August 16, 1999 New York Times

Protecting Privacy, Monitoring Hate

To the Editor:

In "Stopping Extremism Before the Crime" (Op-Ed, Aug.
12), Abraham H. Foxman ignores Supreme Court Justice
Felix Frankfurter's observation that the history of
liberty is the history of procedural safeguards against
investigatory or prosecutorial abuses. The Federal Bureau
of Investigation's history of spying against citizens
without cause to suspect criminality confirms
Frankfurter's words. Thick dossiers were compiled that
served political blackmail more than law enforcement.

Mr. Foxman urges relaxation of balanced restraints on the
F.B.I. with the goal of shadowing every
government-perceived "hatemonger" without evidence of a
threatened crime. He warns that "hatred can still

Yes, but the F.B.I. has destroyed as well when it has
snooped around as thought police.

BRUCE FEIN McLean, Va., Aug. 12, 1999

The writer was an Associate Deputy Attorney General,


To the Editor:

Abraham H. Foxman, the national director of the
Anti-Defamation League, says the Federal Bureau of
Investigation and the Justice Department have been
"hamstrung" and "can't act aggressively" in monitoring
extremist groups but fails to note the A.D.L.'s role in
the imposition of these guidelines (Op-Ed, Aug. 12).

In 1993 the A.D.L. was accused of illegally obtaining
California police and government records on a wide array
of political groups. The league escaped criminal
prosecution in return for paying $75,000 to groups that
fight hate crimes in San Francisco.

Mr. Foxman says "if law enforcement agencies should
overstep the line, we should very swiftly take the
authority away." Law enforcement, with the A.D.L.'s help,
indeed crossed the line, resulting in the restrictions
that Mr. Foxman now laments.

MITJA C. BAUMHACKL Brooklyn, Aug. 12, 1999