The Anti-Defamation League: Civil Rights and Wrongs
Covert Action Quarterly
Summer 1993, No. 45, pp. 28–33.
For decades, the Anti-Defamation League of the B'nai B'rith has run a private nationwide spy network – a
systematic, long-term, professionally organized political espionage operation complete with informers, infiltrators, money laundering, code names, wiretapping, and secret meetings. While it is not
unusual for private political groups to gather information, the ADL spying is different. It is not only the scale which sets it apart – files on 950 organizations and nearly 10,000 individuals
– but the focus. The ADL spied on groups which opposed its stated goals as well as those which supported its principles. More disturbing, however, is the League's collaboration with state,
federal, and foreign intelligence gathering entities. This sharing of often confidential information and resources is not only illegal, but a violation of trust, a threat to civil liberties, and an
infringement on the right to privacy.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has won a longstanding public reputation as an opponent of anti-Semitism, defender of minority rights, and promoter of racial justice. In January 1993, a less
benign dimension of ADL surfaced. San Francisco newspapers broke the story of 24-year police officer Tom Gerard, who kept computerized files on thousands of Arab-Americans, 36 Arab organizations, 33
anti-apartheid organizations, 412 "pinko" organizations, 349 right-wing organizations, and 35 skinhead groups.
Gerard worked closely with Roy Bullock, a full-time salaried undercover investigator for ADL for the past 32 years. Bullock's records were even more extensive than Gerard's, with files on 77 Arab
organizations, 647 "pinko"and anti-apartheid organizations, 612 right-wing organizations and 27 skinhead groups.
The spy network to which Gerard and Bullock belonged is headquartered in the ADL's New York office under ADL director of "fact-finding," Irwin Suall, and his deputy, Thomas Halpern. As the
League's chief West Coast undercover operative, Bullock maintained numerous contacts with law enforcement and federal officials, recruited informers, and worked with ADL operatives in other
The ADL, which has a $34 million annual budget has openly acknowledged compiling files on "extremist hate groups" and supplying reports on them to law enforcement agencies. Richard Hirschhaut,
executive director of the ADL Central Pacific Region, also admitted that "the ADL does keep files on Arab-American groups or individuals who espouse anti-Jewish views or take credit for anti-Jewish
Bullock's and Gerard's files, however, revealed massive ADL operations directed not only against right-wing extremists and anti-Semitic groups, but also hundreds of mainstream and progressive
groups. Included among the minority, anti-apartheid, ethnic, peace, religious, human rights, and other organizations and individuals – many of which ADL should have regarded as allies in the
struggle against racism and bigotry – were the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), National Lawyers Guild, NAACP, Rainbow Coalition, Greenpeace, Mother Jones, Jews for Jesus,
Americans for Peace Now, Irish Northern Aid, Asian Law Caucus, ACT UP, United Auto Workers, the board of directors of public television station KQED, the Department of Black Studies at San Francisco
State University, Los Angeles Times South Africa correspondent Scott Kraft, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.), House Armed Services Committee Chair Rep. Ron Dellums (D-Cal.), and former
Representative Pete McCloskey. 
Also named in the files were thousands of Arab-Americans, many who fear their names were passed on to Israeli intelligence agencies, potentially placing them in danger. ADL has frequent and close
contact with Israeli officials, and despite repeated denials, has been linked to Mossad . Already, one Arab-American, a U.S. citizen included in Bullock's computer files, has
been arrested by Israeli authorities when he returned to the Occupied Territories. 
Gerard, Bullock, and the ADL Spy Network
In mid-January the San Francisco Examiner began a series of front-page stories revealing that SFPD officer Tom Gerard was secretly supplying confidential data on thousands of people to an
agent of the ADL. On December 10, 1992, the news report disclosed, authorities had executed search warrants on Gerard's home, that of ADL operative Roy Bullock, and on the San
Francisco and Los Angeles offices of ADL. The news hit the Bay area like a bombshell. In fact, Bullock and Gerard had been under FBI investigation for more than two years for
selling information about anti-apartheid activists to South African government agents.
