FBI Investigation of Scientology: Already Over Before We Even Heard of It

Categories: Scientology

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In February 2011, the New Yorker published Lawrence Wright's superb 24,000-word piece about director Paul Haggis and the Church of Scientology, "The Apostate."

One of the most interesting things in the story was a revelation that made news all on its own: Wright reported that the FBI was investigating Scientology for human trafficking abuses.

More than a year later, the Voice has learned stunning new details about the FBI's investigation -- that by around June, 2010, the agency was preparing to raid Scientology's California international headquarters using high resolution footage shot from drone aircraft, and had also recorded the tail numbers on airplanes owned by Tom Cruise in case Scientology leader David Miscavige should try to abscond from the scene.

But the most surprising thing we've learned: by the time the New Yorker revealed the existence of the FBI probe in February 2011, the investigation itself had been dead for some four months.

Last week, I was in Clearwater, Florida for a couple of days interviewing Mike Rinder, who until 2007 was the top spokesman in the church and also was the executive director of Scientology's intelligence wing, the Office of Special Affairs.

Over those two days, Rinder and I talked about a lot of subjects for several future stories. Near the end of those sessions, I asked Rinder what many of our readers have asked over the past year -- what happened with the FBI?

What he said inspired me to call up several other former high-ranking Scientologists who had all been interviewed by the FBI in 2009 and 2010. Piecing together what they told me, I've been able to come up with an outline which describes how seriously the US government considered raiding the International Base -- and how long ago the FBI suddenly changed its mind.


Sworn to Secrecy

"I saw them in November 2009. I had to give them a history lesson. They had no clue," Marty Rathbun tells me, describing his first meeting with FBI agents. "I told them they were no match for the Church of Scientology."

Until 2004, Rathbun was the second-highest ranking official in the church, answering only to Miscavige in his role as Inspector General-Ethics of the Religious Technology Center, Scientology's controlling entity. After he left, Rathbun laid low for several years until, in 2009, he started up a blog and began harshly criticizing Miscavige and the way the church is being run. And it was also that year that he began talking to the FBI, whose investigation was being led by Tricia Whitehill and later Valerie Venegas, agents who each specialize in human trafficking cases, which can include allegations of slave labor.

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Mark "Marty" Rathbun
"I told them everything. Everything I've said publicly and then some," he tells me. But Rathbun, who helped oversee Scientology's "fair game" campaigns against enemies that used complex methods of surveillance and control, was disappointed by how little the federal agents seemed to know of that history.

"They were goodhearted, but so unsophisticated," he says. "They told me the church didn't know about the investigation. Are you kidding me? I said. I already know all of the people you've talked to. You think the church doesn't know that too?"

I asked Rathbun what the agents seemed to be interested in, and what he told them over days of talks.

"How Miscavige lords over Scientology from the minute he gets up in the morning and until he goes to bed at night. That his number one priority is, 'Who's blown?' And he had his inspector general -- that was me -- on it. It's his number one priority. He micromanages every security measure. And every unlawful measure to track people and get them back to the reservation and keep them quiet," he says, using Scientology jargon -- "blown" -- for escape. "I went through it chapter and verse, and had it corroborated by Mike Rinder and other people."

More than a dozen ex-Scientologists participated in the investigation; each was given a confidential informant number and a code name. They were told that under no circumstances could they tell anyone that they were cooperating with the agents. For months, Whitehill and Venegas gathered information, and learned the ropes of Scientology's complex ways.

By June 22, 2010, when Tiziano Lugli met with them at the federal building in Los Angeles, the agents seemed to have learned a great deal.

"They knew Miscavige, Int Base, auditing, all the lingo. They were at the same level as Larry Wright or Janet Reitman, someone who had really done their homework," says Lugli, an Italian musician and music producer who was excommunicated -- declared a "suppressive person" -- by Scientology two years ago.

"I had to drop my PIs before I went there," he says, laughing about how at the time, up to ten private investigators hired by the church were trailing him, and he had to shake them before meeting with the FBI.

"I was there for three hours. They couldn't tell me anything about what would happen, but they said trust us, justice will be done," he says.

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John Brousseau works on the model of a P51 Mustang, a gift for Tom Cruise. At the time, Brousseau was a Sea Org member making pennies an hour.
By that time, June 2010, the investigation seemed to have benefited from a key break. Rathbun and Rinder and others had given detailed information about church executives being held against their will at the Int Base, which is about 90 miles east of Los Angeles, near the town of Hemet. The executives were held in a place Miscavige called "the Hole" -- an office-prison made up of two double-wide trailers where fallen officials were kept day and night, sleeping on the floor and being forced to take part in mass confessions. But there was a problem -- it had been two or more years since Rathbun and Rinder had left the base. Without fresher information, it would be difficult for the FBI to act, they were told. But then, in April 2010, a worker named John Brousseau escaped from the base, and he managed to bring with him damning evidence of Sea Org members toiling for the benefit of Miscavige and Tom Cruise.

With Brousseau's fresh information, the FBI seemed to have what it needed, and the investigation reached a fever pitch.

"They were excited because I was newly out. I told them everything I could think of," Brousseau tells me.

After talking with more than half a dozen of the people who gave information to the FBI, we gleaned these details of the FBI's plans about raiding the base to free the executives held against their will in the "The Hole" as the summer of 2010 began:

-- The FBI had gathered high resolution images of the base using drone aircraft that were so detailed, informants were able to identify individuals in the images for the agency.

-- Expecting David Miscavige to flee the base once he, in all probability, got tipped to the raid, his various avenues of escape were evaluated, including the possibility that he'd make for Tom Cruise's private hangar in Burbank. The tail numbers on Cruise's aircraft were even gathered, one informant says.

-- At least three informants were asked if they'd be willing to go along on a raid of the base in a black, unmarked van, from which they could relay instructions to agents as they apprehended people.

-- Another informant was asked if he'd be willing to pretend to recant his defection from the church, and then go back to work at the base as an undercover plant.

-- One informant says raids were planned not only for the International Base, but also for each of the Church of Spiritual Technology locations, the vaults where Hubbard's works are being archived that we wrote about last month.

