Source: Sfweekly, February 2, 2000
Spy vs Spite
The Clinton administration has praised the Anti-Defamation League for helping shield kids from Internet hate.
But should a group that spied on thousands of Californians be allowed to police the Web?
By Matt Isaacs
The first snow of the season is falling on New York in big fluffy flakes, making the city look new again. The offices of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, located in U.N. Plaza, are stuffy, the windows steamed. Everyone appears a bit disheveled; rumpled clothes and flattened hat hair seem to be in vogue. Jordan Kessler, a handsome young man with a beard, sits at a computer terminal, talking about how he compiles his list.
Kessler is personally responsible for the ADL's HateFilter, a software program that blocks access to Web sites that, the ADL contends, contain bigoted or hateful speech. This 25-year-old Columbia grad has accepted the enormous task of seeking out and cataloging inflammatory language among the roughly 800 million Web pages available to the public. He has help, of course. The ADL, a group dedicated to securing "justice and fair treatment for all citizens alike," has 30 offices around the country tracking extremists of every different shade, and each office has Kessler's direct line.
Kessler assembles a list of all the groups his organization deems dangerous; it's a list that must be constantly updated because, he says, hatemongers have a tendency to mutate. To be deemed objectionable by the ADL, a site must be cleared by a committee of the organization's managers before it makes Kessler's list. He won't say how many people are on the committee, or reveal the names of the organizations he has labeled as dangerous.
Some of the groups he watches, Kessler says, also watch him. Some revel, just because their sites have been chosen by the ADL, he says. It's like making the big time. The Web designers for the white supremacist site World Church of the Creator, for example, actually promote their work with a quote taken out of context from a Kessler report in which he grudgingly complimented the graphics for that site.
"If their Web site gets blocked by the ADL, in their eyes they've made it," he says. "They think we are all-powerful, in control of the government and everything that stands in their way."
Kessler's screen displays a number of yellow file folders. One folder is titled "Gays," presumably a file on gay-bashers. Another is titled "Arabs," presumably a list of anti-Arab groups. He says he takes great care in reviewing a site before he brings it to the committee. Many sites may be offensive, he says, featuring anti-Semitic jokes or caricatures, but they won't make the list of those to be blocked by the ADL's HateFilter. On the other hand, he says, some sites might be recommended for the list based on what the ADL knows about the organization rather than the content of the site. His organization has been monitoring hate groups for more than 85 years, he says, bringing an expertise that stretches far beyond HTML or Java codes.
The ADL has been fighting anti-Semitism, in its own way, since 1913. The organization was founded by Sigmund Livingston, a Chicago attorney, hoping to fight the overt presence of anti-Semitism in American society following the turn of the century. Livingston began with two desks, $200, and the sponsorship of the Independent Order of B'nai B'rith, meaning "Children of the Covenant." Since then the organization has grown into a national nonprofit organization that took in $46 million in revenues in 1998 and employs 200 people in its New York headquarters alone. In the 1960s the ADL fought stridently for the passage of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. More recently it pioneered efforts to create a model for "hate crime" laws.
It is an organization with a unique mission, given that its existence is largely based on the continuance of racism and bigotry. If anti-Semitism had disappeared from the face of the Earth during the 20th century, the ADL might have withered away, too. But even five decades beyond the fall of Nazi Germany, the world continues to be a prejudiced place, and the organization still regularly denounces anti-Semitic statements made in print, over the airwaves, and, more recently, over the Internet.
The Web is a new frontier, presenting the ADL with fresh challenges and opportunities for growth. The medium has given every electronic pamphleteer the reach of a worldwide television broadcasting network, making it easy for anyone with a computer to spread his message, racist or otherwise. Because the Web is essentially unregulated, the ADL believes cyberspace is "a dangerous place for children," according to the organization's literature. "There are no parents or teachers standing by to guide and advise a child who has come upon a site that promotes hate. Without that guidance, there is a real chance children will simply accept what they read as fact."
In response to this supposed threat to young minds, the ADL has stepped up its own efforts to combat intolerance by introducing the HateFilter, which runs on Mattel's CyberPatrol, a software package that blocks a wide gamut of material on the Internet. Consumers who purchase the HateFilter receive all of CyberPatrol's features, including categories other than hate speech, among them graphic violence and pornography. But CyberPatrol purchased on its own does not include the HateFilter, because Mattel has its own version of what it considers hate speech, and does not market the filter, nor does it necessarily approve of what the ADL's HateFilter blocks, company officials say.
