Church Wages Propaganda on a World Scale

Los Angeles Times, August 27, 1978

Robert Rawitch and Robert Gillette

"The DEFENSE of anything is untenable. The only way to defend anything is to ATTACK, and if you ever forget that, then you will lose every battle you are engaged in, whether it is in terms of personal conversations, public debate, or a court of law."
- L. Ron Hubbard


For more than a decade, the worldwide Church of Scientology, one of the burgeoning new religions of the 1960s and '70s, has conducted sophisticated intelligence and propaganda operations on an international scale against government agencies, private organizations and individual critics the church perceives as its enemies.

The church's involvement in covert activities appears to extend well beyond federal agencies named in an indictment a Washington, D.C., federal grand jury handed down Aug. 15 against 11 members of the church hierarchy in the United States and Britain.

The 11 were indicted in connection with an alleged conspiracy to steal government documents and burglarize the Internal Revenue Service, Justice Department and other federal agencies. The indictment also alleged a second separate conspiracy to obstruct justice through a coverup of the thefts.

A three-month inquiry by The Times indicates that, in addition to federal agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service and the Justice Department, Scientologists obtained jobs in key offices of the American Medical Assn., the Council of Better Business Bureaus and the Los Angeles office of the California attorney general.

The government's case in great measure resulted from the testimony of Michael Meisner, former head of Scientology's covert operations in Washington, D.C., who turned government informant in June, 1977.

Spokesmen for the Church of Scientology's national center in Los Angeles have argued that such acts could be justified as a defense against what the church regards as persistent efforts by the United States and other nations to "harass" and "suppress" its members, growth and practices — notably, in the United States, by the revocation of federal tax-exempt status for some churches in the 1960s.

"Our church members do not claim their total innocence of some of the charges to be leveled against them," the church said in a news release issued in July in Los Angeles when it appeared that indictments were imminent.

"What they do contend is that they did so in defense against a government bureaucracy which has consistently acted against the civil and human rights of the church and its members."

An abundance of court records and the church's own internal memoranda and policy statements suggests that its main objectives have been to obtain information embarrassing to Scientology's critics, to root out "false" information about the church in government files, to gain advantage in its numerous legal battles with the government, and to discredit — by "disinformation" if necessary — agencies and private groups the church believes have worked to "suppress" Scientology.

More than 90,000 pages of documents were seized by the FBI from Church of Scientology offices in simultaneous raids in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles on July 8, 1977. Half of the material has since been returned to the church.

One document seized was an internal order stamped by the church as "secret" discussing "standard" actions to locate the government's "false and secret files" on Scientology, using "suitable guises" and "penetrations."

The same document, dated March 27, 1976, and issued by the church's worldwide headquarters at an estate in Sussex, Eng., states that in approaching "vital targets" Scientologists should "use all possible lines of approach to obtain files, i.e. job penetration; janitor penetration; suitable guises utilizing covers, etc."

Additional items listed among the FBI's inventory of seized materials include:

The FBI has not provided any further details on the documents.

The church claims 4.5 million participants in 14 countries. Its annual gross income, derived mainly from training courses and a novel form of psychological counseling called auditing, has been estimated at more than $100 million. A major focus of Scientology's struggles with the federal and state governments alike has been the church's quest for tax-exempt status to shield what it acknowledges is a considerable income.

In California, a 35-year-old secretary employed in the Los Angeles office of the state attorney general is awaiting trial on a charge of stealing files concerning Scientology from the office of a deputy attorney general who authorities said was handling a tax matter relating to the church.

The secretary, Linda Polimeni of Los Angeles, was arrested last Sept. 12 after investigators told the grand jury they watched her after normal business hours copy an eight-page package of "both accurate and false information" on Scientology planted in the office of Dep. Atty. Gen. Patti Kitching. Miss Polimeni was apprehended after she allegedly took the copied papers out of the building in her purse. Investigators told the grand jury that entries in a diary she also carried in the purse linked her with Scientology, an affiliation the church has neither confirmed nor denied.

In a second California incident last January, the city of San Diego fired a police lieutenant after he admitted seeking information on behalf of the Church of Scientology concerning Meisner, the Justice Department's principal informant in the current federal prosecution of 11 Scientologists.