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A photo John Brousseau took inside Tom Cruise's private Burbank airplane hangar, which was decorated by Sea Org members.
Then, something happened. We've heard a few different stories from informants about incidents on the local level which may have motivated FBI officials in Washington to kill the investigation, but Rathbun and Rinder both tell me they believe those local incidents were merely excuses for what both of them had expected would happen.

Some time before October 6, 2010, word came from Washington that the the probe was finished.

Here's how we know that.

On October 6, a young man named Daniel Montalvo was arrested by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Office. We wrote at the time about Montalvo, a worker in Scientology's Bridge Publications who had grown up in the church but decided to escape the Sea Org, the elite corps of workers who sign billion-year contracts. On his way out, he had taken with him some hard drives, and although he almost immediately returned these, the church had him arrested for theft.

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Tiziano Lugli
Lugli, who had been helping Montalvo, tells me that the young man tried to call him from jail with a collect call, but Lugli wasn't sure who it was trying to reach him. On a hunch, he phoned FBI agent Valerie Venegas, who confirmed that Montalvo had been taken into custody.

It had been four months since his meeting with Venegas at the federal building, when the investigation had been at a high pitch. Now, Lugli says, Venegas seemed to have a very different demeanor. He asked her what was happening with the case.

"She said something about pressure from Washington, and the investigation getting spiked," he tells me. "I asked her if they had been infiltrated from the top, and if the hold had come from Washington, and she confirmed it for me. She said she didn't care what Washington says, that she was still in the middle of the case."

Lugli says she didn't sound very convincing about that. More importantly, he says, she definitely confirmed that word had come from Washington that the probe was done. "I asked her if it had been spiked from the top, and she said yes."

About a week later, Lugli says he called Venegas again, this time suggesting that she might want to talk to Jason Beghe, the actor who had left Scientology and criticized the church harshly in a 2008 YouTube video.

Lugli says she declined to speak directly to Beghe, and she complained that there was now a leak of information -- she had received a phone call from a reporter asking about the probe. Lugli realizes now that she was referring to New Yorker writer Lawrence Wright.

"She was very upset," Lugli says. "At this point, the thing was a fucking joke. I don't think I've talked to her since then."

Other informants tell me that Venegas began blaming the spiking of the investigation on Larry Wright and his phone calls. But Lugli insists that Venegas had already told him Washington had put the kibosh on the probe before she mentioned being called by the press.


Resurrection?

Four months after Lugli was told that the probe was dead, in February 2011 news of the investigation finally broke in Wright's epic story about Haggis in the New Yorker.

The St. Petersburg Times reacted quickly with its own detailed story about the probe, talking to many of the informants, including Amy Scobee, who made it plain that she was already frustrated with how things were going...

Asked why she decided to talk about the investigation now, despite the FBI's request that she remain quiet, Scobee said: "I didn't hear anything for a year and I got fed up. They're either going to do something or they're not."

There was one other hint in the story that the probe had already stalled, from Rinder...

Toward the end of 2010, [Rinder] said he had the sense the FBI's investigation had lost momentum or, perhaps, had been shelved. But he added that Whitehill told him more than once, "Oh, we're still going.''

Now we know that the other informants had already heard from Lugli by late 2010 that the investigation had been stopped, but they say they kept quiet about it, hoping that it would be resurrected. (Mike Rinder says he got further confirmation that the probe was over this past November, when he received official word that he was no longer considered an FBI informant. John Brousseau says he received a similar notice.)

"It's extremely frustrating. I can't just let go of it, because I still have family in Scientology," Scobee tells me today.

Rathbun, meanwhile, sounds bitter when he talks about the experience. "I warned them it would happen, over and over again," he says.

Rathbun says he was able to predict that a probe would be killed at the highest levels because, in his former role as Scientology's second-highest ranking official, he'd made sure that happened in the past.

He described to me investigations into Scientology in past years, when he would mobilize for Miscavige to have them shut down. They never bothered with agents or supervisors, he says, but would go immediately to top officials and look for ways to influence them.

"We would do a deep, deep study of the lines of command, all the way to the Attorney General in the US or the equivalent in foreign countries. And we'd research any communication leads for that person -- their history, their friends. And then hire the rainmakers and pay them whatever you needed to pay them," he says. A former executive in the office might be an effective tool, for example, or someone who went to school with the targeted official.

Rathbun's words do carry weight: in 1991, he and David Miscavige did something very like this when they met personally with then-IRS Commissioner Fred Goldberg and, after a single conversation, convinced Goldberg to end a decades-long all-out litigation war between Scientology and the IRS. After that meeting, Goldberg started in motion a two-year process that would result in the church finally getting what it coveted the most: tax-exempt status. (I've asked Rathbun what he said in that meeting, and he tells me that Goldberg and the IRS were simply exhausted by years of hellacious legal skirmishing from literally thousands of lawsuits filed by individual Scientologists. According to Rathbun, he and Miscavige explained to Goldberg that all of the harassment could end overnight if the IRS just gave in, and Goldberg seemed visibly moved. Soon after, the IRS caved.)

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Mike Rinder
Mike Rinder says something along the same lines happened to the FBI investigation. "What they say to them is, 'Do you really want to devote your career to this? You don't want to get yourself involved in that. It'll go nowhere. It's not worth the heartache.' That's how that shit goes," says Rinder, who oversaw similar operations as the executive director of Scientology's intelligence wing, the Office of Special Affairs.

Now that they're fairly certain that the FBI has given up the idea of raiding the International Base, several of the informants tell me they didn't think it was a great idea to begin with.

"I told them they'd make idiots of themselves," Rinder says. "Everyone there would say they were happy to be there and that Miscavige was the greatest guy in the world."

"I wasn't in agreement with their idea to raid the Int Base. I told them, you're going to turn Miscavige into a martyr," Brousseau says.

