Source: The Village Voice | May 11, 1993, Vol. XXXVIII No. 19
How The Anti-Defamation League Turned the Notion of Human Rights on Its
Head, Spying on Progressives and Funneling Information to Law Enforcement
By Robert I. Friedman
ROY BULLOCK wanted to be a spy since he was a teenager in Indian and read "I Led Three Lives," Herbert Philbrick's Cold War saga of penetrating the Communist Party for the FBI. Philbrick had become an American folk hero in the 1950s for building dossiers on unsuspecting colleagues. It was a time when Hollywood produced more than 30 films portraying the informer as the quintessential American patriot. In Boston, where Philbrick led three lives as an FBI informant, Communist Party member, and private citizen, the mayor even proclaimed a Herbert Philbrick Day and presented the spy with a plaque.
For Bullock, a shy young man who was coming to terms with his homosexuality in the straight-arrow '50s, the life of a double agent was the perfect way to hide his lifestyle while fighting the Communist menace.
"I was fascinated with Herbert Philbrick," Bullock recently told federal investigators, "and so I thought I would try to infiltrate the Communist Part. In 1957, I went to the Sixth World Youth and Student Festival in Moscow with the American delegation. I gave them [the FBI a full report on it when I returned, along with some photos I took of some Soviet military vehicles."
Bullock was hooked. For the next two years, he worked as an unpaid informant for the FBI. But he found his true calling when he became a paid spy for the Anti-Defamation League in 1960. Now his activities are at the center of the biggest domestic spy scandal in recent American history -- a scandal that may end with the ADL's criminal indictment in San Francisco.
Over a 30-year period, he compiled computer files for the ADL on 9876 individuals and more than 950 groups of all political stripes, including the NAACP, the Rainbow Coalition, ACLU, the American Indian Movement, the Center for Investigative Reporting, Pacifica, ACT UP, Palestinian and Arab groups, Sandinista solidarity groups, Americans for Peace Now, and anti-apartheid organizations. Bullock, who even spied on the recently slain South African nationalist Chris Hani when he visited the Bay Area in April 1991, sold many of his ADL files on anti-apartheid activists to South African intelligence. Meanwhile, between 1985 and 1993, the ADL paid him nearly $170,000, using a prominent Beverly Hills attorney as a conduit in order to conceal its financial relationship with Bullock.
Last month, police raided ADL offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as Bullock's home, confiscating computer files and boxes of documents. According to court records, Bullock's files contained the driver's license and vehicle registration information, in addition to criminal histories on individuals -- much of which was allegedly stolen from the FBI and police computers. Bullock, 58, told the FBI that copies of virtually everything in his computer data base had been given to the San Francisco ADL office. "Based on the evidence," says Inspector Ron Roth, in a police affidavit, "I believe that Roy Bullock and ADL had numerous peace officers supplying them with confidential criminal and DMV information."
What's more, the San Francisco D.A. is investigating Bullock for tapping phones, accessing answering machines, and assuming false identities to infiltrate organizations. Documents seized from Bullock's home also contained evidence of his forays into Bay Area trash cans: He had the names and phone numbers of employees at the Christic Institute in San Francisco, as well as telephone message slips to staff members (including names and phone numbers of callers), office correspondence listing the names and return addresses of the senders, and inter-office memos. He also had receipts from Christic Institute's bank accounts at Wells Fargo and Eureka Federal Savings, as well as itemized canceled checks with the names of the payees, the dates, and amounts. Bullock even knew the balance in the Christic Institute's checking account.
Investigations by the FBI and police in San Francisco have revealed that the ADL has shared at least some of its spy gathering material with Israeli government officials. What's more, Israel apparently used tips from the ADL to detain Palestinian Americans who travelled there.
The ADL was established in New York City in 1913 to defend Jews, and later other minority groups, from discrimination. It led the fight against racist and fascist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party, and in the 1960s championed the civil rights movement.
