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Papers show Scientology infiltration of government
BY ROBERT RAWITCH
Covert operatives of the Church of Scientology infiltrated and stole copies of documents from at least three California state or local agencies and had plans to “penetrate” at least a score more in their quest to eliminate any negative references to Scientology, newly released church documents revealed Friday.
The internal church documents seized by the FBI in July, 1977, pursuant to a search warrant from Scientology's U.S. headquarters is Los Angeles, disclose a sweeping program of covert intelligence gathering even more pervasive than previously believed.
Nine of Scientology's highest leaders were convicted Oct. 26 in Washington, D.C., federal court on charges stemming from a four-year effort to burglarize and bug various federal offices and then to cover up the church's involvement when two members were arrested.
Hundreds of pages of church communications outlining an elaborate campaign to infiltrate more than 130 federal agencies were released in Washington, D.C., when the Scientologists were convicted.
But Friday U.S. Dist. Court Judge Charles Richey released hundreds of pages of other previously sealed church documents seized by the FBI that disclose:
– Scientology agents successfully got jobs working in the California attorney general's office, the Los Angeles district attorney's office and the state Department of Consumer Affairs. The Scientologist working with the Department of Consumer Affairs sent to church officials all the files on Scientology kept by the California Board of Medical Examiners which had received complaints of the church practicing medicine without a license.
– The church had operatives gain access to the intelligence files of the IRS office in Los Angeles where personal data on persons such as Gov. Brown, Mayor Bradley and singer Frank Sinatra was obtained. Plans to infiltrate the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles apparently were never accomplished
– Private groups successfully infiltrated by Scientologists included the National Council of Better Business Bureaus; Volunteer Parents of America, an anticult group; the American Medical Assn. and the American Psychiatric Assn. All the groups have been critical of Scientology.
– Intelligence sections of the church were rewarded under an elaborate point system for information gained about people or agencies Scientology perceived as its enemies. Five points were awarded for every week an agent was in place on an assignment and two points were given for every document obtained clandestinely. Fifty points could be lost if an agent's “cover” was blown and 200 Points could be taken away if the blown cover “causes a legal threat” to Scientology.
In the past and again Friday Scientology spokesmen have insisted that, despite written orders authorizing such activities by the highest officials of the church, any illegal actions were those of individuals and not condoned by the church itself.
Scientology President Kenneth Whitman issued a statement that read: “This release of remaining documents is a relief. Hitherto, the government has selectively leaked anything considered of use in its war attrition on the church. They shot their bolt and failed. Now perhaps, we will see how far the agencies' secret and covert activities and false reports corrupted the First Amendment.”
Whitman went on to criticize bureaucrats who act as though they are “above any laws” and said he hoped a full investigation of the documents released will result in corrupt government officials being brought to justice.
Scientology spokesmen in the past have asserted that U.S. government agencies and Interpol, the International police organization, have been responsible for circulating false and critical data about Scientology throughout the world that has caused the church problems and slowed its growt.
Scientology, which now claims 5˝ million members worldwide, describes itself as an applied religious philosophy that attempts to help people improve their lives through one-to-one counseling sessions called “auditing.” Reputed claims as to what can be gained from such sessions or courses, and the prices charged for them, have brought scores of complaints to various agencies alleging fraud.
Such complaints and legal questions raised in the past by the Internal Revenue Service about the tax-exempt status of Scientology have been viewed by the church as a form of harassment. Though 10 Scientology churches have tax-exempt status from the IRS, 140 others have so far failed to gain such exemptions.
Documents seized by the FBI from Scientology make it clear the infiltration and theft of government documents had three primary purposes:
– To determine what negative data on Scientology existed so that it could be countered.
– To provide an “early warning system” to alert the church if there were any threats of government action against Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard or his wife, Mary Sue, currently listed as the highest official in Scientology.
– To obtain any data that reflected negatively on Scientology critics so that it in turn could be used to discredit the critics.
First indications that Scientology had infiltrated the state attorney general's office became known in September, 1977, when church member Linda Ann Polimeni was arrested leaving the Los Angeles office of that agency after business hours with a pile of copied documents she had taken from the office of a deputy attorney general who was handling a tax matter relating to the church.
State agents had left the documents out as “bait” for Miss Poilmeni and had observed her actions through a window of a nearby building.
Though she was formally charged with theft of government documents, the charges against her were dismissed in a pretrial hearing by the judge who ruled that since the data relating to Scientology had only been copied nothing actually had been stolen.
Miss Polimeni, who worked for the Los Angeles district attorney's office before moving over to the attorney general's office, is not referred to by name in the internal church documents. But the memoranda are replete with references beginning in 1975 of Scientology covert agents being employed with the local district attorney and in the attorney general's office.
