Three telegrams received by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee that purportedly link the militant Jewish Defense League with a fire that damaged the committee's Northwest Washington headquarters Friday are being investigated by the Treasury Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Fireams and the D.C. police, officials said yesterday.
But the the head of the JDL, which the FBI has linked to an October bombing that killed the committee's West Coast regional director, denied that he or his organization had sent the telegrams and said that they were a "setup" by Arab groups. The official also denied his group was responsible for the fire.
Meanwhile, the head of a private security firm hired by the committee to guard its fire-damaged offices at 1731 Connecticut Ave. NW said that two days after the fire several American passports, a small amount of Egyptian currency, canceled checks and other papers were found on the roof of an adjoining building.
He said the items apparently were taken from a public relations firm that is on the second floor of the building and in whose offices the fire apparently began. The committee's offices are on the fourth and fifth floors. A source familiar with the investigation of the blaze has said fire officials believe the public relations firm, Susan Davis and Associates, was ransacked before the fire, possibly in a search for confidential committee documents.
Jack McGeorge, head of the private security firm, Public Safety Group of Woodbridge, said that a fire investigator from his company inspected the building on Sunday and believes there is "no question" the blaze was deliberately set in the public relations office.
The alcohol, tobacco and firearms bureau, which has called the fire "very suspicious," has not listed them as arson. The two-alarm blaze, which also damaged 1729 Connecticut Ave. NW, caused an estimated $500,000 damage.
A bureau spokesman said yesterday that evidence from the fire is being analyzed to determine the cause.
"What we have is a fire in a public relations office, which isn't to downplay the seriousness of it," the bureau spokesman said. "Given the other attacks against the ADC and related Arab-Americans, we are very concerned that it might have been directed against them."
On Oct. 16, a police officer was injured when a bomb exploded outside the the committee's office in Boston. Three weeks later, Alex Odeh, 41, the committee's West Coast regional director, was killed when a bomb exploded at the organization's Santa Ana, Calif., office.
The FBI is investigating both those incidents, but has not joined the probe of the Friday fire here because there is no evidence it was a "terrorist act."
FBI national spokesman Lane Bonner has said that "there is a possible link between the JDL and that California bombing" of the committee's office in which Odeh was killed. The JDL has denied involvement in Odeh's slaying, but Bonner said yesterday that the bureau stood by its assessment. He would not elaborate.
Over the weekend, three telegrams purporting to link the JDL to Friday's fire were sent to the director of the committee at the Connecticut Avenue office. Each was sent from Brooklyn, according to copies provided to The Washington Post.
One telegram, sent about noon Saturday, said, "Sorry we missed you. Hope to be more precise next time," and was sent in the name of "F. Rosenblatt, national director, Jewish Defense League." Another, sent Sunday, was in the name of "Fred Rosenblat." The third, which said, "Sorry you were out when we called. Hope to visit again soon," was in the name of "I. Rubin, national chairman, Jewish Defense League."
Irv Rubin, JDL national chairman, denied yesterday that he or the group's national director, Fern Rosenblatt, had sent the telegrams. "I resent this accusation," he said. "This fire happened on the Sabbath and no Jew would desecrate the Sabbath . . . . This is a setup and the Arabs are doing it. They might as well say we are responsible for sinking the Titanic."
ADC national chairman, former U.S. senator James G. Abourezk (D-S.D.), said, "I can't imagine these guys Rubin and Rosenblatt would be so stupid as to send a threat and sign their names to it."
Meanwhile, Larimer's, the 88-year-old specialty food market that is housed in the same building and was damaged in the weekend fire, has been reopened for business, according to Doug Rosen, a manager.