’t want to find anything–unwilling to go after the most likely evidence of politicization.

And since they only made the big request from the RNC on January 18, 2008–the day this draft was written–we can’t tell from the document what happened after they made that request.

Update: I was too deep into the timeline of the document. As William Ockham points out, Bloch starts ramping up this investigation in November just as it becomes clear the Office of Personnel Management was investigating him. That doesn’t explain why his investigators wouldn’t pursue the most likely potential evidence of Hatch Act violations, but it does explain why he ramped up his investigations in November. Thanks WO.

Update: Spelling typo fixed per MadDog

130 replies
  1. AZ Matt says:

    An investigation to cover-up stuff. Remember the story The Purloined Letter? He was running in place, sweating alot but going nowhere.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    For Bloch to have jurisdiction for a Hatch Act violation, someone in the executive branch would have had to pressure the DOJ into its political firings/prosecutions?

    Bloch could have heard rumors of that from every other bar stool in DC. He would not have needed to look into legislative pressure, except to find out who Domenici talked to in the White House and what they did about it.

    What’s missing is why Bloch would have wanted to do that. He was a mid-level Bush appointee deemed reliable enought to be given control of a semi-independent office. He seems to have a track record of scuppering investigations into whistleblower complaints, with rumors that details of those complainants leaked to Cheney and others who had the greatest interest in silencing such critics.

  3. AZ Matt says:

    OT but of interest. From the Raw Story

    Plame files appeal to resurrect lawsuit against Bush Administration

    The lawyers for outed CIA officer Valerie Plame have filed suit in federal court to appeal a decision to quash her lawsuit against those in the Bush administration she says illegally outed her as a CIA operative in 2003.

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Quick OT, in Colbert’s interview with Arianna Huffington, she compared the war in Iraq to McSame’s little blue pills. Colbert’s reply:

    He has…I guess the warning on that should be, if your erection last more than a hundred years, pull out.

    (h/t thinkprogress)

  5. klynn says:

    Thanks for clarifying the Task Force doc and competing issues.

    This from NPR:

    Multiple sources say a grand jury in Washington issued 17 subpoenas, including several for Office of Special Counsel employees…

    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.

    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


    and this on Mitzelfeld:

    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.

    And it appears this is a Grand Jury formed irt IG OPM investigation, right?

    Can someone explain how IG, OPM and Mitzelfeld will work together?

    Will the depth of evidence gathered tie up other investigations or will it propel them forward?

    Anything in your local news on Mitzelfeld EW?

    • phred says:

      Here’s a wonderful article I found with teh Google. It gives a bit of insight into Jim Mitzelfeld, but it is primarily a piece on the declining quality of coverage that news organizations were giving to government, state governments in particular. What’s really interesting is the article was written in 1998 and refers to the decline in coverage beginning in the early 1990s — well before the toobz posed any threat at all to the MSM. Here’s a couple of about news coverage snippets…

      With some notable exceptions, newspapers are risking their credibility by failing to provide news that readers have demonstrated time and again they care about. But what may be most imperiled without a watchdog press is democracy.

      “They were having us crank out a daily story or two every day,” Mitzelfeld recalls. “They wanted them short–six, eight inches, 12 if we were lucky–and then a lot of them didn’t run.” He argued that it took more space to tell both sides of a complex issue. “There were times when they’d say, ‘We don’t have room for both sides, pick one side.’ ”

      And a couple more about Mitzelfeld…

      Still in his 20s and full of enthusiasm, Mitzelfeld made a strong impression on Charles Cain, the capital bureau chief. “He was driven,” Cain remembers. “He was persistent beyond compare… When he was on a story he could just be incredible.” One time, Mitzelfeld heard that some lobbyists were taking legislators on a retreat to Gulf Shores, Alabama. He shaved his beard, cut his hair, put on a baseball cap and shades so he wouldn’t be recognized–and turned up uninvited. He also took pictures, one of which showed a powerful Michigan lobbyist rubbing sunscreen on a legislator’s shoulders and back. Mitzelfeld thought it was “the quintessential lube job.”

      In 1994, Mitzelfeld was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for beat reporting. But by then he was no longer a newspaper reporter. “I got a sense that a lot of what I didn’t like about my job at that paper was happening at other papers,” he says, “and that’s part of why I got out.” He enrolled in the University of Michigan Law School. In October 1997, he began a new career as an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.

      I’m hopeful that Mitzelfeld is just as interested in ferreting out government corruption now as he was then. If so, I look forward to what may come from this investigation…

  6. WilliamOckham says:


    What I think you’re missing here is the fact that the WSJ story was published on Nov. 28, 2007 and Bloch knew it was coming because he is quoted in it. Did Bloch know the article was coming a week earlier when he told the Task Force to ask for all the travel records?

        • emptywheel says:

          Thank you kindly. Updated accordingly.

          Interesting thing though: what ramped up the OPM investigation between 2005 and November 2007? Who told them about the Geek Squad thing? Was Bloch after Rove specifically, or BushCo more generally?

          • WilliamOckham says:

            Well, I speculated on a earlier thread about this bit from the article:

            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.

            The agency that runs the federal government credit card program is, wait for it, the GSA.

            • klynn says:

              Just thinking out loud here…

              I’ve been wondering if he leaked a copy of the receipt himself? He did not seem too shaken when confronted on it.

              If you were trying to look “faithful” to Bush, which is an image Bloch portrayed, why not leak the receipt yourself? The, “Look boss, took care of the evidence. Willing to do your dirty laundry.” A ball and shell (forgive the reference) game to hide evidence on thumb drives…

              Anything else would make him a target for Bush and co. I think he knew that. If GSA leaked the receipt, of course he would have no ability to remain in Bush’s favor and I think he would have been “done in” a while ago. Knowing what he knew about Doan, don’t you think he would expect her to pull a stunt, like leaking that receipt?

              Although, he did come up with the amazing story, “It was to get rid of a virus.”

              Yeah, right. Virus.

          • Ishmael says:

            Welcome back! I was in the green hills of Vermont at the time you were in the green hills of Ireland….

            Still catching up on the Bloch timelines, and as you say, it is difficult to make sense of it all. What I am leaning towards is some kind of Operation Valkyrie among the Rethugs – Bloc was appalled by the worst excesses of Rove/BushCo and tried to take out Rove to preserve the party and the movement. Or not.

          • MadDog says:

            Who told them about the Geek Squad thing?

            I’ve been thinking about Bloch’s Geek Squad call a wee bit.

            Just what was the purpose of the service he requested?

            I know that it has been “reported” that Bloch had a virus infestation and wanted it removed, but was that really the purpose of the service request?

            Given the prominence of this “factoid” in all the press reports, as well as the apparent interest it has drawn from the investigators, it is highly likely that something other or more than virus removal was the main purpose.

            I do not believe it was scrubbing of Bloch’s emails since he’d not be in a position to scrub the email servers.

            So what was the real reason for the Geek Squad mission?

            My guess would be incriminating documents. Documents constructed by some other party.