According to city Civil Service records, Lt. Warren M. Young "twice told a false story to FBI officers" about his reasons for inquiring whether Meisner had a criminal record. On further questioning, Young acknowledged that he was a member of the Church of Scientology and admitted that the church had asked him to inquire about Meisner the previous October.

Meisner was then being held in protective custody by federal marshals at an undisclosed location.

Beyond the allegations of burglary and bugging in the IRS and Justice Department specified in the Aug. 15 indictment, investigators believe that the Church of Scientology infiltrated the American Medical Assn. in 1975 and became the source of hundreds of embarrassing and widely publicized internal documents about the AMA's political activities.

Newspapers — led to believe that their anonymous source was a disgruntled doctor inspired by the disclosures of Watergate — dubbed the informant "Sore Throat."

But Asst. U.S. Atty. Raymond Banoun, who is in charge of the Scientology case, has said in Los Angeles federal court that documents seized by the FBI prove that "Sore Throat" was a Scientologist.

There is also evidence that the church infiltrated the Washington, D.C., offices of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, a national coordinating body, in 1974 and 1975 and planned to do so in the St. Louis Better Business Bureau. There is no indication that the St. Louis plan was carried out.

From March through August, 1975, fictitious documents circulated about the country on council stationery in a campaign purporting to show, among other things, that the national organization was in weak financial condition.

The allegations in the federal indictment have focused attention in particular on the Church of Scientology's Guardian Office, an administrative unit represented in each of the 49 churches of Scientology in 14 countries. The Guardian Office is responsible for public relations, external legal affairs and, according to the FBI, for intelligence and covert operations as well. (Jane Kember, the Worldwide Guardian, or chief executive of the office at the "Mother Church" in Sussex, Eng., was among the 11 indicted Aug. 15.)

In parallel with its covert responsibilities, the Guardian Office, which church spokesmen say employs about 250 staff in the 16 U.S. churches, has waged an aggressive open war against Scientology's critics and government agencies in the courts and in the press.

Additionally, under the rubric of "social reform", the Church of Scientology has organized an extensive network of subsidiary groups that seek openly to investigate government agencies and private groups that the church considers corrupt or believes have investigated it or circulated false and derogatory information about Scientology.

Bearing names such as American Citizens for Honesty in Government and the National Commission on Law Enforcement and Social Justice, these "gung ho groups," as church memoranda have called them, ally themselves with orthodox civil liberties and religious organizations but remain dominated by Scientologists, whose affiliation is not always made explicit in the groups' news releases.

During the early to middle 1960s, the practices of Scientology — both business and spiritual — were subjected to official government inquiries in Australia, New Zealand, Britain and Canada. South Africa held an inquiry in 1972. Three Australian states restricted Scientology from 1965 to 1973, and Britain has, since 1968, banned the entry of foreign nationals seeking to study Scientology.

Simultaneously, Scientology collided with the U.S. government. The Food and Drug Administration in 1963 began what was to be a 10-year legal battle with the church over charges of fraudulent medical practice.

In 1968, the IRS revoked the tax-exempt status of the Founding Church of Scientology in Washington, alleging that Hubbard was personally profiting from his worldwide organization. The "Mother Church" of Scientology in Los Angeles lost its federal exemption in 1968.

Fourteen other Scientology churches currently have tax exemptions.

Church spokesmen have said Hubbard formally resigned his responsibilities in the church in 1966, although he has continued to produce a stream of doctrinal and policy communiques in his capacity as founder and "consultant."

It was during this period of strife in the 1960s that Hubbard began to promulgate a series of policies for responding aggressively to criticism and investigation.

One such policy letter, issued Aug. 15, 1960, asserts that "only attacks resolve threats" and advises that "if attacked on some vulnerable point by anyone or anything or any organization, always find or manufacture enough threat against them to cause them to sue for peace."

A later elaboration, issued over Hubbard's name to the worldwide organization on Feb. 18, 1966, observed, "Groups that attack us are to say the least not sane. According to our technology, this means they have hidden areas and disreputable facts about them."

A week later, still another policy letter continued:

"Spot who is attacking us. Start investigating them promptly for FELONIES or worse using our own professionals, not outside agencies … Start feeding lurid, blood sex crime actual evidence on the attackers to the press. Don't ever submit tamely to an investigation of us. Make it rough, rough on attackers all the way."

