Rathbun was once the second-highest ranking official in the Church of Scientology and oversaw its bruising legal strategies for many years. He had a reputation for being the “enforcer” for a church not known for turning the other cheek.
But after his defection in 2004 and then resurfacing in 2009, Rathbun quickly became, in our estimation, the single greatest threat to the ongoing existence of the church.
Scientology leader David Miscavige appeared to agree, judging by the sheer effort expended to harass Rathbun in the four years since he showed up in the landmark 2009 Tampa Bay Times series, “The Truth Rundown,” and since Rathbun started his blog, “Moving On Up a Little Higher,” which began dishing dirt about Miscavige’s management of the church.
Rathbun’s blog exploited growing dissatisfaction in Scientology’s ranks: Many longtime church members were still loyal to founder L. Ron Hubbard’s therapy “technology,” but they were increasingly fed up with the way Miscavige has led the church since Hubbard’s death in 1986. In recent years, the church has largely abandoned Hubbard’s notion about spiritual advancement and training “auditors” and is instead obsessed with raising money for things like unneeded new buildings, even as membership dwindles.
A steady stream of high-profile defectors over the last few years proved that this was a real schism tearing the church apart. And one of the key figures exacerbating that split has been Rathbun and his writings.
But Rathbun is in a tricky position.
On the one hand, he’s provided crucial information about the way Miscavige runs Scientology, bringing to the world news about the church’s bizarre office-prison for executives — “The Hole” — at its International Base in California. Rathbun, and others, have painted a frightening picture of abuse and extortion at the highest levels of Scientology, as well as salacious details about celebrities like Tom Cruise.
But Rathbun’s leadership as Scientology’s enforcer goes back much earlier than the 2004 establishment of “The Hole,” or his auditing of Tom Cruise as the actor was coming back into the fold in the early 2000s.
Rathbun oversaw a brutal “dirty tricks” operation for more than 20 years, and for some of that time he was carrying out the orders of L. Ron Hubbard.
Rathbun’s many critics have asked, when is Rathbun going to come clean about what he did in the name of Hubbard to the perceived enemies of this church?
For that reason, we were salivating to get our hands on this book, in which Rathbun explains his origins and then takes us behind the scenes during the crucial years of 1981 to 1986, when he and others worked hard to provide an “All Clear” for Scientology’s founder.
Hubbard had gone into total seclusion in 1980 as his wife was being prosecuted for her part in Operation Snow White — Scientology’s astounding infiltration of government offices around the world between 1973 and 1977, for which Hubbard himself was named an unindicted co-conspirator.
Concerned that he was going to be prosecuted by the Department of Justice or the IRS, or dragged into one of numerous lawsuits facing the church, Hubbard spent his last years reorganizing Scientology to insulate himself from legal attack, and hiding so that he could not be found by process servers.
But hiding was a pain in the ass. So Hubbard, through Miscavige, asked Rathbun and a small number of other executives to find a way to end every last legal threat through one means or another so an “All Clear” signal could be sent and Hubbard could then re-emerge from seclusion.
But first, to explain how he was put into that extraordinary situation, Rathbun sets out to describe what put him on the path to becoming Hubbard’s unflinching “warrior.”
He does this by trying to convince us that he was chosen for his role before birth.
In an anecdote that seems torn right from the pages of Hubbard’s 1950 ur-text, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, Rathbun’s life story begins with a prenatal memory — seeing his pregnant mother subjected to electro-shock therapy while he was growing inside her. He tells us that an aunt confirmed to him many years later that his vision was true.
Whether or not Rathbun exteriorized from his mother’s womb in order to witness her treatment, there’s no denying that the Marin County youngster was born into a very troubled family. His mother later jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge, and his two older brothers each suffered from schizophrenia: the oldest, Scott, is institutionalized to this day.
The middle brother, Bruce, was committed to the Oregon institution where One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was filmed, and the young Mark Rathbun became determined to learn something about mental health and make a difference in his brother’s life. Like Randle P. McMurphy in Ken Kesey’s book, Rathbun used basketball to improve, at least briefly, the lives of Bruce and the other inmates at Dammasch State Hospital.
