Chris Owen: Spyentology: For Scientology, operating as an intelligence agency is a religious mandate

Discussion in 'News and Current Events' started by The Wrong Guy, Apr 17, 2019.

  1. The Wrong Guy Member

    Spyentology: For Scientology, operating as an intelligence agency is a religious mandate

    By Chris Owen, The Underground Bunker, April 17, 2019


    There’s so much going on with Scientology — from missing wives to dubious financial dealings, broken families and allegations of abuse — that it sometimes seems like it has distilled every type of dysfunction and mismanagement into one rackety organisation. Scientology’s controversies aren’t unique; many other faith groups have their own scandals, as the Catholics, Baptists and Jehovah’s Witnesses can testify. But there is one aspect of Scientology that is genuinely close to being unique.

    In my research, I’ve identified only three contemporary faith groups which have a dedicated covert intelligence organisation. (By this I mean an internal organisation which is explictly modelled on a state intelligence agency, using specially trained staff as professional intelligence officers who carry out intelligence practices and procedures against external targets.)

    The first is Aum Shinrikyo, which carried out the 1995 Toyko nerve gas attacks and established a “Ministry of Intelligence.” The second is the jihadist organisation ISIS, which created its own “Amniyat” (Security) agency to carry out intelligence, counter-intelligence, and overseas operations. The third is Scientology, which had its Guardian Office between 1966–1982 and today has its euphemistically-named Office of Special Affairs.

    Aum and ISIS are violent apocalyptic organisations which created intelligence organisations to help achieve their visions of the end of the world. But how and why did Scientology, an organization dedicated to self-improvement through mental therapy, end up with an intelligence operation bigger than many national intelligence services?

    That’s one of the key questions that I’m looking to answer in a new book that I’m writing, which has involved research in archives on four continents. (If you would like to help out with the research costs for this project, please take a look at my GoFundMe page — any donations would be greatly appreciated, as I’m in the middle of a major series of research projects at the moment. Many thanks to those who have already donated; your help has made it possible to uncover a great deal of previously undocumented information, which you will see first here at the Bunker.)

    Scientology’s use of intelligence has been shrouded by intense secrecy for decades. In contrast to the famous Xenu story, which has been taught to thousands of Scientologists despite its ostensibly secret status, the church has been extremely tight-lipped about its intelligence activities. However, documents acquired from law enforcement raids, leaks, and the accounts of defectors provide a window into why Scientology not only uses intelligence but regards it as a religious mandate.

    The answer, as ever with Scientology, lies in the singular personality of L. Ron Hubbard. I first got interested in this issue 20 years ago while researching “Ron the War Hero,” my account of Hubbard’s military service. The issue of intelligence plays a big role in Hubbard’s military history, as he served for a while in the US Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI). The late conspiracy theorist L. Fletcher Prouty claimed falsely that Hubbard’s naval records had been altered to conceal his involvement in secret intelligence operations in Australia and elsewhere. Debunking these claims was thus an essential part of writing about Hubbard’s military service. In the course of doing that, I came across a fascinating 1995 paper by Jon Atack titled “Scientology: Religion or Intelligence Agency?” which provides a good overview of Scientology’s intelligence activities.

    Jon’s paper highlights an issue that tends to be only briefly covered in mainstream books and papers as part of Scientology’s wider background. Many people will be aware of the notorious Operation Freakout against Paulette Cooper (documented by this blog’s proprietor’s excellent The Unbreakable Miss Lovely) and Scientology’s Snow White espionage campaign. But there is far more to Scientology’s intelligence activities over the years, from its extraordinarily long list of covert operations in the 1970s to its more recent operations in Greece in the 1990s. There is also much that has never systematically been covered in depth before, such as the way that Hubbard developed Scientology’s intelligence activities and structures in response to specific external challenges.

    Hubbard liked to claim that he was an expert in intelligence matters but the truth, as ever, was much less impressive. His role in the ONI was as a military censor, not in an intelligence role, and he was offloaded from the ONI when censorship ceased to be one of its responsibilities. He almost certainly had access to some naval intelligence while he was temporarily assigned to routing ships in Australia in early 1942 — a job Hubbard did so badly that he was kicked out of the country by his enraged superiors — and likely had contact with the ONI’s B3 (counter-espionage) section when he was working for the civilian-run Office of Censorship later in 1942. His job involved investigating violations of the US government’s cable censorship regulations and referring suspicious cases to B3 for further investigation.

