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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

ADL Spies »

The Strange History of the Anti-Defamation League

ADL Spies

“[T]he Anti-Defamation League for many years has maintained a very important, confidential investigative coverage of Arab activities and propaganda….Our information, in addition to being essential for our own operations, has been of great value and service to both the United States State Department and the Israeli government. All data have been made available to both countries with full knowledge to each that we were the source.”
–  Letter from Benjamin R. Epstein, National Director, Anti-Defamation League to Saul Joftes, Executive Secretary, B’nai B’rith, July 7, 1961.
Those were the days when snooping usually meant digging through garbage cans, checking other people’s mailboxes, and primitive phone tapping. How the Anti-Defamation League is doing it today one can only imagine.

Over the last three days of April, the ADL celebrated its 100th anniversary in Washington DC in high style with Vice President Joe Biden the featured speaker at its Centennial Gala dinner on April 30 and Attorney General Eric Holder doing the obligatory genuflecting the day before.

Standing next to the ADL’s ubiquitous current national director, Abe Foxman, Biden told the one thousand paying guests, “You have become the conscience of this country, no matter what the issue. You have been a pillar of the Jewish community, but you reach out and you have reached out your embrace for all communities.”

For hundreds of organizations and thousands of individuals the ADL’s embrace has been too close for comfort and “unconscionable” would be a term more befitting the organization’s activities. What is definitely in order is a reminder that this year also marks the 20th anniversary of the exposure of a nation-wide spying operation run by the ADL that went back at least five decades.

In January, 1993, San Francisco newspapers reported that the city’s police department had raided the ADL’s Northern California office and discovered it was keeping files on more than 600 largely liberal civic organizations and over 10,000 individuals whose interests and activities included but also went far beyond those of the Arab-American community.

After examining the sequestered files, San Francisco police inspector Ron Roth, estimated that 75% of the information had been illegally obtained and by November, District Attorney Arlo Smith appeared to be on the verge of indicting the ADL for numerous violations of state and city codes.

The appearance was deceiving. With an eye on being elected California’s attorney general the following year, Smith realized, too late as it turned out, that he would need the financial and political clout of San Francisco’s influential Jewish community that had helped to propel him to his job as the city’s DA. So he threw in the towel mere hours before ADL officials would be called to testify before a grand jury.

In an agreement reached a week earlier but issued Nov. 15, 1993, just before the filing deadline, Smith’s office released a statement explaining his reasoning: “The SFDA and Defendants agree that litigation concerning Defendant’s activities would involve disputed issues of fact and law and that such litigation would be expensive and time-consuming both to the SFDA and Defendants.”

That all litigation involves “disputed issues of fact and law” apparently did not occur to Smith. His dropping of the case, however, made little impression on his erstwhile Jewish backers.

They made it known that they would not forgive him for not only opening the investigation into the ADL’s spying operations but making available to whoever in the public would pay the copying fees, 704 pages of documents that revealed in considerable detail the extent of the ADL’s nation-wide spying operations. (See the Israel Lobby Archive,
In exchange for being let off the hook and while admitting no wrong-doing, the ADL agreed that it would no longer do, at least in California, what it was shown to have been doing, i.e., soliciting and/or obtaining non-public information on individuals and organizations from government sources.

In addition, it would “create a Hate Crimes Reward Fund,” in the amount of $25,000, which would “provide monetary rewards for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of the perpetrators of hate crimes.” (The latter seems to be a fetish of the ADL which, incredibly, has just been allowed to trademark the statement, “Imagine a world without hate.”)

What was an important concession by the city, from the ADL’s standpoint, was that its files seized by the SFPD would remain closed to the public and would not be opened without the ADL being given an opportunity to voice its objections.

In California, the ADL’s secret spying and file keeping was mainly the provenance of Roy Bullock, a beefy San Francisco weight-lifter, who went by the code name, “Cal,” and reported to the ADL’s chief spymaster in New York, the now deceased Irwin Suall.

To keep the relationship out of public as well as government eyes, Bullock was paid through a cut-out in Beverly Hills, Bruce Hochman, a lawyer and member of the ADL’s board, also now deceased.

As late as July 19, 1992, Suall had described Bullock as “our Number One fact finder” whose assignments included, in addition to his duties in California, attending and monitoring conferences and conventions of Arab-Americans across the country.

He was, in fact, doing the kind of work that former ADL director Ben Epstein described in the quote at the beginning of this article. At the time, Bullock was receiving close to $25,000 a year for monitoring what he and the ADL considered “antidemocratic” organizations and individuals and he had been doing it for 40 years.

It wasn’t Bullock’s only income, to be sure. He was also an “art dealer” and this provided an explanation for his turning up at Arab-American conferences across the country as I later learned. He “just happened” to be in this or that city at the same time, buying art.

A month after the SFPD had confiscated Bullock’s files, the ADL was still trying to avoid being linked with him, even within the organization.  On February 25, 1993, a cover letter for “talking points” to its regional directors referred to Bullock as “an individual who is alleged to have a relationship with the ADL.”

To the public, when its ties to Bullock could no longer be denied, he was described simply as a private contractor and that the files he kept were for his own use. When this attempted cover-up quickly fell apart, he was put directly on the ADL payroll and provided with an attorney. Read more>>