(November 17, 1998) Jewish Group Told To Open Files SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A state appeals court ruled that a Jewish civil rights organization that was monitoring pro-Palestinian and anti-apartheid activists must give them information about any illegal disclosures of their confidential files. The 1st District Court of Appeal decided Monday that the Anti-Defamation League of B'Nai Brith is entitled to the same protections extended to journalists, meaning it can keep its files and sources confidential but must hand over any materials it illegally obtained and distributed. The ADL was appealing a judge's order to produce internal documents concerning 17 activists who have sued the ADL for invasion of privacy. The activists contend the ADL illegally obtained confidential records, such as driver's licenses and Social Security numbers, from the state and used them to get people blacklisted among the organization's supporters. The ADL, which publishes newsletters and reports on hate groups, denies having a blacklist and says it was merely keeping tabs on terrorists and groups opposed to civil rights. Some of the information the activists sought is part of 17,000 ADL files seized by police in 1992. The ADL later settled a civil suit filed by the city accusing it of illegally obtaining the sensitive documents. The appeals court said Monday that the ADL isn't entitled to keep its files secret if it used the material for nonjournalistic purposes, such as disclosing the information to foreign governments or to its private network of supporters. Both the ADL and a lawyer representing the activists declared victory. The ADL's regional director, Barbara Bergen, said the ruling ``reaffirms our status as a journalistic organization, with the right to protect our files.'' Bergen said the terms of the court's order does not entitle the activists to any new information because there have been no illegal disclosures. Attorney Pete McCloskey, a former congressman whose wife, Helen, is one of the plaintiffs, said the information should enable him to take their long-stalled case to trial. ``It breaks through this almost incredible claim by these guys that they were immune for any violation of law,'' he said.
Copyright 1998 The New York Times Company
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