But there was also a darker side. In the late 1940s, the ADL spied on leftists and Communists, and shared investigative files with the House Committee on Un-American Activities and the FBI. The ADL swung sharply to the right during the Reagan administration, becoming a bastion of neoconservatism. To Irwin Suall, a repentant Trotskyite who heads the ADL's powerful Fact Finding Department, the real danger to Jews is posed not by the right -- but by a coalition of leftists, blacks, and Arabs, who in his view threaten the fabric of democracy in America, as well as the state of Israel. In the tradition of his ideological soulmate William Casey, Suall directed the ADL's vast network of informants, who were given code names like "Scumbag," "Ironside," and -- for a spy reportedly posing as a priest in Atlanta -- "Flipper."
For years, journalists and liberal members of the Jewish community knew the ADL spied on right-wing hate groups. As long as the targets were anti-Semitic organizations like the Liberty Lobby and Lyndon Larouche, no one seemed to be particularly troubled. But the Bullock case reveals that the ADL also spied on groups that have a nonviolent, and progressive orientation. This apparent massive violation of civil liberties may end with the ADL's criminal indictment in San Francisco, where the investigation began. The human rights group faces possible criminal prosecution on as many as 48 felony counts, including an indictment for gaining illegal access to police computers. Says one source close to the West Coast investigation, "It is 99 per cent certain that the ADL will be indicted."
In the wake of the San Francisco investigation, police probes of ADL spying are spreading to other parts of the country. "We have received numerous complaints about ADL [spying]," says Sam Adams, a spokesperson for the mayor's office in Portland, Oregon.
On April 16, the Harlem-based Black United Fund of New York, and African American self-help group that Bullock allegedly spied on, wrote District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, requesting "an immediate investigation" of the ADL. "The ADL's actions cause great concern, as it is a direct and flagrant violation -- at minimum -- of our civil rights....We call upon you to join with the District Attorney of San Francisco to...bring and end to this latest form of McCarthyism."
Gerald McKelvey, a spokesperson for Morgenthau's office, says, "We have no evidence before us that warrants any sort of investigation." McKelvey adds that Morgenthau offered to assist the FBI and the San Francisco D.A.'s office on their pending investigation. "They have not, so far, asked for our assistance."
The ADL acknowledges sharing information on violence-prone groups with law enforcement officials. It also admits to maintaining extensive files on a wide variety of organizations, but says, in a two-page press release, "The vast majority of ADL's files are composed of news clips, magazine articles, books, journals, and other documents...."
"ADL has made it clear that it does not and will not countenance violations of the law on the part of anyone connected with the agency, and the process by which the League gathers information is presently under review to insure that no laws are being violated."
That's what the ADL says for public consumption. But morale is so low that its employees complain of sleepless nights and crying fits. And even as other Jewish groups circle the wagons around the ADL in a show of solidarity, many do so holding their noses. More than a few Jewish officials privately say the ADL has to decide whether it is a human rights group or a secret police agency.
"The ADL is regarded both inside the Jewish community and outside the Jewish community as the definitive source of information on anti- Semitism and extremist groups," says Daniel Levitas, the former executive director of the Center for Democratic Renewal, an Atlanta- based group that monitors anti-Semitism, racism, and hate groups. "One of the things this scandal has done is that it has completely tainted the ADL's credibility and reputation with regard to its objectivity. This scandal is going to be a devastating blow to the Jewish community at large because people regard the ADL as synonymous with American Jewry."
Bullock's talents as a snoop and his extreme conservatism meshed well with the ADL's Cold War worldview. In 1960, he moved to Southern California where he became an ADL spy for $75.00 a week. Bullock almost always used his real name when snooping, although he once called himself Elmer Fink when corresponding with supporters of Alabama governor George Wallace. Bullock provided the ADL's office in Los Angeles with written reports, which were transmitted to Fact Finding Department head Irwin Suall, according to court records. Under Suall's stewardship, Fact Finding Department had become the ADL's heart and soul. Located at ADL national headquarters across from the United Nations, the department had assembled a vast library on "hate groups," culling material from publications, speeches, and informants reports.
