The Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, which has been the target of a criminal probe in San Francisco over its information-gathering techniques, yesterday settled the case by agreeing to an injunction not to use illegal means to monitor the activities of others.
In the settlement, filed in San Francisco Superior Court, league officials admitted no wrongdoing and denied San Francisco District Attorney Arlo Smith's allegations that they had trafficked in illegally obtained confidential information.
Despite a nearly yearlong investigation that included the seizure of hundreds of documents from the ADL's two West Coast offices, Smith's office agreed in the settlement not to seek criminal charges against the ADL, an 80-year-old organization founded to fight antisemitism. Also exempted from prosecution is Roy Bullock, the ADL "contract employee" who has been accused of gathering much of the illegal information that San Francisco authorities say was in the ADL's possession.
San Francisco authorities had threatened to submit their evidence to a grand jury this month, but John Dwyer, the assistant San Francisco district attorney who handled the ADL probe, said yesterday that the civil resolution always was preferable. "If you present the case to a grand jury and you convict them, you'd have them on probation for three years," said Dwyer. "This is a permanent injunction."
But the ADL's national chairman and director, Melvin Salberg and Abraham H. Foxman, respectively, hailed the settlement as a vindication. "The agreement we have reached confirms our consistent position that ADL has engaged in no misconduct of any kind," the men said in a joint statement.
The ADL has been under law enforcement scrutiny since many of its files surfaced in a probe of San Francisco police abuses last year. That probe began when the FBI learned that Bullock and a former San Francisco police inspector, Thomas Gerard, sold information on anti-apartheid activists to intelligence agents of the South African government. Bullock told authorities he had gathered the information for the ADL and had merely resold it to the South Africans. Gerard was the source of much of the information, court records show, and he has been charged with giving confidential police information to Bullock.
That police information turned up in many of the more than 10,000 files that Bullock and the ADL kept on individuals and organizations across the political and ideological spectrum. In addition to neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan cells that have been the ADL's traditional targets because of their avowed antisemitism, the files also included some civil rights groups that have been ADL allies, such as the NAACP. Arabic or Muslim organizations were particular targets of Bullock's information gathering. According to San Francisco court records released earlier this year, Bullock even infiltrated an American-Arab anti-discrimination committee by posing as a supporter.
Several of the groups targeted by Bullock or the ADL have filed suit claiming their rights have been violated. The ADL files, which continue to be held by the San Francisco district attorney's office, could be used in those cases.
In settling the San Francisco case, the ADL also agreed to create a Hate Crimes Reward fund of up to $50,000 and to spend up to $25,000 to train district attorney's office employees in a program designed to reduce intolerance and violence.