Felix Bloch (diplomatic officer)
Felix Bloch is a former director of European and Canadian Affairs in the US Department of State. He is known in connection with Robert Hanssen
Robert Hanssen
Robert Philip Hanssen is a former American FBI agent who spied for Soviet and Russian intelligence services against the United States for 22 years from 1979 to 2001...

 espionage case. Hanssen was a Soviet spy who reported to his KGB
The KGB was the commonly used acronym for the . It was the national security agency of the Soviet Union from 1954 until 1991, and was the premier internal security, intelligence, and secret police organization during that time.The State Security Agency of the Republic of Belarus currently uses the...

 handlers about the ongoing FBI investigations of Felix Bloch and Reino Gikman
Reino Gikman
Reino Gikman was the alias used by an undercover agent for the Soviet KGB who operated in Western Europe. Gikman used a Finnish passport and spent several years in Finland developing his illegal residence cover by posing as a Finn...

 to save both agents from a possible arrest. Gikman escaped to Moscow and made a warning phone call to Bloch only later. FBI intercepted this and other espionage-related phone calls, but was unable to collect enough evidence to bring this case to the court. Bloch served a total of 32 years at the State Department.

FBI investigation

In May 1989, Bloch had a dinner meeting in Paris with a man he says he knew as "Pierre Bart", a fellow stamp collector. Bloch at this time was stationed in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

 but was one of the top European specialists in the State Department. The meeting occurred during an official visit by Bloch to France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

. "Bart" was a Soviet agent who lived in Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 and had previously lived in Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

 under the name Reino Gikman. Unknown to Bloch, the entire meeting was closely watched by French counterintelligence agents. Surveillance showed that Bloch had taken a shoulder bag of unknown contents to the meeting, which Bloch left with "Bart" as the dinner left. Bloch would later state that the bag contained stamps which he left for Bart. Bloch would later have a meeting with Gikman in Brussels, but the American authorities did not ask Belgian authorities to observe the meeting, in part because of fears the Belgian intelligence service was penetrated by the Soviets. The CIA observed parts of the meeting but could not determine if Bloch passed any documents to Glikman.Shortly afterward, the surveillance project came to an end: Bloch received a phone call from Glikman, taped by the FBI, alluding to an "illness" on Glikman's part and the expressed hope that Bloch did not receive the same thing. As this call came three weeks after their last meeting, it appeared highly unlikely the true subject of the call was a communicable ailment such as cold or flu. It would later emerge that the veracity of "Gikman's" claimed birth date and other identity details could not be verified. Gikman and Bloch were known to have lived in Vienna at about the same time, and American officials would come to suspect Gikman had been Bloch's handler. However there is no proof the two men met at that time.

A New York Times story in 1989 stated that Bloch had frequented a prostitute in Vienna, paying her as much as $10,000 yearly for sadomasochistic sex, and that the FBI had called the prostitute to testify regarding their encounters to a US grand jury. According to the story, agents suspected the Soviets were either indulging Bloch's tastes, or had blackmailed him into becoming their spy. In any event, Bloch appeared to lack any financial motive for spying, as in the 1980s his assets were apparently in the range of $300,000 to $1 million. State Department officials at times have suggested they thought Bloch may have sold classified information merely out of pique at being passed over for promotions.

The Gikman phone call regarding the "illness" led US officials to believe their investigation had been exposed. They therefore decided to confront Bloch. Agents demanded that he confess to spying, but he steadfastly held to his explanation about stamp collecting. The lack of any conclusive evidence against Bloch led to an extraordinary media firestorm. Bloch was suspended from his job. For the next six months, Bloch was followed everywhere by a horde of FBI agents and news reporters, who quickly learned of the extraordinary news that a high-ranking diplomat was suspected of spying. Bloch, an avid walker, once led the following horde on a 22-mile trek. In an absurd incident, Bloch was once sitting in a park when children began to taunt him as a "spy" and a man identifying himself as a Vietnam veteran hit Bloch in the head; at which point an FBI agent persuaded the man to leave. Another incident featured a staged "reenactment" of a fictionalized meeting between Bloch and a Soviet agent by a network news crew; the network's anchor later apologized on air for the incident. In November 1989 the FBI withdrew its surveillance and the media circus began to subside.

Termination of employment

In February 1990, the State Department moved to terminate Bloch's employment. Press reports at the time suggested that the State Department possessed recorded conversations between Bloch and his wife in which Bloch acknowledged he had received money from the Soviet Union for several years. It is not known whether these tapes were used in the termination proceedings, which were closed to the public. Bloch's employment was terminated and he was dismissed from the State Department without benefit of a pension.


Bloch was not charged criminally, and moved to North Carolina. Despite his substantial assets, Bloch chose menial work as a supermarket cashier, beginning in 1992. He took a second job driving buses for Chapel Hill Transit. He appears to have lived an uneventful life there but was arrested twice for shoplifting, first in 1993 and again in 1994.After being caught by bagger,Shannon Norman,and the store manager,and, them not being interviewed, the 1993 charge was dismissed. Bloch pled guilty to shoplifting in 1994, receiving a 30-day suspended sentence. In a 2001 interview, Bloch's bus-driving supervisor described him as a good employee who worked hard.

Connection to Robert Hanssen case

Of all the unanswered questions in the Bloch affair, one of the largest was how the investigation had been blown to the Soviets. Over a decade later, US authorities would discover that Robert Hanssen
Robert Hanssen
Robert Philip Hanssen is a former American FBI agent who spied for Soviet and Russian intelligence services against the United States for 22 years from 1979 to 2001...

, a corrupt FBI official, had been responsible for alerting the Soviets to the investigation. The investigation into the suspected mole had first led officials, however, to misguided suspicion of a CIA official, Brian Kelley. Kelley was placed under surveillance for years and his CIA career was badly damaged. Investigators later became satisfied he had been completely innocent, and he only fell under suspicion because personal data about him fit a matrix that investigators felt they might be looking for in a mole. Hanssen's downfall renewed speculation that Bloch would at last be charged; however, several years have elapsed since Hanssen's guilty plea and no further action against Bloch appears to be forthcoming.
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