The Kings of Garbage
In 1993 the Anti-Defamation League was accused of espionage, illegal surveillance, theft, and the treasonous sale of classified information to a foreign government. I was one of their victims.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Anti-Defamation League and the B’nai B’rith. The theme of the celebration is “Imagine a World Without Hate.”
2013 also marks the twentieth anniversary of another key episode in ADL history, but it’s not the sort of milestone National Director Abe Foxman will want you to remember. In 1993 it was alleged that the League had been involved in a grotesque rap sheet of covert activities, including espionage, illegal surveillance, theft, and the treasonous sale of classified information to a foreign government. It’s a hell of a tale, and not just for its cartoonish cast of characters: a corrupt police officer, a bungling “fact finder,” and a McCarthyite from Indianapolis.
I have no choice but to remember the story. In 1993 I received a letter in the mail. It informed me that I was the victim of an illegal spy ring involving members of the ADL and a San Francisco Police Department intelligence detective called Tom Gerard. The letter came with an index card that included my full name, driver’s license, the license-plate number on my shitty old Subaru hatchback, and the Mission District addresses of my apartment and the leftie bookstore where I worked, near Guerrero and 20th Street. My file had been marked “Pinko,” one of five categories that the ADL spymaster used to flag the group’s targets.
But I was not alone. Police had seized thousands of index cards like mine in raids on the ADL’s San Francisco office, and in searches of the homes and storage facilities of the organization’s key figures. According to newspaper reports of the time, 12,000 Americans and 950 groups were victims of the now-forgotten scandal.
The list of victims reads like a Who’s Who of the Liberal Establishment: NAACP, ACLU, Greenpeace, ACT UP!, National Lawyers Guild, Mother Jones founder Adam Hochschild, reporters from the LA Times and KQED public television, and scores of local labor unions including the United Auto Works and Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers.
The ADL operatives even spied on a handful of US Congressmen, all Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Alan Cranston, Pete McClosky, Mervyn Dymally and Ron Dellums of Oakland, head of the House Armed Services Committee. Many prominent Jews were also spied on, including Dr. Yigal Arens, the son of former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens.
One of the Jewish civil rights’ group’s most important and best-protected employees was not a Jew but a native of Indianapolis who looked like a bloated John Wayne Gacy. This strange figure, who coordinated the ADL’s activities in San Francisco while posing as an art dealer in the Castro District, was Roy E. Bullock. rights.”
As a teenager growing up in the hysteria and paranoia of Sen. McCarthy’s anti-Communist witch hunts, Bullock dreamed of joining J. Edgar’s team as an FBI snitch. Bullock later said he was inspired by his hero Herbert Philbrick, whose bestselling 1952 memoir, “I Led Three Lives: Citizen, ‘Communist,’ Counterspy” was turned into a movie and hit TV series.
Philbrick was one of many FBI snitches and informants who were turned into celebrities during the McCarthy era. These men were Roy Bullock’s role models. He wanted to join their ranks, and in 1954, while working as a lowly errand-boy for the Indianapolis Police Department, Bullock’s wish came true: The FBI asked Bullock to “volunteer” as an informant spying on university student leftists.
Decades later, Bullock explained to FBI investigators:
“I was fascinated with Herbert Philbrick and so I thought I would try to infiltrate the Communist Party. In 1957, I went to the Sixth World Youth and Student Festival in Moscow with the American delegation. I gave the FBI a full report on it when I returned, along with some photos I took of some Soviet military vehicles.”
In 1960, the Anti-Defamation League made Bullock their full-time undercover employee and moved him out to Orange County, the epicenter of emerging radical right movements like the John Birch Society and the Minutemen. As a codename, the ADL called Bullock “Elmer Fink.” To further cover their tracks, from 1960 through 1992 Bullock’s salary was funneled through a prominent Beverly Hills attorney named Bruce Hochman. A leader in the Jewish community, Hochman was a strange choice for an ADL bagman—he was close to Al Gore and Republican Pete Wilson, and his clients included notorious Nevada casino and underworld figures, including crime boss Meyer Lansky and Mustang Ranch founder-turned-fugitive Joe Conforte. Hochman was also considered one of the top tax attorneys in the country, and he was picked by Sen. Wilson to recommend judicial appointments.
In the late 1970s, the ADL moved Bullock north: this time to their office in San Francisco. By placing such a pivotal member in the epicenter of America’s left-wing activism, the ADL demonstrated the same right- ward trend observed at that time in Israel and within America’s pro-Israel advocacy world.
