Scientology's South Park Investigation: Orders to Send in a Young Mole
UPDATE: Scientology responds to our South Park stories, and we decode that response here.
South Park deeply embarrassed Scientology with its 2005 episode, "Trapped in the Closet."
NEW: Filmmaker Lloyd Kaufman confirms that he was asked about Trey Parker and Matt Stone by Scientology's Eric Sherman in 2006. And Mark Ebner adds further confirmation with his own leaked document of OSA activity. Also, a private investigator describes sifting trash for the Church of Scientology.
Yesterday, we reported that former Scientology executive Marty Rathbun had revealed at his blog that in 2006, Scientology's Office of Special Affairs -- the church's intelligence and covert operations wing -- was actively investigating South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone by looking for vulnerabilities among their close friends.
Today, we have more leaked OSA documents which give some idea of the extent of the spying operation on the South Park offices and the people who worked there.
They suggest that after traditional approaches with private investigators had stalled, OSA turned to film consultant Eric Sherman, a Scientologist, to help them find a young filmmaker who would make an effective mole at the South Park offices.
For decades, Scientology has earned a reputation for severe retaliation against perceived enemies and carrying on "noisy investigations" that involve private investigators and intimidation squads. We've been documenting many examples of that this year as Scientology goes through perhaps its most difficult period.
The defection of former high ranking officials Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder has been a nightmare for the church. As Scientology expends enormous resources to surveill and harass each of them, Rathbun continues to leak formerly secret OSA documents at his blog.
Not on his blog, however, is a document which he supplied to Marc Headley, a man we have written about frequently here at the Voice, and who was subject to his own retaliation and spying operations by the church. Rathbun gave Headley extensive OSA documents which showed how the church attempted to turn his Scientologist friends into spies.
These documents are in the forms of reports made by operatives to OSA executives. Rathbun and Rinder say these reports would also have been read by church leader David Miscavige who, they say, watches carefully over all of Scientology's covert operations.
For some reason, in a document about Headley's Internet activity, there's also a portion about South Park. The document is dated April 24, 2006:
The document suggests that Parker and Stone's offices were under close watch by Scientology's private eyes. The next portion of the document shows how much information they had gathered about the people who worked there:
That's where the document Rathbun made public yesterday comes in. As we saw, OSA was frustrated that they weren't getting closer to Parker and Stone at this point. Their private eyes had brought back information about the South Park offices, the employees, and even Parker and Stone's cars, but they weren't finding any vulnerabilities to exploit, apparently.
As we saw yesterday, OSA then turned to film consultant Eric Sherman, who went to Troma Studios founder Lloyd Kaufman to tell him what he knew about Parker and Stone. (The Voice has left e-mail and voice messages for Sherman, and we will continue to try to speak with him and with Kaufman today.) Update: We have now spoken with Kaufman, who confirms that Sherman pumped him for information, but he denies that he told Sherman anything about Parker and Stone's friends. In fact, Kaufman says he didn't even know Stamos and Romijn, for example, were friends with the animators. Sherman or the OSA must have obtained the name of Parker and Stone's friends elsewhere.
As we reported yesterday, Kaufman reportedly told Sherman the names of some of Parker and Stone's friends, and OSA then ordered that these friends, including John Stamos and Rebecca Romijn, go through extensive public records checks and trash digging, looking for "strings that can be pulled."
Today, Rathbun sent us an additional OSA document, dated May 3, 2006, which suggests that Scientology wanted to go even further to get close to the South Park duo. OSA talked to a student of Sherman about using Kaufman to "get intelligence" about Parker and Stone:
These are raw intelligence reports from inside OSA. Whether Scientology was ever successful at digging up dirt on the filmmaking duo or their friends is something we'll be trying to find out. While the church has earned its reputation for retaliation and harassment, it also sometimes fails spectacularly in its attempts to attack perceived enemies.
Mike Rinder, who was once executive director of OSA, is currently in the UK, but both he and Rathbun continue to search through their files for more material on OSA's investigation of South Park, and they promise to get back to me soon. So please check back at Runnin' Scared in the coming days as we investigate the full scope of Scientology's moves against Parker and Stone.
