Were the Spies "Journalists"?
                           The ADL Snoops
            THE ORGANIZATION'S MAIN "fact-finder" was doubling as a 
       spy for the white South African government while his buddy, a San
       Francisco cop who had tutored El Salvadoran death squads on the
       finer aspects of torture, was providing its officials with personal
       information on the organization's putative enemies when the story
       broke in San Francisco in December, 1992. The organization was the
       Anti-Defamation League.
            The ADL claims to be the nation's leading defender against
       prejudice and bigotry but in this instance its targets were members
       of the African National Congress and its supporters, and apparently
       everyone, Arab and non-Arab, who had the temerity to criticize
       Israel. This included some who drove to Arab community events where
       the ADL's "fact-finder," Roy Bullock, and the cop, Tom Gerard, took
       turns writing down their license plate numbers, which Gerard turned
       into addresses thanks to his access to California motor vehicle
            Their spying efforts proved to be part of a much larger
       intelligence gathering operation that targeted some 12,000
       individuals and more than 600 left-of-center organizations in
       northern California.
            After the first flurry of publicity, the ADL's spin doctors
       successfully kept the story from receiving the national coverage
       that the situation warranted. But the story hasn't gone away.
            Last November the California Court of Appeals handed down a
       decision that paves the way for a major test later this year of the
       ADL's penchant for spying on its enemies. It was the most
       significant episode in a slow-moving class-action case filed in
       1993 by 19 pro-Palestinian and anti-apartheid activists who claim
       to be victims of the ADL's snooping operations.
            The plaintiffs say they were illegally spied on by Bullock,
       then considered the ADL's top "fact-finder" by his now deceased
       chief, Irwin Suall, and that such spying constituted an invasion of
       privacy under the provisions of the California Constitution.
            The ADL's defense, accepted by the court in 1994, is that the
       Jewish defense organization is, collectively, a "journalist" and,
       therefore, can legally engage in information-gathering activities
       regardless of the source. At question was access by the plaintiffs
       to information contained in 10 boxes of files seized by the San
       Francisco police from the ADL's San Francisco office in April,
       1993, and placed under court seal where the ADL has fought fiercely
       to keep them. In the years since then, efforts by the court to
       settle the case have foundered on the ADL's refusal to allow
       potentially embarrassing depositions taken by plaintiffs' lawyer
       ex-Congressman Paul (Pete) McCloskey of Bullock, ADL officials and
       police officers to be be made public and its files opened. The
       plaintiffs have been unwilling to compromise on either of these
            Then, in September, 1997, Judge Alex Saldamondo ruled that
       McCloskey's clients were entitled to see what the ADL had on them
       in its files. Two plaintiffs, Jeffrey Blankfort and Steve Zeltzer,
       co-founders of the Labor Committee on the Middle East, who had
       "outed" Bullock as an ADL spy after he infiltrated their group in
       1987, received an extract of their files from the DA's office the
       day before they were ordered sealed. Both contain illegally
       obtained information, much of which, say Blankfort and Zeltzer, is
            When ADL's appeal of that decision was rejected by Court of
       Appeals Judge Anthony Kline, the ADL persuaded the State Supreme
       Court to return the case to the full court for a hearing. On
       November 15, 1998, the court reaffirmed ADL's status as a
       journalist and acknowledged its right to maintain files and obtain
       information on all but two of the remaining plaintiffs on the basis
       that they are "limited-purpose public figures", which it defined as
       having been publicly engaged and identified in activities around a
       particular issue, in this instance opposition to Israeli occupation
       and/or South African apartheid. There is no protection, said the
       court, for obtaining information illegally on non-public figures.
            The court made an important qualification, however, ruling
       that for "limited purpose" figures, the journalist's shield only
       applies if the information obtained is to be used for journalistic
       purposes. It does not protect the ADL from charges that it passed
       information about the plaintiffs to "foreign governments (in this
       instance, Israel or South Africa) or to others", which is what the
       plaintiffs claim the ADL has done.
            Although the Court of Appeals vacated Judge Saldamando's
       decision, it did state that representatives of the plaintiffs had
       the right to request a review of ADL's files to discover possible
       constitutional violations, each of which would be worth $2500.
       While this may seem a small sum, there are hundreds of
       Arab-Americans and anti-apartheid activists whose names appear in
       the ADL's files who potentially could collect if the ADL loses in
       court or is forced to settle the case.