So far, the ADL HateFilter has been marketed as a service to be used in the home. But that may soon change. CyberPatrol is already in 15,000 private and public libraries, schools, and universities, and the ADL has not ruled out broadening the distribution of HateFilter software to public institutions. "Right now, the HateFilter is not meant to be used by the government, but over the next few months we will be discussing whether we will advocate for its use in schools and libraries," says Sue Stengel, an ADL attorney.
It appears, however, that the organization, which wields tremendous clout in Washington, has already begun to advocate -- at the highest levels. The ADL's national director, Abraham Foxman, met with President Clinton at least twice last year, once following the Littleton shooting in May, and again in the wake of an attack on a Jewish community center in Granada Hills in August. After the latter meeting, Malcolm Hoenlein, a top official in the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, told reporters that Clinton had agreed to take the lead in persuading Americans to install a "hate filter" on their computers. In October, Clinton again met with the ADL, and began his speech with a tribute to the organization's new software. "Thank you for your pioneering work to filter out hate on the Internet -- which, lamentably, was part of the poison that led to the tragedy at Columbine High School," Clinton said.
More recently, Elizabeth Coleman, the ADL's director of civil rights, was asked to participate in a panel discussion concerning a "family friendly" Internet at a conference for the National Association of Attorneys General a few weeks ago -- a conference where Attorney General Janet Reno gave the keynote address. Coleman demonstrated the filter for all the law enforcement officials in attendance. She said over lunch that the organization had also shown the filter to Vice President Al Gore, who "loved it."
Elizabeth Coleman, the ADL's director of civil rights
If made explicit, White House support for the ADL filter could have a significant impact on the policy decisions of public schools and libraries across the country. Although decisions regarding school and library Internet filters are currently made at the local level, a bill before Congress spearheaded by Sen. John McCain, called the Children's Internet Protection Act, would require all schools and libraries receiving federal funds to install Internet filters on computers accessible to children. If the bill wins approval, even a mention by the White House, combined with the ADL's strong regional lobbying, could go a long way toward encouraging local jurisdictions to choose the HateFilter from the filtering software on the market.
But if Clinton likes and Gore loves the HateFilter (at least in the ADL's eyes), many are aghast at the thought of the ADL having any say over what children may or may not see. These critics, whose political and religious affiliations vary widely, repeatedly describe the ADL as a self-appointed agent of Israel that cloaks itself in the rhetoric of fighting hate, while actively attempting to silence those who are not hatemongers, but mere opponents of Israeli government policy.
"The Number 1 goal of the ADL is the protection of Israel," says Pete McCloskey, a former Republican congressman from San Mateo who regularly criticized Israel's policies. "Any group whose sole purpose is to protect a foreign nation should not have anything to say about what's said or written here in America."
Pete McCloskey, a former Republican congressman from San Mateo
On a number of occasions since the 1970s, the ADL has been caught distributing lists of its enemies, replete with detailed descriptions of "black demagogues" and "pro-Arab propagandists," including poet Amiri Baraka in the list of demagogues, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Noam Chomsky under the propagandist label. Then, in 1993, a longtime ADL investigator admitted to working with a member of the San Francisco Police Department to illegally gather information on almost 10,000 people, including members of socialist, labor, and anti-apartheid groups.
Some of the targets of that information-gathering effort have gone to court in an attempt to gain access to their dossiers, currently in possession of the ADL, but the ADL has refused to release the files, claiming that its investigator was an "investigative journalist" whose unpublished reporting materials are protected against disclosure by the California shield law, which was originally adopted to help journalists keep confidential sources who reveal important public wrongdoing confidential.
Thus the ADL finds itself in a sticky position: While it advocates for a software product that limits access to the Internet's open exchange of ideas, the Anti-Defamation League is also hiding behind a law put in place to encourage people to speak freely.
The ADL recently added one episode to a videotape it uses in workshops that are meant to promote cultural understanding in schools. The vignette shows a boy, about 15 years old, surfing the Web in his school library. He comes across a page called the Zundelsite, with the headline "Did Six Million Really Die?"
"Hey guys, come here," the kid says to his friends. "Check this out. It says here the Holocaust was a bunch of bull. Like it never really happened like the Jews say it did."