            Stuff that Bloch wanted totally wiped from his hard drive, and I’m betting he had the Geek Squad re-do his system entirely.

            But those “documents” were most excellent “thumbscrews”, and appropriately, Bloch tucked them away on a Thumbdrive.

            Just my swag ramblings here. Nothing to see folks, so move along. *g*

              • MadDog says:

                Yeah, WO listed the correct company, “Geeks on Call”, in his # 10 while I was busy typing away. Can’t afford to refresh in the middle of long ramble. *g*

  7. maryo2 says:

    From the link @9 – Nov 28, 2007 “Mr. Rove has resigned from the White House and is no longer under jurisdiction of the Office of Special Counsel.”

    August 13, 2007 – Rove announced his resignation as White House deputy chief of staff effective Aug. 31. So his last day under OSC jurisdiction was August 31.

    • emptywheel says:

      I considered that. I’ve said repeatedly that they made the OSC investigation irrelvant (and the Goodling one too) once the offending parties resigned. But if Bloch were able to prove BushCo politicized govt agencies, it would be damaging for the Republicans as a whole. So I don’t think Rove’s non-jurisdiction made the investigation moot.

  8. JohnLopresti says:

    Maybe there is some interesting ancient background material in the transcript 60pp of Bloch’s nomination hearing at Senate Governmental Affairs, a committee since renamed and with multiple websites. I thought of Schlozman, too, as there is a striking physical resemblance between the two gentlemen, as if propinquity had bred some similarity in their respective visages. I was interested in the KS background he brought to the Capitol. Brownback was the homestate nominating senator. And there was some record of working both sides of the fence in employment law, and voting law. I also planned to evalute the Missouri region again and Thor Hearne’s effervescent appearances. The faith business was a controversial topic in 2005 in constitutional law discussion boards, and evidently Bloch was in that early; we know he led some of that program from DoJ. His formal prepared remarks at his hearing give prominence to his personal interest in Hatch act, as well as the quixotic Socrates as whistleblower; though the first link to the full transcript provides more nuance, here is the isolated abbreviated formal statement at the nomination hearing, regarding where he contemplated OSC should go, then 3 years into the post-sunset-of-the-IC-law. The sourcewatch profile has interesting hyperlinks, as well. Though I tend to agree, ew has placed Bloch at the unwitting center of a maelstrom of many budding scandals, certainly under a lot of pressure. Sen. Roberts approved of his nomination. I can see Bloch likely saw a lot more pushback from his OSC post than he could have imagined back in the days of the 108th congress when nominated.

  9. MadDog says:

    And since I’m a rambling kinda guy, let me continue…

    This is nothing but a total swag, minus any and all science, so caveat emptor!

    What if Bloch got a hold of some nasty, incriminating documents from someone. Let’s say a whistleblower even. *g*

    And what if Bloch decided to blackmail the party who constructed the document or who was made vulnerable in the document.

    And what if Bloch got back to the whistleblower who provided the document and blew him/her off with a “nothing can be done” response.

    And what if the whistleblower, who feared for his/her job, decided to say “Screw it!”, and called in the local federales?

    Or what if the target of the blackmail decided that while politically embarrassing, the underlying issue was not illegal, and decided to call in the local federales?

    Just swaggin’ away a Friday afternoon here. Nothing to see, so move along folks. *g*

    • WilliamOckham says:

      (wherein I prove I can be even swaggier that MadDog)

      Bloch’s charges for Geeks On Call were on Dec. 18, 2006 and Dec. 21, 2006. I started wondering if perhaps something happened around that time that might make him really nervous about having something on his computer. Searching through my ew archives, I came across this post on 12/14/2006 which references a WaPo article from the previous day about the ACLU being subpoenaed for the return of a document they got from a whistleblower. The feds claimed to be investigating an alleged Espionage Act violation.

      My completely-off-the-wall speculation is that maybe the whistleblower sent the document to Bloch and the ACLU. According to the ACLU, the document did look like it should have been classified and was only mildly embarrassing to the government. When Bloch saw the story in the press, he freaked and wiped his computer (and a couple of others in the office). That would fit with his authoritarian personality.

      • WilliamOckham says:

        oops. Obvious correction:

        document did look like it should have been classified

        should be:

        document did not look like it should have been classified

      • WilliamOckham says:

        Upon further examination, the document in question was declassified and published on 12/18/2006, so, unless Bloch was really clueless, I doubt this is it.

      • emptywheel says:

        Your instincts on this seem right on so far–but that ACLU document was one showing the DOD policy on picture taking in the military (its leak was so important bc it showed that DOD changed the policy in response to Abu G). I can’t imagine anyone–even a whistleblower, and there’d be no reason to whistleblow this, even in the context of the anti-torture law passed in 2005–giving that to Bloch without it also going to his subordinates.

          • Rayne says:

            subordinates = distlist managers OR authorized calendar managers

            Bet they had no idea. Bet he told them he thought he gave them a virus, too.

            • MadDog says:

              And just some more swagging on that “virus” excuse.

              This is a most unlikely explanation for Bloch having his and his subordinates (h/t WO!) computers wiped.

              It is highly likely that being a government-issued computer on a government-run network, that the computers at issue were running Enterprise versions of either McAfee or Norton Anti-virus packages.

              These are the most commonplace Enterprise Anti-virus packages and they do a pretty fair job. Not perfect mind you, but pretty fair.

              Both Enterprise version stop almost all of the commonplace viruses. To be infected, Bloch’s system would have had to been infected by one of the rarer viruses. That is most unlikely.

              I find it implausible to say the least that Bloch somehow got bit by one of these rare critters, and he had to have a seven-level wipe done on his computer to get rid of it.

              I’ve cleansed PCs of viruses many, many times over many years, and I’ve never had to wipe the hard drive and install all the software over again.

              Additionally, most organizations use “Imaging” software to reduce the time it takes to install a total system, and to ensure that every system installed in the organization is setup and configured identically according to the standards of the organization.

              A techie from “Geeks on Call” would not have access to the Master Image that would be required to reinstall Bloch’s system.

              A techie from “Geeks on Call” would not have the necessary Administrative privileges to successfully add Bloch’s reinstalled system back into the necessary Windows Server Domain.

              A techie from “Geeks on Call” would not have the proper information nor have the proper application software to reinstall Bloch’s system according to the organization’s standards.

              A techie from “Geeks on Call” would not have the government paid for Enterprise-level license information for either the Windows Operating System nor the Microsoft Office applications.

              I could go on, but nothing to see here folks. Just move right along. *g*

              • bobschacht says:

                How about this possibility? Suppose one of the staff made the mistake of getting into porn sites, and without realizing it, threw the doors of his/her computer to various worms, spyware, etc. Are there decent enterprise versions of Spybot, Ad-aware etc., and decent enterprise firewalls to protect against what porn sites will try to do to your computer? Including Registry corruption?

                If this were the case, he would not want to put on paper what the real problem was.

                That said, I prefer the other alternatives discussed in these comments.