Update: Speaking of Rinder and his trip to the UK, Rathbun just put up a post with an eyewitness account of the kind of stalking Rinder is getting there.
2nd Update: Surprised to find that Scientology investigated Parker and Stone? You shouldn't be.
Here at the Voice, we've detailed many retaliation operations and other examples of questionable behavior by the Church of Scientology. Here are some other stories that will help you understand how the church operates:
Scientology Hates Clean Ice: A man has invented a potentially life-saving clean-ice machine for hospitals. But Scientology is going to extraordinary lengths to ruin his business before he can bring the machine to market. Why? Because he employs former Scientology executive Mike Rinder. (Part 2: When a girlfriend becomes collateral damage.)
Lori Hodgson's Mad Dash to the Hospital: Scientologists are encouraged to "disconnect" from members who leave the church -- even if that means children breaking away from their own parents. In this case, a former Scientologist frantically tried to get information about her seriously injured son at a San Jose hospital, but ran into interference from her Scientologist family members.
In August, we made public an audio recording, secretly made, in which you can hear Scientology executive Tommy Davis pressure a young church member about how his family will "disconnect" from him if he does not stop working for a man the church considers an enemy. A chilling tape that gives an absolutely rare opportunity to hear a Scientology executive talk to a member without the knowledge that he will be heard by the outside world.
Marty Rathbun dared to leave Scientology in 2004 after being one of its most powerful executives. In 2009, he began criticizing publicly church leader David Miscavige. In retaliation, the church began a 5-month siege of his South Texas house, and even had him arrested.
For daring to leave Scientology and speak publicly about what he knew after working at its secretive headquarters, Marc Headley was the subject of a complex operation whose goal was to turn his friends into spies.
You'll find links to many other stories we've done here at the Voice since we stepped up our Scientology coverage to daily reporting this past April...
The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology
#1: L. Ron Hubbard
#2: David Miscavige
#3: Marty Rathbun
#4: Tom Cruise
#5: Joe Childs and Tom Tobin
#7: Mark Bunker
#8: Mike Rinder
#9: Jason Beghe
#10: Lisa McPherson
#11: Nick Xenophon (and other public servants)
#12: Tommy Davis (and other hapless church executives)
#13: Janet Reitman (and other journalists)
#14: Tory Christman (and other noisy ex-Scientologists)
#15: Andreas Heldal-Lund (and other old time church critics)
#16: Marc and Claire Headley, escapees of the church's HQ
#17: Jefferson Hawkins, the man behind the TV volcano
#18: Amy Scobee, former Sea Org executive
#19: The Squirrel Busters (and the church's other thugs and goons)
#20: Trey Parker and Matt Stone (and other media figures)
#21: Kendrick Moxon, attorney for the church
#22: Jamie DeWolf (and other L. Ron Hubbard family members)
#23: Ken Dandar (and other attorneys who litigate against the church)
#24: David Touretzky (and other academics)
#25: Xenu, galactic overlord
Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he's been writing about Scientology at several publications.
Keep up on all of our New York news coverage at this blog, Runnin' Scared
SCIENTOLOGY IN THE VILLAGE VOICE
[Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis secretly recorded discussing "disconnection"]
[Benjamin Ring, LA deputy sheriff, wants you to spend your 401K on Scientology]
[Scientologists: How many of them are there, anyway?]
[Scientology hates clean ice: The "Fair Game" operation that should turn your stomach]
[Scientology hates clean ice, part 2: Another target, and the web as weapon]
MARTY RATHBUN AND THE SIEGE OF SOUTH TEXAS
[Scientology has Rathbun arrested] | [Rathbun and Mark Bunker reveal surprising ties]
In Germany with Ursula Caberta: [Announcing plans] | [Press conference] | [Making news about Tom Cruise, Bill Clinton, and Tony Blair] | [Post-trip interview]
The Squirrel Busters: [Goons with cameras on their heads] | [Rathbun's open letter to neighbors] | [Ingleside on the Bay, Texas rallies to Rathbun's cause] | [Squirrel Buster's claim to be making a "documentary"] | [VIDEO: "On a Boat"] | ["Anna" sent to creep out Monique Rathbun] | [Squirrel Busters go hillbilly] | [A videographer blows the whistle on the goon squad] | [Ed Bryan, OT VIII, shows the power of Scientology's highest levels]
SCIENTOLOGY SPYING AND "FAIR GAME"
[Secret Scientology documents spell out spying operation against Marc Headley]
[Scientology's West U.S. spies list revealed] | [Scientology's enemies list: Are you on it?]