Gerard, 50, had been a member of the SFPD since 1968. He claims that from 1982-85, he took a three-year leave of absence to serve with the CIA in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala as a bomb
expert. After returning to the SFPD, where he served as liaison to the FBI, Gerard approached the Bay area chapter of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). He
offered to liaise between the Arab-American community and the Police Department and to help with security at ADC public functions.
Roy Bullock Photo: Jeffrey Blankfort
His collaborator Roy Bullock, a small-time San Francisco art dealer, had provided information on an unpaid basis to the FBI. Bullock's investigations for the ADL went back as far as 1954 in
Indianapolis. In 1960, he moved to southern California and began working for the ADL, which forwarded copies of his written reports to its New York headquarters. Around 1979, Bullock moved to San
Francisco where, in 1985, local ADL head Richard Hirschhaut introduced him to Gerard, and the two men began to investigate both right- and left-wing groups in the Bay area.
One of Bullock's chief assignments in San Francisco was to spy on Arab-American organizations and individuals, especially the ADC, which he joined in March 1983. He was removed from the membership
rolls in July 1987, after it was discovered that he was an ADL agent.
By 1986, Gerard had introduced Bullock to South African government agents. Bullock claims receiving $16,000, which he split with Gerard, in exchange for information on local anti-apartheid foes
and journalists. (Gerard denies the charge.) Their relationship continued after Gerard was reassigned in 1988 to the Gang Task Force within the SFPD. At about this time, the
police officer introduced Bullock to the San Francisco field office of the FBI, apparently so that Bullock could fill in the intelligence-gathering function the SFPD had relinquished. Bullock began
feeding the FBI information in exchange for access to their intelligence.
Tom Gerard, who claimed to have worked
for the CIA with Salvadoran death squads, at his arraignment on eight counts of stealing government documents and one count each of computer theft, burglary, and conspiracy, May 12, 1993.
(Photo: Craig Lee, San Francisco Examiner)
In November 1990, when Police Chief Willis Casey shut down the political surveillance unit and adopted new guidelines limiting surveillance, Gerard should have destroyed his files. Instead, he
entered 7,000 names into his home computer and transferred copies to Bullock. In 1990, Bullock's and Gerard's foreign entanglements on behalf of ADL appear to have precipitated an FBI
investigation. The inquiry emphasized their connection to South African intelligence and the fact that several FBI reports on the Nation of Islam were missing from FBI
Police Search Gerard, Bullock, and ADL Offices
By October 1992, Gerard and Bullock were about to lose their covers as the FBI passed its intelligence about the two to the SFPD and the story began to leak out. Gerard fled to a house he had been
building on a remote island in the Philippines, which has no extradition treaty with the U.S.
Before leaving, however, he neglected to erase his computer. When authorities searched his houseboat during the December 10 raids, they found 7,011 files on individuals, including extensive files
on San Francisco's Arab-American community and Arab-American activists around the U.S. Some information originated with law enforcement agencies across the country and centered on fundraising for
Palestinian groups. One file listed members of the Palestinian Arab Fund, a registered charity with 11 chapters in California and other states. Unidentified people alleged that they saw organization
charts on U.S. Arab-American groups, transcripts of secret tape recordings of their meetings, and photos of pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Gerard's files.
In Gerard's locker, police found some souvenirs of his CIA days, including 10 passports in different names, a black executioner's hood, photos of dark-complected men bound and blindfolded, CIA
manuals, and a teletyped message, "Biodata of the Nominees to be Trained in Human Resource Exploitation (Interrogation) Course." Stamped "Secret" and referring to El Salvador, it listed 13 names. The
police inventory also noted a black loose-leaf binder filled with business cards, names, addresses and three pages with more than 100 names and phone numbers titled "International Activities
Division-Special Activities Group" which handles the CIA's paramilitary activities, such as support for guerrilla movements. "That's the who's who of the CIA," Gerard told the Los Angeles
Times, "Oooh, that's gonna make people nervous." He had stashed the material in 1985 when he left the CIA in case he ever needed protection from the Agency. "The term is graymail," he said. "Do
what you gotta do."