In another confidential communique to administrative personnel of the church, Hubbard drew a distinction between the gathering of intelligence on the church's antagonists and its deterrent policy of "noisily investigating" them.

"Remember, intelligence we get with a whisper. Investigation we do with a yell."

Jeffrey Dubron, one of two church spokesmen whom The Times asked to respond to these and other policy statements during 11 hours of interviews, said that in the early to middle 1960s, "little by little it began to dawn on us that we were being had. Somebody was attacking us and making it look like a spontaneous thing. And that's when we started to look at who's doing this, where it's coming from, what we could do to protect ourselves."

"We found out that the unthinkable was happening," Dubron contended. "The government of the United States of America … was attempting to destroy our church."

On March 1, 1966, two weeks after Hubbard issued his series of attack policy statements, the Church of Scientology established its Guardian Office, encompassing intelligence, legal and investigative functions.

The scope of organizations of concern to the church in the medical and mental health field is suggested in part by a Feb. 28, 1972, letter from Hubbard that was among the materials the FBI seized from the church in Los Angeles on July 8, 1977.

The letter, addressed to an individual named Brian who is otherwise not identified, "commends" him "for operations against AMA, FDA, WFMH, NAMH, APA and George Washington University," according to an inventory of seized items the FBI filed in Los Angeles federal court.

The initials apparently represent the American Medical Assn., the Food and Drug Administration, the World Federation of Mental Health, and the National Assn. of Mental Health in Britain. The "APA" could be either the American Psychiatric Assn. or the American Psychological Assn., both of which maintain headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Officials of both the American Psychiatric Assn. and the American Psychological Assn. declined to discuss any aspect of Scientology with The Times.

According to the FBI inventory of seized materials, however, one item is a folder of 42 documents captioned, "American Psychological Association" with the added words "red box."

Asst. U.S. Atty. Banoun said in Los Angeles federal court last June, in a hearing in which the church sought to retrieve the seized materials, that other church documents held by the FBI explained that the designation "red Box" was a code the church used to signify items that could potentially incriminate Scientologists in illegal acts.

The reason for Hubbard's including George Washington University in a list of "operations" is unknown. Hubbard attended the university from 1930 to 1932, before dropping out while on probation, according to a copy of his transcript. In a publication last year, however, the church accused the department of psychiatry in the university's medical school of cooperating with the FDA in an investigation of the church.

Over the years, the American Medical Assn. has been a particular focus of criticism from Scientology. The church contends that the AMA, during the 1950s and '60s, campaigned to discredit Scientology and that the AMA is responsible for much of what is wrong with American health care.

In 1963, for example, Hubbard wrote in a widely circulated policy memorandum that:

"Certain vested interests, mainly the American Medical Association, a private healing monopoly, wish to do all possible harm to the Scientology movement over the world in order to protect their huge medical-psychiatric income and desired monopoly which runs into the tens of billions annually."

More recently, through one of its reform groups, the Committee on Public Health and Safety, the church said in 1976 that the AMA "in particular has created a virtual stranglehold on medical care through its monopolistic practices" and that the AMA has "direct responsibility for skyrocketing costs and decreasing quality of American medical care," a position that most health care analysts would find oversimplified.

In June, 1975, the AMA was deeply embarrassed by the revelation of its internal documents by "Sore Throat." The documents detailed the AMA's political activities and financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

Some of the documents dealt with the AMA's lobbying for nominees to federal appointments, and others described a secret effort on the association's part to defeat a 1970 generic drug bill that it publicly supported.

Still other material, supplied by "Sore Throat," cast doubt on the AMA's assertion of independence from the pharmaceutical industry by disclosing that 27 of the nation's drug companies had given $851,000 to the AMA's political arm between 1962 and 1965.

Spokesmen for the AMA declined to discuss this episode or any aspect of Scientology with Times reporters.

Sources intimately familiar with the episode, however, said that copies of the documents came from the AMA's Chicago and Washington, D.C., offices.

The sources said the AMA suspected involvement of the Church of Scientology — in part because a private investigator the AMA hired found two Scientologists working in the AMA's Washington office as secretaries, one under an assumed name.

In Chicago, AMA officials have acknowledged administering lie detector tests to four employees thought to have had access to the documents "Sore Throat" had disclosed.

