Roy Bullock, the controversial West Coast investigator for the Anti-Defamation League, said Tuesday that he infiltrated about 30 political groups as part of his duties but never did anything dishonest or underhanded.
In his first detailed press interview, Bullock acknowledged that it was a mistake for him to sell information on the side to South Africa--including a report on liberal Rep. Ron Dellums (D-Berkeley). "It was not the most political thing to do," he said.
Engaging, well-spoken and modest, Bullock revealed some of his tricks for infiltrating right-wing organizations and said he gathered information on nearly 10,000 people in a personal quest to fight bigotry and anti-Semitism. "I believed in what I was doing," he said.
But stung by charges of illegal spying, Bullock questioned why he and the Anti-Defamation League are the subjects of a criminal investigation by San Francisco authorities--especially given his long history of working closely with police departments up and down the state.
"This case has been more a campaign of vilification," he said. "Why are they doing it? Why? Why? Why?"
San Francisco Dist. Atty. Arlo Smith is investigating whether Bullock and officials of the Anti-Defamation League violated state law by collecting confidential information on at least 1,394 political activists and private citizens.
Authorities also are looking into former San Francisco Police Officer Tom Gerard, who allegedly provided Bullock with restricted information, including home addresses, physical descriptions, vehicle information and criminal histories. Gerard fled to the Philippines last fall after he was questioned by the FBI.
No charges have been filed in the case, but the district attorney's office has released nearly 700 pages of investigative documents and alleged that the Anti-Defamation League maintained a nationwide intelligence network to gather information on political groups.
The Anti-Defamation League, which has launched a public relations campaign to counter the allegations, denies that its information gathering constitutes a spy network and contends that much of what Bullock did was on his own.
The stocky, brown-haired Bullock told authorities that he began collecting information for the Anti-Defamation League as a volunteer nearly 40 years ago in Indiana. When he moved to California in 1960, the group signed him up as an investigator and has paid him surreptitiously every week for the past 33 years.
Bullock said that over the years he was given specific assignments by the league to infiltrate about 30 Arab-American, right-wing and left-wing groups. Among them were the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, American Nazi Party, John Birch Society and Minutemen.
Infiltrating groups is not difficult, Bullock said, especially the right-wing organizations.
"They live in a dark, restricted world of their own fervent imaginations," he said. "You say you agree and they fall all over you. You don't have to say much."
As a member of the groups, Bullock said, he followed strict rules set by the Anti-Defamation League: never make a proposal for action and never make a statement that could be misconstrued.
Bullock said he generally stayed in the background, said little and did not take part in activities--characteristics that eventually marked him as an informer. But with an easygoing manner and a good sense of humor, he often was accepted for years.
Bullock, 58, acknowledged that such activities made him a spy, but said he prefers to think of himself as an investigator. With a great appetite for information, he worked steadily over the years gathering other information that might someday be useful to the Anti-Defamation League.
"I love research," said Bullock, who is paid $550 a week by the Anti-Defamation League.
He scanned obscure publications, attended demonstrations and listened to speeches, making note of people who might be of concern to the league. He also collected confidential information about many of these people from police sources around the West.
In this way, he amassed files in his computer on more than 950 groups and nearly 10,000 people. He said he passed along some of the data--including confidential police information--to the Anti-Defamation League; he also traded some data to law enforcement agencies for more information.
"Certainly the league wanted me to look at certain individuals or organizations," he said. "But of 10,000 names in the computer, the league might have asked me specifically about 2%."
Prosecutors contend that those files, including information on such groups as Greenpeace, San Francisco television station KQED and Mills College, are the files of the Anti-Defamation League. In a sharp disagreement with authorities, Bullock and the league contend that they are Bullock's personal files.
Bullock said he had begun collecting information on the anti-apartheid movement for the Anti-Defamation League when he and his close friend Gerard were approached by South African agents who wanted to buy information.
Bullock repackaged some of his reports to the Anti-Defamation League, gathered other information from public sources and sold it to the two foreign agents, receiving about $8,000 over a four-year period.
Bullock told the FBI last year that the Anti-Defamation League had put him in contact with a South African agent. But later he told authorities that he lied about the South African connection to protect Gerard, who made the initial contact, according to San Francisco court files.
Despite his contempt for the "odious" system of apartheid, Bullock said he agreed to provide information to South Africa because he needed the money. "I don't feel I did anything dishonest or underhanded," he said.
Bullock said his work for South Africa was the only time he provided information to any group other than the Anti-Defamation League or a law enforcement agency.
The only time he was paid by a law enforcement agency for information, he said, was when FBI agents gave him $500--which he used in part to buy them lunch.
In fact, Bullock prides himself on his good working relationship with officers in 10 law enforcement agencies--including the Los Angeles Police Department--who know him as an Anti-Defamation League investigator and trade information with him.