Basketball had already proved a great source of inspiration in his own life, Rathbun explains. He’d played as a kid on a public court after his family moved to Laguna Beach in Southern California, and then he’d made the high school team. A particularly dramatic game-winning shot turned into a spiritual landmark for the high school junior: Rathbun says he went exterior from himself as he watched the ball go through the hoop.
A spiritual seeker with a good jump shot. A concerned brother trying to save Bruce from the oblivion of a mental hospital. Rathbun was almost perfectly set up to be susceptible to Scientology’s siren call when he first encountered it in Portland in 1977.
Once again, Rathbun proves that his physical body can hardly contain his restless spirit when he goes exterior while doing Training Routine 0, the hours-long staring contests that all Scientologists start out with.
In other words, Rathbun seemed born for Scientology, and very quickly he concludes that it is something he can use to heal Bruce. But after he manages to get his brother out of Dammasch, the Portland Scientology mission won’t allow Bruce to be audited: His mental health history makes him too much of a risk.
Rathbun takes it as a serious blow, but then he’s recruited into Scientology’s elite inner corps, the Sea Organization, and never looks back. (Bruce later was killed after starting a bar fight.)
Marty absorbs the Sea Org’s fanatical dedication, signing its billion-year contract and moving to Los Angeles, where the Cedars of Lebanon Hospital is being renovated for Scientology’s new administrative headquarters. There’s a sense of urgency because that summer, 1977, the FBI had raided Scientology in LA and Washington DC over the Snow White infiltrations.
It’s in LA, still wet behind the ears, that Rathbun begins to make a name for himself with a gruesome incident that Lawrence Wright described recently in his book Going Clear. Marty is told that Diane Colletto, a young woman who runs the Publications division, is concerned that her husband, John, has made threats against her after he was assigned to Scientology’s prison detail — the RPF — and then walked away.
Sure enough, just minutes after Rathbun meets Diane and then gets into her car at about 11 pm to accompany her home, John Colletto shows up, rams them with his car, and then begins a terrifying confrontation that will leave Diane Colletto shot dead and Rathbun covered with her blood.
A few more details emerge here than were in Wright’s book, but the effect is the same: Rathbun suddenly finds himself a heroic figure in the Sea Org, even though he felt awful that he’d been unable to prevent Diane’s death. (John Colletto was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head a couple of days later.)
Hubbard hears about the young Sea Org worker who took on a gunman while unarmed, and soon Marty finds himself taken “Over the Rainbow” — transferred to Hubbard’s secret location in La Quinta, California known as “Rifle.” The closest Rathbun gets to actually meeting the Old Man is sitting in a beach chair on Hubbard’s lawn — he can hear Hubbard’s voice, but never meets him in the flesh.
Rathbun’s loyalty pays off, however. He happened to be coming up just as Scientology was in the grips of a major internal crisis. Eleven of the leaders of Scientology’s intelligence operation, the Guardian’s Office, are going to be prosecuted for the Snow White infiltration of government offices. One of them is Mary Sue Hubbard, the third wife of the Commodore and ultimate leader of the GO itself. There’s little doubt today that Hubbard himself ordered the Snow White Operation and was fully briefed on its particulars as it was going on. But at the time, church members were being told that the GO had been a rogue unit that got out of hand. In order for that story to stick, Mary Sue had to take the fall.
Making that happen was an up and coming young member of Hubbard’s personal guard, a kid from South Philly named David Miscavige. It was Miscavige who delivered the news to Mary Sue that she was being sacrificed in order to keep Hubbard safe.
But there were many other legal matters pressing on Hubbard, which led him to decide, in 1980, that he had to disappear. And by then Rathbun was so trusted, he was soon enlisted by Miscavige to work on the “All Clear” program.
One of the biggest problems facing Scientology at the time was a Boston attorney named Michael Flynn, who would file dozens of lawsuits against the church over several years. Some of them were the most potentially damaging legal challenges Scientology ever faced.
