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The ADL Spy Probe

from Alexander Cockburn's "Beat the Devil," a bi-weekly column in The Nation.
May 31, 1993

 

There have been fears that political pressure might squelch the case against the Anti-Defamation League spies being built by the San Francisco District Attorney, Arlo Smith. But the "San Francisco Examiner" for May 11 carried a story by Dennis Opatrny and Scott Winokur reporting that top officials of the ADL are "the ultimate targets of the San Francisco district attorney's domestic spying investigation." Such officials include the ADL's New York-based director of research, Irwin Suall. Meanwhile, the ADL's strategy is to link critics of its spy operation with neo-Nazis and with the World Trade Center bombers.

I note here a story on the scandal in "The Village Voice" for May 11 by Robert Friedman. Since Friedman once wrote "The Nation" complaining I had credited another reporter for facts he had unearthed, I must say that I have a serious problem with the way he avoids giving credit to anyone but himself.

Last July, in "Washington Report on Middle East Affairs," Gregory Slobodkin broke the story of AIPAC's smear operation in a story titled "The Secret Section in Israel's US Lobby That Stifles American Debate." On August 4, Friedman did a "Voice" story, "The Israel Lobby's Blacklist." Nowhere in Friedman's story was it stated that Slobodkin had already published an account of his experiences at AIPAC.

In his May 11, 1993, piece on the ADL, Friedman was still boasting that AIPAC's "spy operation was disclosed last summer in the `Voice,'" which it wasn't. And he never thanks his sources or acknowledges the efforts of people long laboring on the story, such as journalists in San Francisco or ABC-TV's James Bamford, who discovered the Benjamin Epstein letter from which Friedman quotes without tipping his hat to the journalist who got the document first.

In fact, Friedman relies uncritically on the statements of ADL spy Roy Bullock to the FBI and to San Francisco police, as though they were proven facts. And in the end he lets off the ADL with a light stroke, courtesy of researcher Chip Berlet, who says the ADL "is a group whose leaders, at least, consistently defend the actions of Israel against critics, which ... is entirely appropriate" and "is a group that maintains an information-sharing arrangement with law enforcement. Again, there is nothing wrong for a group to do that." Berlet argues that it was some malign synergy between such ADL functions that led to trouble. In effect, he OK's the ADL's venomous smearing of critics as anti-Semites and then makes the amazing statement that there's nothing wrong with illegal acquisition and dissemination of privileged government information about individuals. This is the basis of the class-action suit against the ADL in California.

 

The Nation is published by The Nation Company, Inc., 72 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10011. Subscriptions: $48 per year from The Nation, PO Box 10763, Des Moines, IA 50340-0763 or call 1-800-333-8536.


 


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