MOSCOW — The Kremlin knows nothing of Felix S. Bloch, the U.S. diplomat under FBI investigation as a possible spy, a senior Soviet officials said Thursday, speculating that a new "wave of spy mania" is linked with congressional debate over defense allocations.
In a frequently sarcastic response to questions at a regular news briefing, Gennady I. Gerasimov, chief spokesman of the Soviet Foreign Ministry, told journalists that "until a few days ago, the name of Bloch was not familiar to us, and we have never had any connection with him."
Nevertheless, Gerasimov said, "many horrors were written which provoke yet another wave of spy mania." He added: "It is lamentable that the U.S. press fans such hysteria. Some connect this wave with discussions in the Congress of military allocations, specifically allocations for 132 B-2 bombers. The money is enormous."
The State Department said last week that the FBI is investigating Bloch for "illegal activities" involving "agents of a foreign intelligence service." He is suspected of passing secrets to the Soviets.
Bloch was placed on administrative leave by the State Department on June 22 and has been under intensive surveillance in the United States since then. He has not been formally charged or arrested.
According to ABC Television, which first reported the FBI investigation last week, Bloch was filmed passing a briefcase to a Soviet agent in Paris last spring.
Gerasimov appeared to enjoy recounting details of published news reports on the Bloch investigation for foreign journalists.
He smirked as he cited reports that Bloch had been away from his State Department desk for nearly two months before anybody noticed. And he cited another report that the diplomat's name had disappeared from the door of his office. "Here you see it, here you don't," Gerasimov commented.
After speculating that the Bloch case is connected with the B-2 debate, Gerasimov launched into a lengthy attack on that airplane and U.S. strategic defense plans.
"The question is, why does one need such a futuristic aircraft?" Gerasimov said.
Referring to a report first published in The Times, he also criticized changes in the operational plan developed by the U.S. Strategic Air Command. Although it was normal for this plan to be updated periodically, he said: "This time it's being updated in a very dangerous manner. The latest plan stipulates a 'beheading' first (nuclear) strike--to behead the political leadership of the U.S.S.R.--and neutralization of their command posts."