                Bob in HI

                • MadDog says:

                  I thought the same thing and was going to throw it out as another swag, but…*g*

                  My thoughts were Bloch and Child Porn. He takes his government-issued laptop home and jumps off the proverbial cliff.

                  That would certainly make wiping the hard drive a must!

                  And the Federales are notorious for drift-netting via TSP-like Internet surveillance for anything resembling Child Porn. And Child Porn prosecution was AG Ashcroft’s reason for getting up in the morning.

                  The thing that doesn’t work is the fact that the Federales always make a big public to-do about nabbing Child Porn sleazeballs.

                  Their logic in holding press conferences was they’d publicly tar and feather the b*stards regardless of whether they got a conviction or not.

                  Hasn’t happened here, though an Administration linkage to Child Porn would certainly give the Federales pause.

                  • bobschacht says:

                    I thought the same thing and was going to throw it out as another swag, but…*g*

                    My thoughts were Bloch and Child Porn. He takes his government-issued laptop home and jumps off the proverbial cliff.

                    That would certainly make wiping the hard drive a must!

                    And the Federales are notorious for drift-netting via TSP-like Internet surveillance for anything resembling Child Porn. And Child Porn prosecution was AG Ashcroft’s reason for getting up in the morning.

                    The thing that doesn’t work is the fact that the Federales always make a big public to-do about nabbing Child Porn sleazeballs.

                    Their logic in holding press conferences was they’d publicly tar and feather the b*stards regardless of whether they got a conviction or not.

                    Hasn’t happened here, though an Administration linkage to Child Porn would certainly give the Federales pause.

                    Just a thought– around the time that Bloch decided he had to wipe those computers clean– were there any prominent Republicans who had just been indicted for child porn or (forgive the term) exposed for having been involved with it? That might have scared the bejeezus out of him.

                    Of course, reports that he thought his computer was being hacked would either heighten latent paranoia about being outed, but of course could also have made him worried about securing his computer from… those he was investigating?

                    But then if his chief job was to obfuscate and NOT investigate, why should that worry him?

                    He would only have had is paranoia trigger pulled if (a) he really was investigating someone powerful (like Rove), or (b) he was engaging in porn that he thought he could get away with, until finding out about high-publicity outings of members of Congress for engaging in porn or having the wrong thoughts about Congressional pages, etc.

                    Bob in HI

                    • MadDog says:

                      Just to show we are not alone in our suspicions:

                      Mr. Ausbrook. I mean, I explained it. And that is the issue raised in the chairman’s letter and the purpose of this interview is to discuss the potential erasure of files on the OSC laptop and what might have motivated that. And the question is whether any of the ‐‐ any uses that are not permissible would have been revealed in that laptop had the files not been erased.


                      Q Nine talks about, you know, inappropriate Web site visits.
                      A Right.
                      Q And to the best of your recollection, was your personal use of your government‐issued computer consistent with this policy?
                      A Yes.

                    • klynn says:



                      The U.S. Department of the Interior’s inspector general has released a report that says department employees are wasting their taxpayer-funded work time going to prohibited web sites. Some of these sites relate to sex, computer games, gambling and auctions. The study found that almost $2 billion a year in productivity was being lost to these ‘excessive indulgences.’”

                    • MadDog says:

                      If you worked as a researcher, you’d probably have as much money as Bill Gates. *g*

                      And I’ve got a suggested name for your own personal website: “”

                    • klynn says:

                      I would need a great tech consulting team to get me out of those “connecting” glitches to the best blog on the web.

                    • bobschacht says:

                      Watergate heat began with a “third rate burglary” that brought down a president.

                      Wouldn’t it be ironic if Bush & Cheney were brought down, not by one of the myriad crimes they have committed, but by an investigation that started out as an attempt to find out if an employee of the DOJ was engaging in child pornography?

                      Sigh. Sorry. Wishful thinking again.

                      Bob in HI

      • JimWhite says:

        Perhaps Bloch received some information from Flynt Leverett that he later decided to purge. At least the timing fits and it appears that Leverett’s complaint could be seen as falling into another investigation of politicization of an official function:

        Since leaving government service in 2003, I have been publicly critical of the Bush administration’s mishandling of America’s Iran policy — in two op-eds published in the New York Times, another published in the Los Angeles Times, an article published earlier this year in The American Prospect, and a monograph just published by The Century Foundation, as well as in numerous public statements, television appearances, and press interviews.

        All of my publications on Iran — and, indeed, on any other policy matter on which I have written since leaving government — were cleared beforehand by the CIA’s Publication Review Board to confirm that I would not be disclosing classified information.

        Until last week, the Publication Review Board had never sought to remove or change a single word in any of my drafts, including in all of my publications about the Bush administration’s handling of Iran policy. However, last week, the White House inserted itself into the prepublication review process for an op-ed on the administration’s bungling of the Iran portfolio that I had prepared for the New York Times, blocking publication of the piece on the grounds that it would reveal classified information.

        This claim is false and, I have come to believe, fabricated by White House officials to silence an established critic of the administration’s foreign policy incompetence at a moment when the White House is working hard to fend off political pressure to take a different approach to Iran and the Middle East more generally.

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        Wm O –
        That would have been within a few weeks of the USAGs being fired, wouldn’t it?

        SaltInWound –
        FWIW, I took some time to update the Alice FISHER and Alice MARTIN relationships and left an update on the bottom of the previous thread. I think that I have them sorted — Alice Fisher definitely ties in with Bloch in multiple ways, IMHO. But so does Alice Martin.

        I thought the timing on that POGO doc was intriguing, so am really glad to see EW track it down. Look forward to reading it later.
        Qu for klynn: I find it weird that Olmert is being ousted; what’s with the timing? And why are the Bushies throwing him under the bus? See paragraph 2:…..lmert.html
        FWIW — In “Fall of the House of Bush“, Craig Unger points out that Bill Clinton’s ability to move Israeli/Palestinian peace talks forward were killed when Rabin was assassinated. In addition, almost immediately Clinton was hit with the Lewinsky scandal, which diverted him from anything other than ’survival mode’ and made it impossible for him to move MidEast peace process forward.
        Now, I don’t know whether the ‘peace talks’ mentioned in this article about Olmert are legit diplomacy, or whether they’re kabuki. But it is evocative of Clinton being sabotaged by an ‘investigation’, which put peace talks on the back burner.
        Deja vu all over again…?
        If so, then who wants peace talks to stop? And why are they willing to take out Olmert? Is any of this linked to AIPAC? To the plans to attack Iran? (Many parties must have an interest in keeping the pot boiling.)
        Don’t expect you to have answers, but it seems like the Olmert news must fit in with some of your other links.

        • klynn says:


          I’ve been looking into his five other corruption charges. This makes six. All with interesting timing. Add to it that his “weakened status” wrt the new corruption charges adds to what some see as a weak leader irt peace talks (both pro and con peace talks groups) and there is some frustration with his Abbas talks this past week.

          There are many levels to what is going on, as you are questioning. The peace process, 60 Anniversary, Bush visit next week…As for AIPAC? Goodness. Where. To. Start.