Among those tested was a secretary named Sherry Canavarro, who had joined the AMA four months earlier to work in the office of the executive vice president.

Confidential minutes from meetings of the AMA board of directors were on one occasion found in her desk, and it was determined that she had spent four or five weekends at work with no specifically assigned task, the sources said.

The AMA refused to discuss the polygraph results beyond its August, 1975, statement in which the association said everyone passed. However, her duties were later changed, and subsequently she resigned.

In its July, 1977, affidavit the FBI said Miss Canavarro also used the names "Sherry Hermann" and "Sandy Cooper," and described her as the Pacific Secretary of the church's Guardian Office in the United States.

On her job application to the AMA, sources said, she listed her husband, Mitchell Hermann, and as a local Chicago reference, Michael Meisner's mother. Hermann, who the FBI had said directed Scientology's covert activities in Washington, D.C., from Jan. 1, 1974, through March 1, 1975, was among the 11 persons indicted by a federal grand jury Aug. 15 on charges of burglarizing government offices.

The federal grand jury indictment charged that Hermann, also known as "Mike Cooper," and two other "Scientology agents" bugged a high-level meeting of the IRS in Washington Nov. 1, 1974, in which the churches' tax-exempt status was discussed.

Church spokesmen said they thought Miss Canavarro was "on leave" from their staff and added that she was "not interested" in discussing these allegations with reporters.

No legal actions have been brought against Miss Canavarro in the matter.

"Whoever 'Sore Throat' was should get a medal," Dubron, a church spokesman, said. He added, "I don't know who that person was."

"If this person went in and lied to get a job in the AMA and exposed crimes and created change, should that person be prosecuted for his or her actions?"

The AMA disclosures prompted investigations by congressional committees, the Post Office, the Federal Election Commission and the IRS but have resulted in no prosecutions against the AMA.

Before her employment at the AMA, Miss Canavarro worked from 1972 through 1974 for the Council of Better Business Bureaus in Washington, D.C. She was assigned to the council's philanthropic advisory section, which dealt with tax exempt organizations.

Internal publications of local bureaus have in the past questioned Scientology's recruitment approaches and discussed its penchant for bringing lawsuits against critics and, on occasion, against persons seeking refunds. Sources in the council said that in 1974 Miss Canavarro persuaded officials to open their files on Scientology to her husband Mitchell.

The sources said she identified him as a freelance writer preparing a story critical of the church.

Miss Canavarro resigned from the council on Dec. 31, 1974.

The FBI inventory listed 15 seized items which relate to the Better Business Bureau. These included:

Beginning March 14, 1975, the council was subjected to the first of four anonymous, phony mailings. In one instance, a fictitious financial statement purporting to show the organization to be in weak financial condition was mailed to corporate sponsors such as Sears and Montgomery Ward and is said to have inspired a flood of inquiries but caused no evident damage to the organization.

Other mailings suggested an imminent merger with the United States Chamber of Commerce and purported to rank the performance of affiliated bureaus. An extensive internal investigation by the national council in 1975 turned up no suspects.

A source within the council said that FBI agents recently questioned council officials about Miss Canavarro and a woman who worked as secretary to the council's vice president. The FBI has told the council both were Scientologists.

The vice president's secretary came to the council March 17, 1975, three days after the first anonymous phony mailing and returned home to England in September of 1975, one month after the last mailing was circulated, the source said.

She came under suspicion as responsible for at least one of the phony mailings, the source said, because in a letter written for the council she misspelled the council's attorney's name the same way it was misspelled in one of the false mailings. No charges were brought against her.

Several European mental health organizations that clashed with Scientology in the late 1960s and the early 1970s experienced what the London Observer in a July, 1973, article called a "series of baffling mishaps" that included burglaries and anonymous mailings.

The Observer, noting the clashes between the organizations and Scientology, reported that "the whole extraordinary sequence of events remains shrouded in mystery."

"The Scientologists," the newspaper continued, "say they are as baffled as anyone."

No Scientologists were charged in connection with any of the incidents.

The World Federation of Mental Health reported in 1969 that its headquarters in Edinburgh, Scotland, had been burglarized and that a quantity of federation stationery was stolen along with a list of participants scheduled to attend an upcoming meeting in Washington, D.C.