Spy operation against Washington Post writer Richard Leiby: [Part 1] | [Part 2]
[A Scientology spy comes clean: Paulien Lombard's remarkable public confession]
[Scientology advertises for writers in Freedom magazine]
[Accidental leak shows Scientology spy wing plans to "handle" the Voice]
[Lori Hodgson and Disconnection: "No one's going to take my eternity away"]
SCIENTOLOGY AND CELEBRITIES
["Tom Cruise told me to talk to a bottle"] | [Tom Cruise likes coconut cake] | [Tom Cruise has a sense of humor] | ["Tom Cruise not a kook!"] | [Paulette Cooper on Tom Cruise]
[Paul Haggis, director of Crash, issues an ultimatum, leaves the church]
[Character actor Jason Beghe defects noisily] | [Actor Michael Fairman reveals his "suppressive person" declaration] | [Michael Fairman talks to the Voice]
[Giovanni Ribisi as David Koresh: Scientology-Branch Davidian link makes sense]
[Russell Brand weds ex-Scientologists in wild ceremony] | [Skip Press on Haggis]
[Placido Domingo Jr.: Scientology's retaliation is "scary and pathetic"]
Grant Cardone, NatGeo's "Turnaround King": [Doing Scientology's dirty work?] | [Milton Katselas complained about Cardone's smear job] | [Cardone runs to Huffpo]
[Philip Boyd, Saving Grace actor, rips "the business that is Scientology"]
JANET REITMAN'S INSIDE SCIENTOLOGY
[Our review of Inside Scientology] | [An interview with Janet Reitman] | [A report from Reitman's first book tour appearance] | [At the Half-King: Reitman not afraid]
[Scientology doesn't like Inside Scientology] | [Q&A at Washington Post]
[A roundup of Reitman's print reviews, and why isn't she on television more?]
HUGH URBAN'S THE CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY
EX-SCIENTOLOGISTS SPEAK OUT
[Marc Headley: "Tom Cruise told me to talk to a bottle"] | [The Nancy Many interview]
[Sympathy for the Devil: Tory Christman's Story] | [Jeff Hawkins' Counterfeit Dreams]
[86 Million Thin Dimes: The Lawrence Wollersheim Saga] | [Mike Rinder on spying]
[Scientology dodges a bullet in Australia] | [Scientology exec Jan Eastgate arrested]
[All hell breaks loose in Israel] | [Scientology sees fundraising gold in the UK riots]
[Aussie former rugby pro Chris Guider calls David Miscavige "toxic" and "violent"]
[Stephen Cox, UK church newbie, pledges 20K pounds] | [Biggi Reichert: A German Lisa McPherson?] | [The Birmingham trove: 7,000 internal e-mails]
ODD VIDEOS AND ODDER NEWS
[Scientology singalong, "We Stand Tall"] | [Captain Bill Robertson and "Galactic Patrol"]
[Scientology wins a major award!] | [Scientology wants your money: Meet Dede!]
[Birmingham in the House! The "Ideal" dance mix] | [Scientology and the Nation of Islam]
[When Scientology was hip] | [Sad: David Miscavige makes fun of his own fundraisers]
[Freedom magazine parodies The New Yorker. Hilarity ensues.]
[Scientology surf report: Anonymous parties outside the New York "org"]
THE VIEW INSIDE THE BUBBLE
[A scientologist's letter to the Voice and its readers] | [Scientology silent birth]
[Tad Reeves: Scientology might listen to this guy] | [More Tad Reeves and family]
[Scientology never forgets: A heartwarming telemarketing holiday miracle]
[Scientology High School, Dating and Super Powers!]