Just prior to placement of the agent in the attorney general's office an Oct. 24, 1975, “compliance report” states: “The Sacramento A/G files, the Los Angeles Police Department bunco files and the L.A. city attorneys files are with the L.A. A/G office. Obtaining the L.A. A/G files and the LA D/A files will probably provide most all the data existing on California justice lines. We should be in a position to obtain these within about two weeks.”
Stating he was not familiar with the content of the documents, Rev. Heber Jentzsch, a public spokesman for the California section of the church, would only say that the church, like an attorney, has the right to have investigators.
He went on to assert that the attorney general's office had infiltrated the church and then subsequently circulated false reports to other law enforcement agencies that Scientology was involved in narcotics activities.
He said the attorney general's office and the district attorney's office were secretive agencies which offer “no means for a citizen to find out what is going on.”
Though orders to covertly obtain data about the church came from Scientology's worldwide headquarters in England, the means of obtaining the data appear to have been left to local operatives.
When a Los Angeles church official wrote a superior that a confidential source was able to obtain a worker's keys that opened the doors to the office where the attorney general kept Scientology files, the senior official responded:
“Methods have historically been comm'd (communicated) between B1 (the intelligence or information bureau as it is now called) people directly. Seniors do not need to know this data generally.”
Sue Hall, a Scientologist who belongs to the church's mission in Davis, Calif., on her own in July, 1975, turned over to Scientology leaders the entire file on the church kept by the California Board of Medical Quality Assurance, then known as the Board of Medical Examiners.
Church communications state that Hall worked for the California Department of Consumer Affairs, which supervises the medical board, and came upon the church's request for data kept on it by the state agency.
A handwritten, signed and notarized affidavit by Hall states “the files I took and Xeroxed from the Board of Medical Examiners were taken on my own determinism (sic), not on the determinism of an outside source.”
Summaries of the files prepared by Scientologists reflect that most of the material consisted of complaints from individuals who wrote the board that members of Scientology were “practicing medicine, psychiatry or psychology” without a license.
Some of the complaints date back to 1969, and those board investigators thought could be sustained were sent to the state attorney general or local prosecuting agencies.
The summary also asserted that because Scientology is a religion, it therefore needs no license, but that some investigators for the medical board refused to accept that fact and try to “get us.”
As with the other documents about which he was questioned, Jentzsch said he was not familiar with the material and did not know of Miss Hall or where she could be contacted.
A July 22, 1976, memorandum from the Los Angeles head of covert operations listed 29 state and local agencies apparently earmarked for “penetration” by Scientology agents. Part of a sentence on the document is crossed out on the original, but FBI agents who seized it wrote in the margin the blacked out word appears to be “penetration.”
An accompanying letter states “if a good monitor point is placed in a key agency, it would be possible to get the data from the smaller agencies. Thus you get one LAPD and then all PDS, one AG and then all AGs—this eliminates 150 people to monitor.”
The attorney general's office In Los Angeles and Sacramento was listed as second in priority only to the “US AG LA,” an apparent reference to the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles.
Other agencies listed top priorities included the Los Angeles police and sheriff's departments, the district attorney's offices in Yolo, Sacramento and Los Angeles counties, the California State Franchise Tax Board, the California Department of Consumer Affairs and the California Department of Health.
It was reported last year that a lieutenant on the San Diego police department was discharged because of lying about certain inquiries he made to the FBI on behalf of Scientology.
A March 7, 1976, Scientology plan to establish an intelligence network in Sacramento outlines other agencies to be covered by agents including the California Mental Health Assn. and the office of former Lt. Gov. Mervyn Dymally, who was said to have a special interest in Scientology because of efforts by some groups to pass legislation that would restrict the growth or activities of cults.
Sprinkled throughout the church documents is correspondence reflecting Scientology's knowledge of information in various files of governmental agencies, despite disavowals by those agencies of having data beyond that which they already had turned over to Scientology.
Whether the church's knowledge is the result of infiltration of agencies as diverse as the Los Angeles City Fire Department and the California Youth Authority or because documents from those agencies were in the files of the attorney general or Los Angeles district attorney's office is not clear.
Though the plans for infiltration of local, state and federal agencies appear grandiose, nowhere in the documents is there any indication how many individuals Scientology might have had available for covertly obtaining government and other data on Scientology.
One source intimately familiar with the church's intelligence-gathering program estimated that as many as 50 persons may have been involved in various illegal acts, with scores of others possibly processing material the origin of which they did not know.
Scientology spokesmen have pointed out that the Guardian's Office, the section of the church which carried out the intelligence operations, has an estimated 800 to 1,000 persons, only 11 of whom have been indicted. Two persons living in England are still fighting extradition to face the criminal charges against them.
A common method of attempting to obtain information about Scientology when infiltration of a group or agency was not possible appears from the documents to have been through the use of so-called “suitable guises.”