    His posting to the Office of Censorship lasted for only seven weeks, from May 1 to June 24, 1942, yet he seems to have used that as a key basis for later claiming to his followers that he was an expert on intelligence. He told them falsely that he had experience of intelligence operations as “a B3 [sic] of the Office of Naval Intelligence.” In fact, by the time he worked with the Office of Censorship he was no longer a member of the ONI, as it was no longer responsible for censorship. He had never been a member of B3 at any time.

    Why did Hubbard set up an intelligence function in Scientology? His innate paranoia was a key reason — he periodically denounced a supposed conspiracy of communists and Nazi remnants that were hindering Scientology — but he faced real problems that were more than just products of his imagination. One important strand of my ongoing research is to identify the pressures that Scientology was facing and how it responded to them.

    From as early as the mid-1950s, local and national governments in the UK, Australia, and the US caused problems for Scientology, and for Hubbard personally, over a variety of issues. The Better Business Bureau sought to have action taken against Hubbard’s “borderline illegal practices” and briefed the US Secret Service on Scientology. Law enforcement agencies and reporters sought to investigate Scientology over concerns about its activities. Medical authorities mobilized internationally to oppose what they regarded as quackery and fraud. Media reporting, especially in Australia and the UK, became increasingly hostile.

    At the same time, Hubbard faced repeated splits, defections, and challenges to his authority as veteran Scientologists broke away, often in response to his increasing authoritarianism. Scientology’s predecessor, Dianetics, had collapsed amidst a welter of splits, financial chaos, and external pressure. Hubbard was determined not to let that happen again.

    He responded by converting part of his central management team, the Hubbard Communications Office (HCO), into an intelligence organization in the late 1950s. He told his staff that they were to regard themselves henceforth as intelligence operatives, as that was an essential duty of the HCO: They had to “know our friends and our enemies and what they are doing.” In 1966 he established the Guardian Office (GO) as a dedicated intelligence organisation within Scientology, with its headquarters at Saint Hill Manor in England. By the time it was disbanded in 1982, the GO had 1,200 staff in fourteen countries around the world and is said to have run some 5,000 agents.

    The GO was certainly much larger than the Aum or ISIS intelligence organisations and was larger than many state intelligence services (though to be fair, not everyone in the GO worked on intelligence matters). It was impressively successful at keeping its activities secret for over a decade, until a defecting senior operative finally blew the whistle to the FBI in 1977. Recently declassified papers released to the UK National Archives show that the British government had no idea that a huge private intelligence organization targeting the governments of dozens of countries — including the UK — was being directed from a location only thirty miles outside London.

    Hubbard saw intelligence not just as a means of obtaining information about his enemies, but as a means of exacting revenge. From the start, he sought to weaponize intelligence. In his notorious 1959 Manual of Justice, he instructed Scientologists to use investigations and private detectives to find compromising information on internal and external enemies. If a journalist wrote something unflattering about Scientology, for instance, he ordered that his followers were to hire private detectives to “investigate the writer, not the magazine, and get any criminal or Communist background the man has.”

    He saw the use of weaponized intelligence as a form of justified punishment, claiming that Scientologists “may be the only people on Earth with a right to punish.” If Scientology was the only workable solution to the world’s problems, it was an injustice for anyone to impede it. Preventing anyone doing so was thus an act of justice for the world as a whole. This applied to his own members as much as to external critics; the notorious “Fair Game” policy was first advertised and applied to Scientologists, putting them on notice of what to expect if they defected and “betrayed” Scientology.

    Scientology’s use of intelligence tactics was not simply about Hubbard’s paranoia, but owes much to ideology and indoctrination. Hubbard saw Scientology as something akin to a revolutionary movement that would take control of society and change the world. It’s a theme that comes across in many of his writings about Scientology, where he constantly proclaims it to be the the best, the greatest, the most powerful, the most vital and the only means by which humanity’s future can be secured.

    To someone other than a true believer, Hubbard’s boasts about Scientology’s greatness often comes across as megalomaniac. But Scientology’s followers are conditioned to accept it unquestioningly. In fact, in some respects Hubbard went further than the founders of Aum and ISIS; while those organizations established intelligence functions to further their ideologies, only Hubbard made it a literal article of faith. He created a personality cult around himself that has, if anything, intensified since his death. Scientologists regard him with all seriousness as the greatest, wisest, and most humane person who ever lived. His words are treated as Scientology’s “scriptures” and are regarded as eternally valid and unchangeable. This, of course, includes his writings on intelligence.