          I’ll try to pull more together for you.

          In the meantime, this Juan Cole post from last year might perk your ideas as far as connections and what is going on right now:

    • Rayne says:

      Yeah. That occurred to me, too, but I’ve been too tied up to say that.

      Might explain the body search; maybe somebody got pissed off at being over a barrel and knew there were documents undeleted somewhere…

      • MadDog says:

        Might explain the body search; maybe somebody got pissed off at being over a barrel and knew there were documents undeleted somewhere…

        I wanted to get back to you on this point.

        Folks, you don’t do a body cavity search on white-collar types.

        A body cavity search is for terrorists and hard-core jailbirds. Looking for weapons, drugs even, but not computer files. Sheesh!

        That the FBI did this to Bloch, and at his work place, was to send a fookin’ message!

        And that message was pure intimidation!

        • Rayne says:

          Did they actually do a “body cavity search”, or only a “body search”? I tend to think they frisked him for the drive…

          But here’s where it gets weird for me; don’t they have metal detectors now at every federal facility at points of entry?

          • Minnesotachuck says:

            Did they actually do a “body cavity search”, or only a “body search”?

            On an EW thread yesterday someone suggested it was likely that they found the drive either in a pocket or around his neck on a lanyard, which is a common way of carrying them.

            • Rayne says:

              Damn, that’s the second time Ari’s not covered the amount of detail necessary to do a good job.

              Remember the first hearing about the USA’s? Ari mentioned the handouts — and then never got one.

  10. WilliamOckham says:

    and before you ask here’s the quote and link:

    Bloch has admitted to hiring Geeks on Call — a computer servicing company — to purge his computer and two of his deputies’ computers, sources said.

  11. maryo2 says:

    Trying to figure out what is Rep. Davis’ interest in protecting Lurita Doan is, I found that he has a history. Did his and ICG’s (a lobbying firm) efforts get some contracts through Doan? This article is PACKED full of what Davis has done; and it is a lot.

    July 28, 2006 –…..01846.html

    • emptywheel says:

      Don’t forget that Davis was NRCC chair in the early Bush years and has admitted that the kind of campaign-related travel schedules went on under him, too.

  12. WilliamOckham says:

    btw, it’s the purging of his subordinates’ computers that has always confused me about this. It indicates that the data he was desperate to delete was work-related in some way, but either he’s counting on his underlings to keep their mouths shut (unlikely), they didn’t understand the value of what was deleted, or it really was unrelated to all this.

    • maryo2 says:

      Sorry, that didn’t make sense.

      from link above – “Two months before Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) became chairman of the powerful House Government Reform Committee in January 2003, one of his close friends [Donald W. Upson] formed ICG Government, a consulting company for technology firms seeking government contracts.”

      “Prior to his appointment as Virginia’ s Secretary of Technology, Mr. Upson was Vice President of Business Development for Litton PRC, a leading government systems integrator headquartered in Virginia.. Joining the company in 1992, his responsibilities included marketing and media, government affairs and strategic alliances.”

      PRC Inc was bought by Litton, and Litton was bought by Northrop Grumman.

      12/22/00 – “Litton, based in Woodland Hills, Calif., had announced Dec. 5 it was reorganizing PRC Inc., its IT subsidiary, creating three divisions which, along with Litton TASC, would form the corporation’s Information Systems Group.”

  13. WilliamOckham says:

    I hadn’t noticed that Davis released the transcript of a staff interview of Bloch done on March 4, 2008. It’s pretty interesting.

      • WilliamOckham says:

        It must be the new widescreen 22-inch monitor. Makes it easier to compare information from multiple sources.

        • WilliamOckham says:

          Actually, to Bloch, maybe it does. He displays a charming naivete about computers. To wit:

          Q The documents in your C drive, though, are certainly accessible by the IT folks on the network, right?
          A No.
          Q You don’t think they are?
          A Not on the C drive.  They can’t just get at them from the network.
          Q Okay.
          A Unless, you know, they do some kind of hacking.  But I don’t even know how that works.  

    • klynn says:

      My reply @ 24 was in relation to this interview. When I read it earlier, I interpreted his answers as lacking any uneasiness wrt wiping the hard drive. That is why I wondered if he possibly leaked the Geeks receipt.

      I know, crazy.

  14. maryo2 says:

    “I think you’d be hard pressed to say that we started to take sides in something in any kind of manner, undue manner, where we used the power of this committee to alter a decision that was against the interests of the American people or the taxpayers ,” Davis said

    Note he didn’t end the sentence at “decisision” but has rationalized that the committee can do whatever it wants as long as they think it is in the interest of the American people or taxpayers.

    He probably even has a different definition for “taxpayer” than one would think. To him taxpayer = corporations, so his committee can do anything in the interest of people or corporations.

  15. emptywheel says:

    No, I take that back. I think he believed he was being tapped:

    And they told me about the solution that was provided and that they also ‐‐ that they could come in, clean your computer, make sure there was no problems on the hard drive, give you an encrypted flash drive, and they had, you know, software to do all this and give this encrypted flash drive and this no one could hack into because it being encrypted.

    • phred says:

      Yep. It certainly reads as if he thought someone was actively messing with his system.

      I’m a bit suspicious of his unwillingness to name his friend who put him in touch with Geeks. Either, there was no friend and he found Geeks in the Yellow Pages (since he doesn’t appear to have the tech savvy to manage Google) or his friend was a boyfriend/girlfriend he doesn’t want people to know about, or he talked to a pal at NSA or something.

      But, what really strikes me about this is the gross incompetence of the IT group. If I worked in IT anywhere in the executive branch, I would be chomping at the bit to give my two cents to the grand jury. They must be getting seriously tired of being endlessly portrayed as a bunch of bumbling nincompoops.

        • phred says:

          Yep. Did you catch the “private” material he referred to, which he then tried to pass off as “personnel” related? Unfortunately, “personal” and “personnel” are homonyms so it may be a transcription thing, but here the distinction could be important.

        • MadDog says:

          I was thinking that the “friend” he talked to got a whole paranoid earful from Bloch about “people are watching me, snooping my computer, reading my mind…”, and Bloch may have even been right. *g*

  16. Rayne says:

    THAT’S IT.

    He used an encrypted secure USB drive…and they knew it. They COULD SEE IT on the network, probably ran up a flag.

    He also knew damned well they could see his hard drive and knew the content on it, because their backup systems and network monitoring were probably more advanced than the POS system at EO-OA.

    The problem would be the encrypted device; the network monitoring could likely see it since they obviously didn’t have the USB ports disabled on computers. (If it were my network, I’d certainly be watching for the use of such devices.)

    They’ll use national security as the argument against him claiming loss of classified data if necessary.

    Just hope to God he didn’t get a secure device with biometric protection.

    • JimWhite says:

      Just hope to God he didn’t get a secure device with biometric protection.

      Yup, that ’splains why gummint has been insisting on backdoors on all that encryption stuff.

      Would he be able to use a fifth amendment defense against a court order for using his “thumb” to open the drive?

