Thomas J. Gerard, the former San Francisco police officer who fled here after being accused of passing confidential files to the Anti-Defamation League, enjoyed a private prank as he traveled the world for the Central Intelligence Agency.
Among the many passports and other fake identity papers that he used as an undercover CIA agent from 1982 through 1985 were five documents identifying him as Thomas P. Clouseau--as in Inspector Clouseau, the bumbling French detective in the Pink Panther films.
“I’m still surprised Central Cover staff at the agency let that one slip by,” Gerard said with a laugh. “A little joke on the agency.”
But the 50-year-old former spy and San Francisco police inspector is no longer playing games. He says he will blow the whistle on what he calls illegal CIA support of Central American death squads if he is indicted and tried for his suspected role in a growing California-based scandal over a nationwide intelligence network run largely on behalf of the Anti-Defamation League.
Gerard detailed his charges against the CIA in a three-hour interview on this jungle-clad southern Philippine island, where he fled Oct. 25. He said much of the proof is contained in a black American Tourister briefcase seized by San Francisco police from his gym locker there.
According to a police inventory, the bag contained not only Gerard’s collection of false identity papers in 10 names, but a CIA cable marked “Secret,” apparent CIA interrogation manuals, photographs of chained and blindfolded men, and a black, executioner-style hood.
All are proof, Gerard said, that the CIA was directly involved in the training and support of torturers and death squads operating in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala during the mid-1980s. He said he quit the agency in late 1985 because he could not stomach what he witnessed there.
“This was not good guys versus bad guys,” he said heatedly. “This was evil, evil s---. This was something the devil himself is involved in. And I wanted no part of it.”
The CIA, following practice, has refused to confirm that Gerard was a staff employee. The agency has repeatedly denied direct support of the right-wing death squads, which tortured and murdered thousands of political opponents, clergy, union members and peasants in bloody counterinsurgency campaigns in the three Central American countries in the mid-1980s.
But Gerard said a Manila envelope inventoried by San Francisco police and labeled “Interrogation Training Farm Prison 1984" is from a CIA training camp outside Williamsburg, Va.
Four envelopes in the bag were labeled “D.S.,” which Gerard said refers to death squads. One includes a paper labeled “Secret Biodata of the Nominees to be Trained in Human Resource Exploitation (Interrogation) Course” with 13 names listed. Another envelope contains a green-covered book with more than 100 pages “on the subject of interrogations” that Gerard said was from the CIA.
Another envelope contains what Gerard said is a secret cable from the CIA station chief in San Salvador responding to a query from CIA headquarters in Langley on alleged human rights abuses.
“It shows they knew what was going on,” he said.
Several photos, Gerard said, show CIA agents attending interrogations, or posing with death squad members. He denied working with the death squads.
The briefcase also contained a black loose-leaf binder stuffed with business cards, names, addresses and three pages with more than 100 names and phone numbers. The section is titled “International Activities Division-Special Activities Group,” according to the police inventory.
“That’s the who’s who” of the CIA, Gerard said. “Oooh, that’s gonna make people nervous. Oooh.”
The International Activities Division handles the CIA’s paramilitary activities, such as support for guerrilla movements, according to “The U.S. Intelligence Community,” a book by Jeffrey Richelson.
When he left the CIA in 1985, Gerard said, he stashed the hood, classified cable, photos and other material in the briefcase in case he ever needed protection from the CIA. “The term is graymail,” he said grimly. “Do what you gotta do.”
Asked why he was going public, Gerard complained that the FBI and the San Francisco police were trying him in the press by alleging that he gave confidential law enforcement and motor vehicle information to the Anti-Defamation League and sold information to South Africa for thousands of dollars.
Gerard denied any criminal wrongdoing. “I shouldn’t say I did no wrong,” he said. “I should say I showed poor judgment. . . . But as far as criminal acts, no way.”
Police say the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights organization, secretly collected information on more than 12,000 individuals and 950 activist groups over the last several decades. The ADL acknowledges that it collects information on groups that are anti-Semitic, extremist or racist, but denies any improper activity.
The case involves Gerard’s undercover work after he left the CIA, as a San Francisco police inspector in the department’s now disbanded intelligence division. He has not been charged.
Gerard does not deny “snooping and pooping on people in the U.S.,” as he put it, and working with Roy Bullock, a small-time San Francisco art dealer who told the FBI he infiltrated right-wing and Arab-American groups and prepared hundreds of secret files for the Anti-Defamation League.
Gerard said he and Bullock routinely rifled through bags of garbage they collected outside the homes of people affiliated with suspect political groups they jokingly classified as “right-wing, left-wing and chicken-wing.”