"They were too slow and too stupid before they got shut down. If they had been fast and effective, they would have had a case that was unassailiable before the church had time to use its influence," Rinder says, adding that he urged the agents to build an obstruction of justice case rather than raid the base. "If they had announced they were doing an investigation and then pulled people in for questioning, they would have gotten a lot of people [from the base] who would have testified that they were being told to lie."

Rinder is clearly angry, having spent years trying to convince the FBI to do something with really nothing to show for it. But I asked him, didn't he think telling me this now would only assure that what little hope there is for resurrecting the case gets buried forever?

"The only way that it will come back to life now is if there's serious outside pressure on them. If the Washington Post picked up your story, or the New York Times decided to do something, that may motivate them," Rinder answered.

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Amy Scobee
"There's only two things that motivate those agencies. Someone high up in the agency gets a motivation on their own to do something. And secondly, if they get a lot of outside, public relations pressure, either from the media or from Congress. They ultimately act only on what they think is politically expedient to do," he says.

Amy Scobee was one of the first to go to the FBI, and she says she still isn't ready to give up on it. "I hope that there's a single person in the FBI who cares about this. I worked in the Sea Org with these people for 20 years and I can't believe there's not anyone who cares what's happening to them," she says. "I don't know what else to do. I've gone to the FBI. I've gone to the police...I've been out for seven years and it still puts me over the top. Just because Scientology calls itself a religion the FBI isn't going to do anything? I mean, come on."

"With all of the criminal allegations being made about the church, for this to continue to be ignored is astonishing," Rinder says.

I asked him: If it isn't enough for the FBI that for six years about 60 to 100 church executives were imprisoned in filthy conditions, fed slop, and forced to do confessions daily, never leaving "The Hole" except for a morning shower, could some stories emerging recently about very young kids signing billion-year contracts in the Sea Org motivate law enforcement to act?

"I think that it's something a lot of people should be concerned about," he says. "I mean, you see the reaction of your readers. They see all of the new stories of abuse, and they ask, why is no one doing anything about this?"


**********
Tony Ortega has been the editor in chief of the Village Voice since March, 2007. He started writing about Scientology in 1995. You can reach him by e-mail at tortega@villagevoice.com, and if you ask nicely he'll put you on his mailing list for notifications of new stories, which tend to come out each and every morning at 8 am, but can suddenly appear at any time of the day. You can also catch his alerts at Twitter (@VoiceTonyO), at his Facebook author page, on Pinterest, a Tumblr, and even this new Google Plus doohickey.

New readers might want to check out our primer, "What is Scientology?" Another good overview is our series from last summer, "Top 25 People Crippling Scientology." At the top of every story, you'll see the "Scientology" category which, if you click on it, will bring up all of our most recent stories. As for our regular features, on Thursdays we do a roundup of world press, on Fridays we visit L. Ron Hubbard on the yacht Apollo circa 1969-1971, on Saturdays we celebrate the week's best comments, and on Sundays we publish Scientology's wacky and tacky advertising mailers that people send us.

As for hot subjects we've covered here, you may have heard about Debbie Cook, the former church official who rebelled and is now being sued by Scientology. You might have also heard about the Super Power Building, Scientology's "Mecca," whose secrets were revealed here. We also reported how Scientology spied on its own most precious object, Tom Cruise. (We wrote Tom an open letter that he has yet to respond to.) Have you seen a Scientology ad on TV lately? We debunked some of the claims in that 2-minute commercial you might have seen while watching Glee or American Idol.

Other stories have looked at Scientology's policy of "disconnection" that is tearing families apart. You may also have heard something about the Sea Org experiences of the Paris sisters, Valeska and Melissa, and their friend Ramana Dienes-Browning. We've also featured Paulette Cooper, who wrote about Scientology back in the day, and Janet Reitman, Hugh Urban, and the team at the Tampa Bay Times, who write about it today. And there's plenty more coming.


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351 comments
wnelsonroof
wnelsonroof

I read about half and just became psychotic towards that little saint named David something...I just wanna make that little monster do things he doesn't wanna do! If you know how to read between the bull shit, the little monster just bribed or spent the week end naked  with the FBI flunkies that should be able to jail him for smelling like a whore house.But whatever, I don't even give a shit anyway. I need my money now!!

WiDa
WiDa

If the Church of Scientology does have a lot of money in the bank (and if not going broke), and certainly appears to have valuable real estate holdings, then the government would not want to waste that loss on a little (expected) raid that would make scientologists into martyrs. The government would go after the whole "win." Perhaps right now Scientology is being infiltrated and studied. Perhaps drugs will be involved--or any great crimes that will allow the government to obtain the assets of the cult.  The ways of the cult will be the death of the cult.  All the government has to do is continue to let the bad publicity do its work--and for public opinion to start screaming for something to be done. The house of cards will fall quickly from the inside out.  It's already trembling.  Miscavige appears to have Hitler's personality--and when the messeger is punished--the truth is hard to come by--because people only tell him what he wants to hear.  Nazi Germany fell hard--and was occupied--as will Scientology.

Also, Miscavige will not live a very long life. He does not have a positive aura--and sickness is just around the corner for him.

We only need to continue to protest--and observe.

 

Clam On A Halfshell
Clam On A Halfshell

And because Sea Org does not reproduce, Sea Org does not make new Sea Org members anymore. More footbullets.

Clam On A Halfshell
Clam On A Halfshell

It strongly resembles The People's Republic of China. ...The People's Republic of Hemet?

Clam On A Halfshell
Clam On A Halfshell

Tweedle-dee-dee-dee-dee-tweet-tweet-tweet-tweet, tweet tweet! Up in a treetop, all the day long, all the little birdies gonna sing that song... ;)

Clam On A Halfshell
Clam On A Halfshell

They just changed the names. Guardian's Office became OSA. Different wacko dude at the top, same dirty tricks.

John P.
John P.