Bullock was more than adept at leading a double life. Not long after moving to California, he ingratiated himself with a woman in the John Birch Society who helped him gain access to the group's Boston office. There, he found a file the right-wingers were keeping on the ADL. The discovery gave rise to speculation in the ADL New York office that they had somehow been penetrated by the Birchers.
Bullock focused almost exclusively on right-wing extremist groups until the early 1970s when ADL L.A. head Milton Sinn was replaced by Harvey Schechter, who encouraged him to target the left as well. A few years later, Bullock moved to the Castro District in San Francisco where he posed as an art dealer. And ADL fact finder who had infiltrated the local Arab community had just been exposed. When the ensuing scandal died down, Bullock was ordered by the ADL to penetrate the Arabs.
The ADL was especially concerned about the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, founded by the former South Dakota senator James Abourezk to combat Arab-bashing. In a page out of the CIA's dirty tricks handbook on penetration and destabilization, Bullock joined the ADC, and then recruited Nazis into the group, apparently trying to discredit it, according to published reports.
In 1987, the ADL sent Bullock to attend the National Association of Arab Americans annual congress in Washington. According to court documents, Bullock was told to find the source of the group's funds. Bullock was unable to "follow the money." But he did such a good job at ingratiating himself that he was appointed to head a NAAA delegation that visited Congress member Nancy Pelosi. It's not surprising that the ADL penetrated Arab organizations. But only acute paranoia explains their interest in groups like ACT UP. As far as Bullock was concerned, gay groups in San Francisco were heavily infiltrated by what he called "gay left revolutionaries," prompting him to write about their activities for the ADL.
Bullock soon expanded his horizons, moving into the shadowy realm of foreign espionage after Richard Hirschhaut, the head of ADL's San Francisco office, introduced him to Thomas Gerard in 1986. Gerard was then a detective with the San Francisco Police Department's Intelligence Unit. Gerard had worked as a demolitions expert for the CIA in El Salvador in the early 1980s, where he apparently had more than a passing interest in right-wing death squads. (Police searching Gerard's briefcase found extensive CIA literature about torture and interrogation, photos of blindfolded and chained men, as well as passports made out to Gerard in 10 different names, including Thomas Clouseau. From a remote jungle island redoubt in the Philippines where he fled last November, Gerard told the Los Angeles Times that he will blow the lid off the CIA's involvement with Latin American death squads if he is indicted in the ADL spy case.)
After their very first encounter in the ADL office, Gerard and Bullock had lunch at McDonald's, "I liked Tom right off," Bullock later told a San Francisco police investigator whose report of the interrogation was obtained by the _Voice_. "Tom is a very charming, roguish character, with a great deal of integrity. Let me say here, I consider Tom Gerard one of the finest policemen I've ever worked with, absolutely. Honest, capable, intelligent and 100 percent American."
Before long, Bullock was providing Gerard with confidential ADL reports on various groups and individuals. In turn, Gerard gave Bullock classified police intelligence files on local Arab Americans, skinheads, and others. Bullock told the FBI that Gerard's material ended up in his ADL reports. "I would say 99 percent of the data that I got was name, address, and sometimes physical description. Criminal history, very rarely," Bullock told investigators. Gerard also gave Bullock a chart that outlined a vast network of Bay Area Arab American businessmen and organizations that allegedly has ties to Middle East terror groups, as well as surveillance photos of Arab Americans receiving weapons training overseas. Bullock claims that U.S. Customs in New York gave Gerard the photos. "It was understood that Bullock would be very careful with what he did with the information Gerard gave him, and that Bullock would not release it except to the ADL or other law enforcement officers," says an FBI report.
There was nothing unusual about Bullock's cozy relationship with law enforcement. By the mid-1980s, the ADL was swapping files with hundreds of "official friends," the organization's euphemism for U.S. law enforcement and intelligence sources. The ADL's relationship with the FBI's counterterrorism office was so close that ADL's reports on Arab American group's covert ties to Middle East terrorists were "must reading."