    Hubbard considered intelligence to be utterly vital for the survival of Scientology, which he wrote “daily depends upon its Intelligence people, their flair, their investigation, their raw data, their estimate and their prediction and, in the end of it, their support in making defense and attack possible, purposeful and effective.” He saw intelligence as a way for Scientology to face its enemies on equal terms, despite being much weaker than governments or health associations. He compared Scientology to Sweden, a small nation which he said had managed to hold its own against the much greater power of the Soviet Union through “superlatively well-organised organisation… [and] superb intelligence.” These assets had enabled Sweden to survive against “a tremendous amount of huge roaring monsters.”

    Another point of comparison was Alexander the Great, who had overthrown the enormous power of the Persian Empire despite commanding only a relatively small army. Alexander’s secret, Hubbard claimed, was that he had focused his attacks on his key enemy, the Persian king Darius, rather than trying to defeat the whole of the vastly larger Persian army. Scientology’s enemies had not adopted such ruthless tactics because they were squeamish about creating martyrs. This was not a constraint for Hubbard, who told his followers to focus on targeting key individuals in the hope of defeating the organizations they represented.

    Scientology likes to proclaim that Hubbard was “an accomplished professional in 29 fields as diverse as aviation, horticulture, cinematography, drug rehabilitation, music and administration.” Not surprisingly, it says nothing about his career as a spymaster. Admittedly, this is most likely because it does not want to acknowledge his role in creating and leading one of the world’s largest non-state intelligence organisations. It is also fitting, however, as he was very far from being an “accomplished professional” in the intelligence field. This becomes particularly apparent when considering how Hubbard managed intelligence work and the broader strategies of the GO.

    Scientology’s troubles necessarily meant that much of what Hubbard described as the role of intelligence was oriented defensively towards uncovering the plans of Scientology’s enemies and defeating them. He had a much more ambitious long-term ambition, however, as he saw intelligence as being essential to Scientology literally taking over the world. He envisaged its “Intelligence service” eventually stepping up to locate “the key points of control on the planet” and, by some unexplained means, embarking upon “the very ambitious program of bringing the planet sufficiently under control to preserve its peace.”

    In reality, Scientology came nowhere near to achieving this objective, or even making much of a start on it. There was a great deal of delusion in Hubbard’s thinking; he set wildly over-ambitious objectives, often as a knee-jerk response to an immediate problem, but failed to follow up with effective planning or implementation.

    The fundamental problem – quite apart from Hubbard’s own character defects – was that he had no relevant experience or training in managing intelligence operations, and no real understanding of the limitations and pitfalls of intelligence. What little knowledge he did have appears to have been gleaned in a fairly superficial way from published books and probably magazine articles. He had clearly read Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, for instance, and put great stock in two particular works which he made required reading for his operatives: Sun Tzu’s classic The Art of War and Christopher Felix’s 1963 book The Spy and His Masters.

    The purpose of intelligence in general, according to Hubbard, was to “[inform] one’s command area of the plans, characteristics, and crimes of all opponents to one’s own activity and purpose.” It was to be used to provide an “estimate” for Scientology’s management, comprising an assessment of whether there was a “situation” — meaning an issue of concern to Scientology — whether it represented danger or an opportunity, and how important it was. The goal was to ensure that no situation would arise for which Scientology was unprepared, such as an unexpected lawsuit or government intervention.

    Hubbard boasted that he had developed a “prediction technology” that would seem like black magic to “those in primitive [intelligence] services.” Among Scientology’s advantages, he claimed, was its ability to provide unique insights into others’ mental processes. He also asserted that its members were less “aberrated” and therefore thought more clearly than others. It had a “more honourable and honest purpose and goal” for mankind than any intelligence agency. Its internal organization was superior and it had been battle-hardened in conflicts with “the most severe and unreasonable adversaries on many continents,” achieving great victories “even against the ‘greatest’ existing Intelligence services”.

    In reality, the inadequacy of Hubbard’s “prediction technology” was laid bare by the professional investigators of US and Canadian law enforcement agencies. The GO was taken completely by surprise when its US headquarters in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles were raided by the FBI in July 1977. The Ontario Provincial Police achieved an even greater coup in Toronto a few years later. One of their officers infiltrated the GO’s Toronto office and worked there undetected for two years until it was raided with the aid of her insider knowledge. The two agencies seized tens of thousands of pages of documents that proved the GO’s culpability in numerous crimes.

