Files from the "Public-Private Partnership " in Political Repression

By Tom Burghardt
Editor, Antifa Info-Bulletin
SAN FRANCISCO -- In Antifa Info-Bulletin No. 295 (4/15/01), I published an open letter from criminal/ civil liberties attorney, Lawrence A. Hildes, describing covert surveillance of Idaho anti-fascists by Bill Wassmuth, executive director of the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment.

Hildes, representing members of Anti-Racist Action against the Coeur d'Alene, Idaho police department, described how in the wake of the terrorist firebombing of an ARA activist's home (presumably carried out by an "active service unit"attached to Aryan Nations), Wassmuth "professed empathy and offered assistance" but used the occasion of the attempted murder of anti-racists as a pretext to gather information he shared with police.

During the course of discovery, Hildes obtained cover letters, faxes, flyers and other documents produced by anti-racist groups that had been transmitted to Coeur d'Alene Police Chief Dave Scates by Wassmuth. AFIB reproduces three of those documents below.

While transcribing "Stop the Aryan Nations", a mobilization flyer produced by Anti-Racist Action Bay Area (Document 2) my attention was drawn to the seemingly-cryptic "PNW ADL," followed by a fax number: 206-448-5355. After a web search I was able to establish that in all likelihood Wassmuth received ARA's leaflet from the Seattle office of the Pacific Northwest Anti-Defamation League as the fax signature on ARA's flyer and the fax number of the ADL's Pacific Northwest office are identical (see Appendix).

For decades the ADL routinely compiled dossiers on left wing organizations, trade unions, journalists, anti-apartheid and pro-Palestinian activists and admits to supplying reports to law enforcement entities including the FBI. Between 1985-1993, Roy Bullock, a San Francisco "art dealer" and Tom Gerard, an S.F. cop and CIA "contract employee" tasked to El Salvador, ran a "private" spy operation reminiscent of the FBI's murderous COINTELPRO program. Some of the information gathered by these clowns was sold to the South African apartheid state as well as to Israel and El Salvador's death squad regime. According to sworn testimony, much of their operation was coordinated from ADL's national headquarters in New York. Hardly the mandate of a group allegedly defending Jews from the scourge of anti-Semitic terror and fascist violence!

Lest we forget the serious implications of collaborating with police, the case of John Butler is a chilling reminder that the state has its own agenda antithetical to that of militant anti-fascism. On July 4, 1998 ARA activists Lin "Spit" Newborn and Dan Shersty were victims of a brutal gangland-style execution in the desert outside Las Vegas. Butler, a neo-Nazi bonehead convicted last year for the killings was a confidential police informant before, during and after his brutal crimes; given his snitch status Butler must have believed he could act with impunity.

The NWC has behaved irresponsibly and must be called to task. Anti-fascists have a right to demand an explanation for such behavior and demand they turn over all relevant material relating to the clandestine monitoring of anti-racists. By adopting a dangerous "left=right"line through their actions, the NWC has done much to discredit anti-fascism. What member of an oppressed community would entrust information to a group that runs to the police--an occupying army? Finally, let it be said anyone who informs on progressive organizations, spies on leftists or otherwise abuses confidence and trust has no place in any movement for human liberation.

(To contact attorney Lawrence A. Hildes: 1840 Woolsey St.; Berkeley, CA; Tel: (510) 845-9788; Fax: (510) 540-4821; E-mail: lhildes@dsp.net)

For background on the ADL spy scandal see: Dennis Opatrny and Scott Winokur, "S.F. Spying Details Laid Bare," San Francisco Examiner, April 11, 1993; Scott Winokur, "ADL Denies Spying for Foreign Governments," San Francisco Examiner, April 15, 1993; Richard Paddock and Kenneth Reich, "ADL Officials Deny They Condoned Illegal Spying," Los Angeles Times, April 17, 1993; John Ross, "Smoking Gun? Tom Gerard, Death Squads and the Banality of Evil," Anderson Valley Advertiser, May 19, 1993; Abdeen Jabara, "The Anti-Defamation League: Civil Rights and Wrongs," Covert Action Quarterly, Washington, D.C., Number 45, Summer 1993; Tom Burghardt, "The Public-Private Partnership: 'Counterterrorism', Right-Wing Spy Networks and the ADL,"Antifa Forum, Toronto, Number 2, 1997; Alexander Cockburn, "The ADL Snoops: Were the Spies 'Journalists"?, CounterPunch, Washington, D.C., February 1999.