It's no accident that police found a 1986 classified FBI report entitled "Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)--New York Area" while searching the ADL's San Francisco office. In 1987, ADL spooks investigated seven Palestinians and a Kenyan studying in California universities on student visas. When the ADL discovered they were disseminating PFLP literature, it informed the FBI, which in turn took the case to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. After the INS ordered the students deported as subversives, ADL regional director David Lehrer gloated in the _Los Angeles Times_ about his office's cooperation with law enforcement, although he's backpedaling now. The "Los Angeles 8" deportation is still under appeal.
While the ADL worked quietly with America's top cops, it enjoyed similar ties with Israel's spy agencies -- a charge that ADL leaders vehemently deny. But as early as July 7, 1961, ADL director Benjamin Epstein wrote to B'nai B'rith executive secretary Saul Joftes, requesting $25,000 for his investigators. "Our information," he boasted to Joftes, "in addition to being essential for our own operations, has been of great value and service to both the United States Department and the Israeli Government. All data have been made available to both countries with full knowledge to each that we are the source."
In 1987, the ADL came under FBI scrutiny in the wake of the Pollard spy scandal. While assigned to the Navy's Anti-Terrorist Alert Center, where he had access to the most closely guarded U.S. secrets, Jonathan Pollard stole thousands of pages of classified documents for Israel, which, according to federal prosecutors, "could fill a room the size of a large closet...ten feet by six feet by six feet." Pollard's handler was Avi Sella, an Israeli air force colonel whose wife worked for the New York ADL as a lawyer. Pollard later wrote to friends that a prominent ADL leader was deeply involved in the Israeli spy operation.
While there is no proof that anyone connected with the ADL was involved with Pollard, there is evidence that the ADL freely passes information to Israeli intelligence. In March 1993, the FBI interrogated David Gurvitz, an ADL fact finder in Los Angeles until 1992 when he was fired by Suall for illegally obtaining police information to use against a rival at the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The FBI pointedly asked Gurvitz if he had ever transmitted information to Israel. Gurvitz admitted that in 1992 he had learned from a law enforcement contact that Michael Elias, allegedly a member of a radical PLO faction, was scheduled to travel from San Francisco International Airport en route to Haifa. Gurvitz phoned the deputy Israeli consul general in L.A. with the information. "Later the same day," according to a 15-page FBI interview of Gurvitz obtained by the _Voice_, "Gurvitz was called back by another man, who said he was from the Israeli Consulate, and who asked Gurvitz to repeat the information about Elias. Gurvitz did not get this man's name, but their conversation was in Hebrew so Gurvitz felt confident the man was actually an Israeli Consulate official."
Among the 12,000 names of private citizens that police found in ADLn files in San Francisco was Mohammed Jarad, a 36-year-old Chicago resident who was arrested in Israel on January 25, for allegedly distributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to Hamas, the large Islamic fundamentalist movement in the Occupied Territories. The Chicago ADL office runs at least three undercover informants who work with "official friends" in local law enforcement, according to documents released by the San Francisco D.A. and sources close to the ADL. Given these facts, Arab American groups surmise that the ADL has passed information on Jarad to Israeli intelligence.
One technique used by the ADL to monitor the large Arab American community in the Midwest was to scan the local Arab press for funeral notices. According to sources familiar with the practice, ADL investigators in unmarked vans videotaped the Palestinian funerals, which sometimes turned into PLO rallies. Palestinians have been detained at Ben-Gurion Airport simply on the basis of having been filmed attending a funeral in Chicago, according to Suhail Miari, the executive director of the United Holy Land Fund, whose cousin was an Arab member of Israel's Knesset.
Shortly after Jarad was arrested, the Israeli government announced that Hamas was being run from America with money and operational instructions relayed by courier or fax. Israel's charges were played up on the front page of _The New York Times_. According to well- placed sources, Yehudit Barsky, an ADL fact finder in New York, worked closely with Israeli officials on this campaign of vilification, introducing "friendly" reporters to "official friends" in Chicago law enforcement.