In a normal religious institution, say the Catholic church, your argument is valid.  Nobody in the Catholic church audits your financial information, nobody in the Catholic church comes to your house to tell you that you need to donate more money for the cause du jour.  You get to decide how much you donate and when.  But in the cult of Scientology, the registrars typically have extremely detailed financial information on their targets, including credit card balances, etc. They are voracious, and they're not going to wait until you die to get their hands on your dough.  They want it all and they want it now and they're not gonna take "no" for an answer.  My suspicion is that most committed Scientologists who have substantial income have net worth well below the national average for their income brackets, because they're sending it in to David Miscavige as soon as they earn it.   Some high-end Scientologists (Sky Dayton, Tom Cruise, others) may be exempted from heavy "regging" because of their prominence, and may die with large estates because they have so much that $10 million for Patronius Gluteus Maximus status in the IAS is not a significant fraction of their net worth.  But the single-digit millionaire crowd are an endangered species, plucked over and over and over again.  Look at Richie Acunto of "Survival Insurance" for an example of this phenomenon.  He cut costs in the business too far in order to make his $10 million status level sooner than he would have, and drove his business into the ground as a result. 

Guest
Guest

Your age and financial thesis has a serious flaw in it.  If it is an elder population that will be dying off, these kooks will likely be donating thei entire estates to Scientology and these figures are likely substantial. 

Scottishguy
Scottishguy

sadly I think Rinder is right - they will only do what is politically convenient for them

Robert
Robert

what about the patriot act? with the cult's ruthless use of p.i.s on exmembers and critics the fbi could label them like al queada and bin laden. then bust the fence down snag slappy and moxon and the whole legal team take them to a hanger at area 51 and let the hostages just mellow out and come out of the haze. then after the vail is off their faces indict slappy and the legal team.

Cherkas009
Cherkas009

They should have listened to Rinder and have an obstruction of justice case rather than a raid as those brainwashed dupes would not cooperate with freeing themselves.  

JustCallMeMary
JustCallMeMary

Marty, who wrote in 2009 on ESMB how he'd never go to the FBI, and how much he hates them because they investigated him for years, said the FBI would do nothing and 'low and behold' he was right. So why did he bother talking to them anyway?

Anon!
Anon!

Tony, et al, in this astute and well read/ educated group, I would like to give a heads up (ahem) Ladies and Gentlemen, a few days ago, the most recent issue of "Wired" magazine was delivered to my humble abode and has on its front cover the following quote,          "Deep in the Utah desert, the National Security Agency is building the country's biggest spy center. It's the final piece of a secret surveillance network that will intercept and store your phone calls, emails, Google searches... (Watch what you say.)"  If you wish to find this online, enter "Wired magazine 20.04" in your favorite search engine.  NOTE: I have read the cover story and find it almost as bone chilling as Fair Game.

That being said, it seems to me that our government might be "fair gaming" all of us, especially in regards to one's freedom of speech. Yuck, moving on...

The behavior of our government and the relative levels of tolerance shown to Co$, terrorists and others does not lend toward continued faith in the "puppets" in D.C. or does it? The answer to this question lies in the thoughts/ minds of each of us, particularly where it comes to the capacity and use of... wait for it... critical thinking! Yes, good people I give you critical thinking an attribute sentient beings that seems to close to endangered, like common sense; although, in this group, I believe that we are not among the lemmings.

Tye Solaris
Tye Solaris

Thanks for the Article Tony, a couple of points if I may, in no special order;

The REAL QUESTION is WHO Killed the Investigation.

Read Fred T Goldberg's incredibly short profile on Wiki... this is a guy who is CONNECTED.

When I was in DC for the first time... paid for by the Rockefeller's by the way... I was at the bar of my very nice hotel, just a few short minutes from the White House.. there was a particular scent in the air.. a kind of silky velvet... Oh... yes.. that is the scent of money... DC is larded with it.. Trillions of it... that is our so called Democracy. By the way, I did happen to visit Hubbards then Home ... a fairly decent place, his writing office on the first floor had a super large desk crammed into a small room right up to the edge of a working fireplace and french doors directly behind his desk opening onto a small brick walled courtyard.

Marty's version of the How & Why Goldberg 'caved' and made the deal with the church just does not work for me.  Those "thousands" of scientologist filed cases were "cookie cutters" they were basically all identical and even the language and types of suits were more or less dictated by the church... as they went from org to org telling members to file lawsuits against the IRS telling everyone that "We" will overwhelm them with paperwork and slow their machine to a 'Dead Stop'.

All the IRS had to do was defeat one case in the right court and the rest would fall.

So again, look at Fred T Goldberg's 'Actual' profession... He is a Lawyer... with the top firms in the world.... this is not a guy who would so likely cave over the burden of lawsuits... that was exactly his 'Stock and Trade'.... he was Not a Bean Counter.

Also, make a note that Goldberg started his practice with Latham Watkins in Los Angeles and was an Associate in that Firm when it was Legal Counsel for the Church of Scientology in the Reed Slatkin Ponzi Scheme case.... this guy was not only fully aware of who and what the COS is he was also once part of the office that represented the COS in a major legal action.... he was not a novice.

The Church was facing a 'One Billion Dollar' Tax Bill.... if they lost.

The Church had already made damn sure that all of their Liquid Assets were Offshore well before any final date of 'Confrontation' with the IRS.

The IRS has an 'Operating Budget' today of 'Ten Billion Dollars' and roughly One Hundred Thousand employees.... scaled back to the date in question and they were hardly in a position of 'Hardship or Duress' from Scientology.

Inquiry Hearings have been held as to WHY Goldberg granted Scientology tax exempt status, the result of those hearings was that the standard process of granting such an exemption was substantially obviated and no explicable reason was provided... also the final question of Who and Why was never fully answered.

That the FBI was engaged in a 'Military Response' with concern to the INT Base is highly indicative of how ignorant and ill informed they were about who they were dealing with... come on... Hubbards FBI file alone, must be a mile long.

Why there is not a Ranking Senator or Congressman of Influence to begin making Scientology a broader issue in the States is simple.... What Is the Upside?

The Times and the Post are not going to commit their considerable resources to Scientology Crimes for more or less the same reason.... Why?.... What is the Upside?

If someone could build an ironclad story on Who and How Scientology has unlawfully influenced Top Government Officials to evade the Wheels of Justice... they may pick that up.

