Highly Undiplomatic

updated 09/21/1992 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/21/1992 AT 01:00 AM EDT

HE ONCE FILLED DIPLOMATIC POUCHES with weighty memos; now he makes his living loading toilet paper and TV dinners into grocery bags. Instead of the romance of a foreign-service career at the State Department, he now finds himself clerking at the Harris Teeter supermarket in Chapel Hill, N.C. These days international affairs can include sorting the Brie and the mozzarella in the cheese section. But Felix Bloch, the highest-ranking State Department employee ever suspected of spying for the Soviet Union, voices no dismay at his humble circumstances. "I'm very busy," he says brusquely. "I'm working very hard, trying to be of use to my employer."

Which brings up a key question: Just who were Bloch's employers during his 30 years in the foreign service? In 1989, while serving as an analyst in the European Affairs Bureau at State, he was videotaped handing over a suitcase to a known Soviet agent in Paris. When confronted, Bloch staunchly denied any wrongdoing, claiming that he had merely been showing the man his stamp collection. Though never formally charged with any crime, Bloch, then living in Washington, D.C., was fired from his $80,000-a-year job in 1990 for lying to the FBI during an investigation of the incident. Recently the government rejected a request by Bloch, now 57, that he receive his $50,000-a-year pension.

Though he earns something close to the minimum wage of $4.25 an hour at Harris Teeter, he drives a 1980 steel gray Mercedes to work. He and his wife, Lucille, own a one-story home in an upscale wooded area near Chapel Hill. Still, Bloch has been moonlighting as a municipal bus driver in Chapel Hill at $7.85 an hour. Bob Godding, the city's Transit Authority director, says that Bloch told him right up front about his notorious past. The story didn't faze him. "We're only concerned," says Godding, "about whether he can drive a bus."

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