Menu JTA Search

ADL West Coast Offices Searched; Agency Could Face Felony Charges

The Anti-Defamation League, the major national Jewish organization committed to fighting racism and anti-Semitism, could face multiple felony charges for eavesdropping and other illegal activities carried out as part of an alleged nationwide intelligence network.

San Francisco District Attorney Arlo Smith said that ADL employees involved in intelligence gathering could face felony counts for eavesdropping, tax violations, conspiracy and receiving confidential files, the Los Angeles Times reported.

ADL is suspected of keeping tabs on more than 950 organizations and as many as 12,000 individuals, many of them involved in right-wing, white supremacist or Arab-American activities, according to a police affidavit released publicly.

Investigators from the San Francisco police and District Attorney’s Office are sifting through hundreds of documents seized in extensive searches of ADL offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles conducted April 8.

The raids sought evidence that ADL has been using law enforcement information, supposedly obtained illegally, in its alleged intelligence network.

ADL officials have declined to comment specifically on the investigation. But David Lehrer, the agency’s regional director in Los Angeles, said ADL had not broken any laws.

“There is nothing nefarious about how we operate or what we have done. Our record (in combatting bigotry) speaks for itself,” he said.

ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said in a statement that because of the confidential and sensitive nature of the investigation, “further comment would be inappropriate at this time.”

He said ADL would continue to cooperate with law enforcement officials, as it had in the past. But he said the organization would protect the confidentiality and safety of its sources and would refuse to identify them.

ADL STAFF ‘LESS THAN TRUTHFUL’

San Francisco District Attorney Smith released documents claiming that an ADL “spy network” surreptitiously paid off undercover operatives to gather political intelligence in at least seven U.S. cities and infiltrated Arab-American, right-wing and so-called “pinko” groups.

The Los Angeles Times report said Smith suggested that if ADL shut down its “spy operation,” prosecutors would take such action into account in deciding what charges to file.

San Francisco, Police Inspector Ron Roth, who signed the affidavit required to obtain the warrants for the searches, stated they were necessary because ADL officials did not turn over pertinent files as promised and that some “ADL employees were apparently less than truthful.”

As reported on Friday’s front pages of California’s major newspapers, the 400-page police affidavit and related documents included these further allegations:

*The ADL intelligence network maintained files on such diverse groups as the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan and White Aryan Resistance, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Greenpeace, United Farm Workers, Mills College and the Jewish Defense League.

In addition, files were kept on such individuals as jailed political extremist Lyndon La Rouche and Scott Kraft, the Los Angeles Times correspondent in South Africa.

ADL used undercover operatives to collect information in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Washington, Chicago, St. Louis and Atlanta.

ADL employed Roy Bullock, a San Francisco art dealer, as its “spymaster” for nearly 40 years and funneled money to him through Bruce Hochman, a prominent Beverly Hills tax attorney and former president of the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles.

Since 1985, Bullock allegedly received nearly $170,000 from Hochman by this route. Hochman’s office said that he was out of the country and could not be contacted.

Lehrer of ADL’s Los Angeles office maintained a secret bank account, in the name of “L. Patterson,” to pay for Bullock’s expenses.

An ADL official contested this version and said that the account was used to subscribe to a range of extremist publications, which their publishers were unlikely to mail directly to an ADL address.

ADL operatives culled from the trash can of the Christic Institute, a left-wing think tank, such items as phone messages and office notes.

The affidavit also stated that Bullock and the ADL illegally obtained confidential information from law enforcement officers on the criminal records and personal data of individuals.

SOUTH AFRICAN LINK DENIED

Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said he was not familiar with the charges, but he hoped that “the police will recognize ADL’s right to monitor the activities and publications of extreme right wing groups.”

But Douglas Mirell, a veteran civil rights lawyer and Los Angeles lay leader of the American Jewish Congress and Jewish Federation Council, said that while nothing had been proven against the ADL, “the allegations are very disconcerting and indeed shocking to me.”

“While I realize that it’s a dangerous world out there, there is no place for any Jewish organization to obtain information about individuals in violation of the law,” Mirell said.

The initial public allegations against the ADL surfaced last fall, with the investigation of a veteran San Francisco police inspector and intelligence analyst, Tom Gerard.

According to District Attorney Smith, Gerard fed a steady stream of confidential information to Bullock, and both also furnished the South African government with data on anti-apartheid groups. Gerard has since fled to the Philippines.

In addition, authorities said, Bullock was a paid informant for the FBI. When the FBI learned that Bullock was also working for the South African government, it began to investigate and ultimately discovered Bullock’s ADL connection.

ADL has denied any direct links to the South African government.

NEXT STORY