According to press accounts, participants — prior to the meeting — received letters directing them instead to Havana, Cuba. All the attendants but one were said to have been forewarned in time; a Dutch delegate reportedly flew to Havana.

Two listings in the FBI inventory of materials seized from the church last year refer to a "16-volume file" of documents from the World Federation of Mental Health. According to the FBI, one 14-page document in the file is labeled, "'Strictly confidential' regarding the Mental Health Conference Project."

Available evidence, however, does not indicate whether these materials were among those taken from the World Federation of Mental Health in the 1969 burglary.

In June, 1973, a basement door of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in London was forced open and college offices were burglarized. A secretary, Natalie Cobbing, said the only items taken were some correspondence and a file of material on Scientology in Britain. She said it also appeared that someone had used a copying machine.

On April 22, 1973, burglars forced their way into the Dutch Center for Mental Health at Utrecht, reportedly left valuables untouched but took files pertaining to Scientology.

Justice authorities in Utrecht said that police stopped three young men in a car in a routine traffic check shortly after the break-in. The men — identified by police only as two Dutch citizens and a "foreigner" — said they were Scientologists. The missing files were on the back seat.

No charges were brought in the case, but authorities declined to say why. The board of the Dutch Center is said to have received a letter from the chief officer at the Church of Scientology in Amsterdam declaring that the theft was "contrary to our morals and our goals" and stating that the individuals involved had previously been expelled from the church.

Possibly the most acrimonious clash between Scientology and medicine occurred in Britain in the late 1960s in the form of a bitter attack on the National Assn. of Mental Health, a professional organization the church blamed in part for a 1968 ban the British government placed on the entry of foreign nationals seeking to study Scientology.

The church attacked the association and its officers publicly, charging that it operated "psychiatric death camps." At one point, the association has said, its public relations director received a letter from the Church of Scientology's chief public relations officer that began:

"Dear opposite number. How does it feel to be hit? The public sentiment against psychiatry has been bad for years. Lately it has worsened. I have a good idea that it will get much worse. Raping women patients, murdering inmates, castrating men, committing without real process of law — the psychiatrist has been a very bad boy."

The church's public relations directory, David Gaiman, led a mass effort by Scientology to join the association in late 1969.

In one two-week period in November, 1969, the association was flooded with 215 membership applications, or roughly 20 times the normal number.

Many of the applications contained postal money orders (for application fees) with consecutive serial numbers and bore identifying marks of a single post office around the corner from a Scientology bookstore, the association told a British court.

In March, 1970, the court held the membership applications from the Scientologists could be rejected because of the detrimental effect it could have on the association's ability to receive funds from foundations and others.

In June, 1972, the association was the target of an unsigned leaflet, circulated to its 2,000 members, purportedly from a disgruntled doctor, derogating the association's director and alleging squalid conditions at three centers the association ran for adolescents.

In parallel with the covert activities that federal authorities ascribe to it, the Church's Guardian Office directs Scientology's open endeavors in the field of social reform.

"Social reform has always been a routine activity of religious movements," a new publication of the church observes. "The American cleric has traditionally been in the fore of social change."

The church's internal policy directives, however, offer a different perspective, discussing social reform activities primarily in the context of defending the church by attacking its critics publicly.

Moreover, a literal reading of Hubbard's thoughts suggests that he also views social reform as a means by which the church might gain recognition as a religion in the eyes of the public.

"Remember," Hubbard wrote in a 1966 policy order, "churches are looked upon as reform groups. Therefore we must act like a reform group."

He continued:

"The way to seize the initiative is to use our own professionals to investigate intensively parts of the society that may attack us. Get an ammunition locker full. Be sure of our facts. And then expose via the press.

"If we do this right, the press, instead of trying to invent reasons to attack us, will start hanging around waiting for our next lurid scoop. We must convert from an attacked group to a reform group that attacks rotten spots in society."

Hubbard concluded:

"We should not limit ourselves to mental healing or our own line. We should look for zones to investigate and blow the lid off and become known as a mighty reform group. We object to slavery, oppression, torture, murder, perversion, crime, political sin, and anything that makes man unfree."