In San Francisco, Bullock was given his own desk and a roster of duties which included “maintaining intelligence files by adding new documents and shredding old files.” For cover, Bullock set up a small art dealership in the Castro District called “East West Traders.”
Bullock reported directly to the ADL’s San Francisco Executive Director Richard Hirschhuat and also to Irwin Suall, the ADL’s chief spymaster in their New York headquarters. A memo written by Suall in 1992, and later discovered by FBI investigators, described Roy Bullock as the ADL’s “number one investigator.” And yet, after the spy scandal broke, the ADL claimed it had only an “informal” relationship with Bullock and neither knew about nor had any responsibility for the spying activities of their “number one investigator.”
Having established himself in San Francisco, Bullock wasted little time infiltrating the Bay Area’s left-wing groups, far-right groups (such as existed), anti-apartheid groups, and peace groups opposed to Reagan’s dirty wars in Central America. Above all, Roy Bullock focused on infiltrating and subverting Arab-American organizations like the ADC and the National Association of Arab- Americans (NAAA).
Albert Mokhiber, who was executive director of the ADC when the scandal broke, remembered Bullock well:
“[He was] one of our most vocal members. In fact, we have pictures of him carrying banners in support of Palestinian human rights, and we printed one of them in our most recent newsletter. He portrayed himself as someone sincerely interested in Arab civil rights and someone dedicated to the principles of our organization, and everyone believed him to be so.” (Deborah Scroggins, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, May 22, 1993)
In addition to infiltrating meetings and building up files on persons of interest, Bullock tried hatching dirty tricks plots to smear the ADC. One tactic Bullock used was to infiltrate neo-Nazi meetings, distribute ADC pamphlets and attempt to recruit neo- Nazis into the ADC.
Dr. Osama Doumani, a former UC Berkeley anthropology professor who headed the ADC’s San Francisco office when Bullock infiltrated the group, told The Washington Post:
“He would come to my office and he would hug me in a comradely fashion and volunteer for work. He wanted to have a presence whenever we had something important.”
In 1987, the ADL sent Bullock to Washington DC for the annual gathering of the NAAA, instructing Bullock to find out who the Arab group’s major donors were. Bullock claimed he didn’t succeed in penetrating their financial records, but he was so successful at earning the Arab group’s trust that he was picked to head the NAAA delegation that met privately with Rep. Nancy Pelosi in her Capitol Hill office.
Bullock had nothing but contempt for those who trusted him. “I’m one of a kind,” he later bragged to police investigators. “They live in a dark, restricted world of their own fervent imaginations. You say you agree and they fall all over you. You don’t have to say much.”
In 1985, Alex Odeh, a Christian Palestinian, was murdered in Santa Ana. The crime remains unsolved. Odeh was the regional executive director of the ADC’s Western region, and one of Sen. Abourezk’s favorite lieutenants. Eight years after Odeh was murdered by a bomb planted in his office, his colleagues were shocked by the news that Roy Bullock—who had worked closely with Odeh right up to his murder— had been spying on Odeh on behalf of the ADL all along. Odeh trusted Bullock enough to grant him almost unrestricted access to Odeh’s office in Santa Ana, California, where the deadly bomb was planted.
In the aftermath of Alex Odeh’s murder, the SFPD appointed an intelligence officer to act as liaison to San Francisco’s Arab-American community. A rash of bombings was sweeping the US, targeting Arab-Americans and other perceived enemies of Jews.
Dr. Doumani recalled the terror that gripped California’s Arab- American community at that time:
“I feared starting my car. I would always wait until it was completely warmed up before I brought my 8-year-old daughter and 6-month-old son out of the house.” (Workers World, February 15, 1993)
But in spite of the atmosphere of fear, the community found some comfort in the fact that they had their SFPD liaison to protect them.
“Alex Odeh was murdered in Santa Ana, Calif. Roy Bullock claimed he was very close with Alex and that he even had access to the office...Tom Gerard was a bomb expert, and Alex was killed by a bomb. I’ll be very honest with you. We’ve raised these concerns with the FBI.” - Albert Mokhiber, president Arab-American Anti Discrimination Committee. May 22, 1993
If Roy Bullock represented the Anti-Defamation League’s seedy (and bloated) underbelly—then his partner in criminal espionage, Officer Tom Gerard of the SFPD, represented the Jewish civil rights group’s dark side, the ethical wasteland where the ADL now roamed. A pact with Gerard was as close to a pact with the devil as a Jewish human rights group could get.
