Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, October 1996, pg. 68

Special Report

ADL Pays Up Again for Stealing Police Files and Spying on U.S. Citizens

By Rachelle Marshall

Again claiming innocence, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has agreed to pay $175,000 toward the legal fees of plaintiffs in a civil rights lawsuit filed three years ago by Arab-American and other groups in Los Angeles that charged the organization with spying on their members. In a settlement reached in early September, the league also promised to contribute $25,000 toward improving relations between Jews and other minority groups. Two years ago, ADL agreed to pay the County of San Francisco $75,000 after District Attorney Arlo Smith decided to drop criminal charges. Although the recent agreement states that ADL denies all the plaintiffs’ claims, it specifically prohibits the league from obtaining confidential information from any state employee in the future.

The ADL spy scandal came to light in early 1993 when police investigators revealed that an ADL employee, Roy Bullock, had illegally obtained personal information on thousands of Arab-Americans, anti-Apartheid activists, and other individuals and groups engaged in social action, and passed the information on to the ADL. Bullock also is alleged to have infiltrated Arab-American organizations. A retired San Francisco policeman admitted that he had sold Bullock confidential police files that were supposed to have been destroyed.

In October 1993 the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), 11 other civil rights and social justice organizations, and seven individuals brought suit against the ADL in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, charging it had violated their civil and privacy rights under both federal and California laws. Although the case has been settled out of court, the outcome gives Arab Americans and other groups and individuals a substantial degree of protection against future violation of their rights. But they will continue to be wary. Donald Bustany, past president of the Los Angeles chapter of ADC and co-president of the Media Image Coalition, noted that the settlement does not exonerate ADL from the charge of spying. He points out that even after the San Francisco district attorney decided not to prosecute, “He never rescinded the serious allegations of unlawful activity by ADL. So these allegations still stand.”

Bustany added, however, that “ADL is a large organization with a lot of people. Most of them are good people and I feel bad for them at having ADL led astray by the few bad apples.” The plaintiff's 92' attorney, Peter Schey, expressed satisfaction with the settlement, saying, “We hope it gets ADL out of the business of spying on organizations and individuals with whom it should be collaborating in joint work against hate groups.”

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