Two blond students lean over his shoulder, as a dark-haired student listens to the conversation in the background. "Wow, big surprise. I hear they always lie," one boy says.
"I guess they just want us to feel sorry for 'em," says a girl, as they look at a page titled "Holocaust Myth 101."
"Well. They can lie all they want," says the boy who found the page. "Looks like we dug up the truth."
At this point, the instructor leading the workshop is supposed to stop the video and begin a discussion, using questions from an accompanying guide. On the whole, the questions are predictable classroom fare: "What happened?," "Has anyone ever experienced a similar situation?," and so on. But one question stands out: "Should the school have some kind of policy regarding what students can access on the Internet?"
In fact, many public secondary schools have Internet policies for minors, as do almost all public libraries. And both types of institutions are leaning toward the use of filtering software to limit what children can access on the Web. The San Francisco Unified School District, for example, employs a systemwide filter to block access to a variety of material, including "intolerance." School officials would not identify the name of the filter.
The policy discussions regarding the protection of minors on the Internet thus far have dealt almost exclusively with pornography. In the heated debate over First Amendment freedoms on the Web, smut has taken center stage because it has already been addressed and narrowly defined. The Supreme Court has ruled that "obscene" speech, meaning material appealing to a prurient or unhealthy interest in sex and lacking serious artistic, scientific, literary, or political value, can be regulated by the government.
The Supreme Court has also ruled that the definition of "obscene" can take the age of the audience into account. Thus, for adults, pornographic films are, by and large, protected by the First Amendment. But the government may prohibit the sale of these films to minors by labeling the material "indecent," a much broader, generally ill-defined category.
In 1996, Congress tried to apply the court's broad definition of "indecent" in its passage of the Communications Decency Act, a law prohibiting the transmission of "indecent" material over the Internet. But in 1997, the Supreme Court struck down the law in Reno vs. ACLU, declaring that communications on the Internet cannot be limited to what is suitable for children. The landmark ruling prevents a library from installing porn filters on terminals intended for adult use. But it still allows schools or libraries to restrict a minor's access to smut.
A school or library may also limit children's access to hate speech, but for a different reason. Ordinarily, in a public forum, anything outside the narrow definition of "obscene" is protected by the First Amendment. But schools and libraries are not the same as the town square (or the Internet), where people can spout hateful rhetoric to their heart's desire. A library has only so much shelf space; thus a professional librarian has the right to choose which materials to include in a collection, and which to leave out. The same goes for schools, which have the right to set their own curriculums and base the selection of library books on those curriculums.
"That's why if you were to go to your local library in search of books on the Holocaust, you would probably find many," says Frederick Schauer, a First Amendment professor at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. "But it's not likely you'll find any books that say the Holocaust didn't happen. And I think most people would agree that's appropriate."
Schauer says he believes the debate over allowing speech filters for minors into the public forum is only just beginning. Would it be possible for the ADL HateFilter to find a place in public libraries and schools? Yes, he says, although it would be challenged in court, and would probably be more likely to be allowed in secondary schools than in public libraries that serve all ages.
Some First Amendment lawyers find it curious that the ADL would even be getting into the business of speech filters. The Anti-Defamation League, after all, considers itself a civil rights organization. Judging from literature promoting the HateFilter software, it's clear the ADL is thinking about the apparent conflict between the civil right of free speech, and the limitation of speech inherent to Internet filtering software. Almost every page of HateFilter literature mentions the First Amendment, and explains that the ADL does not seek to censor or limit speech on the Internet. The HateFilter does not remove sites or censor their content, says ADL Director Elizabeth Coleman; it only blocks these sites from coming into the home at the parents' discretion.
Slide from Hate Filter presentation.
Parents have good reason for wanting to keep these sites off their computers, Coleman says. Many extremist sites cater to children, she says. For example, the World Church of the Creator site has a special link for kids. Other sites, she says, are highly polished, presenting themselves as mainstream academic thought. This misinformation, she says, can lead to the kind of violence that has made headlines in recent years. Last August, for example, three teenagers firebombed a judge's house in San Jose, believing he was Jewish. (He was actually Catholic.) Investigators say two of the kids had used computers at school to access white supremacist Web sites. Also, Matthew and James Williams, brothers suspected of murdering a gay couple in Redding and setting fire to three synagogues in Sacramento, were reported to have been led astray by radical right philosophies ferried on the Internet. (Although at 31 and 29 years of age, the brothers would not have been constrained by an Internet filter aimed at minors.)