Frankly, I still say the Achilles Heel of the COS is their Tax Exempt status as granted secretly by Goldberg... a Clinton Appointee, while Commissioner of the IRS.

How many CULTS has the IRS granted Tax Exempt Status ?

Here also is where the Independents will side with Miscavige and protect the declaration by the US Government that Scientology is a Bona Fide Religion.

Joe_Lynn
Joe_Lynn

I see a couple of difficulties with some of your points;

First, Scientology *has no mechanism* for choosing a 'leader'.  Nor for replacing him.

Second, if David Miscavige were prosecuted on *criminal* charges, there would be no end to the number of charges and no way to limit the prosecution to David Miscavige.  Scientology is *organized* criminality and, by himself, David Miscavige does nothing.  It's *always* part of a criminal conspiracy.

And that in itself presents one of the major stumbling blocks to prosecution, since it's well known that any charges will be opening a can of worms that would threaten to bust *any* budget and monopolize attention for years.  I suspect it's more a case of the FBI/Justice Dept. being very aware of Scientology's criminal nature but being loathe to 'lift the tail of the skunk'.

Third; prosecuting Scientology has nothing to do with 'eliminating' the religion/practice.  It's the organization that's criminal (although the dogma itself reads like a criminal instruction manual) but, the organization isn't even necessary to the practice, unless the practice is 'Keeping Scientology Working' or 'Clearing the Planet'.  Everything else can be pursued by individuals or small groups on their own and has been.

As for the '77 raids and prosecution; the only shame is that they didn't go far enough; didn't examine the totality of the organization and follow deeply enough.  And, that should be a warning to anyone who thinks they can cherry pick some single crime or perp.

(this was meant as a reply to James Beverley, but doesn't seem to have landed there)

scilonschools
scilonschools

"They never bothered with agents or supervisors, he says, but would go immediately to top officials and look for ways to influence them."

High level control and low level overwhelm as LRH preached!

Public opinion or more importantly fear of public opinion against an elected official will be the only way to force the issue.Making an official who fails to act named and shamed is the best route me thinks. 

zenda
zenda

Why dont the FBI just hack the computers to find out in formation, especially if they suspect criminal activity?

Derfty
Derfty

I just remembered a very important detail. Tricia Whitehill contacted me in Dec 2011. Before she called, the LAPD task force told me they were meeting with the FBI concerning this investigation and Tricia would call me after that meeting. So this is proof that they are planning something. I still have Tricia's message to me on my voice mail if you want proof that we spoke, Tony.

Derfty
Derfty

This is a very good article, Tony. I was wondering what it would cost to buy space in a popular magazine and place this article. I've seen other people and organizations do it. We could take up a collection (from Mike Laws and other rich people who made this cult the monster that it is). I will even chip in.

Right now, the media is plastering the headline " FBI and US Justice Dept to Probe Death of Teenager Shot and Killed by Neighborhood Watchman". Really? I thought the FBI didn't comment on investigations.

SP 'Onage
SP 'Onage

Tony, did you read the article in REALPOLITIK? Sounds like another Jan Eastgate situation. Plus,I think it's a good example of why the FBI should continue monitoring scientology. The interview with a former Mexico scientologist, Rafael Gómez blew me away. Here's a snippet from that interview:

The woman said that she would not come on post as Executive Director until the issue surrounding Ofelia Benijes was settled, but that if I were to settle it, she would take the post immediately. Ofelia Benijes is the mother of a member of the Sea Organization. As a good, trained Sea Org, you don't just listen, you always look further. So while investigating Ofelia, I came across her confessions in the association's Ethics Department, and she herself recounts how she sexually fondled a teenage girl from the Scientology Mission in Santa Fe on at least one or two occasions. Such behavior is called "ephebophilia" and the teenage girl reported it, but the matter was never brought to the attention of the judicial authorities. Ofelia Benijes was placing the organization at risk and I made the decision to inform two Sea Organization members who were on post with me at that time, and we decided to expel her.

Anyone interested in reading this long, very shocking interview can view it at "Divided By Zero" website, that's where I found it translated into English.

Elizabethan
Elizabethan

Fantastic idea! Believe it would work.Count me in.

guest
guest

Haha...now I'm getting thirsty. ;)

Jimmy Kowski
Jimmy Kowski

I think the biggest bang for your buck you'll get trying to bring down this awful cult is to attack the the most visible snakehead.... who's the person who's supposedly done more to bring scientology to the world than any other person in human history.... Tom Cruise, hell he even has a dinner plate sized medal 'proving' this! 

In my opinion totally destroying his credibility would do far more damage than DM doing the perp walk.  Many would say that it's already been destroyed but MI4 proves that the studios are still willing to work with him. He has to be made so toxic that no one would want to be associated with him ever again.

Now, how to do this....hmmm?

My simple(ish) solution is to create a web donation page with the simple aim of getting enough funds to post Tony's open letter to Tom Cruise in Variety Magazine in a full page ad.... hell, throw in Hollywood Reporter, too.  I'm not sure how much it would cost, few thousand no doubt, but I reckon there would be quite a few ex scions with a few bucks more than happy to pay the lion's share.

There would be no chance of a "didn't see it" response after this and watching Cruise trying to defend "his religion" would be just super-mega-awesome lulz overload. 

The beauty of this would be that the world's media would love it and any defence Tommy Girl offers could easily be refuted on the internet. Refusal to respond would probably get even more people to find out what the church is trying to hide.  A win-win situation either way.

Conversely, I think a public statement supporting John Travolta and a promise of love and affection if he was to renounce his religion would be a good idea - no matter if he was to 'come-out' or not. Unlike Cruise he really strikes me as a decent man who's genuinely trapped and worries what the church would do if he was to blow.

just my 2 cents

PS - I've often seen reports on the internet about how scientology had secret cameras installed in all the celeb/vip auditing rooms and that copies were sent to Miscavige for his amusement. 

Any ex's here able to confirm that?

Elizabethan
Elizabethan

I could comment about the changes brought after the Mary Sue incident but will say, only worse changes and better cover up.About DM, of course he couldn't help but become the devil in disguise?