While Gerard granted interviews from his safe haven in the Philippines, the ADL and Bullock stonewalled. ADL said that it had consented to the December 10 search of its San Francisco and Los
Angeles offices and had been advised that it was not the target of the investigation. It declared itself merely a civil rights organization that collected information about "anti-Semites, racists and
extremists from many sources." A spokesperson declined to reveal ADL's sources and information collection methods and claimed that no information went to Israel; as far as Gerard was concerned, "the
relationship we [ADL] had with him," said Richard Hirschhaut, "was the same as with thousands of police officers around the country."
Bullock also claimed he had operated within the law and that his computer files were legally obtained. In addition to those on the 950 organizations, police found files on 9,876 individuals.
Bullock had been paid during his 32-year employment at the ADL indirectly through prominent Los Angeles attorney Bruce Hochman, and received approximately $170,000 over a five-year period ending in
1993. By going through Hochman, both Bullock and the ADL sought to portray Bullock as a self-employed individual only one of whose clients was the ADL. As of May 1993, ADL was
continuing to pay Bullock $550 a week because he was "damn good."
When the extent of the Gerard-Bullock-ADL spy operation began to emerge, ADL launched an extensive public damage control effort. ADL attorney and executive committee member Barbara Wahl set the
stage for distancing her organization from the illegal operation. Bullock, she asserted, was operating as an "independent contractor."
"He's never been instructed nor did we condone the breaking of the law. ...We don't know if he did...[and] have no knowledge of him going through the trash of target groups."
The distance closed when many of the files seized from Bullock's home turned out to be the same as those in the ADL offices. ADL's credibility vanished when, after months of ADL denials, Wahl
admitted the League had gathered information and passed it on to Israel. She rejected connections with other foreign governments, presumably including South Africa. But she did not explain why the
Los Angeles ADL offices had files on anti-apartheid activities and activists, dating back to the 1950s. An FBI report confirmed that Gerard and Bullock gave information to the
"The scandal," notes Daniel Levitas, former executive director of the Atlanta-based Center for Democratic Renewal, "...has completely tainted the ADL's credibility and reputation with regard to
objectivity." It may also land some people in jail. The League faces criminal prosecution on up to 48 felony counts including gaining illegal access to police computers. Journalist Robert Friedman
quotes a source saying that indictment is "99 percent certain."
While admitting to rifling through garbage and "pooping and snooping on people in the U.S.," Gerard, too, denied criminal wrongdoing. "I shouldn't say I did no wrong," he demurred. "I should say I
showed poor judgment. ...But as far as criminal acts, no way." He complained he was being set up as a fall guy by Bullock. When he bought his computer from Bullock, he said, "the files were already
in there." He charged that the SFPD and FBI were leaking damaging information on him and threatened that if indicted for selling confidential law enforcement information, he would expose illegal CIA
support for Latin American death squads. The threat was partially fulfilled in a three-hour interview with a Los Angeles Times reporter when Gerard discussed illegal CIA support for the death
"The relationship [ADL] had with
[Gerard] was the same as with thousands of police officers around the Country." – Richard Hirschhaut
On May 6, Gerard suddenly and surprisingly returned to San Francisco where he was arrested and booked on eight counts of stealing government documents and one count each of computer theft,
burglary, and conspiracy. He said he returned because he was afraid the CIA had put out a contract on him and thought he would be safer in the U.S. He was released on $20,000 bail.
While Bullock, Gerard, and the ADL ran for cover and tried to off-load responsibility on each other, the media relegated the targets of the secret surveillance to being merely bit players.
Meanwhile under an extensive ADL spin control campaign, the story is being treated as an exotic spy thriller rather than the serious erosion of personal political freedoms and invasion of privacy
that it is.
The Privatization of Domestic Spying
Domestic spying has a long history in the U.S. – only slightly longer than the practice of trivializing its social and political consequences. During the 1970s, fallout from the Watergate
scandal and the death of J. Edgar Hoover (which resulted in freeing some of his secret blackmail files) briefly focused media and public attention on a formidable legacy of domestic political
surveillance. Citizens and organizations, mostly on the left, felt encouraged to initiate legal and political challenges to the spy operations that had been carried on for decades by federal, state,
and local agencies. With legal and monetary resources far less than those of their opponents, they launched long and costly lawsuits and in several cases won damages for denial of their
constitutional rights. Other cases ended with settlement agreements stipulating that the surveilled parties be notified or that files be destroyed. In the process, media
coverage helped raise public awareness of a massive and consistent pattern of violation of citizens' rights by government.