Coleman says the best part of the HateFilter is that it doesn't just block sites, it also routes Internet surfers back to links on the ADL Web page that provide information about extremists such as white supremacists or Holocaust deniers. "Nobody else has the same educational component," she says.
But critics of Internet filters wonder if they actually do more harm than good. A highly regarded study by Chris Hunter, a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, for instance, found that the devices block an average of 21 percent of Web sites containing useful, legal information, while failing to block an average of 25 percent of sites containing "objectionable" content. (The ADL's HateFilter was not included in the study.)
Even organizations that have historically spoken out against racism and gay-bashing, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, object to Internet speech filters. Ann Brick, an attorney with the civil rights organization, says that one of the inherent risks of filters is that consumers never know the political or commercial biases of the filter's manufacturer. "The ADL is a partial organization, in that they have a point of view," she says. "And what they consider hate speech might be a complex exposition of the Israeli-Arab conflict."
The Southern Poverty Law Center, another civil rights organization that publishes its own annual list of extremists on the Web, is also unconvinced of the efficacy of filters. Joe Roy, director of the center's intelligence project, says his organization supports any effort to fight hatred, but would not endorse a speech filter because, in the organization's opinion, filters simply don't work.
The ADL's software manufacturer, CyberPatrol, has taken an especially hard beating from critics who say the filtering software has mistakenly blocked sites such as Creatures Comfort Pet Care Service and the MIT Project on Mathematics and Computations, for their explicit sexual content.
Because the HateFilter has a narrower scope, ADL officials say, it is more sophisticated than other filters on the market. "You're getting 85 years of knowledge and experience monitoring these groups," says Coleman. "Yet we want to be subtle. You can't use a sledgehammer in this endeavor."
And in a limited test run of the software, the HateFilter does appear to be more refined than its competitors. It doesn't block the Pat Buchanan Web site, though Buchanan has been critical of Israel and made controversial statements about Jews in the past. It does block a site called Radio Islam, which blatantly flaunts its hatred of Jews. It also blocks what appears to be a very thoughtful -- and hardly controversial -- site called Interracial Voice, containing a long list of essays describing the challenges of growing up with parents from different cultures.
Elizabeth Coleman says the ADL's block on the Interracial Voice page was an oversight.
The ADL will not provide a list of blocked sites, officials say, because in the wrong hands, it could be used as a kind of address book for extremists, allowing them easier communication with one another. Without a list of blocked sites, however, it's hard to get a picture of what the ADL deems inappropriate for children. And an understanding of this bigger picture is important, critics say, because contrary to Coleman's claims, the ADL has a history of making blacklists that do, in fact, attack legitimate schools of thought with a sledgehammer.
In the early 1980s, for example, records show the organization circulated through college campuses a confidential list of pro-Arab sympathizers "who use their anti-Zionism as a guise for their deeply felt anti-Semitism." The report contained the names of respected professors from Georgetown University, Columbia University, and the University of California at Berkeley, among others, who had criticized Israel for its invasion of Lebanon. When the Middle East Studies Association discovered the document, and called for the ADL to disown it, a high-ranking ADL official was quoted in the New York Times blaming it on an "overly zealous student volunteer."
Francis Boyle, a professor of law at the University of Illinois, still has vivid memories of what it was like to be the recipient of the ADL's wrath. He says when he and a colleague began giving lectures critical of Israel's attack on the Palestine Liberation Organization in Lebanon, the ADL and a local Jewish organization went far out of their way to silence them. Boyle says ADL members would sit in the front row during his lectures, simply to shout him down. The organizations also filed a complaint against him with the dean of the law school, he says. "I was really surprised. Here I thought the ADL was this great civil rights organization, and they're doing these things that are totally antithetical to what academic freedom is supposed to be about."
But Boyle says things were much worse for his Jewish colleague. When the colleague began speaking about the atrocities he had seen when he visited Lebanon in 1982, Boyle says the ADL organized for students to boycott the professor's classes and requested that the administration deny the professor tenure. "The ADL was far worse on Jews who criticized Israel than they were on Arabs. They treated them like traitors," Boyle says. "The ADL has turned itself into a dirty tricks organization for Israel."