  • The story breaks, May 3, 1993: ADL is target of probe, may have broken records laws
  • David Irving writes to San Francisco police for his ADL dossier, January 7, 1994
  • The ADL'S illegal penetration of US and San Francisco police agencies
  • ADL in San Francisco Court, resists Demand to Disclose its Files
  • November 11, 1998: The Court says ADL must come clean, disclose files
  • November 17, 1998: Court allows Action to go Forward
  • COUNTERPUNCH 1999 exposť: ADL's main fact-finder was also spy for South African regime; buddy was San Francisco cop who tutored El Salvadoran death squads
  • ADL in San Francisco Court, resists Demand to Disclose its Files
  • COUNTERPUNCH exposť: ADL's main fact-finder was also spy for South African regime; buddy was San Francisco cop who tutored El Salvadoran death squads
  • Middle East Labor Bulletin, Spring 1993 reports: ADL U.S. Spy networks exposed in San Francisco
  • May 31, 1993: The ADL Spy Probe, by Alexander Cockburn: in Beat the Devil, his bi-weekly column in The Nation
  • Middle East Labor Bulletin, spring 1993: The ADL's info helped the House UnAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC) in its 1947 Witch-Hunts
  • Middle East Labor Bulletin, Fall 1993: ADL not only acts as propaganda arm of Israel but also provides secret intelligence on Palestinians and Arab-Americans to the Mossad
  • Middle East Labor Bulletin, Fall 1993: Unions were among hundreds of groups spied on by ADL informant
  • Sept 28, 1998: ADL court battle over secret spy files continues in San Francisco state appeals courtContribute materials to this dossie
  • Dossier: The ADL'S illegal penetration of US and San Francisco police agencies, exposed in 1993
  • ADL in San Francisco Court, resists Demand to Disclose its Files
  • COUNTERPUNCH exposť: ADL's main fact-finder was also spy for South African regime; buddy was San Francisco cop who tutored El Salvadoran death squads
  • ADL settles San Francisco spying lawsuit, pays damages
  • ADL blinks, settles spying case

How the "watchdogs " infiltrate police agencies and what they hope to accomplish thereby is best illustrated by what happened in San Francisco in 1993. This isn't the only instance of ADL and SPLC infiltration of law enforcement agencies but it's the most documented, so it's a good example.

Paid ADL operative Roy Bullock developed an illegal "intelligence sharing " relationship with San Francisco police officer Tom Gerard, who was paid $8,000 by Mr. Bullock for supplying him with confidential files. With Gerard's help, Bullock compiled an ADL "enemies list" of over ten thousand individuals and one thousand organizations.

After he was interviewed by the FBI, Gerard fled to the Phillipines, leaving behind a briefcase in his police locker that contained passports, driver's licences, and identification cards in ten different names as well as blank birth certificates, Army discharge papers, and official stationary from various agencies. Also found in the briefcase were extensive information on death squads, a black hood apparently for use in interrogations, and photos of blindfolded and chained men.

Because of a lack of cooperation from the ADL, San Francisco police raided the offices of the ADL on 8 April 1993 looking for illegally obtained law enforcement information used in a "political spy network. " On 10 December over 12,000 computerized files were seized from ADL offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

According to Captain John Willett of the SFPD, this was not an isolated incident - "This Gerard-Bullock thing is the tip of the iceberg - this is going on nation-wide".

One way the ADL thanks its friends and attempts to corrupt law enforcement officers is sending them on all-expense paid trips to Israel. Once there, they are wined and dined and encouraged to help the ADL. (22) Officer Tom Gerard was one such visitor to Israel, in 1991.

Wiretap memo

Adversaries go inside ADL's spying operation

ADL Spy Probe


Organizations found in ADL files

Amnesty International Letter

United Nations Letter

Domestic Security Enhancement ActPatriot II