Counterpunch February 1999

       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 records.

     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 issues.

     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 erroneous.

     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 purpos "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

     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

     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 groups.

     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 do.

     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

(For more information see:
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