Barsky, who is fluent in Arabic, prepared an ADL report about how Hamas is funded in America. She identified the Dallas-based Islamic association for Palestine in North America as the front organization for Hamas in the U.S.A. "Its infrastructure functions as an interlocking network of organizations, small businesses, and individual activists," says the February 1993 ADL report, which outlines the organization's development, its activities on U.S. college campuses, and its "metamorphosis" during the Gulf War. It also traces Hamas fundraising through a plethora of alleged front- groups from Plainfield, Indiana, to Culver City, California. It is doubtful that Barsky could have compiled such sophisticated data without the help of "official friends" and ADL spies.
Barsky refused to comment. But she used to talk to Greg Slabodkin as many as three times a week when he was an opposition researcher for AIPAC, whose spy operation was disclosed last summer in the_Voice_. "The level of cooperation was very close," Slabodkin said during a recent phone conservation from Israel where he is in graduate school. "If we felt our files were lacking, we contacted the ADL."
When Sha'wan Jabarin, a 30-year-old Palestinian human rights worker in the Occupied Territories won a $25,000 Reebok Human Rights Award in 1990, Slabodkin recalls that Barsky faxed AIPAC the man's entire police file, which she had obtained from the Israeli embassy. Jabarin had been arrested numerous times in Israel, and once confessed to being a member of the PLO after having been severely tortured. Jabarin, who received a short jail term, became an Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience. Of course, to AIPAC and the ADL, Jabarin was a terrorist. Slabodkin, who was ordered to keep tabs on him when he was in the U.S. to receive his award, called a representative of Al Haq, the Palestinian human rights group that employed Jabarin, to obtain his itinerary. AIPAC even opened a file on musician Jackson Browne, who presented Jabarin with the Reebok award.
While the ADL may be able to rationalize its close monitoring of Arabs, and even left-wing gay revolutionaries, it has a far harder time explaining its obsession with spying on anti-apartheid activists. David Gurvitz told the FBI that when he started working as a fact finder for the ADL in L.A. in March 1989, ADL files already bulged with information about the Israel-South African connection and anti- apartheid groups. "Gurvitz confirmed that the ADL did routinely collect information on persons engaged in anti-apartheid activities in the United States," says the FBI report. While Gurvitz said there were files in the L.A. ADL office dating to the 1930s, he estimated the oldest material on anti-apartheid activities dates back to the late 1970s, paralleling Begin's rise to power in Israel and a deepening of ties between the Jewish state and South Africa. "In about August, 1992," says the report of the FBI's March 3, 1993, interview with Gurvitz, "an anti-apartheid demonstration was held at the South African Consulate in Los Angeles. Participating in the demonstration were the Los Angeles Student Coalition and the Socialist Workers Party. Gurvitz went to two demonstration planning sessions, and a subsequent demonstration. He wrote a report for the ADL on each of the planning sessions and on the demonstration. Copies of the reports were disseminated to Bullock, among others, in care of the San Francisco ADL office."
In 1986 Bullock learned that the consul general of the South African Consulate in Los Angeles would be speaking in Las Vegas at a meeting organized by Willis Carto, the head of the anti-Semitic Liberty Lobby. "Suspecting that the Consul General did not know who Willis Carto is," says the FBI report, "Bullock suggested to Gerard that they might want to warn the South Africans. Gerard agreed and informed the Consul General, who canceled his appearance."
A few months later, Gerard phoned Bullock and told him a South African intelligence officer wanted to meet them. During a rendezvous in a hotel near Fisherman's Wharf, the South African said he was interested in acquiring information on American anti-apartheid activists. The South African, who called himself Mr. Humphries, also asked for information about groups that were advocating divestments. "Gerard, who was present throughout the meeting," says the FBI report, "told Humphries that he [Gerard] had been employed by the CIA....Humphries offered to pay Bullock $150.00 per month in exchange for information. Bullock noted that much of the information Humphries said he wanted was already in the possession of Bullock and the ADL."
