Scientology's Scourge, Paulette Cooper, Visits with the Voice

Paulette Cooper, still keeping tabs on Scientology
Our regular readers can probably imagine why we were pretty thrilled this morning to finally meet the original badass of Scientology watchers, none other than Paulette Cooper.

She was in town to visit her sister and found time to have breakfast with us this morning at the Noho Star, not far from the Voice offices. Speaking of her sister, Suzy, Paulette says that the two of them are still trying to piece together exactly what happened when, as young children, they were rescued from a Nazi camp in Belgium, sparing them the fate of their parents, who were shipped to Auschwitz for extermination. A Belgian man rescued the girls by paying the equivalent of what today would be about $2 million to save 22 children from the camp, and to this day Paulette would like to learn his identity.

She went on, of course, to move to New York, became a magazine journalist, and published several books, including 1971's The Scandal of Scientology, the first journalistic expose of the church. She paid for that with years of incredible harassment by Scientology, which tried to frame her for crimes that had her facing 15 years in prison.

Which makes us wonder: Why the hell hasn't a movie been made about this woman's life?

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Paulette Cooper, Scientology's Original and Worst Nightmare: A Thanksgiving Tribute by the Village Voice

I couldn't think of a better way to give thanks this year than to pay homage to the woman who was there first, paid the highest price, and remains a mentor, an inspiration, and a total class act.

In gratitude to our many loyal Scientology watchers who have made this year so special, here at the Voice we are excited to present a Thanksgiving tribute to Scientology's first and worst nightmare, the one, the only, Paulette Cooper.

40 years ago, Paulette published her stunning expose of the church, The Scandal of Scientology, and we also didn't want that anniversary to go unmarked. So over the last several weeks, I've been in touch with Paulette, talking to her about her book, about its famous aftermath, and learning about someone who has been encouraging me over my entire career. Here then is the Paulette that I've gotten to know.

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Tom Cruise and Baby Suri Embarrassed? This is Scientology, So Someone Has To Pay

Credit: Vanity Fair
Suri Cruise, with her Scientologist parents
In recent weeks here at the Voice, we've described the Church of Scientology's programs aimed at investigating perceived enemies, who have included former high-ranking Scientology executives, a man trying to bring to market a clean ice-making machine, and even the creators of the television show South Park.

Today, we have another leak of Scientology's internal documents which describe the church's efforts to dig up dirt not on a former high-ranking official, or a member of the Hollywood elite, or even a former parishioner. In this case, Scientology's own documents reveal, the church sicced its private eyes on a cancer victim, an older woman who lives not far from Scientology's own international headquarters, a woman whose only known transgression against the church was having a conversation in a Wal-Mart store.

But what was said in that conversation ended up appearing in the New York Post in 2006, and embarrassed Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, and Scientology. And for that, the woman had to pay.

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Mark Chauppetta, Private Eye Who Worked for Scientology at the time of the South Park Investigation: "I'm a Fucking Mercenary"

Mark Chauppetta, comparing notes with a certain presidential candidate
Just got off the phone with Mark Chauppetta, a private investigator who has done work for the Church of Scientology, sifting through the trash of the church's perceived enemies.

Chauppetta worked for Scientology for several years, including the time the church was investigating South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, in 2006. (Chauppetta says he wasn't personally involved in the South Park operation, but added that he wouldn't confirm it even if that was the case.)

I told Chauppetta that our readers have been fascinated with leaked internal documents which suggest that Scientology paid private investigators to case the South Park offices, sift through Parker and Stone's trash, and also to pull the trash of their friends, such as actors John Stamos and Rebecca Romijn.

After the jump, Chauppetta explains what it was investigators were looking for in the trash of Scientology's enemies.

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Mark Ebner on Scientology and South Park: Rathbun is Definitely Leaking Authentic "Intel"

Update: a private investigator describes sifting trash for the Church of Scientology.

As we continue to investigate Scientology's retaliation campaign against South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and their friends and employees, we remembered that an old colleague of ours, journalist Mark Ebner, worked with the animator duo for their infamous 2005 episode "Trapped in the Closet."

Ebner is important to this investigation for a couple of reasons. Not only did he work with Parker and Stone on the very episode that raised Scientology's hackles, but Ebner has himself been the subject of a concerted Scientology harassment campaign through its "Office of Special Affairs" -- and he learned about that campaign through a document leaked by former Scientology executive Marty Rathbun.

