FBI agents on Tuesday raided the Office of Special Counsel and closed down its e-mail system in what appears to be a probe into political misuse of the agency, the Wall Street Journal and National Public Radio reported.
According to the Journal, the agents seized computers and documents belonging to the head of the agency, Scott Bloch, and his staff.
The Journal, quoting unnamed employees, said the searches seemed to focus on alleged obstruction of justice by Bloch during the course of a 2006 inquiry.
The Office of Special Counsel, created after the Watergate political scandal of the 1970s, is an independent agency is charged with protecting federal employees, and looking into whether whistleblower complaints deserve investigations.
It also enforces a law forbidding government workers from engaging in partisan politics.
According to NPR, some 20 FBI agents arrived at the office and seized several computers. Soon afterwards the office's email system was shut down.
Neither the Federal Bureau of Investigations nor the Office of Special Counsel immediately responded to AFP requests for information aboutthe raid.
The Journal reported that officials are investigating claims that Bloch abused his authority to investigate cases, retaliated against employees, and dismissed whistleblower cases with little examination.
In December 2006, Bloch allegedly contacted a civilian computer service to erase hard drives on his computer and those of two former staff members, the Journal reported.
© 2008 Agence France Presse