Elizabethan
Elizabethan

Absolutely right Guest.  Wish I would have said that!Important to do something, take responsibility and do whatever we can do.Then we can enjoy that cold drink!  :-)

AlexM
AlexM

Make sure it's an adult beverage, and cold.

Elizabethan
Elizabethan

Looks like Marcotai's pissed and blown!

Elizabethan
Elizabethan

You got something there! Like your synopsis, Too Much!

James Beverley
James Beverley

In the sea of this long thread, let me suggest one fact that I would bet millions on.  Regardless of what the FBI does (or not), regardless of whether The New York Times or The Washington Post pick up this story, regardless of whether the twitter universe explodes with fury about DM,Scientology is not going to be wiped out. 

The reasons are simple and clear and should be noted so that bloggers stop wasting time on speculating about the total collapse of Scientology.  That will not happen.  This is different from reasonable discussion about this or that person being arrested or the stopping of criminal behavior in any church or organization. My point is actually about injecting a bit more realism about talk about the total ending of Scientology.

I would make the same point in reverse to any Scientologist who predicted that LRH tech was going to win over everyone. No, not going to happen...too many Anonymous, too many ex-members who will never go back, too much suspicion about the movement, etc. 

The reasons for my view:

1.  Scientology is too big to collapse.  There are too many members to imagine everyone blowing.  The idea that all of those who have given years to the Sea Org or to Flag or to Saint Hill or to a Scientology outpost in Africa are going to stop believing is crazy. The FBI raid in 77 did not spell death to the movement and that involved the wife of the founder! 

2.  Further, religious people often (though not always) have a remarkable ability to flow with negativity.  Consider if DM was arrested and found guilty. If the official church accepted he was guilty, then, a new leader would be chosen and the church would continue. If the church did not accept he was guilty, then DM would be treated as a martyr and the church would continue. The latter scenario happened to Rev. Moon: his conviction on income tax evasion in the US galvanized the movement into supporting him as a victim of injustice. Despite a big prison sentence, Tony Alamo still has his followers. 

3.  In general, it is very, very difficult for a religious group to go totally extinct. Think of the FBI raid in Waco. Most Branch Davidians died in the fire (and chose to do so, given that they stayed in the buildings for hours while the fire spread). However, believe it or not, David Koresh still has followers.  I met some of them at the Davidian church building in 2006.

Granted, once in a long while, a religious group goes totally extinct, so I'm not saying my view is absolute. However, when groups totally die, it takes a long slow death, decades of dwindling membership and total collapse of will and energy.

For the record, I'm not a Scientologist and nothing I have said is meant here to further the cause of Scientology. I am a believing Christian so have no interest in spreading the gospel of LRH. As well, my points above are not meant to dispute proper critique and working against the dark side of Scientology (or any other religion). Rather, my posting is meant to simply raise objection to any notion that Scientology will totally disappear sometime soon.

James A. Beverley, Ph.D.Professor of Christian Thought and EthicsTyndale Seminary, Toronto

Elizabethan
Elizabethan

Good always overcomes evil somewhere along the line and justice will prevail. Whatever you call it. Take a look at history!I appreciate your story, thanks, and glad you are here, also like your attitude. "So just sit back, grab a drink, and enjoy the show". You are with friends.

Derfty
Derfty

AMEN! So the FBI should be investigating the Fred and Rathbun/Miscavige deal.

Marty's still pulling your chain, Tony.

Chuck Beatty
Chuck Beatty

"First, Scientology *has no mechanism* for choosing a 'leader'.  Nor for replacing him."This deserves a chapter response.    It's been a long termed brushed off foregone conclusion that Scientology was to have a "leader" after Hubbard died, or even after Hubbard "stepped off the scene."

This is a serious discussion that's been "quickied".

One of WDC duties is to "put management there."   

FInding the top management personnel to man the Int Base executive positions or any sector of the movement, the WDC Member had as one of their key duties the responsibility to put the top leaders of their sector's organizations.

All of the top positions in every organization, all the way up to ASI and RTC, each were originally decided, once the history details are dug up, , by the early WDC Members, and once RTC were put in place, they became the top of the approval lines, and that is how it remained, for years.   

How to pick the top RTC official or top ASI official, the internal HCO (Div 1 Personnel) people had that responsibility.

Once the top leaders were all agreed upon at the 'beginning' of this latest alphabet soup top managment organizations, then the various top organizations fell into a order of seniority based on what Hubbard stated each's seniority over various major matters was.

RTC was the final approval body for ALL the executive postings in all echelons below them, and that is the way it went on for years.

RTC would force HCO CMO Int to get the WDC positions replaced.   WDC would force HCO CMO Int to get the Exec Strata positions filled (and HCO CMO Int would force ED INT and his deputy to get the Exec Strata heads filled, but HCO CMO Int did the actual approval "CSW" completed staff work submission that was sent to Chairman WDC and then up to RTC for approval, and really, the history of the submission approval command channels while it had some slight changes over time, the approval chain of command set who was responsible to submit the proposals for filling the next lower level of executive positions to be filled).

This needs a paper and a laid out history.

And all the LRH traffic he issued all through this early 1980s period, since he gave his nod on lots of the staff executive positions in the 1980s and late 1970s, for the key positions.

So the precedent has been that the ordering of how to fill ALL executive positions evolved.

It's not like Vatican council voting, it's "fill the vacancy", and the approval chain of command was set by the last pecking order precedent that LRH directly and indirectly approved, in the late 1970s through the mid 1980s.

How Miscavige came out on top, should be more detailedly laid out, and I wish again we had all the Hubbard final years of traffic and comments and approval comments in particular relating to the manning up of these top echelons of the movement during these same years.

zenda
zenda

 Well to my thinking,  any probe on Scientology, by the FBI or any other agency, making News in the Press , is a Bad  idea

  Any warning, gives Scientolgists an advantage over the  percieved enemy.  It sure would cause a stir though.

 However, not advantagous to the FBI or any investigation going on. Infact it could hold up up or shut it down.

The less  Scns and  DM know , the better. As they say less is more.