Eventually some reforms were enacted. But while the new legislation, policy guidelines, and laws curtailed government political surveillance, private political spying increasingly filled the
At a time when established governmental systems for monitoring subversion have been cut back, these counter-subversive operations acquire special importance; they must continue the data collection
and storage practices formerly shared with governmental agencies, intensify their own propaganda efforts, and – a new mission – promote renewed official involvement in surveillance and
related activities directed against dissent.
In fact, these new networks were not strictly private. They were frequently aided and abetted by police agencies or officers, and often had connections to both domestic governmental spying and
foreign intelligence operations.
Major right-wing private intelligence operations today include John Rees' Information Digest, the International Freedom Foundation, the Council for Inter-American Security, Lyndon LaRouche's
Executive Intelligence Review, and Sun Myung Moon's Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles. They identify individuals and organizations associated with a particular issue, and then
amass as much personal identifier information as possible: address, phone number, weight, birth date, marital status, social security number, organizational memberships, photograph, driver's license,
auto license number, political data, etc.
The ADL maintains another of these private spy operations, one which has particularly close ties to official resources. "FBI documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that
special agents in charge of FBI field offices throughout the nation were explicitly ordered by Bureau headquarters in Washington, D.C. during the 1980s to cooperate with the ADL.
Political Spying in San Francisco
The historical relationship between private and public spy efforts in San Francisco and the involvement of ADL is unique only in that so much detail has been exposed. In 1984, seeking to avoid a
repeat of the 1968 Chicago Democratic presidential convention fiasco, the SFPD generated masses of intelligence on potential disrupters. Investigators targeted 95 groups including the ACLU and
Catholic Charities of Oakland. When ACLU sought its files in 1989, the SFPD declined, claiming that the information would identify informers.
The SFPD-ACLU political tug-of-war and the media revelations helped set the stage for several reforms. In 1990, the two groups cooperated to draw up new surveillance
guidelines. These precluded police surveillance of organizations not explicitly engaged in criminal acts and barred investigation of individuals simply because they belonged to a targeted
The ADL surveilled demonstrations like
this pro-Palestinian march in Washington, D.C., 1988.
(Photo: Rick Reinhard)
ADL's response to the police reforms seemed bizarre for an organization with a stated dedication to civil liberties. Bitterly denouncing Mayor Art Agnos and Police Chief Willis Casey, ADL Pacific
Regional Director Richard Hirschhaut opposed both the dismantling of the SFPD Intelligence Unit and the designation of San Francisco as a sanctuary for conscientious objectors. The reform, he said,
"creates a climate that anything goes in San Francisco. That climate can lead to serious harm. It's dangerous." 
The SFPD Intelligence Unit did not completely disappear. It changed its name to the Civil Disturbance Section and added a separate Hate Crimes Unit. Hirschhaut also opposed limiting the purview of
this unit to gathering information on hate groups only after a crime had been committed. "Before, a feeling or intuition about a group or organization could come from some seasoned law
enforcement officials because their guy can tell something different about a hate group. None of that can happen now," he said. By giving tacit approval to all protesters, he continued, the sanctuary
declaration paved the way for anti-Semitic and anti-Israel sentiment.
ADL's vehement support for SFPD surveillance operations was an ironic betrayal of its original principles. The League's 1913 founding charter defined its mission to oppose "the defamation of the
Jewish People" and asserted that "its ultimate purpose is to secure justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike." Over the years, the League won widespread respect for
its active support of civil rights and its vigorous opposition to racist segregation and white supremacy groups.
The gradual undermining of that broad mission is linked to both internal and external factors. From its very inception ADL sought acceptance by, and alliance with, those in power. It regarded
"good working relationships" with the law enforcement community as pivotal. Toward this end, ADL has openly participated in seminars and informational programs and worked cooperatively with federal,
regional, state, and local law enforcement officials. That close relationship facilitated Gerard's and Bullock's crimes.
External factors also precipitated ADL's violation of its original principles: the post-World War II Cold War struggle between the U.S. and the Soviet Union; and the creation in 1948 of an
independent Jewish state dependent on Western, especially U.S., support.