            The origins of the story are murky. What the press reported
       was that the SFPD acted on a tip from the FBI, which was supposedly
       concerned about files on the Nation of Islam that were stolen from
       its local office, and arrested Gerard, who allegedly had done the
       pilfering. In Gerard's computer they found files on more than 7,000
       individuals, many of them Arab-Americans, as well as information on
       hundreds of left-to-liberal organizations filed by Gerard as
       "pinko". In his locker, they found a black executioner's hood, a
       number of photos of dark-skinned men bound and blindfolded, CIA
       manuals, a secret document on interrogation techniques, stamped
       "secret" and referring to El Salvador, and numerous passports and
       IDs in a variety of names, all with his picture.
            This splendid fellow began meeting with Richard Hirschhaut,
       chief of the ADL's San Francisco office in 1986, during which,
       according to a "confidential" Hirschhaut memo to the aforementioned
       ADL chief "fact-finder" Suall, he provided "a significant amount of
       information" on "the activities of specific Arab organizations and
       individuals in the Bay Area". That memo hasn't been made public but
       what was reported created a nightmare for the ADL when it turned
       out that Gerard had been exchanging non-public, personal
       information from government files with Bullock, a paid informant
       for the ADL since 1954 and whose own computerized "pinko" files on
       leftish and liberal folks, when seized by the police, proved to be
       a third again as large as Gerard's. According to police, his
       computer contained the names of nearly 12,000 individuals, 77
       Arab-American organizations, 29 anti-apartheid organizations, and
       more than 600 "pinko" groups which included such revolutionary
       outfits as the NAACP, Asian Law Caucus and SANE/FREEZE, as well as
       20 Bay area labor unions including the SF Labor Council. There were
       in addition, files on 612 right-wing organizations and 27 skinhead
            According to SF police inspector Ron Roth, 75 percent of their
       contents was non-public information illegally obtained from
       government agencies.
            After indicating that the ADL would be charged with violating
       the California's Business and Profession's code, SF District
       Attorney Arlo Smith did an extraordinary thing. He made available
       to the public, merely for the copying costs, some 700 pages of
       documents incriminating the ADL in a nation-wide intelligence
       gathering operation run out of New York by Suall. One of the
       significant parts of that report was Bullock's admission that he
       was paid by a South African intelligence agent to spy on
       anti-apartheid activists (which he was already doing for the ADL.)
       He had reported on a visit to California by the ANC's Chris Hani,
       ten days before the man expected by many to succeed Nelson Mandela,
       returned home to be brutally murdered.
            The ADL attempted to portray Bullock as a free-lance
       investigator, but no one was convinced, because since 1954 Bullock
       had been paid through a cutout, an ADL lawyer in Beverly Hills.
       After his exposure, Bullock was put directly on the ADL's payroll.
       ADL's position on the ANC was identical to that of the South
       African government - they considered it to be a "terrorist",
       "communist" organization. At the time, Israel was furnishing arms
       to maintain the apartheid regime in power.
            In1994, Smith announced that he would not prosecute either the
       ADL or Bullock since it would be "expensive and time-consuming both
       to the SFDA and the defendants," a curious judgement considering
       the overwhelming evidence in his possession.
            In its settlement with the city, the ADL, admitted no
       wrongdoing, agreed to restrain their operatives from seeking
       non-public data on ADL's enemies from government agencies and,
       putting a happy face on the story, promised to create a $25,000
       Hate Crimes Fund and another $25,000 for a public school course.
            Another class-action case filed by the American-Arab
       Anti-Discrimination Committee and other spied-upon groups such as
       CISPES, the Bay Area Anti-Apartheid Network and the National
       Lawyers Guild, was settled in 1996, also under conditions favorable
       to the ADL, but without the approval of some of the suing groups.
            In that instance, again without admitting wrongdoing or
       opening its files, the ADL agreed: to remove questionably obtained
       information from its files; that it would not seek non-public
       information on individuals from government employees and would pay
       $25,000 to a fund to improve relations among Jews, blacks and other
       minorities. A similar deal was offered to McCloskey's plaintiffs
       but they turned it down since it would let the ADL off the hook and
       allow its secrets to be kept intact.
            Both sides will be back in Judge Saldamando's court in March
       to hear a new discovery motion from McCloskey and probably to set
       a trial date, something the ADL has been trying to avoid, given the
       embarrassment that would inevitably ensue, whatever the outcome.
       Its latest ploy has been to ask the judge for a summary judgement,
       in other words, dismissal of the case, something he is unlikely to
            The deaths of veteran journalists Colin Edwards and George
       Green reduced the number of plaintiffs by two and subsequently four
       others, whose political activities were relatively limited, were
       dropped from the case. McCloskey, himself a victim of ADL attacks
       and whose wife Helen is one of the plaintiffs, is pursuing the case
       pro bono. Typically he is faced in court by four or five lawyers
       for the ADL. Contributions for the plaintiffs may be sent to Paul
       N. McCloskey, Jr. Atty., 333 Bradford St., Redwood City, CA 94063
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