Felix Bloch, target of a U.S. spy investigation, is trying to quit the Foreign Service but the State Department will continue its investigation in an effort to fire him on national security grounds, a spokesman said yesterday.
Bloch, 55, was removed from his job in the European Affairs Bureau in February and his $80,000-a-year salary stopped. Meanwhile, the Justice Department pursued an investigation into suspicions he had sold sensitive information to the Soviet Union.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, confirming an account in The Washington Times, said Bloch submitted his resignation July 5 and withdrew a request for a hearing on the State Department's attempt to fire him.
"The department has informed Mr. Bloch that it will continue with the proceedings initiated last February to remove him from the Foreign Service for national security reasons," Boucher said. "The department will take no action on Mr. Bloch's tendered resignation pending the outcome of these proceedings."
Although Bloch was the subject of FBI surveillance for months, he was neither arrested nor charged with a crime. As a senior Foreign Service officer, he would be eligible on retirement to receive up to 70 percent of his salary, or about $56,000 a year.
Bloch had served in East Germany and Austria beginning in the early 1970s. His most recent assignment involved economic policy in the European Affairs Bureau in Washington.
The State Department had prepared evidence and witnesses for a hearing scheduled for July 9 at Bloch's request.
Now that his lawyers have withdrawn the request, the next step is for Secretary of State James A. Baker III to review the record against Bloch and decide whether to fire him, Boucher said.
There will be no action on the retirement request in the meantime, the spokesman said.