Between 1987 and 1991, Bullock sold information to South African intelligence, receiving steady raises, which he split evenly with Gerard. "Bullock said it was his impression, though Gerard never explicitly told him so, (and Bullock never asked) that Gerard may have been telling the CIA about his and Bullock's contacts with the South Africans," says the FBI report. "Gerard had said he knew the CIA 'resident agent' in San Francisco....Once, after Gerard dropped Bullock off at Bullock's residence following a meeting with Louie [who replaced Humphries as their handler], Gerard said he was going to go to the San Francisco CIA office."
Al the while, Gerard may have been "tasking" Bullock for the CIA. "Bullock recalled that once, after he had met Gerard, Bullock went to Chicago, Illinois to conduct an investigation on behalf of the ADL," says the FBI report. "The target of the investigation was a group called the Palestine Human Rights Campaign. Bullock learned that a woman [name deleted] was transporting money between the PLO or the PFLP, and the United States. Bullock told this to Gerard. Gerard later told Bullock that Gerard's 'guy at the CIA' would like to know more. Gerard asked Bullock if Bullock would go back to Chicago to gather more information on the Palestine Human Rights Campaign. Bullock, however, never did go back."
Gerard also seems to have had a close relationship with Mossad, which may have started in 1991 when he went on an ADL junket to Israel. The ADL frequently sponsors trips for American law enforcement officials to Israel, where they are wined and dined and meet their counterparts in various intelligence agencies. According to an affidavit by San Francisco police inspector Roth, the "all-expense paid trip [to Israel] was more or less a thank-you gift and a liaison gesture by the ADL to continue the close relationships it has with specific law enforcement officers from the United States."
Gerard may have liked what he saw in Israel. A short time afterm travelling there, he went to Addis Ababa where he helped with Mossad's rescue of Ethiopian Jews.
As Gerard's relationship with South Africa deepened, he talked more openly about his exploits in the CIA. "Bullock recalled Gerard mentioning that he had been in Algeria on CIA business, and that Gerard discussed the PLO and 'safehouses,'" says the FBI report, "To this Louie once responded that Israeli intelligence had determined that the PLO and the African National Congress were cooperating. Gerard also spoke of having travelled with the CIA to Afghanistan.... Louie also [told Gerard and Bullock] about his adventures inside South Africa as an intelligence officer. Both Gerard and Louie traded 'war stories' and regaled each other and Bullock with tales of 'narrow scrapes.'"
Although there is still much mystery about what triggered law enforcement's investigation of the ADL, it was probably the theft of a classified FBI report on the Nation of Islam from the FBI's San Francisco office. Police armed with search warrants recovered the report in the ADL San Francisco office. Gurvitz says he had sent a copy of it to Mira Boland, the director of the ADL's fact finding division in Washington, D.C. Boland was preparing an op-ed piece for _The Washington Times_, in which she argued that the Nation of Islam should not receive federal funds for the reconstruction of L.A. because the group is anti-Semitic and violence-prone. (Boland, who had arranged the ADL police junket to Israel attended by Gerard, testified in a 1990 criminal trial in Roanoke, Virginia, that she had worked for the CIA for 14 months and later was a subcontractor for the Defense Department before joining the ADL. During the trial, Boland admitted to sharing information with a CIA official at an invitation- only ADL conference.)
After he was questioned by the FBI last fall, Gerard fled to the Philippines, which has no extradition treaty with America. Gerard is believed to have supplied information from police computers not only to the ADL, but to Israel and South Africa as well. The _San Francisco Examiner_ reported that Gerard may be charged with violating federal espionage laws.
Although Bullock worked for the ADL for 30 years, and Irwin Suall praised him in a July 1992 memo as "our number one investigator," the ADL now argues that he was a rogue agent. In its own defense, the ADL also asserts that its fact finders operate no differently than journalists. After all, ask ADL officials, don't journalists keep files?