On the first score, the U.S. government saw radical domestic movements, particularly the Communist Party, as a major subversive threat to national security. ADL's first known involvement in the
resultant repression of leftists came to light in hearings before a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives in October 1947. The hearings investigated the authority
of the Civil Service Commission to compile an "investigators' leads file" containing "facts, rumor and gossip bearing upon the views, opinions, and acts of individuals who were neither federal
employees nor applicants for positions coming under the jurisdiction of the Civil Service Commission." The result, charged Subcommittee Chair Clare E. Hoffman (R-Mich.), would be "a most admirable
smear list" based on "hearsay." Hoffman indicated that the source of much of the information on alleged subversives was the American Jewish Committee and the ADL.
- Garth Wolkoff, "ADL Denies Wrongdoing in SFPD in Files-For-Sale Case," Jewish Bulletin of Northern California, January 22, 1993.
- The San Francisco Examiner, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Los Angeles Times published innumerable articles on this scandal. Two reporters for the Examiner, Dennis
Opatrny and Scott Winokur, have vigorously pursued coverage of this case.. See especially San Francisco Examiner, January 15,17, 21, 22 and 28, and April 4,8, and 9, 1993.
- Dennis Opatrny and Scott Winokur, "S.F. Spying Case Details Laid Bare," San Francisco Examiner, April 11, 1993. ADL attorney Barbara Wahl said that ADL had no "formal" ties to foreign
governments and foreign agents, but that if the government requested intelligence information, it would be made available. Winokur, "ADL Denies Spying for Foreign Governments," San Francisco
Examiner, April 15, 1993.
- Opatrny and Winokur, "Israeli Detainee Linked to S.F. Police Spy Case," San Francisco Examiner, February 12, 1993.
- "Affidavit and Declaration of Inspector Ron Roth," SFPD, February 5, 1993; Police interview with Roy Bullock, January 25 and 26, 1993, released by the district attorney's office.
- Philip Matier and Andrew Ross, "Former S.F. Cop Focus of Probe," San Francisco Chronicle, January 15, 1993.
- He also claimed to have served in Algeria and Afghanistan. The CIA, as is its policy, refuses to comment.
- FBI interview of Bullock, January 22, 1993, p. 5. Bullock has an extensive history of infiltration. In 1957, he joined the U.S. delegation to the Sixth World Youth and Student Festival in Moscow
and, by prior arrangement with the FBI, gave them a briefing on his return. During the mid-1980s, Bullock attended a few meetings of the San Francisco chapter of ADC. Later, under the name Buchanan,
he visited the Washington ADC ofGce where he was spotted as an ADL infiltrator by ADC staff. He had also headed a National Association of Arab-Americans (NAAA) lobbying mission to Rep. Nancy Pelosi
(D-Calif.) (who was one of the people on whom he kept files).
- Bob Drogin, "Ex-Spy Threatens CIA Scandal," Los Angeles Times, April 27, 1993, p. A3.
- SFPD interview of Bullock, January 25, 1993, pp. 64-66.
- Press reports also include an alternative explanation of the origin of the FBI investigation of Gerard. A colleague of Gerard's told reporters that Gerard's commanding officer, Captain John
Willett, suspected Gerard of selling information on Arab-Americans and called in the FBI. Gerard had, he said, refused to cooperate.
- Phil Bronstein, "Suspect in Cop Spy Case Tells Story," San Francisco Examiner, January 22, 1993; and FBI interviews of Bullock, February 8, 1993, p. 17; January 26, 1993, pp. 1-22. In May
1991, Gerard was invited to go on an expense-paid ADL law enforcement mission to Israel along with ten other U.S. police officers involved in intelligence work. For some years, ADL had been
sponsoring these junkets either to reward police officers who exchanged information or to lay the groundwork for future relationships. San Francisco's former police chief and current mayor, Frank
Jordan, went on an ADL trip to Israel in 1987. "What better way to learn about bomb threats than to cooperate with the people dealing with them all the time?" asked Jordan. (Marshall Krantz,
"Israelis Warn Top S.F. Cop About PLO Terrorism in the U.S.," Northern California Jewish Bulletin, July 10, 1987; Dennis J. Opatrny, "Jewish Group Paid for Jordan Trip to Israel," San Francisco
Examiner, January 28, 1993.)