It would take covert operations and nerves of steel, and much more To Crack this Nut open.

robinlandseadel
robinlandseadel

Your logic and perspective are welcome. However your first talking point—"Scientology is too big to collapse"—is most likely not true. As of right now, there are more people who have blown the church than have stayed the course. Some manage to stay intimidated long after they've blown but more than enough of these clams have been very vocal in their protests. Even though there will most likely be some residual form of CO$ like the Indy movement, that will hang on [in very diminished form] for a long time, the larger monied organization is rotting from the inside. As John P. points out, DM managed to scare away all the genuinely competent upper level management and the incoming replacements are not functioning at the same level. David Miscavige has managed to make a lot of life-long enemies and they are not about to disappear any time soon. I doubt that the FBI is going to take CO$ down, but Debbie Cook and her legal team just might. 

Andie
Andie

Very good point, Dr. Beverly! Scientology will only die when the last Scientologist dies. I believe it will roughly conicide eith when the last Channologist dies. With a little luck, their continued fight would have entertained their nursing homes for years prior to that. The question is when the _organization_ is going to collapse and die. Do you think it will dwindle over a long period as well?

John P.
John P.

Dr. Beverly, 

Thanks for an insightful and well-reasoned comment.  I would agree that those who predict imminent doom for Scientology in the wake of adverse PR or even a couple well-placed arrests are engaging more in hope than anything else.  

I had commented elsewhere today that the key trend likely to cripple Scientology is demographic, unfolding over 10+ years, as its key donors and senior executives, almost all well past 50, start dying off, and the replacements, for the most part uneducated second-generation Scientologists, lack real-world experience to manage an organization of this size and extreme complexity.  

When coupled with the difficulty that the Church has in recruiting new members given the activism of the Anons and given the wealth of critical information available on the Internet, it seems likely that the Church will have difficulty replacing members who are dying off with "fresh blood" enough to sustain it economically.  A steadily declining donor base coupled with significant increases in fixed costs for the Ideal Orgs being opened worldwide (an economically suicidal strategy given member recruitment rates) means that the Church is likely to see near-fatal economic pressure, even given significant cash reserves.  

Your comments about churches who have survived the jailing of their leaders, particularly the cases of Rev. Moon and Tony Alamo, are well chosen. I became interested in Tony Alamo a couple years ago because my car kept getting leaflets under the windshield wipers.  I think the Alamo organization survived Tony's recent life imprisonment because it is relatively small and its organization is unstructured.  I don't have figures readily at hand, but I would think he's only got a thousand or so people in at most a handful of locations.  I think of his sect as being fairly similar to the Westboro Baptist Church.  The ability of the Alamo organization to operate as an organization does not depend on the number of members because it's so unsophisticated.  Geographic isolation of the main church in Arkansas helps with cohesion of the main group.  Like WBC, it's more of a tribe than a highly structured organization.  

In contrast, Hubbard reveled in creating immensely complex bureaucratic structures for Scientology (he picked the US Navy as an organizational model), and that bureaucracy is enshrined as "scripture." Scientology has saddled itself with the need to operate in conformance with the mountains of policy documents that Hubbard dictated over the years. To do that, it has to have a certain amount of manpower, and membership will eventually dip below the manpower needed to "man the turrets."  

Scientology is also obsessed with convincing itself of its continuing success in "clearing the world."  Employees are responsible for weekly statistics showing growth in their areas of responsibility.  I don't think Alamo cares all that much about how many members he has, nor does he focus primarily on growth.  Keeping up the false image of growth drives Scientology to keep opening these Ideal Orgs, even if the number of people coming in the door doesn't support the economics of the building.  The focus on keeping up the appearance of success and size grew even more obsessive in the last 25 years under David Miscavige.  Scientology goes to unbelievable lengths to try to convince its members that it is undergoing a wave of "unprecedented expansion."  At the very least, the expansion story is a key driver to get high-end donors to part with cash.  The cognitive dissonance between observable reality and the made-up expansion myth will backfire increasingly, actually causing more existing members to leave.  

I also think Moon's incarceration was relatively easy for members to take because he was only in jail for a specific period of time.  I would have to believe that Moon was smart enough to have a temporary leadership structure in place to keep things together while he was in the clink.  

On the other hand, David Miscavige has purged nearly everyone from positions of authority who has dared to cross him, often for arbitrary and relatively minor offenses.  People who are committed to Scientology and serve on staff out in the provinces presumably understand that being "promoted" to headquarters is a virtual death sentence.  There is no functioning board of directors or other mechanism for accountability for Miscavige.  And there's no depth to the management team who would take over if he's deposed via death or prison sentence.  It is unlikely to be able to function.  I suspect that larger churches with a jailed leader will only survive if there is a somewhat effective organization in place to pick up the slack while the leader is gone.  That is not present in Scientology. If Miscavige goes, there's no "B team."   

Also, a key difference between Miscavige and Moon or Alamo is that Miscavige doesn't actually appear to practice the religion.  He only seems to administer the organization.  He doesn't lead services, he doesn't deliver auditing, he doesn't even receive auditing services.  He's the Boss, but his contact with members is extremely tenuous -- several speeches per year is it.  No Sunday services leading prayers or actually serving the membership.  So I don't think there's any personal connection to Miscavige to hold the group together if he is jailed the way that there is in the Moon or Alamo sects.  

Lastly, you point out that religious groups don't generally die out completely.  True.  I tend to use the verbal shorthand of "die out" to mean that the organization loses so much membership and so much continuity with its past that it no longer has the potential for negative effects on society as a whole that it had at its peak.  Irrelevance is equal to disappearance.  The Japanese Aum Shinrikyo cult, which loosed a sarin nerve gas on the Tokyo subways in 1995, continues in some form under another name, but it is now small enough and has gone through enough changes that the risks that it will launch another terrorist attack are minimal.  To all intents and purposes, they're gone.  Not as completely gone as the Shakers, but gone enough that the citizens of Tokyo can sleep at night.  