      • Rayne says:

        He probably forfeited that right as part of any security clearance he signed, probably has fingerprints on file anyhow. But it would have been a very ugly, awkward moment for him if he’d been asked to scan in to open the drive.

        There is the possibility this was more banal; maybe like that IronKey device to which I linked, he was using it for inappropriate surfing. But that just doesn’t seem to fit here; on the other hand, they could use that against him, claim that he was doing it.

      • scribe says:

        As to being compelled to use his thumb to open a biometric device, there are case decisions coming down both ways on that very issue. The caselaw is pretty well-established that the 5th Amendment allows one to refuse to tell a password or combination (b/c that would require one to speak or communicate) but, OTOH, you cannot refuse to turn over a physical key. Which is why one should get combination locks rather than keyed locks.

        The thumbprint is somewhere in between and courts are struggling with it.

        Also, why has no one bothered to mention the cavity searches he was put through when they were executing the warrants the other day. The gov’t wants that flash drive.

  17. Rayne says:

    Forgot to add: Bet you he had content that was “disappearing” off his hard drive — and he put a stop to that.

    It would look like a worm, or you could describe it as such, since the content would be there and then it wouldn’t. But he knew it wasn’t a worm, because the content was targeted and specific.

    • phred says:

      I think you got something there Rayne, that makes a lot of sense to me. IT wasn’t incompetent, he didn’t trust them. Someone put him on to the notion of encrypted harddrives and all hell broke loose.

  18. Rayne says:

    What the hell was OSC 2000? when was it installed?

    We also need to look more closely at Bloch’s background; this guy knew enough to ask an expert, because even the average moderately techie dude is not going to suggest an encrypted drive.

    Was Bloch walking a fine line?

      • Rayne says:

        I don’t think he meant that at all, since he pointedly said :document control system.” That’s definitely not an office suite; he may not entirely understand it since he didn’t call it a “content management system” or a “document management system”, which would be a more likely description in enterprise environments. Suggests to me that whatever it was might have been partially customized for the DOJ or other .gov entity.

      • scribe says:

        I thought OSC 2000 might have been a sexy name for something like a customized document management program, i.e., “Office of Special Counsel 2000″, but that’s just speculation on my part.

        • MadDog says:

          Or you could read this link:

          OSC tracks its workload across different case types through its computerized system, known as “OSC 2000.” This system is designed to capture and record data on all case types from the initial filing of the complaint, disclosure, or request for advisory opinion, until closure and archiving of the file.

  19. phred says:

    Jeebus, did NONE of the political appointees in this administration receive a briefing on records retention??? I’m beginning to think it was on purpose ; )

  20. WilliamOckham says:

    Reading over his testimony, I’d say that Bloch is pretty much a technopeasant. Listen to his description of the issues he was having:

    That is to say, you know, you would have one e‐mail bounce back; a little frustration. The next thing that would happen is the computer would start flashing and doing funny things and then more e‐mails would bounce. And then, you know, after that e‐mails would disappear, you don’t know what happened. And with each progressive kind of incident, there would be more discussion and more frustration of why don’t we know what this is, why can’t we just deal with this like we do everything else, just fix it.

    And answers weren’t forthcoming, I didn’t have a sense that it was getting better, it was actually getting worse until the actual failure of the computer crashed and everything was gone.

    Then when his computer crashed, here’s what he did:

    What happened was it just started spewing ‐ it went black, the screen went black and then it just started spewing information up and down, just rolling like some kind of spy movie. And I’m looking at this wondering what has happened. And I’m pushing buttons, I’m punching, I’m rebooting, I’m doing anything I know how to do, you know, and the thing is going, it’s gone, I mean, there’s just things spewing.

    He did absolutely the worst thing you can do when your Windows machine bluescreens. Then he wonders why his tech guys stayed there all night trying to recover his files. When they get him a new machine, he can’t deal with it and demands his old machine back. I bet he wasn’t the IT dept’s favorite customer

    • Rayne says:

      But at no point do these guys say, “Hey, it’s a motherboard problem,” or “Maybe it’s the wiring harness,” or any other problem that might cause this mess. They continue to plug away at getting to the content on the drive.

      WTF? There is no effing way that I’d have let a tech go more than 4 hours on a laptop without insisting on a complete rebuild. We’re talking serious time and money, lost opportunity cost; these guys either knew something fricking serious was going on with the data, or they were incompetent. I lean toward the fricking serious part, because even an incompetent tech wouldn’t sacrifice a night’s sleep over a fried motherboard.

      Where’s the chat with Wing Leung? I’ll bet you there is one somewhere already. Wing might actually have referred him to an external source since the by-the-book solutions would have exposed Bloch to more problems — and Bloch may have shielded him.

    • scribe says:

      To be fair, as head of the office it’s not really his job to be totally immersed in dealing with all sorts of computer issues. It’s his job to be in charge and have things work properly so he can be in charge.

      Frankly, just about everyone outside of (a) highly tech savvy people and (b) prior victims of the Blue Screen of Death (which would include everyone in (a)) would likely do what he did when the machine went nuts.

      And, yes, I think someone was hacking his system and he knew something was wrong, even if he wasn’t tech-savvy enough to recognize it as a hack in progress.

    • Leen says:

      technopeasant I am in that club

      ew team
      thanks for helping some of the peasants understand.

  21. MadDog says:

    This part from Bloch’s transcript is most curious:

    Q So was your discussion with Pavel the first time you heard this term, seven level wipe?
    A Oh, I don’t know. I could have heard it from the person that gave me the name of whoever was, you know, supposed to provide a solution.
    Q The friend who provided you the contact?
    A Yeah, yeah. I know that he talked about they’re experts at this or they know how to do this and they’ve got special software, and they have an encrypted flash drive they’ll give you. He may have talked about that seven level wipe.

    My cynical read is that Bloch laid out his desperate desire to permanently erase some stuff on his hard drive to his “friend” and he was told that the only way to ensure that someone couldn’t reconstruct the data was to use this “seven level wipe”.

    Bloch seems to be trying to give the appearance that the idea for the permanent deletion did not come from him, but he also doesn’t seem to lie very well.

    It’s as if Bloch is thinking that if I say “I could have heard it from the person…”, that would be weasely enough to deter a fookin’ jury!

    I’m betting his “friend” might not testify to being the person who suggested wiping the hard drive, and instead, lay it right back on Bloch!

    • Rayne says:

      His “friend” was a tech. He’s using the term that we’d give lay people, “seven level wipe” versus “military wipe”.

      And the same friend referred him to an encrypted USB. Not exactly the first thing you grab off the shelf at BestBuy. Possible, but not the first.

      Where’s the receipt for the drive?

  22. klynn says:


    Any idea about the other subpoenas? I only know about three out of the seventeen.

    Are you sensing the investigation is in safe hands?

    WO @65

    That part of the interview is what I took as lacking any uneasiness. A typical, non-techie response/panic.

    He never went to any great lengths to hide the fact he called Geeks or their wiping of the hard drive, even before this intereview.

