The San Francisco Spying Scandal

The Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith has maintained close relationships with law enforcement intelligence units nationwide for many years. This is consistent with the organization's reliance on centrist/extremist theory which assumes criminal intent on the part of militant dissidents. This analytical model, coupled with the increased influence within ADL of neoconservative political ideology, led ADL to engage in data collection practices that reflected a serious disregard for civil liberties and privacy rights.

In 1993 it was revealed that an ADL operative in San Francisco, Roy Bullock, collected and traded information in a covert spy network involving the San Francisco police, some 20 other California police departments, and police departments outside of California.77 Bullock began working for ADL in 1954, and became a paid informer in 1960. Over 30 years Bullock compiled a huge computerized data bank including files on close to 1,000 groups and 10,000 individuals. Bullock provided information to the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and sold information on anti-apartheid activists to both South African agents and ADL. One Bullock source, former San Francisco Police Intelligence Unit detective Thomas Gerard, had also worked for the CIA in El Salvador, and provided information to South African agents.78

It was shown that Bullock had not just monitored bigots, but political adversaries such as leftists and critics of Israel:79

"There is evidence that Bullock had compiled "pinko" files on hundreds of liberal social action organizations with no relationship to bigotry, including Greenpeace, the NAACP, Act Up, New Jewish Agenda, and the Center for Investigative Reporting."80

ADL's first response was to claim the charges were overblown and being exploited by antisemites to hamper its work. This stance intentionally conflated the complaints of bigots with issues raised by legitimate civil libertarians and principled political critics.81 ADL later implied that the case was thoroughly investigated, and that ADL was not found to have engaged in any wrongdoing.82 This is simply false. ADL agreed to a settlement in the case where it was not forced to admit guilt, but accepted an injunction against certain data collection practices, which is hardly the same as being found innocent.83 That the charges were never seriously investigated was documented in a scathing report, A Conspiracy of Silence: San Francisco's Failure to Address Police Intelligence Abuses, by ACLU attorney John M. Crew.84

ADL's leadership defends centrist/extremist theory, its reliance on the countersubversion model, and its partnership with intelligence agencies.85 This isolates many on its own staff who are deeply committed to both civil rights and civil liberties, and who produce excellent reports on topics such as skinhead violence and Holocaust revisionism.86 In some instances, local ADL offices have ignored directives from the national ADL office, and joined broad-based community coalitions in fighting bigotry. Yet the national leadership defends data collection practices and covert information trading networks with government law enforcement agents that appear to circumvent Congressional attempts to limit the intrusion of government surveillance into protected First Amendment activities of dissidents.

ADL's role in the San Francisco spy scandal was hardly unique. The organization has long bragged about its close working relationship with many government intelligence agencies. Many of these agencies have a history of back-door information-trading relationships with right wing countersubversion groups.87 A good example of how networking takes place in this shadowy world is to show how ADL crossed paths with right-wing spymaster John Rees.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s Rees, and his wife, Sheila Louise Rees, coordinated a network of informers who spied on peace and social justice groups (sometimes even pilfering files and internal documents from groups such as the National Lawyers Guild). The informers turned the information over to Rees who publishing it in his Information Digest, a secret newsletter sent to clients ranging from the New York State Police to the FBI to the John Birch Society.88 In the 1980s Rees helped create the information-gathering apparatus for the Western Goals Foundation, later sued by the ACLU for one of Rees' projects: creating a computerized data base indexing files on leftists stolen from the LA police.89 During Reagan's first term, ADL joined a network of conservative and Christian Right groups and government intelligence agencies to covertly plan and carry out a domestic propaganda campaign to bolster public support for Reagan administration Central America policies.90 This effort was part of a larger campaign designed by CIA director William Casey, Oliver North, and others to use private groups, such as the Western Goals Foundation, to carry out domestic propaganda functions to support foreign covert intelligence operations.91

After Western Goals folded in 1983, Rees and his associates pursued a close working relationship with ADL staff through several countersubversive organizations including Mid-Atlantic Research Associates and The Maldon Institute, which in 1993 publicized the fact that it received financial support from "public-spirited foundations including the Allegheny Foundation, The Carthage Foundation, the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith..."92 The Maldon Institute's Advisory board included a number of key right-wing countersubversives, including:

· Dr. D. James Kennedy, a leading Christian right activist and co-founder of the Moral Majority. Kennedy endorsed a book that alleged the Illuminati Freemasons and Jewish bankers were behind US liberalism's attack on morality;93

· Raymond Wannall, past president of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers and a former assistant director of the FBI. Wannall led a campaign to justify the acts of government agents charged with illegally spying on the left;94

· Robert Moss, a journalist who gained fame suggesting that Soviet agents controlled a variety of left and liberal groups;95

ADL's participation in the right-wing countersubversion network has specific consequences. ADL does not maintain a single research library or repository of information open to the general public, and progressives are routinely denied access to the same private ADL archives usually opened to conservatives and government agents.96 ADL's embrace of centrist/extremist theories has not only allied it politically with neoconservatism, but shifted its analysis of bigotry to the right.97 At times ADL has soft-peddled allegations of bigotry against Republicans and anti-communists,98 while red-baiting other social critics,99 even attacking another human relations watchdog group, the progressive Center for Democratic Renewal.100

Because ADL is the largest and most-quoted human relations group in the US, it continuously legitimizes the flawed analytical model of centrist/extremist theory while covertly engaging in the intrusive surveillance activities justified by the analytical model of countersubversion.

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