Jewish defense group settles S.F. spying suit

From the archive (legacy material)

Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer | San Francisco Chronicle | 23 February 2002

San Francisco — A lawsuit accusing the Anti-Defamation League of spying on local activists — the last court action stemming from San Francisco police raids on the Jewish organization’s office 10 years ago — has been settled for $178,000, lawyers said yesterday.
The money will be divided among the remaining three plaintiffs in a suit that was filed in 1993 by 19 people, all involved in pro-Palestinian or anti- apartheid activity. At the time, Israel was an ally of South Africa’s white- supremacist government, and the ADL’s chief intelligence-gatherer in the Bay Area, Roy Bullock, later admitted he was also being paid by South Africa.
The suit claimed the ADL, founded almost 90 years ago to combat anti- Semitism, was working to suppress domestic criticism of Israel by compiling dossiers that it shared with police, the Israeli government and its own supporters. The ADL denied providing information to Israel and said it was legally monitoring hate groups and political extremists.
After Bullock and a San Francisco police inspector were seen talking to South African agents in 1992, police seized more than 10,000 files from the two men and ADL offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles. The files contained information on organizations and individuals at both ends of the political spectrum.
The inspector, Tom Gerard, later pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of illegally accessing government information that he allegedly supplied to Bullock.
The ADL settled a suit by the city of San Francisco and another filed by political activists in Los Angeles, but the suit by Bay Area activists — Arab Americans, Jewish dissidents and anti-apartheid organizers — was delayed by years of wrangling over access to ADL files, which had been quickly sealed.
Along the way, a state appellate court endorsed the organization’s argument that, as the publisher of reports on extremist groups, it acts as a journalist, with the right to protect its sources. But the court kept the case alive by saying activists had the right to learn the sources of government documents that may have been used illegally.
“The league feels vindicated in the positions it took.