20. Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith – An Oxymoron?

Published: Updated:

Sources: SAN FRANCISCO BAY GUARDIAN, Date: 4/14/93, Title: “Reports show ADL/SFPD spy net reach,” Author: Tim Redmond; Date: 9/29/93,  Title: `ADL Deal Dies,” Author: Jane Hunter; LIES OF OUR TIMES, Date: July/August 1993, Title: “The ADL and Civil Liberties,” Author: Mitchell Kaidy; SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER, Date: 10/7/93, Title: “Judge rules ADL need not open its files in civil suit,” Authors: Dennis J. Opatrny and Scott Winokur; Y’ACOV AHIMEIR, Date: 10/25/93, Interview at Sonoma State University

SSU Censored Researcher: Laurie Turner

SYNOPSIS: The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith (ADL), established eight decades ago to combat anti-Semitism, has itself been charged with civil rights viola­tions, involving domestic spying on a massive scale. With the help of a San Francisco police intelligence officer and at least one undercover operative, the ADL collected secret files on some 1,000 political organi­zations and 12,000 individuals, many in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The ADL-targeted groups allegedly were as diverse as Greenpeace, the Ku Klux Klan, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimina­tion Committee, the Aryan Nation, the ACLU, the American Indian Movement, the American Nazi Party, the National Lawyers Guild, ACT UP, the NAACP, the United Auto Workers, the African National Congress, and Project Censored.

Documents seized by the District Attorney’s office in a raid on the San Francisco ADL office reportedly revealed that the ADL had run a systematic, long-term, private nationwide spy network with the help of Roy Edward Bullock, a San Francisco art dealer, and Tom Gerard, a one-time CIA agent in Latin America who had earlier worked as an intelligence officer for the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD).

The documents also suggested that Bullock and Gerard were working as paid informants not only for the Anti-Defamation League but also for the South African government-and that information was shared with South Africa as well as Israel.

While this extraordinary story received some major coverage in West Coast papers, including the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Examiner, it was basically ignored by the mainstream national press and, according to journalist Mitchell Kaidy, writing in Lies Of Our Times (LOOT), it received little scrutiny in The New York Times.

In fact, Kaidy wrote, “When The New York Times reported the issue on April 25, it ran an unsigned Sunday article innocuously head­lined A Dealer in Art and, Some Say, a Dealer in Secret Police Data?’ (p. 38). The article conspicuously failed to mention ADL’s links to the State Department, CIA, and FBI, or to indicate the extensive range of the groups it targeted. Both Israel and South Africa allegedly bene­fited from the information ADL furnished, yet the Times down­played `one foreign government’ while mentioning South Africa sev­eral times as a beneficiary.”

Further, in a follow-up article in May, LOOT noted that The New York Times “inexplicably failed to exploit a local angle-that, according to authorities in San Francisco, where the scandal erupted, the underground opera­tion was financed and directed by the ADL in New York for more than three decades. The Times ignored this, instead devoting its space to the justifications of ADL officials.”

Ironically, the ADL spy-ring story also appeared to be ignored by the press in Israel. Y’acov Ahimeir, one of the first broadcasters with Israeli TV and former chief editor and anchorman of Israeli TV News, was unaware of the issue until he vis­ited the United States in October 1993. Ahimeir, now a news talk show host with Israeli TV, told Project Censored he had not seen the issue reported in Israel.

COMMENTS: Several sources, from diverse publications, provided background for this nomination; following are some of their indi­vidual comments:

Tim Redmond, of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, felt that one aspect of the story that deserved more coverage was how the S.F. Police Department was involved in an extensive spy net­work reaching to South Africa and Central America and that the SFPD policies that allowed this to happen are still in place now. Redmond added that although he “broke this piece of the story, other Bay Guardian reporters, especially Jane Hunter, have also played a key role in keeping the story alive and deserve credit for their work. Martin Espinoza, who helped me research the story, also deserves credit.” Redmond also acknowl­edged the role of the Bay Guardian as a whole in getting the story out.

Mitchell Kaidy, author of the article in Lies O f Our Times, said he was motivated to report the story because of the “deficiencies left by the mainstream media.” Kaidy felt it was important for the public to know more about the story since it revealed how Americans, exercising their Constitutional right to dissent, became targets of covert-moni­toring as well as infiltration.” Noting that this is an on-going story with both national and inter­national implications, Kaidy added, “Ironically, although several jour­nalists and many newspaper letter writers were allegedly spied on, I know of no mainline newspapers, weeklies, wire services or journalism publications which have fully inves­tigated the matter. And the only publications that evince continued interest are of limited circulation.”

Dennis J. Opatrny and Scott Winokur covered the issue throughout the year for the San Francisco Examiner: Opatrny said he did not believe that the ongoing story had received sufficient expo­sure since it originally broke. Noting that while ABC did a piece early on and NBC did a news­magazine piece later, “Only the Washington Post, 10 months after the story broke, finally did a main story with sidebars. The so-called Voice of the West, aka the San Francisco Comical, has been strangely silent for the most part, occasionally taking a nibble but never a bite of the story”

Opatrny, who also was speaking for Winokur, said the “general public would benefit with wider exposure of a domestic spying story by simply being made aware that there are groups, perhaps with good intentions, some with evil motives, watching, monitoring and spying on Americans exercising their constitu­tionally guaranteed civil rights and protected political rights. The Anti-­Defamation League of the B’nai B’rith benefits from the limited cov­erage, as would any so-called fact-­finding organization with a shining reputation for doing good that is suddenly under investigation for criminal activity. The ADL’s stated purpose as a watchtower for anti­-Semitism is admirable, but its tac­tics are questionable at best, perhaps illegal at worst.”

Since all the authors agree that the story is not over yet, the main­stream media will have another chance to put it on the national agenda in 1994.