    I am not a tech person. That being said, as I read this, I heard someone speaking between the lines trying to say he could never do his investigation with any sense of security. I sensed he wanted that message known.

    By the way, a bigger hidden story brewing in December of 2006 was the House of Death story. That would point to the Texas office being raided.

    Guardian covered the story well while the MSM missed it:……davidrose

    • MadDog says:

      Nice dot connection klynn!

      That first killing threw the Ice staff in El Paso into a panic. Their informant had helped to commit first-degree murder, and they feared they would have to end his contract and abort the operations for which he was being used. But the Department of Justice told them to proceed.

    • phred says:

      I agree that he thought he was being spied on and that an encrypted drive would solve that problem. It’s also handy that Pavel was not the name he was given — makes it harder to work backward to identify the friend who gave the original name.

      I’m curious whether anyone else got the sense that the minority/Republican lawyers are absolutely desperate to get their hands on whatever it is that Bloch has. They don’t seem to know what he’s got, but reading through that part of the transcript left me with the impression that they are seriously worried about what he might have.

      • emptywheel says:

        I’m not sure–I think they may just be interested in having it exposed, if for no other reason then it’ll end his investigation into their own politicized abuse of govt.

  23. MadDog says:

    And another “curious” explanation from Bloch’s transcript:

    Q So you ‐‐ I take it you continued to add files to this flash drive?
    A Yes. I found it very useful, not only as a solution to the problem that I was having, but also as a useful tool to be able to take documents with me, you know, like go on trips. I give speeches, PowerPoint presentations. If I have a need to look at, you know, congressional matters or public affairs issues or, you know, legal memoranda or reports of investigations or whatever, I take them with me, look at them and, you know, it’s a very useful tool.

    Bloch had a laptop, and he took that with him on his trips!

    Even a non-techie would be able to figure out that Bloch had access to his documents on his laptop, so the explanation why he needed a flash drive is totally bogus.

    Does Bloch really think he’s fooling these folks?

  24. JimWhite says:

    So now I’m wondering. Is the information on the thumb drive something we want the “government” to have so that a crime can be prosecuted, or is this information that will very soon be gone forever, and whatever the case was, we will never know? I really hate that I can no longer assume that those acting on behalf of the government are acting in the name of justice.

    • phred says:

      I wonder if this is why the Republican lawyers seem so worried. The guy who signed off on the search warrants (Mitzelfeld) has a history of going after corruption, both as a reporter and as a prosecutor. He started at DoJ in 1997, so is not likely to be a loyal Bushie.

      So, in MadDog’s fine Friday tradition of WAGing, here’s mine… Bloch is a loyal Bushie, but came into possession of some handy information, a little job security if you will. A whistleblower got tired of waiting for Bloch to do something about something, so went to the FBI/DOJ. Mitzelfeld appears to be pursuing whatever the something is, but now the Republicans (Tom Davis in particular) are frantic that Bloch will let something really damaging out of the bag.

      So from this point of view, neither Bloch nor BushCo (including Davis) are on the side of the good, even though they are on opposite sides. Here’s hoping the Mitzelfeld, is on the side of the good… still that remains to be seen.

    • emptywheel says:

      Damn good question. In either case, we want it public. If he’s hiding the way he persecuted gays in his department, we want that known. If he’s hiding that he spiked an investigation into Condi, we want to know that.

  25. klynn says:

    The House of Death story dates back earlier but much was breaking on the story in 2006

    back towards the beginning:



    Yes, I got that sense irt the minority lawyers. Gosh, I wonder why Waxman was not there…Curious…

    • phred says:

      Gosh, I wonder why Waxman was not there…Curious…

      Waxman was represented by…

      Mr. Leviss. On behalf of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, I thank you for joining us today. My name is David Leviss. I’m a senior investigative counsel with the majority staff of the Committee. I’m accompanied today by Kristin Amerling, who is chief counsel with the majority.

    • maryo2 says:

      That link says evidence disappeared – a recorded phone call and more – from the DEA office in El Paso. Do these two women at ICE fall under Bloch’s whistleblowing jurisdiction?

      It says “The dysfunction that defined the ICE El Paso office is revealed in litigation filed by two ICE employees: Renae Baros, an investigative assistant, and Anita Trujillo, a special agent in El Paso just prior to the House of Death murders. Both Hispanic women accused ICE management of discrimination and retaliation and of fostering a hostile workplace.”

  26. klynn says:

    Narco News has been covering the House of Death mass murder story for more than two years. From the first story in the series, published in April 2004, law enforcement sources and later public documents have made it clear that a U.S. government informant participated in dozen or more murders in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, with the knowledge of U.S. law enforcers and prosecutors.

    Officials with the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), for whom the informant (Guillermo Ramirez Peyro) worked, and prosecutors with the Department of Justice, who were charged with trying the case against the narco-trafficker at the center of the House of Death, have continued to either deny their complicity in the murders or simply refuse to comment on the case.

    However, yet another document has come to light that supports Narco News’ version of the House of Death story and casts serious doubts on the U.S. government’s continued whitewashing of the facts in this case.


    • MadDog says:

      The Mayberry Mafia, as Junya, Fredo, Turdblossom et al. were derogatively known, was supposed to be a joke, but it maybe the joke is on us:

      Meanwhile the El Paso Ice office reported the matter to headquarters in Washington. The information went up the chain of command, eventually reaching America’s Deputy Assistant Attorney General, John G. Malcolm. It passed through the office of Johnny Sutton, the US Attorney for Western Texas – a close associate of George W. Bush. When Bush was Texas governor, Sutton spent five years as his director of criminal justice policy. After Bush became President, Sutton became legal policy co-ordinator in the White House transition team, working with another Bush Texas colleague, Alberto Gonzalez, the present US Attorney General.

      Earlier this year Sutton was appointed chairman of the Attorney General’s advisory committee which, says the official website, ‘plays a significant role in determining policies and programmes of the department and in carrying out the national goals set by the President and the Attorney General’. Sutton’s position as US Attorney for Western Texas is further evidence of his long friendship with the President – falling into his jurisdiction is Midland, the town where Bush grew up, and Crawford, the site of Bush’s beloved ranch.

  27. maryo2 says:

    I don’t know if this is related to 76 and 79, but earlier today looking at Rep. Davis’ interest in Doan, I found that PRC Inc. had provided technical support to the El Paso Intelligence Center in 2000. It was a DEA contract. See my 41 above for more on PRC Inc.

  28. MadDog says:

    And this is another curious Q&A from Bloch’s transcript:

    Q Was OSC counsel involved in the decision to, or in the discussion about whether to bring an outside contractor in to service an OSC computer?
    A That is possible. I don’t remember.

    That the Congressional questioners were asking this question tends to lead me to believe that, yes, the OSC counsel was indeed involved.

    Kinda strange to involve the OSC counsel in a purely technical computer issue, wouldn’t you agree? *g*

    • Rayne says:

      Unless that’s an insinuation that OSC-counsel made the decision and OSC-counsel knew about the problem.