But the difference between the practice of journalism and the ADL's method of gathering information couldn't be more striking. Journalists place information in the public domain where they are held accountable for falsehoods, distortions, and libel. And for the most part, journalists don't share their investigative files with foreign and domestic police agencies. The ADL has no such inhibition. Because many of its files are not open to public scrutiny, false information collected by ideologically biased researchers cannot be corrected. Once a proud human rights group, the ADL has become the Jewish thought police.
"The ADL says it's a human rights group not just for Jews but for everyone," says Chip Berlet, a highly respected researcher at the Massachusetts-based Political Research Associates, which monitors right-wing extremist groups. "That's fine but it can't do that and spy on Palestinians. It's blatantly unethical and frankly immoral."
"My argument to people is that the ADL wears four hats. Each of the hats independently is appropriate. It is a broad-based human rights group that looks at the broad issues of prejudice and discrimination. It is a group that defends Jews against defamation. Entirely noble. Nothing wrong with that hat. It is a group, whose leaders, at least, consistently defend the actions of Israel against its critics, which again is entirely appropriate. And it is a group that maintains an information-sharing arrangement with law enforcement. Again, there is nothing wrong for a group to do that."
"But you can't do all four. It is impossible to do all four and not violate the bounds of ethics. There's a built-in conflict of interest if you wear all four hats."
ADL national director Abraham Foxman apparently sees no such conflict. In a September 1, 1992, letter to the _Voice_, Foxman complained: "ADL has a proud 80-year record of fighting bigotry and promoting civil rights and constitutional freedoms. Any imputation of an effort or motive on our part to smear or stifle the free speech of anyone is false and baseless"
"Throughout his pieces [on AIPAC's spying], Friedman describes the dissemination of information as if it were slander, and the existence of files as a token of McCarthyite inclination. Thedepiction is misleading in several ways. Virtually every journalist, academic, politician and organization keeps files on subjects they deem relevant; tracing the logic of Friedman's reckless charges, the Library of Congress is tantamount to the KGB. Moreover, disseminating the public record of a public figure is neither defamation nor McCarthyism."
But many believe the ADL is increasingly in the defamation business. Ask Jesse Jackson, James Abourezk, or the leaders of the New Jewish Agenda -- all past targets of ADL smears. (At the same time, the ADL exonerated the fascist World Anti-Communist League, which assisted Ronald Reagan's covert war against Nicaragua, a policy endorsed by ADL leaders.)
In the early 1980s, researchers Russ Bellant and Berlet asked to meet fact finding head Irwin Suall, to discuss their work on anti-Semite Lyndon LaRouche. "Our view then of Irwin Suall was that he was this really terrific investigator," says Berlet. "So we introduce ourselves, say what we are up to and Suall leans back in his chair and basically runs down a dossier on each of us: about what our political activities are, who we work with, what organizations we belong to. Obviously, he was just trying to blow us away and he succeeds admirably. We were just sitting there with our mouths open feeling very uncomfortable."
"And then he leans forward and says, 'The right-wing isn't the problem. The left-wing is the problem. The Soviet Union is the biggest problem in the world for Jews. It's the American left that is the biggest threat to American Jews. You're on the wrong track. You're part of the problem.' We were stunned. I was virtually in tears. This is not how I perceived myself. We basically stumbled out of there in a daze."
Letters (response to Friedman's article)
The Village Voice, May 18, 1993, Vol. XXXVIII No. 20
A LEAGUE OF HIS OWN
Robert I. Friedman's assault on the Anti-Defamation League [The Anti- Defamation League Is Spying On You." May 11] demonstrates that he has an axe to grind and his own prejudiced and biased agenda to promote. It also demonstrates that concern for accurate reporting is far down on his list. The story is replete with inaccuracies, innuendos, and outright falsehoods, and conveys a picture of ADL so divorced from reality as to be farcical. Friedman is even wrong on such basic, easily determined facts as where ADL was founded (Chicago, not New York) and the building in which ADL'S San Francisco office is located (not the Jewish Community Federation building pictured).
