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The Daily Tar Heel

Bus Driver Has Connection to Spy Case

Felix Bloch, a former U.S. foreign service officer now working as a Chapel Hill Transit driver, was under FBI investigation for possible espionage in 1989.

An FBI statement released last week said Hanssen "disclosed to the KGB the FBI's secret investigation of Felix Bloch."

According to the FBI's affidavit detailing Hanssen's case, Felix Bloch was under surveillance during a May 14, 1989, meeting in Paris with Soviet illegal Reino Gikman and again May 28 in Brussels.

Bloch received a phone call June 22 that led the FBI to believe that he was told to break his ties with Gikman for personal security reasons. In FBI interviews, Bloch "denied he had engaged in espionage and ultimately declined to answer any further questions," according to the affidavit.

Allegedly, Bloch's contact with the KGB, the intelligence arm of the former Soviet Union, ended when Hanssen alerted Russian officials of FBI surveillance.

According to a statement sent out last week by FBI Director Louis Freeh, Hanssen was "a special agent of the FBI with a long career in counterintelligence."

Freeh also said Hanssen was "assigned to a variety of national security posts that legitimately provided him access to classified information relating to the former Soviet Union and Russia," thus granting him access to sensitive information like the Bloch investigation.

The affidavit stated that Bloch was fired from the State Department in 1990. Bloch then settled in Chapel Hill, where he took his current job as a transit driver.

Bloch was arrested Jan. 8, 2000, for misdemeanor concealment - he stole $16.03 worth of groceries from Wellspring Grocery and was given a citation.

Bloch was hired by Chapel Hill despite these charges. Personnel Director Pat Thomas said background checks on potential employees vary by position.

"We check driving records for bus drivers," she said. "We would also do reference checks from their prior employer."

She would not comment on Bloch's previous employers or the nature of their references.

Thomas also said that pending investigations provide no reason to take disciplinary action against an employee. Actions would "relate to the current work they have," she said.

Bloch could not be contacted personally about any further inquiries into his case.

FBI spokesman Bill Carter also said he could not comment on any pending investigations the bureau might have against Bloch.

The City Editor can be reached

at citydesk@unc.edu.

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