    The superficial nature of Hubbard’s understanding of intelligence can be seen in many aspects of his writing on the topic, as well as his behavior. To take one example, he adopted a tactic of character assassination that he termed “dead agenting,” borrowing a concept from Sun Tzu. But he completely misunderstood what Sun had advocated.

    Hubbard claimed that Sun had advised that an efficient method of dealing with enemy agents was to give them false information or provide the enemy with false information about them, which would lead to them being killed by the enemy for being unreliable or untruthful. Thus Scientology, to this day, seeks to discredit critics — the “dead agent caper,” as Hubbard called it — in order to ensure that they are not believed by others.

    In fact, Sun advised giving one’s own spies false information and sending them on futile missions knowing that they would be captured by the enemy. Such “expendable” — not “dead” — agents would give the false information in the belief that it was true, resulting in the enemy mistakenly taking that information at face value. In the example given by Sun, a captured agent unwittingly gave false information that a high-ranking enemy officer was a traitor, leading to the officer’s execution. The agent’s true mission, which only his controller knew, was to relay the false information and cause the enemy to carry out an act of self-harm. Hubbard’s misinterpretation of Sun was typical of his superficial and shallow approach to research, which lent itself to misunderstandings of this sort.

    Much more seriously, Hubbard failed utterly at understanding the role of intelligence in providing objective information to inform decision-making. He did at least have a basic understanding that intelligence is a process, not just a product. It involves not just gathering secret information (a task at which the Guardian Office was often quite proficient) but also processing it, analysing and assessing it, and using it to inform future actions.

    However, objectivity is an essential requirement. The fiasco over the intelligence regarding Saddam Hussein’s supposed weapons of mass destruction provides a classic example of what can go wrong. It was due, to a significant extent, to some of those in charge having preconceived ideas about Saddam’s military capabilities. They had sought intelligence to confirm their views while downplaying anything that contradicted them. As a result, they made the decision to go to war in Iraq on the basis of a belief that was soon proved to be false.

    Hubbard was in exactly the same position. He was perhaps temperamentally incapable of objectivity, and indeed had explicitly argued against the very concept of objective reality. His maxim of “what’s true is what’s true for you” is a formulation that rejects the idea that something can be true even if you do not personally believe in it. (It’s an objective fact, for instance, that the world is round; your belief that it’s flat doesn’t change this fact.) Applied to intelligence, this doctrine was predictably disastrous. Hubbard used the Guardian Office not to uncover the objective reality of Scientology’s situation, but to pursue confirmation of his many and varied conspiracy theories, which he grandiosely called “intelligence hypotheses.”

    In one example, after a British freelance journalist visited Hubbard’s flagship in Casablanca in November 1969, Hubbard summoned his top aides for an hours-long angry monologue. He told them his “intelligence hypothesis” that it was obviously an operation by the British foreign intelligence service MI6, and that British reporters in general were “MI6 agents” operating on behalf of the World Federation of Mental Health and “Jewish Bankers.”

    Hubbard offered no evidence of these claims but simply stated them as facts, which none of his underlings questioned. He ordered an intensive operation against the journalist, having his hotel room searched and his records obtained from the Moroccan authorities. He used his contacts with the Moroccan secret police to obtain information on the man, whom he labelled “the voice of MI6 in Morocco.”

    Hubbard’s own mouthpiece, the Scientology-published newspaper Freedom, even published an unattributed article — which he likely wrote himself — taunting MI6: “To protect ourselves we are currently spreading the rumour that C (which is what the head of MI6 is cutely called) has had a nervous breakdown and that MI6 is being run by C’s psychiatrist, who studied twelve years to become an expert Communist. Two can play this game.”

    The investigation consumed Guardian Office resources for the next two years and culminated with the the journalist being induced to visit Scientology’s then world headquarters at Saint Hill Manor in England. He was subjected to an interrogation by two senior GO officials which cleared him of any connection to MI6.

    The whole investigation, in other words, had been a waste of time: He had been falsely labelled by Hubbard on the basis of a conspiracy theory which had no foundation in reality. Yet the GO regarded it as a great success. The affair was studied for years afterwards by trainee GO officers as part of its confidential intelligence course. It was held up as a case study of how to handle such situations. In fact, it should have been used as a warning against the dangers of relying on preconceived ideas.

    Continued at
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