The partnership between Bullock and Gerard was forged in the ADL’s San Francisco office in 1986, when Regional Executive Director Richard Hirschhaut brought Gerard in and introduced him to Bullock. Later, the ADL would try to claim they had absolutely no relationship with Gerard or any knowledge of his and Bullock’s illegal spy ring. However, an FBI search uncovered a private memo by Bullock outlining how the ADL arranged Bullock’s partnership with the SFPD Intelligence Unit detective—a memo that Bullock later claimed was a “fib.”
In another “confidential” memo, the ADL’s Richard Hirschhaut boasted about Tom Gerard’s effectiveness to chief spymaster Irwin Suall, noting that the SFPD police mole provided “a significant amount of information” on “the activities of specific Arab organizations and individuals in the Bay Area.”
In 1991, the ADL’s Washington office even gifted Tom Gerard with an all-expenses-paid junket to Israel to meet with top Israeli military, intelligence and political figures.
“We were the kings of garbage,” Gerard said of his partnership with Roy Bullock. “I love garbage. Garbage doesn’t lie.”
Gerard wasn’t joking: Much of their work involved burrowing through other people’s trash. An FBI report quoted in the LA Times explained how they spied on one Palestinian group:
“Bullock would write reports based on what he found in the trash, and would share the reports with Gerard. Bullock also gave the trash to Gerard for Gerard to examine. Gerard would later return the trash to Bullock.”
Bullock was also fond of garbage. During questioning by the SFPD, Bullock said he “couldn’t resist” going through various organizations’ trash. Inspector Roth remarked that Bullock’s attraction to trash “sounds like a cop going by a donut shop.”
Shortly after Bullock and Gerard were introduced at the ADL office, the two men began sharing their intelligence files and breaking privacy laws. Bullock gave Gerard names of groups and individuals that he was spying on for the ADL. Then, Gerard obtained their confidential DMV and police records— including rap sheets, fingerprints, and anything else in intelligence files. Finally, Gerard illegally handed this information to Bullock.
A few years later, in 1990, San Francisco officially disbanded its police intelligence unit and ordered its files destroyed. Instead, Police Detective Tom Gerard handed those files over to Roy Bullock. Illegally stolen police intelligence files that the public assumed had been destroyed were now part of the Anti-Defamation League’s secret files.
Gerard also arranged for Roy Bullock to moonlight as a paid FBI informant. That gave Bullock and Gerard access to FBI assets and classified material.
Shortly after they began working together, Bullock and Gerard were introduced to a South African intelligence agent known mysteriously as “Humphries” and agreed to spy on American anti-apartheid protesters for them.
Spying for a foreign intelligence entity is illegal in the same way that treason is illegal. So it’s hardly surprising that the accused—Roy Bullock, Tom Gerard, the Anti- Defamation League—tried shifting the blame to everyone but themselves, evading questions and changing their stories several times. Roy Bullock initially told FBI interrogators that it was his superiors in the ADL who put him in touch with the South African intelligence agents. Later, he changed his story and blamed Tom Gerard.
Gerard naturally blamed Bullock, and the Anti-Defamation League blamed both of them, adding that they’d never met Gerard and barely knew who Bullock was, and took no responsibility for Bullock’s activities.
Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter who initiated the contact between the South Africans and the ADL spy ring.
For one thing, the Anti-Defamation League had already been spying on American anti-apartheid campaigners, independent of their collaborative work for South African intelligence. Bullock told FBI investigators that he’d been infiltrating and collecting information on the Bay Area anti-apartheid movement for the ADL when he was introduced to the South Africans. Israel and South Africa were partners.
Enemies of apartheid were enemies of the Anti-Defamation League, an attitude summed up by ADL national director Nathan Perlmutter’s description of Nelson Mandela and his African National Congress as “totalitarian, anti- humane, anti-democratic, anti-Israel and anti-American.”
As far as Bullock was concerned, since he was already spying on local anti-apartheid groups for the ADL, reselling that same material to South African intelligence was just gravy. The South African spooks paid Bullock $16,000 in cash, in hundred dollar bills stuffed into envelopes.
Bullock never showed anything approaching remorse for collaborating with the white-supremacist regime, nor did he express concern over what the apartheid Gestapo might have done with the names and information they had. He was, however, very concerned with protecting his reputation for honest dealing. When interviewed by investigators, he emphasized he’d split the South Africans’ $16,000 right down the middle with Gerard: “I may be gay, but I’m a straight arrow,” Bullock quipped.
Adapted from NSFWCORP Print, issue #1, published March 25, 2013.