Steve Zeltzer and Jeff Blankfort had already been active in Middle Eastern politics for many years when, in 1987, they founded an organization called the Labor Committee on the Middle East, a group that, by their description, was devoted to alerting American workers to the plight of laborers in all the Middle Eastern countries. It could hardly be called an organization, they say. It was really just a handful of like-minded people. Or so they thought.
The first meetings were held at Zeltzer's house in San Francisco. Those who attended were familiar with one another, except for a man named Roy Bullock. Blankfort says he had seen Bullock around the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. "I recognized him and was a bit surprised to see him at our meeting. I wondered if he was really interested," Blankfort says.
But, Blankfort recounts, Bullock said he liked what they were doing and wanted to be a part of the gang, and, evidently, that was good enough for the other members. As is often the case with those who fashion themselves to be part of the radical left, the members chose as one of their first projects an event that had little to do with the group's core interest. They decided to organize a picket line at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, protesting a luncheon being held by an Israeli organization called Histadrut, which reportedly had financial interests in South Africa, then still in the grip of apartheid policies.
The guests of honor at the event were former California Assemblyman Richard Katz from Sylmar, and then-Speaker of the Assembly Willie Brown.
At the time, there was a growing anti-apartheid movement in the U.S., strongly supported by African-American organizations in the Bay Area, and if the public were to become aware of Histadrut's financial ties, Brown's participation in the event would not look good. Evidently he was aware of this, and sent a thoughtful, two-page response declining Zeltzer's request for him to pull out of the event.
The Labor Committee on the Middle East went forward with the protest, organizing about 60 people, including Roy Bullock, to picket in front of the Fairmont,.
Not long after the demonstration, Blankfort received an anonymous envelope. Inside was a torn-out page from a newsletter published by the Institute of Historical Review, a Holocaust denial organization. Blankfort wondered why he would get something from a neo-Nazi group he despised. He was shocked to see it was an article accusing Roy Bullock of being a spy for the ADL.
But spies of one kind or another are not uncommon in radical circles, Blankfort says. "My father was a blacklisted writer, and the FBI was poking around for years," he says. "I'm used to it."
As it turns out, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was tracking Bullock's activities; the FBI, however, was concerned with Bullock because he was an operative for the South African government.
When Bullock was questioned in 1993, according to court records, he told FBI agents that he had been instructed by the ADL to gather information on anti-apartheid groups, a statement he would later recant. He told federal agents he had been working as a "fact finder" for the ADL since 1954, when he was asked to gather information on a Communist Party club in Indianapolis. In 1987, he said, he met Tom Gerard, an officer with the San Francisco Police Department, who began supplying Bullock with records such as motor vehicle registrations and criminal histories -- records that, by law, are to be used by police and prosecutors only in legitimate criminal investigations. Bullock also admitted to receiving approximately $16,000 from the South African government in exchange for information on anti-apartheid groups. He also admitted to turning over information to Israel. At the time, Israel and South Africa maintained loose diplomatic relationships, because both faced trade sanctions, Israel from Arab countries, and South Africa from a wide variety of nations opposed to its apartheid policies.
The ADL says Bullock was acting on his own while collecting information on anti-apartheid groups.
In an investigation by the city, San Francisco police seized 10 boxes of information from the offices of the ADL. A police officer testified that 75 percent of the material was illegally obtained from confidential government sources, according to court records. Police also examined Bullock's computer files, which contained information on 9,876 people, along with 1,394 driver's license numbers. The people were divided into four categories: "Arabs," "Pinkos," "Right," and "Skins." Zeltzer and Blankfort were listed under "Pinkos." Included in Zeltzer's dossier was a description of the protest at the Fairmont Hotel.
Although thousands of nonpublic documents were found in the possession of both Bullock and the ADL, the city offered a settlement agreement to the organization in November 1993. As a result of the deal, the ADL paid a $75,000 civil fine -- most of which went to charitable causes along the lines of the ADL's own interests, such as a Hate Crimes Reward Fund -- while denying all allegations of wrongdoing.
Gerard, whom the ADL had sent on an all-expenses-paid trip to Israel in 1991, pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of unauthorized use of a police computer and was sentenced to three years' probation, 45 days in jail, and a $2,500 fine. He is no longer with the Police Department.