There are numerous references to Scientologists acting as free-lance writers who approach governmental officials and others with the stated purpose of doing stories on Scientology.
In one instance in 1972, church documents disclose a Scientologist posing as a free-lance writer “working with the Los Angeles the Los Angeles district attorney's office” tape-recorded conversations with a U.S. Postal Service official who worked in that agency's fraud section.
The postal official, Charles Miller, is said to have indicated that the service had looked at Scientology over the decade or so, but had never been able to make a mail fraud case against the church.
Four years later, church documents state, Scientology leaders wanted to get an agent into the U.S. Postal Service's investigation section in Los Angeles and the U.S. Customs office in Los Angeles because the church believed its incoming mail was being opened by those two agencies.
It could not be determined whether such infiltration efforts were ever carried out.
The Internal Revenue Service was a particularly favorite target of Scientology apparently because of the agency's constant scrutiny over Scientology's tax-exempt status and the church's knowledge that the IRS believed huge sums of money were being improperly diverted to founder Hubbard's personal use or control.
Church officials have publicly asserted that Hubbard no longer controls the church, but merely is a consultant who continues to do research and write material used by Scientology. Hubbard is believed to be living under an assumed name, in an undisclosed location under tight security precautions.
One 1977 church document indicates Scientology had covert agents in place at the IRS's office of international operations in Washington, D.C., and the IRS' Los Angeles office was being “monitored.”
In a “completion report” written in 1976, Scientology's deputy guardian for information revealed the IRS intelligence files were obtained on former Gov. Edmund G. (Pat) Brown, Gov. Brown, Mayor Bradley and singer Frank Sinatra. Earlier this year it was disclosed the Scientology has had IRS data on the late John Wayne.
Only a single page of the IRS report on Sinatra was attached to the document and the files obtained on the other prominent figures apparently were not the material seized from the church by the FBI.
Federal investigators have speculated that many of the stolen documents alluded to in church memoranda were not recovered by the FBI in the July, 1977, raid because the data was kept in another location that was cleared of all documents by the time the FBI reached it.
One church document written in 1976 states that Scientology obtained the tax return of Charles Rumph, a former California deputy attorney general and then an IRS employe. At both agencies he had been involved in investigating the church.
Jentzsch denied that the church ever had the actual tax returns of the politicians and celebrities, but said the material from the intelligence files was proof of the IRS' campaign to harass celebrities and politicians who were in disfavor during the Richard M. Nixon Administration.
Previously released church documents have disclosed that Scientology agents were looking for any information regarding possible misconduct by government agencies investigating the church so that data could be released surreptitiously to discredit those agencies.
For years Scientology has attacked various IRS policies, particularly the service's own controversial intelligence-gathering techniques and attempts by the Nixon Administration to use the IRS to harass its political enemies.
Much of the church correspondence was either from or to Scientology's Pacific Director of the intelligence section, Sandy Cooper, who also was known as Sherry Canvarro and Sherry Hermann.
Although she never has been charged with offense, Mrs. Hermann, her married name, had previously worked for the American Medical Assn. in Chicago and the Council of Better Business Bureaus in Washington, D.C. Both organizations were victimized by thefts of material from their files relating to Scientology and the public release of material that reflected negatively on the organizations.
The newly released documents reveal Scientology also had covert agents who worked with such private organizations as The American Psychiatric Assn. and the Volunteer Parents of America, an anticult group.
All of the groups have been critical of the church.
To help direct the intelligence bureau's actions, in 1977 the elaborate point system was developed by Jane Kember, the church's worldwide guardian based in England. Kember is one of those indicted for the burglaries and thefts of government documents in Washington, D.C., but she and an associate have so far been able to avoid extradition to face the charges.
The 10-page directive outlines all the ways points can be gained or lost obtaining intelligence data sought by Scientology.
The documents do not make clear what benefits, if any, would accrue to those agents receiving points for covert intelligence gathering activities, nor what was the effect of losing points.
“Files obtained or documents obtained covertly or clandestinely, including ripped off Scn (Scientology) materials recovered are worth two points per document, according to the order.
Twenty points could be earned for “a complete data collection cycle” in which “discreditable” data or documentation is gathered to handle the “enemy.” Fifteen points could be gained with a partial prediction, usually based on a covert interview, of an impending attack on Scientology.
If an enemy of Scientology became unable or unwilling to attack further, 100 points would be given to the responsible section of the intelligence bureau.
But points could also be lost.
If an agent's cover was blown, and he or she was traced back to the church, it could result in a loss of 50 points and if the action caused a legal threat to Scientology, 200 points would be subtracted. Fifty points would b subtracted if Scientology encountered an “unpredicted attack.”
Jentzsch denied any knowledge of such a point system but said he could understand why one would exist to encourage persons to ferret out wrongdoing by government agencies.