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Rove investigator erases his PCs - to kill computer virus

Outside firm performs seven-level wipe

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A US official overseeing a probe of former Bush aide Karl Rove has been called on the carpet after it was discovered he hired a private computer-help company to erase all the hard drives belonging to him and two deputies.

Special Counsel Scott J. Bloch bypassed his own agency's computer technicians and instead hired an outside firm to perform a seven-level wipe, all but guaranteeing the files could never be restored. Although the official said he contracted the work after suspecting his computer was infected by a virus, a manager with the private firm said a wipe that thorough is an unusual way to treat a malware infection. The receipt for the work performed makes no mention of a virus.

Bloch's office is investigating whether Rove and other White House officials improperly used government agencies to help re-elect Republicans running from Congressional seats. In turn, Bloch has been the subject of a White House-ordered probe into whether he improperly retaliated against whistle-blowers in his own staff and dismissed cases brought to his agency.

Following the revelation of the computer wipes, federal investigators have requested Bloch turn over copies of personal files that he saved to his America Online account before his hard disk was scrubbed. Bloch has refused, saying the data, which included medical information, messages to his personal attorney and pictures from his son's tours of duty in Iraq, don't involve his official work.

Bloch also says no documents relevant to any investigation have been purged. He has denied retaliating against whistle-blowers, characterizing the investigation, which began in 2005, as a "fishing expedition."

Coverage from the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post is available here and here. ®

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