      The description of the OSC 2000 sounds not unlike the Lotus Notes system that a certain Fortune 100 company’s legal dept. used to handle case management; nothing went in or out without an audit trail and version control.

      But could one copy content from OSC 2000 without detection, if OSC 2000 tracked deletions and additions?

      • phred says:

        And of course this brings all of us right back to backups. If Bloch wiped his machine and two others and the Feds want those files, they should be easily retrieved from archives. Oops, what was I thinking — not in BushWorld ; ) So if Bloch really does have the only copy(ies) of something interesting, then somebody else got rid of the backups/archives.

      • MadDog says:

        But could one copy content from OSC 2000 without detection, if OSC 2000 tracked deletions and additions?

        As members in good standing of our illustrious technology workforce, we both know that there are ways…to escape technology detection. *g*

        And no, we don’t plan on spilling our black art secrets, not even to our bestest friends here at Emptywheel’s. *g*

  29. maryo2 says:

    Limb walk – Has the US renditioned a Mexican citizen in the WOT?

    BushCo has been desparate to say that terrorists are crossing borders from Mexico into the US, but they have not been able to prove it. When BushCo couldn’t find evidence linking 9-11 to Iraq, a bunch of people ended up being tortured in black sites.

  30. maryo2 says:

    Is the Dallas field office the nearest OSC field office to El Paso? Did Bloch transfer an employee down to Dallas to be nearer to that ICE discrimination investigation?
    “Last month [i.e. January 2005], Scott Bloch, the Bush-appointed Special Counsel, abruptly ordered 12 headquarters employees, on penalty of removal, to relocate to Dallas, Oakland and a newly created Detroit field office.”

    • phred says:

      Even if he did, the 12 appeared to be unwilling to be reassigned, and all preceded Bloch’s arrival at OSC. None of these people would have been going there to act in El Paso on Bloch’s/BushCo’s behalf.

  31. Rayne says:

    Uhm-hmm. There’s so many gaping holes here, need more data.

    Let’s flip this the other direction: what if Bloch tried to wipe stuff out of OSC 2000, not by using Delete but by launching a worm, and it blew up on him?

    Might he have done this because of content like the gag order he sent to his department, along with the no-bid contracts referred to in the article that mary02 links above? What if it doesn’t work, and he has to wipe his two closest henchmens’ PC’s, too, since they likely contain distlist/calendars associated with these items?

    Hate this, that it could go either way.

  32. klynn says:

    Right now, I’m just hoping the raid happened to preserve data, not to collect “starts” for a Texas bbq this weekend.

  33. klynn says:

    More on House of Murder case from December 2006:


    The El Paso Times reported the following on the incident:

    U.S. law enforcement agencies were informed by their Mexican counterparts that a man found murdered in Juarez last month had the bloodied business cards of two U.S. agents taped to his forehead.

    … The man had the cards of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Raul Bencomo and of a DEA agent with the first name of Todd stuck to his forehead with masking tape.

    Warning the story is graphic:


    Karen Tandy, the administrator of the DEA, was a no-show in federal court earlier this week in Miami where she had been slated to testify in the employment discrimination trial of DEA whistleblower Sandalio Gonzalez.

    Tandy had earlier provided a deposition in Gonzalez’ lawsuit, but also was scheduled to testify at the trial itself, which got underway on Monday, Dec. 4. But at the last minute, she decided not to show up to testify.

    Gonzalez, former special agent in charge of DEA’s El Paso field division, in February 2004 wrote a heartfelt letter to his counterpart at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in El Paso. In that letter, Gonzalez expressed his outrage at the role ICE and a U.S. prosecutor in El Paso had played in enabling a government informant to participate in multiple murders at the House of Death in Ciudad Juarez.

    This story is a whistle blowers worst nightmare… I’ll link a summary and the latest this past month…

  34. JimWhite says:

    I was away for the discussion about body search vs. body cavity search, but it occurs to me that an alternate term for thumb drive is flash drive. Gives the term an entirely new meaning.

  35. Rayne says:

    Could be something that stupid, just child porn. Just.

    On the other hand, could be he was trying to daytrade on info, too — not illegal, but nasty optics.

    If he used something akin to that IronKey USB device, he’d not only have encrypted the drive against others’ access even on the network, but he could use the browser on the drive to perform all his surfing.

    Except that the sites he visited would be entirely obvious to the IT folks as they’d appear in the netlogs — and I don’t buy that Bloch was that naive that he wouldn’t know that.

    So I don’t think child porn or porn in general is what they are looking for on that drive.

  36. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Does the Dallas office that reports to Bloch pose any threat to that buddy of Bush’s who’s the USAG? There’s an awful lot of money going across the border near El Paso; as well as an awful lot of money in DEA contracts – as mary02 points out.

    Some enterprising novelist could use this thread as the plot for a thriller.

    • klynn says:

      Bill Conroy’s series on the House of Death over the past four years has been beyond plot thriller…When you read it and find he makes connections to Columbia and beyond, words fail and comprehension seems pale to the reality.

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        Yeah, even what I read at the Guardian site turned my stomach. Perhaps I’ll follow those links to narco over the weekend; you’ve raised my interest. Thx, also for the superb link to that Juan Cole article; fits with some other info that I’d run across but it’s all conjecture from where I sit.

        Would the NIE release in Dec 2007 be at all relevant for Bloch’s hard drive erasures?

        Oct 26, 2007 McConnell reverses existing policies of releasing NIEs. He says that NIEs will **not** be publicly released.

        Dec. 3, 2007 NIE released (surprise!) probably as a martial-arts-like reverse-turn from sources inside CIA who are p*ssed over the fact that Cheney/WH has kept it buried for over a year, plus they got burned in 2003.

        The only item relevant to the NIE that comes under Bloch’s jurisdiction would be GSA contracts. The USAG, Siegelman, Guitierrez, and Bishopic don’t seem relevant to the NIE kerfuffle.
        However, GSA contracts could be quite relevant.

        Don’t want to send anyone down rabbit warrens; just a random thought in case others have more info to add.

  37. Hmmm says:

    It sure seems to me that if Bloch was blabbing on the record about how nifty USB drives are way back in January, then he’d be an exceptionally inept info-criminal if he were still carrying whatever that super-secret of his is around his neck in a USB drive four months later. I smell misdirection. If Bloch has squirreled away top-secret whistleblower evidence — maybe for ‘To Be Opened In Case Of My Untimely Demise’ reasons, which I could understand given his position — then it won’t be stashed in there, even if it’s a fancy encrypted drive. It’ll be hidden elsewhere. Whether the raids found it at his home etc., who knows.

  38. Hmmm says:

    On further thought, I’m not so sure about the theory that the two subordinates saw Bloch mount a secure thumb drive and tried to intervene — people just don’t do that to their bosses. I think the main sequence of events up through the Geeks On Call service visit could, perhaps, be explained by the following more mundane sequence of events:

    1. Whistleblower W emails Bloch’s Subordinate S1 some secret evidence E of wrongdoing, either in the text of the email or as an attachment. Let’s imagine it’s one or more image files attached to an email. We can infer that the accused wrongdoer is either somebody exceptionally powerful, or else somebody under the protection of somebody exceptionally powerful. Now E is on 1 computer.

