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Friday, September 3, 2010

BLOCH, FELIX

On 22 June 1989, Bloch, formerly the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Vienna and currently  director of regional economic and political affairs in the European Bureau, received an early morning telephone call at his apartment in Washington, D.C., from “Ferdinand Paul” who warned him that “Pierre” was “ill” and that “a contagious disease is suspected.” Thereafter Reino Gikman, a suspected Soviet illegal  masquerading as a Finnish businessman—who had come under the Central Intelligence Agency’s surveillance and called himself “Pierre”—disappeared from Austria, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation concluded that their investigation into a high-level leak from the State Department had been compromised. Gikman’s  relationship with Bloch had been under the FBI’s scrutiny since 28 April 1989, following a tip from the CIA.
Soon afterward, in May, he was identified in Paris by the French Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire as  the person to whom Bloch had twice handed over a briefcase. When Bloch returned to his home in Washington, his calls were monitored, and he had received the somewhat transparent warning from the Soviet embassy within five weeks of the FBI initiating its investigation.
Under interrogation by the FBI the same day that he received the warning call, Bloch explained his visits to  Paris and Brussels as opportunities to buy stamps for his collection and to spend time with  his girlfriend, Tina Jirousek, a woman he had met through the escort section of the Vienna telephone directory’s yellow pages. When the blonde was interviewed, she revealed a bizarre relationship with Bloch over seven years in which he had paid her an estimated $70,000 to participate in sado-masochism and bondage rituals on Saturday mornings when he had told his wife he was working at his office.
Bloch subsequently was interrogated at length but made no further admissions, and in December 1990, after 30 years in the Foreign Service, he was fired and denied a pension. The case was to have wide ramifications, not least because it convinced the FBI and the CIA that there had been a high-level leak that had  compromised the investigation at a very early stage. Ironically, the senior CIA counterintelligence officer, Brian Kelley, who had initiated and supervised the CIA’s surveillance of Gikman, himself became the subject of a secret mole hunt. It was only after a KGB defector, AE/AVENGE, provided the evidence against Robert Hanssen that Kelley was cleared and it became evident that the further leak had occurred in the FBI and not the CIA.