“We were the kings of garbage,” Gerard said. “I love garbage. Because garbage doesn’t lie.”
Gerard said he first brought Bullock to the FBI in about 1986 after Bullock provided a file that helped San Francisco police find a deranged neo-Nazi who had bombed synagogues and African-American studies classrooms. Gerard said he told the FBI that Bullock was a secret investigator for the Anti-Defamation League and persuaded them to hire Bullock as a paid informant.
A spokesman for the FBI in San Francisco declined to comment on Gerard’s assertion, but detailed court documents indicate that Bullock was a part-time informant for the FBI who collected one payment of $500. In contrast, Bullock has been paid a regular stipend by the Anti-Defamation League since 1960--now $550 a week.
Gerard now blames Bullock for setting him up as a fall guy in the investigation. Gerard said that he bought his IBM clone home computer from Bullock several years ago, “and when I got it all the files were already there.”
Police, who seized the computer, said the program included files on 7,011 people and political groups, spanning the spectrum from right to left. Gerard expressed amazement at the figure, saying he only thought he had 300 or 400 such files.
“It doesn’t matter,” he added. “I’m not suggesting I didn’t know what was there.” He said the files were mostly published information about right-wing groups, including skinheads, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. “It doesn’t seem unreasonable to me to keep track of some loon who paints swastikas on synagogues,” he said.
Bullock’s attorney, Bob Breakstone, disputed Gerard’s version of events and said it was “ludicrous” to believe that Bullock would enter the files in Gerard’s computer without his knowledge. “He asked for it,” Breakstone said Friday.
The attorney also said he was disappointed Gerard was trying to blame Bullock, noting that it was Gerard who introduced Bullock to a South African agent who allegedly purchased information from the duo.
“It’s sad he has chosen to strike out at Roy, because Roy really likes Tom,” Breakstone said.
Gerard also flatly denied Bullock’s claim to police that the two began selling information to the South African government in 1987 and split about $16,000 as payment for providing information on foes of apartheid and journalists, among others.
But he said he helped the South African consul general in Los Angeles several years ago and was given a coffee table book of wildlife photos in thanks.
Gerard said he does not know how or why a file filled with incorrect data on Scott Kraft, the Los Angeles Times correspondent based in South Africa, was apparently taken from his computer and sold to the white-ruled government.
“I don’t know anything about that,” he said. “I’m not suggesting it wasn’t in my computer. I don’t know if it was.”
Gerard also denied providing Bullock with driver’s license records, including photographs, and complete files on various Nazi groups when the city ordered the police intelligence division disbanded and the files destroyed, as Bullock told the FBI.
But Gerard said he did share information from the files. “At the time the intelligence division shut down, there were things we were working on,” he said. “That information went forth, not the files themselves.”
Gerard was interviewed by FBI agents in San Francisco last October. He said they threatened him with “a lifestyle change” in prison if he did not cooperate. Instead, he hopped a flight to the Philippines, a country with which the United States has no extradition treaty. He sent his retirement papers to the Police Department in November.
Gerard said they also questioned him about overseas bank accounts. “Here’s my only foreign bank account,” he insisted, showing a Philippine bank passbook opened in March and now containing the peso equivalent of about $1,200.
He said he earned about $77,000 last year. That includes, he said, $10-an-hour stints as a uniformed security guard for Philippine Airlines at the San Francisco International Airport and free-lance fees for writing articles for two intelligence newsletters published in London and Paris.
He said the FBI is looking at 16 checks in his San Francisco bank account and last week interviewed one of his sons, a Marine, in Hawaii.
He called himself a “victim of circumstance,” caught between the CIA, the FBI, the Anti-Defamation League and the San Francisco police. But then he grinned.
“Maybe I’m a good guy,” he said. “Maybe I’m a bad guy. Maybe I’m a rogue elephant out of control.”
Gerard said he “absolutely, no question” plans to return to Sausalito, where he and his wife, Julia, lived on a boat. He showed an open round-trip airline ticket. “People who are fugitives do not buy a round-trip ticket,” he said.
In the meantime, Gerard is enjoying his life on Palawan, a rugged, hard-to-reach and heavily jungled island known in the Philippines as “the last frontier.” It is about 300 miles south of Manila, and there are few phones or paved roads. Malaria is endemic, and crocodiles are fierce.
“I always loved this clandestine s---,” he said. “If you were a spy aficionado, you’d just love going through my stuff. I’ve collected it for years.” Even better, he added, his own story “is the kind of thing that sells spy novels.”
“Here’s a guy who worked for the CIA,” he said. “Here’s a guy who ran a massive spy network in the U.S. Here’s a guy who fled to a distant, Third World country.”