Since the city settled its civil case against the ADL, 17 people who had been subjects of the ADL's investigation have attempted to recover their files; they are represented in court by former Congressman Pete McCloskey, whose wife is one of the plaintiffs. So far, the ADL has blocked those efforts, claiming to be a news-gathering organization and invoking the need for journalists to protect their confidential sources. The California Court of Appeals has ruled that plaintiffs who were the target of illegitimate information-gathering that resulted in the transfer of information to a foreign government have a right to see what was transferred.
The lawsuit has certainly shed light on how the organization has gathered information. For example, the former director of the ADL's San Francisco office, Richard Hirschhaut, testified that he was aware that Bullock had prepared reports on hundreds of individuals and organizations. He also said that up to half of the ADL's activities in the seven years between 1986 and 1993 had been centered on discrediting political views that disagreed with the organization's support of Israel, rather than on the ADL's traditional efforts to counter bigotry and anti-Semitism.
The Internet has undoubtedly made it easier for children to access inappropriate information. Few would argue that a child has something to gain by reading the diatribes of the Farm Belt Führer, and, although hate crimes are actually on the decline in terms of numbers, the hate incidents that have occurred recently are conscience-shocking. Last year the country was introduced to Benjamin Smith, who went on a rampage in Indiana, wounding six Jews coming home from Sabbath and killing an African-American and an Asian-American before committing suicide. Buford Furrow Jr. became famous for shooting up a Jewish community center in Los Angeles. And of course there were Columbine's Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, two teenagers wreaking bloody havoc on their classmates. Teenagers are laughing while they send bullets into their peers, and the World Church of the Creator has a special section for kids.
Who wouldn't be looking for ways to stop the haters? Potential presidents certainly are.
John McCain is stumping through New Hampshire with his Children's Internet Protection Act, a bill that would require all public libraries and secondary schools receiving federal subsidies for their Internet hookups to install filtering software on computers accessible to minors. Many experts say the bill is very likely to win approval from Congress. Al Gore's campaign Web site has a link to Internet Safety for Parents and Kids, complete with follow-on links to the filter sites Cybersitter and Netnanny.
Judith Krug, a law expert with the American Library Association, says she expects to see an avalanche of Internet filtering laws passed at the state level. (Some states, including South Dakota and Virginia, have already mandated Internet filters for library computers accessible to children.) "Without a doubt, schools have to find ways to protect children from inappropriate material," says CyberPatrol Vice President of Marketing Susan Getgood. "I see schools implementing filters in record numbers."
It seems that the ADL's pet project, HateFilter, couldn't have materialized at a better time. Throughout its long life, the ADL has spent vast amounts of money collecting information on the groups it considers threatening, all for a small number of ADL publications that few people would ever read. Now the organization has the opportunity to have a major impact on how young people view the world.
It's quite possible that every library and school receiving federal funds across the nation will be forced to install filters on its computers, not just for pornography, but for extremist speech as well. These institutions will have a choice between a few commercial monoliths that provide filtering software -- and a civil rights organization that can accurately say it has 85 years of experience in fighting bigotry. Some public institutions will almost certainly choose the HateFilter.
And without a list of sites the ADL has decided to block, parents won't ever know what their children are missing. Perhaps a lecture by Noam Chomsky on the mainstream media monopoly. Or a RealAudio spoken-word monologue by Amiri Baraka, formerly known as Leroi Jones. Or a detailed analysis of the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
So far, nobody is connecting the dots in a public way: An organization with a history of ruthlessly silencing its critics is trying to dictate the Internet content available to the country's young minds. And when asked about the HateFilter, the White House offers this vague comment of apparent support: "The president certainly supports any tool that blocks hate and other inappropriate material on the Internet."
The Labor Committee on the Middle East fizzled out a few years ago, but Steve Zeltzer is still active in radical politics. His Victorian home in Bernal Heights is cluttered with tall stacks of videocassettes, material for the documentary television show he produces, Labor on the Job.
Zeltzer says he's still haunted by the paranoid feelings that began when he realized he was being watched. For the first couple of weeks after his confrontation with ADL "fact-finder" Roy Bullock, Zeltzer says, his phone rang repeatedly; when the answering machine came on, the caller began dialing random numbers, an apparent attempt to retrieve messages left for Zeltzer. Now, if he answers the phone and nobody's there, he can't help but wonder if he's still being targeted.
Zeltzer says he's not surprised that the ADL is creating an Internet filter. To him, it's an extension of what the organization has been doing for decades. "They have always had enemies lists, and they have always wanted to control the flow of information," he says. "The HateFilter is just an extension of that."