ADL has done the work of fighting haters for 80 years, without "spying" on organizations or individuals and with profound respect for the law. Our mission is to monitor and expose those who are anti- Jewish, racist, anti-democratic, and violence-prone, and we monitor them primarily by reading publications and attending public meetings. Through the years, we have published scores of reports on anti- Semitism emanating from both the left and the right. In fact, although Friedman's bias leads him to assume the contrary, ADL's primary concern is still the far right.
Because extremist organizations are highly secretive, sometimes ADL can learn of their activities only by using undercover sources. Friedman's hyperbole notwithstanding, these sources function in a manner directly analogous to investigative journalists. Some have performed great service to the American people -- for example, by uncovering the existence of right-wing extremist paramilitary training camps -- with no recognition and at considerable personal risk. The information ADL obtains is placed in the public domain, and through the years ADL has established a reputation for accurate reporting.
Friedman's article, by contrast, contains so much misinformation that it would take an article equally as long to set the record straight. A few examples: He states that an "ADL leader was deeply involved in the [Jonathan Pollard] Israeli spy operation," and that Pollard's handler's wife "worked for the New York ADL as a lawyer." Not true. Friedman also states: "ADL investigators in unmarked vans videotaped Palestinian funerals." Not true. Elsewhere, he asserts that ADL was obsessed "with spying on anti-apartheid activists." Again, not true. We could go on and on -- and, of course, Friedman does not reveal *his* sources.
The distortion games Friedman plays when he mentions numbers further reveal his lack of objectivity. When it comes to how much ADL paid Roy Bullock a week -- as an independent contractor, not an employee (an important distinction Friedman also fails to make) -- he includes the zeros ($75.00, $150.00), inviting the reader to see a large number. By contrast, when he observes that ADL paid Bullock "nearly $170,000" between 1985 and 1993, he chooses not to point out that amounts to little more than $20,000 a year -- hardly an excessive sum.
What is accurate about Friedman's story is Chip Berlet's description of ADL's four hats. Yes, ADL looks at broad issues of prejudice and discrimination. Yes, ADL defends Israel against critics. And yes, ADL maintains an information-sharing relationship with law enforcement regarding extremist activities and hate crimes. We see no conflict in these four activities, and we believe most _Voice_ readers won't either.
ABRAHAM FOXMAN National Director Anti-Defamation League Manhattan
ROBERT I. FRIEDMAN REPLIES:
For the ADL to compare itself to investigative journalists is absurd. Journalists don't spy on Arabs and anti-apartheid activists and then freely pass their files to South African and Israeli intelligence. But according to police the confessions of two paid ADL investigators, buttressed by 700 pages of court documents and interviews, the ADL does.
Indeed, the ADL spies on groups that are neither anti-Semitic nor violent. Police confiscated ADL files on hundreds of mainstream groups ranging from ACT UP to Peace Now. Respected intellectuals and Middle East scholars who disagree with the ADL's political views have ended up on ADL blacklists, their reputations smeared. "Private organizations have no business paying operatives inside police departments or having spies," says an April 17 editorial in the _St. Louis Post-Dispatch_, condemning ADL spying.
On April 10, police armed with search warrants raided ADL offices in San Francisco and L.A. after concluding that "ADL employees were apparently less than truthful" in voluntarily turning over documents during an earlier search, according to San Francisco police inspector Ron Roth's sworn affidavit. Roth also asserts that Bullock was a "paid employee for the ADL." If so, by failing to pay taxes on $170,000 of income paid to Bullock, the ADL could face a total of 48 felony counts, according to court papers.
The ADL may also face felony charges for illegally obtaining confidential information from police computers. As for errors: The ADL was founded in Chicago, and moved to New York in 1947. But it was an original tenant in the San Francisco building shown in the _Voice_ photo, moving out a few months ago. I never wrote that an "ADL leader was deeply involved in the [Pollard] Israeli spy operation." I reported that Pollard himself made the charge. And in court papers, Pollard's own lawyer said that the wife of Pollard's handler worked for the ADL. If I have a bias, it is on the side of the First and Fourth Amendments.