    2. Maybe S1 appreciates its importance or maybe not, but in any event S1 forwards E to Subordinate S2 as email, with a Cc: (or maybe a Bcc:, as long as we’re sleuthing) to Bloch. (Alternatively, S1 sends it to immediate superior S2 who sends it to immediate superior Bloch.) Now E is on 3 computers.

    3. Bloch looks at E. Maybe he appreciates its importance immediately, or maybe he has to go investigate with his Evil White House Overlords before he understands just what he’s got, but at some point he either is told, or else determines himself, that E must not result in an investigation, indeed E must be utterly disappeared.

    4. Bloch makes sure email containing E was not distributed to anyone other than S1, S2, and himself.

    5. Bloch makes a copy of the email containing E, not on any of the computers, on the plan that this will soon be the only extant copy of the info. Many ways to do this, including but not limited to pocket USB drives (encrypted or not, I don’t think we know that and I don’t think it matters much); transmission to a remote computer over the public internet; printing it on paper; etc. There are a few possible motivations for Bloch keeping a copy, including “To Be Opened In Case Of My Untimely Death or Dishonor”, extortion leverage in his own interest, and extortion leverage in the interest of someone else Bloch is working for. Maybe Bloch starts wearing a thumb drive around his neck at this point, ostensibly using it for the other (slightly silly) reasons he gave in the interview but really to keep the only copy of E where he can control it. Maybe a copy goes to his lawyer and/or safe deposit box, and/or home wall safe.

    6. At this point, Bloch may or may not have attempted to secretly delete E from one, two, or all 3 computers, either successfully or maybe botching it, perhaps badly botching it. This could be on his lonesome, or else with the help of a trusted (though not necessarily talented) techie, not necessarily somebody on staff. (Check the visitor logs?)

    7. Bloch hires Geeks on Call and sics them on the computers of S1, S2, and himself. Either to unrecoverably erase E, or else in an attempt (perhaps successful) to repair or, in the alternative, eradicate all traces of whatever erasure he did (or attempted and botched) in step 6, plus any attendant damage. (NB: It is possible that the services Geeks On Call performed are different from the ones listed on the bill. It is also possible that the Geeks On Call service tech let it drop that he knew some guy who could do other services and for a fee connected Bloch with him — I’m sure there must be computer tech “fixers” in DC, and GOC could well know, even pimp, them.) In any event, at this point Bloch thinks he is the only one who knows he has the only copy of E.

    So far so good from Bloch’s perspective, but then again this is the point in the crime movie plot where things start to go wrong, isn’t it? I have no theory to offer that incorporates the leaking of the receipt or the genesis of the FBI raids and the underlying Grand Jury process and search warrants. (Did the GOC tech flip?) Or for that matter, that explains why after all this time whistleblower W hasn’t found another way to get evidence E out to the world.

    Bloch could of course be lying, but maybe the weird uncontrollably-rolling-screen scene, the long difficult repair process, and Bloch’s “virus” hypothesis could be explained by some unrelated spyware/rootkit that had been installed on the computer(s) before this whole incident started — maybe by some government or intelligence entity? Dunno about that part.

    • Hmmm says:

      Actually in step 7, given Bloch’s reported panic while the repairs were going on, I’m gonna guess he knew, or suspected, that he did attempt to erase E in step 6 and that it had either failed, and/or had left huge obvious muddy tampering bootprints that badly needed to be covered up. Like by reinstalling the whole OS.

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        Wow, get the script written ;-))
        I have no idea what’s up with this Bloch business, but I sure would like to be a fly on the wall of that grand jury hearing.

        This thing just gets weirder, doesn’t it?

    • Rayne says:

      Something doesn’t jibe here.

      Bloch’s description sounds less like crappy erasure on his part — which he surely would have know was documented by OSC 2000 — than something else causing both data and his system to act as it did.

      If somebody had been deleting child porn, the very last thing they’d do would be to let a department IT person work on it; Wing Leung wouldn’t have been called in first.

      And if there’d been child porn involved, why would two other subordinates be involved? Again, as member of law enforcement, the last thing one would do is get others involved.

      I buy steps 1 through 5 — but after that, I don’t know. The first steps have the ring of truth to them, explain the subordinates’ possible roles.

      Knowing what we know about MZM, the wide-open network at EO-OA, the lack of controls on email accounts outside of .gov domains and equally uncontrolled devices like Blackberries, it seems far too likely that something outside of DOJ could have been picking at data on Bloch’s system. More simply put: we can’t rule it out based on what we know.

  39. bmaz says:

    Okay, I am intrigued by this child porn, heck it could even be regular porn for that matter (for a top level official either would be bad), line of speculation. A couple of random things to throw in the discussion pot. Yes, there were some of thee issues roiling in that time period. At the very end of Sept. 2006/early Oct. 2006 was when the Mark Foley scandal took flight and there was a big huff about governmental people, computers and porn/child porn that resulted. And Bloch’s office had been involved in child porn allegation investigations before;

    Michael Levine, a 65-year-old and openly gay radio technician, claimed that, after he blew the whistle on a coworker’s and his supervisor’s workplace misconduct, a personnel officer engaged in retaliatory action against him: pursuing knowingly false allegations of child pornography against Levine, suspending Levine for 14 days, seizing his computer, and referring to gay people as “those fucking faggots”.[11]
    One year after filing both a retaliation and antigay discrimination complaint with the OSC, Levine received a letter from the OSC on December 28, 2004. Without interviewing even a single witness, the OSC wrote that it was unable to investigate the complaints because only conduct, not sexual orientation, was protected under the Civil Service Act of 1978 [11] — a reversal of Bloch’s April 8, 2004 statement that sexual orientation-based discrimination was prohibited due to imputed conduct and therefore that the OSC has the authority to pursue such complaints. [7]
    After being embroiled in a related “internal purge” controversy (see below), Special Counsel Bloch testified before a Senate panel on May 24, 2005 and reiterated his original position that he lacked the authority to protect federal employees on the basis of sexual orientation. [12] The next day, the Log Cabin Republicans called on Bloch to resign. [13

    Maybe there were child porn images residual on computers from that or other similar investigations. Maybe Bloch caught someone in his office engaging in child porn and wanted to protect the person and scrub the evidence? Maybe it was Bloch? Who knows. Also, there was, earlier in 2006 a DOD official indicted for child porn and, of course, there was Brian Doyle, the Dept. of Homeland Sec. Deputy Press Secretary arrested on child porn. Maybe Bloch got wind of some Bushco trolling/snooping program that was initiated in late 2006 probing government computers looking for porn/child porn and was desperate to get something off of the three computers he knew might have it (whether semi-innocently acquired or culpably acquired). A religious zealot like Bloch might freak out over something like this.

    Not saying I necessarily but into any of this, just dunno, but it is an interesting hypothesis you all have going here.

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