- Scott Opatrny and Lance Williams, "Ex-S.F. Cop Target of Spying Probe," San Francisco Examiner, January 5, 1993.
- Drogin, op. cit.; Susan Sward and Bill Wallace, "Spy Case Suspect Posts Bail," San Francisco Chronicle, May 8, 1993, p. A19.
- See Elliot L. Bien and Richard S. Hirschhaut, "The ADL's Job is to Fight Hatred," San Francisco Examiner, January 24, 1993; Jewish Bulletin of Northern California, January 22, 1993;
Richard Hirschhaut, letter to the editor, San Francisco Examiner, February 3, 1993. (Bien is ADL President and Hirschhaut is Regional Director.)
- Opatrny and Winokur, "S.F. Spymaster Revealed," San Francisco Examiner, April 4, 1993; letter of attorney Bruce I. Hochman to Inspector Ron Roth, SFPD, April 1, 1993, with copy of check
#15216 for $3,300 covering weeks of April 14 through May 1993. Bullock was not the only investigator on the ADL payroll. Documents released by the SFPD revealed code-names for at least six others who
operated out of ADL fact-finding offices in New York, Chicago, Atlanta, St. Louis, Washington, and Los Angeles.
- Paul Feldman and Richard Paddock, "Spy Furor Forces ADL to Defend Its Image," Los Angeles Times, May 6, 1993, p. B4.
- Richard Paddock and Kenneth Reich, "ADL Officials Deny They Condoned Illegal Spying," Los Angeles Times, April 17, 1993.
- FBI interview with David Gurvitz, March 8, 1993. Gurvitz was an undercover ADL agent in Los Angeles; and Jane Hunter, "ADL Spies and the FBI," Middle East Report, April 30, 1993, p. 12.
- FBI interview of Bullock, January 26, 1993, pp. 1-8.
- Robert I. Friedman, 'The Enemy Within," San Francisco Chronicle, May 11, 1993, p. 28.
- Drogin, op. cit.
- AP, "Arrest in Secret Documents Case,"NewYork Times, May 9, 1993.
- April 25, 1993, was virtually the first time the New York Times covered the ADL spy story with a piece essentially in keeping with the ADL efforts at damage control. The Times, like other
newspapers, had frequently used the ADL as an information resource and has cited "Jewish intelligence sources."
- SpanishAction Committee of Chicago v. City of Chicago, Case No. 80-C-4714 (N.D.I1L, July 2, 1984); Hobson vs. Wilson, 556F. Supp.ll57(D.D.C, 1982); Socialist Workers Party v.
Attorney General, US. 642 F. Supp. 1357 (S.D.N.Y., 1986).
- Frank J. Dormer, The Age of Surveillance: The Aims and Methods of America's Political Intelligence System (New York; Vintage/Random House, 1981), p. 414: quoted in Chip Berlet, "Communism
in the U.S.: The Hunt for the Red Menace," CovertAction, Number 31 (Winter 1989), p. 8.
- 27. Examiner Staff Report, "Anti-Defamation League: A History of Collecting Data," San Francisco Examiner, April 1, 1993.
- Steve Burkholder, "Red Squads on the Prowl: Still Spying after All These Years," The Progressive, October 1988, p. 22.
- Chicago had curbed police spying almost a decade earlier after a lawsuit by surveillance targets. In 1980, Seattle had gone so far as to enact an anti-spying ordinance, while efforts in Detroit
to pass a similar ordinance were defeated through the opposition of Mayor Coleman Young. ("Curbs on Police Spying," The Progressive, October 1988, p. 21.)
- San Francisco Police Department: Civil Disturbance Section Guidelines.
- Garth Wolkoff, "San Francisco Charged With Encouraging Hate," Detroit Jewish News, February 15, 1991.
- Quoted in Leo O'Brien, American Jewish Organizations and Israel, (Washington, D.C.: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1986).
- Bien and Hirschhaut, op. cit.
- U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Subcommittee of the Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Departments, Investigators' Leads File: Hearings Before a Subcommittee of the Committee on
Expenditures in the Executive Departments, 80th Congress, 1st session, October 3,6, and 7, 1947.
- Ibid., p. 17.