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Scientology Responds in Typical Fashion to South Park Investigation Documents

Karin Pouw loves the word "apostate"
UPDATE: 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 OSA document. Also, a private investigator describes sifting trash for the Church of Scientology.

As we've been reporting the last couple of days, a man who was once the second-highest ranking executive in Scientology, Marty Rathbun, has made public several documents showing that in 2006, the church attempted to dig up dirt on South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

Those documents come from Scientology's "Office of Special Affairs," which has long overseen the church's retaliation and spying operations. Rathbun himself oversaw similar operations during his many years at the top levels of Scientology, and another recent defector, Mike Rinder, led OSA for some 20 years before leaving the church in 2007.

Yesterday, a newspaper in the UK, The Independent, managed to get a response about the controversy from Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw. And in typical Scientology fashion, her response only makes things worse for the church.

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Scientology's South Park Investigation: Orders to Send in a Young Mole

South Park deeply embarrassed Scientology with its 2005 episode, "Trapped in the Closet."
UPDATE: Scientology responds to our South Park stories, and we decode that response here.

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.

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Scientology Targeted South Park's Parker and Stone in Investigation (UPDATED)

Stone (left) and Parker
UPDATE: New Scientology internal documents about the investigation of Parker and Stone leaked. See our new story here. Also, Scientology responds to this story, and we decode their response for you.

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 more confirmation that OSA followed people who worked on the 2005 South Park episode. Also, a private investigator describes sifting trash for the Church of Scientology.

Another interesting revelation at Marty Rathbun's blog this morning: Rathbun released what he said was an internal Scientology document which suggests that the church targeted Trey Parker and Matt Stone for a classic OSA investigation in retaliation for the infamous South Park episode that exposed the religion's bizarre upper-level teachings.

Rathbun tells me this initial document is just the beginning of a trove that describes how Scientology investigated Parker and Stone over a significant period after the duo deeply embarrassed the church with its 2005 episode, "Trapped in the Closet."

Marty Rathbun himself was once a powerful executive in Scientology who defected in 2004, and since 2009 has been criticizing church leader David Miscavige at his blog. At various times this year, Rathbun has made public similar documents which reveal the covert operations of Scientology's Office of Special Affairs.

The document he revealed today suggests that Scientology had identified Parker and Stone's close friends, and was examining public records on those people, looking for a vulnerability.

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Scientology's "Disconnection:" Lori Hodgson, Ex-Church Member, Kept from Scientologist Son After Serious Wreck (UPDATED)

Lori Hodgson with her children, Jessica and Jeremy Leake, before they 'disconnected' from her
Breaking news this morning for Scientology watchers: a drama is playing out at a San Jose hospital today which puts Scientology's notorious "disconnection" policy in high relief.

This is a moving story, and we expect to add updates to this post later. At this moment, about 8:00 am in California, Lori Hodgson is on her way to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose as her son Jeremy Leake prepares to undergo surgery for fractures to his femur and collarbone, which he sustained in a motorcycle accident yesterday.

When she gets there, she expects that she will not be allowed to see her son, and may be prevented from even hearing about his condition.

Why? Well, as we reported earlier, Hodgson is a former Scientologist, but her son, daughter, and ex-husband are all still active members of the church, and have followed Scientology policy by "disconnecting" from her -- and they are actively trying to keep her from knowing what is happening as her son is treated for serious injuries.

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Scientology Hates Clean Ice, Part 2: Another Target, and the Web as Weapon

Checked your cubes for bacteria lately?
On Wednesday, we told you about a Scientology "Fair Game" operation that seems beyond the pale: the church, known for its vindictive treatment of perceived enemies, is accused of harassing a business to keep it from bringing to market a potentially life-saving machine for hospitals that produces bacteria-free ice. Why? Because the company employs a former high-ranking church member that Scientology now considers a threat to its existence.

In that first story, we talked at length with Robert Almblad, the machine's inventor, a man who spent 35 years in Scientology but was never a high-ranking official, and after his departure from the organization in 2007, never publicly criticized the church. Two years ago, after he hired Mike Rinder, Scientology's former chief spokesman, Almblad came under intense surveillance and interference to his business by a longtime Scientology private investigator and his squad of cameramen and bodyguards.

Today, we're bringing you another side of the story: a woman who has been slandered online, followed, harassed, and says she can hardly believe what she's been through.

She says Scientology has targeted her for utter ruin. And yet she has never had anything to do with the church.

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