Arab-Americans Sue Anti-Defamation League Over Alleged Spying
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Arab-Americans and critics of Israel sued the Anti-Defamation League on Wednesday, saying it invaded their privacy by illegally gathering information about them through a nationwide spy network.
The ADL, a national group dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism, intended to use the data to discredit them because of their political views, according to the class-action lawsuit filed in San Francisco Superior Court.
″None of us has been guilty of racism or Nazism or anti-Semitism or hate crimes, or any of the other ‘isms’ that the ADL claims to protect against. None of us is violent or criminal in any way,″ said Carol El-Shaieb, an education consultant who develops programs on Arab culture.
The 19 plaintiffs include Yigal Arens, son of former Israel Defense Minister Moshe Arens. The younger Arens, a research scientist at the University of Southern California, said the ADL kept a file on him in the 1980s presumably because he has criticized Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
″The ADL believes that anyone who is an Arab American ... or speaks politically against Israel is at least a closet anti-Semite,″ Arens said.
The ADL has denied any wrongdoing, but couldn’t comment on the lawsuit because it hasn’t reviewed it, said a spokesman at the ADL’s New York headquarters.
The FBI and local police and prosecutors are investigating allegations that the ADL spied on thousands of individuals and hundreds of groups, including white supremacist and anti-Semitic organizations, Arab-Americans, Greenpeace, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and San Francisco public television station KQED.
Some information allegedly came from confidential police and government records, according to court documents filed in the probe and the civil lawsuit. No charges have been filed in the criminal investigation.
The lawsuit accuses the ADL of violating California’s privacy law, which forbids the intentional disclosure of personal information ″not otherwise public″ from state or federal records.
The lawsuit claims the ADL disclosed the information to ″persons and entities″ who had no compelling need to receive it. It didn’t elaborate.
Defendants include Richard Hirschhaut, director of the ADL’s office in San Francisco. He did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
Other defendants are San Francisco art dealer Roy Bullock, an alleged ADL informant over the past four decades, and former police officer Tom Gerard. Gerard allegedly tapped into law enforcement and government computers and passed information on to Bullock.
Gerard, who has retired from the police force, has moved to the Philippines. Bullock’s lawyer, Richard Breakstone, said he could not comment on the lawsuit because he had not yet studied it.