Chuck Beatty
Chuck Beatty

I remember in 1983 or 1984 hearing that LRH was really worried that Scientology would lose the big court cases, lose tax exemption for real, and the whole movement would go bankrupt.

I thought, "What little faith Hubbard has in his movement!"  

I thought then, even if Scientology went bankrupt, people would just take his writings, and make a fresh start, from 0. 

Another example is when Scientology was banned in one or two Australian states.   The members just went underground, and started back up while having barbecues at the beach!   They hid their banned books, and just did course training and auditing illegally and hidden.   

Chuck Beatty
Chuck Beatty

Miscavige pushed himself into the top approval position, is all.

That top approval decision maker becomes the de facto "leader" of Scientology is all, because he's the final approver or disapprover on any proposals that any of the top leadership people submit for approval.

But the top alphabet soup executives and units (the Command Channels booklet is a MUST study for experts) ARE supposed to be the ones doing the strategic policy research and proposals, and the top approver person in RTC, Miscavige, is sort of invading into the process of decision making that Hubbard set up in the top bodies.

The history of AVC (Authorization Verification and Correction Unit) is a paper all its own.

Hubbard in the early 1980s traffic of advice and orders that he wrote to Author Services Inc, are important to how things finally turned out today.   He wrote  that "AVC" (the actual approval team, usually consisting of the AVC Aide and sub aides to deal with the submission loads coming to them for approval) Hubbard said AVC might best belong in ASI (Author Services Inc.).

AVC couldn't for legal reasons be in ASI, since ASI is a for profit corporation.   (ASI being the legal solution for the earlier "LRH Personnel Office" the admin team that served Hubbard directly, where the LRH Pers Office housed about 10 - 20 people at times, including the "LRH Accounts" personnel who oversaw Hubbard's actual wealth accumulation).    The Hubbard wealth accumulation people were finally legal, when ASI came into being.    

ASI was formed in the early 1980s, and the staff were all Sea Org members who formed it.    All were allowed a "leave of abscence" from the Sea Org, since as ASI staffers they were no longer "religious order" religious workers, but members of a for profit corporation.

That is what was so unquie, the TOP  TOP people closest to Hubbard, the ones funneling the wealth (finally legally once ASI was setup)  to him and to the projects he wanted done (CST or the Archives Project being Hubbard's most important final years' project, putting his writings into imperishable form in the underground vaults, for digging up and saving for the long future).

It all needs written up, and possibly this part of the "upper ranks" of the movement deserves more simple laying out, and there might be some interest in it.

All the exciting controversial stuff is pretty much covered in Janet Reitman's book and Hugh Urban's book and in the books of the recent ex members (Many, Dugnan, Hawkins, Headley and Scobee).   And we will have Marty Rathbun's book coming out hopefully in 2012, and also Lawrence Wright's book maybe in 2012.

I've only thought of doing papers for the Cult Journal, but later, when I am 'retired.'  In the mean time any researcher asking what I think is not talked about, I tell them, but I mainly know the dull details.   

James Beverley
James Beverley

 Please call me Jim.  I put in the fancy titles etc so it might sound like I have credibility. Of course, logically, that is the fallacy of appeal to authority as if being a prof or having a Ph.D. is proof of correctness.  Of course, in my case, it happens to be true.  And that would be the fallacy of self-reference. 

James Beverley
James Beverley

 Thanks John for your careful thoughts.  A couple of points:

  If DM went to prison and the movement still accepted him as leader, he could lead from prison.  If he was SP for the movement, then there would be a struggle for a new leader or leaders.  Many of the leaders who have lost authority or been purged would suddenly be viewed as possible frontrunners. 

  My post was not directed towards your careful thinking about eventual demise but about postings that seemed to imply that one FBI raid could end the church.

  I would love to correspond privately: jamesbeverley@sympatico.ca

James Beverley
James Beverley

 Thanks, Chuck.  It is great to write on the same site as you. Jim

Chuck Beatty
Chuck Beatty

I just sent you a long email, laying out what I think are one of the biggest misconceptions that will require more coverage in articles and books on Scientology to even correctly report what their internal remedy options factually are.  .

It's a lack of summary of the key details of Scientology's upper ranks orders and policies for how he wanted the top people to actually run the movement.

The booklet called "Scientology Command Channels" is the outline, and then understanding Hubbard's history of writings building up to his final writings about what he wanted for how the movement should run, NEEDS all be understood, to compare to how Miscavige has been running things.

the people who "take over" from Miscavige ought follow the Hubbard playbook and figure out how sanely to reform the movement, based on the best of Hubbard's writings, and cancel and retire all of Hubbard's bad administrative control policies.

A perfect historical example of a best case scenario Scientology reformed church, in my opinion, of all time, is the Mayo Advanced Ability Center, that was constantly harassed.

It operated loosely, it retired and consciously omitted use of Hubbard's harsh vindictive "ethics" policies.

Reforming official Scientology would be fixing first the top of official Scientology so the top two councils DO the reform, and the whole domination by RTC into "management" must cease.   (Miscavige needs to go, entirely, out of the movement, he can return to parishioner status, after returning any wealth he's absorbed in his decades leading the rich life at the top).

Exec Strata is the movement's think tank, that's Hubbard's orders.   They should review the freezone and independent Scientologists for the sanest reform suggestions, and implement those best suggestions, using the earlier Hubbard 1 year "pilot" programs (following Hubbard's LRH ED examples, which were projects for the churches, with 1-2 year limits, and if those worked, then they became policy).

first order of business for Exec Strata and WDC is issue a blanket cancellation of ALL excommunication orders EVER issued, and the Hubbard policy that's the basis for doing this, I've many times cited, it is contained in the "Board of Review" policy, in the Hubbard "Ethics Book."

The top ranks of the movement have not been written about in simple details, so speculation of how to reform the movement per their own rules, hasn't been widely discussed accurately.  

bobx
bobx

David Miscavage could never lead from prison.  He only rules through intimidation, and has nobody who sincerely reveres him.  And there is no way for the purged to get back into the organization, even if they wished to.  The "Church of Scientology" would be anarchic, although a fractious independent movement would continue.

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