Since the late 1960s, the Church of Scientology has established at least 10 social reform groups in the United States alone, most of which — though not all — are devoted either to investigating government agencies that have attacked Scientology or to exploring the flaws of Scientology's original nemesis, the mental health professions.

Two exceptions to this investigative emphasis are the church's Apple School, which applies the principles of Scientology to elementary education, and Narconon, a nominally independent organization begun in 1966 to aid drug addicts and convicts. According to a recent church publication describing the duties of the Guardian Office, "Narconon utilizes the rehabilitation methods developed by American humanitarian and educator L. Ron Hubbard."

Narconon has been praised in some cities and criticized in others. The Los Angeles City Council commended Narconon in a March, 1974, resolution as "remarkably successful." The Palo Alto City Council canceled its $38,000 contract with Narconon in January, 1977, citing as its reason a lack of community representation on the Narconon board of directors. City officials had also complained about Narconon's refusal to grant access to its files and questioned its effectiveness.

On the basis of a thick collection of newspaper clippings the church has compiled, the Scientology reform group that seems to have caught the widest press and public attention is the National Commission on Law Enforcement and Social Justice, which has been looking into the international police organization Interpol.

The commission has unearthed and widely publicized evidence that the Vienna- and Berlin-based organization, not surprisingly, was dominated by Nazis in the late 1930s and during World War II — and also that Interpol's president from 1968 to 1972 had served in the Nazi SS.

The commission also surveyed police officials across the United States and from Thailand to Israel, by mail, and concluded that in contrast to its romantic image Interpol is mainly a clerical clearinghouse for police information and is widely held in low esteem.

The accuracy of the church's information has not, for the most part, been questioned. But its motivations and methods are open to debate.

Kenneth J. Whitman, president of the Church of Scientology of California and the worldwide organization's chief U.S. spokesman, acknowledges that its investigation began after Interpol offended the church by "spreading false information about us in Germany … We started to investigate because we assumed it was happening to more than us."

Copies of correspondence the church mailed out as part of its survey, and subsequently made public, fail to identify the church as the sponsoring organization of the NCLE. The letters also say nothing to indicate that the "National Commission" is a private, not governmental, body.

The importance the church placed on ferreting out information on Interpol appears to be signified in a secret "Guardian Programme Order" dated June 27, 1995, from Scientology headquarters in Sussex, Eng., the grand jury said in its indictment Aug. 15.

The indictment said the order directs that Interpol documents relating to Scientology and L. Ron Hubbard "be obtained through infiltration of, or the placing of 'clandestine agents' in, the Interpol offices" of the U.S. Treasury Department.

The FBI alleged in an affidavit that church operatives ultimately succeeded in stealing Interpol documents kept by the Justice Department.

A further connection between the church's covert activities and its social reform groups is evidenced in a variety of secret church Guardian orders dealing with a covert program code-named "Snow White."

Government authorities have alleged that "Snow White" denoted a covert campaign by the church to infiltrate the IRS, in part to gain advantage in its quest for tax exemption.

According to a "Guardian Programme Order" dated March 27, 1976, the mission of Snow White also encompassed the purging of "false and secret files" relating to Scientology in government agencies and thereby to permit Hubbard and his flagship Apollo greater freedom of movement among the ports of the world.

The order contains no reference to social reform.

Last April, nine months after the FBI had seized church papers that included secret Snow White program orders, the church turned its covert operation into a social reform group. A church news release on April 29 announced that Snow White would be transformed into a nationwide organization called American Citizens for Honesty in Government.

In the news release, national church spokesman Arthur J. Maren said Snow White's purpose is and always has been "political reform" and "defense of individual liberty."

It had been kept confidential, Maren said, "as we didn't want to embarrass government officials."

One of American Citizens' first publications is a cartoon booklet reviewing congressional inquiries into improprieties of U.S. intelligence agencies. It bears the title, "Nightmare USA: What U.S. Government Agencies have Done to the American Dream."

The church's spokesmen argue that the means and motivations of Scientology's social reform efforts are of secondary importance — that launching an investigation in self-defense does not preclude objective analysis.

"We have a duty to defend ourselves," spokesman Jeffrey Dubron says. "But we are a religion, and we have a duty to others as well … If our motives had been purely self-serving, they would have manifested themselves that way.

"I'm happy to let the work and product of our social reform movement stand on its own merits."