SAN FRANCISCO — The Anti-Defamation League defended its record as a civil rights group Friday and said it will cooperate with authorities who are investigating whether the organization collected confidential police information on citizens and groups.
But San Francisco Dist. Atty. Arlo Smith said that Anti-Defamation League employees involved in intelligence gathering could face many felony counts of receiving confidential files, eavesdropping, tax violations and conspiracy.
Police have accused the Anti-Defamation League of not being truthful about its spying operations, which collected information on more than 12,000 individuals and 950 political groups across the political spectrum.
Hundreds of pages of documents released by prosecutors Thursday show that the ADL maintained a nationwide intelligence network and kept files on political figures.
Even so, Smith suggested that if the Anti-Defamation League shut down its spy operation, prosecutors would take that into account when deciding what charges to file.
In a statement released in Washington, National Director Abraham H. Foxman described the ADL as "a Jewish defense agency which has fought to protect all minorities from bigotry and discrimination for 80 years."
Foxman said the organization is regarded as a credible source on extremist groups and has a tradition of routinely providing information to police, journalists, academics, government officials and the public. It has never been the policy of the ADL to obtain information illegally, he said.
"Like other journalists, in order to protect the confidentiality and physical safety of its sources, ADL will not comment on the nature or identity of any source of information," Foxman said.
The Anti-Defamation League refused to acknowledge that one of its longtime employees, Roy Bullock, was anything more than "a private individual who is alleged to be an ADL 'informant.' "
Among the documents released by prosecutors were detailed statements showing how the ADL funneled weekly payments to Bullock through Beverly Hills attorney Bruce I. Hochman.
"Roy would penetrate organizations and needed this arrangement to be distanced from ADL," Hochman told a San Francisco police investigator. Hochman could not be reached Friday at his home or office for comment.
Despite the Anti-Defamation League's assertion that it will cooperate with authorities, San Francisco police said the group did not turn over all pertinent documents during a voluntary search of the group's offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco last fall.
A second round of searches Thursday, this time with search warrants, produced a vast quantity of records, primarily dealing with financial transactions, Smith said. Further searches may be necessary and it will be at least a month before any charges are filed, he said.
"The investigation, of course, will go wherever the facts lead us," the district attorney said.