FBI files about the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) have been released under the Freedom of Information Act. Now online at theIsrael Lobby Archive, they reveal tactics of ADL operatives working undercover to infiltrate and neutralize groups the ADL deemed subversive or hostile to Israel. Files also reveal the ADL’s long-term —and often unsuccessful—efforts to forge and leverage and publicize formal liaisons with the FBI.
On August 5, 1940 the ADL confidentially supplied contact information (PDF file) of nearly 1,600 ADL members to the FBI to serve as informants and undercover sources. An FBI letter (PDF file) advised that “the Anti-Defamation League does not wish it to become generally known that they do employ private investigators.” The ADL told McClure Newspaper “a certain number of FBI men have been taken into the ADL for coaching on the finer points of investigation work that have been developed by the voluntary organization.” FBI directors also ordered field offices to liaise with ADL regional offices in 1968 and 1985.
An ADL operative using illicit press credentials was arrested at a Madison Square Garden disrupting an anti-war rally in 1941. “The ADL had then brought ‘tremendous pressure to bear on Commissioner Seery and the Mayor’s Committee on Press Cards to drop the Forster incident the preceding night.” The effort to quash prosecution included offering payoffs and planting hostile news reports, according to the FBI report. (PDF file)
A 1951 investigation of the Arab League and activities of Egypt and Saudi Arabia the ADL brought to the FBI quickly fell apart. FBI Director John Edgar Hoover wrote on November 23, 1951, “…material which the Anti-Defamation League has been channeling to this Bureau in the past is now believed by the officials of the League to be absolutely unreliable…”
A 1957 FBI review of ADL reports noted the ADL campaign to free captured Soviet atomic spy Morton Sobell . ADL content, wrote a concerned special agent, consists “mainly restatements of the committee’s claims, reprints of book reviews of books sponsored by the committee, quotations from briefs being submitted to the courts by attorneys sired by the committee in support of their petition for a new trial, press releases announcing plans for new court actions…plans for meetings or dinners organized to raise funds.” Sobell admitted spying for the Soviet Union in 2008.
In 1969, the FBI proposed investigating the ADL as an Israeli foreign agent after three ADL undercover operatives infiltrated and strategized the takeover of the Organization of Arab Students posing as news reporters. An in-depth report of the incident is available at FBI files reveal ADL spied on Arab Students. The FBI reported the “investigation conducted by ADL, using code name sources, pretexts such as local news reporters … recruiting of Jewish refugees from organizations such as HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aide Society) to infiltrate the OAS in NYC. Of course, there is no evidence to indicate this information is compiled on behalf of a foreign principal, however, it is felt incredible to assume it is not furnished to an official of the Government of Israel…”
In 1993 the FBI interviewed 40-year undercover ADL operative Roy Bullock, who had improperly obtained social security numbers and drivers licenses from San Francisco Police Department officer Tom Gerard . Gerard and Bullock infiltrated and obtained information on California Pro-Palestinian and anti-Apartheid groups as paid agents of both the ADL and South African intelligence services. The ADL paid tens of thousands in damages over the incident and promised not to collect confidential information in the future.