As a result, Flynn became the focus of one of the most ferocious “Fair Game” campaigns in Scientology history. Here’s a description of it from a 1983 Boston Globe article…
Affidavits by four church defectors…allege that church members have conducted numerous acts of harassment against Flynn for the ultimate purpose of undermining him and his cases. Included in the affidavits were assertions that, in addition to rifling his trash, church members had:
— Contacted some of Flynn’s non-church clients and told them that he had cheated them out of money.
— Telephoned the Internal Revenue Service with false financial information about him, hoping to spur a tax probe.
— Monitored Flynn’s activities closely by watching and photographing visitors to his office and by calling his bank regularly to determine how much money he had deposited in his account, the number of which had been found in his trash.
— Tried repeatedly to plant operatives in his office.
As a result of those extraordinary efforts of surveillance, the church filed multiple bar complaints against Flynn, trying to get him disbarred as the best way to undermine his lawsuits. One of those attempts involved some documents that Flynn said were stolen from his office. Continues the Boston Globe article…
One of the more serious complaints concerned Flynn’s formation of a company called Flynn Associates Management Corp. (FAMCO). [Church attorney Henry] Silverglate alleged in an August 1981 bar complaint that Flynn began FAMCO to raise money through the sale of its stock to finance his Scientology litigation.
Flynn said in an interview that he chartered the company as a proposed computer venture with one of his brothers. When the venture did not materialize, Flynn said, another brother, then an investigator for his law firm, proposed reviving the firm so he could sell his investigative services on Scientology to the law firm. Flynn said he rejected the proposal in June 1981 because it would have given “the appearance of impropriety.” He said no stock in FAMCO was ever issued or sold.
In other words, this was a classic church harassment campaign — Flynn’s trash (or his burgled office) yielded documents that had a whiff of impropriety to them. But even though nothing was ever done with the documents, Scientology combined and conflated them in order to try to get Flynn disbarred rather than take on his lawsuits on their merits.
As any reader can see, there is plenty here for Marty Rathbun to illuminate all these years later. As the guy who oversaw Scientology’s dirty-tricks private eyes like disgraced Los Angeles cop Eugene Ingram, Rathbun would have been privy to every strategy, every maneuver.
Rathbun could tell us all about the trash diving at Flynn’s office, who carried it out, and what was discovered. He could regale us with tales of the PIs and Sea Org officials sifting Flynn’s garbage and talking about destroying the man. Or about the strategy sessions where the bar complaints were discussed. Or the phone calls that were planned to Flynn’s friends and colleagues that were intended to destroy him.
In a book like this, we should get an inside view of how the church uses private investigators to utterly ruin someone who dares to stand up to Scientology.
Instead, Memoirs of a Scientology Warrior tells us that FAMCO was not only real, it was the biggest enemy the church faced…
Flynn had set up a corporation, Flynn Associates Management Corporation (FAMCO) for the purposes of soliciting and filing lawsuits against Scientology and Hubbard across the country.
FAMCO was attempting to raise funds by selling shares in the litigation scheme. FAMCO outlined a strategy of filing “turn-key” (or “cookie cutter”) lawsuits in numerous, inconvenient venues, seeking to bury the Church of Scientology in litigation. FAMCO projected filing more than a thousand lawsuits.
In 1981, this very may well have been the fear that Miscavige, Rathbun, and their many attorneys held about Flynn after obtaining his documents. But in 2013, we can say that none of that came to happen. FAMCO did not, in fact, exist except for some abortive papers that Rathbun’s PIs pulled out of Flynn’s trash. And a thousand lawsuits were not filed by Flynn.
On the one hand, Rathbun does historians a great service in this book by explaining the mentality of the men who were working so hard to protect Hubbard from legal attacks.
That’s useful to a point, but more than 30 years later, what Rathbun doesn’t tell us is what we really want to know: There’s not a single word about going through Flynn’s trash, or about the other harassment that he went through.
Rathbun doesn’t even seem to have read the reporting that was done to counter the church’s point of view at the time, because he never brings it up.
In other words, the book gives us an extended look at what it must have been like to be Marty Rathbun in the 1980s — but as if written by Marty Rathbun in the 1980s.
Here and there, the book does exhibit moments of clarity that suggest Rathbun may have actually begun to have second thoughts about his work as Hubbard’s “warrior.”
When Canadian officials raided the church in Toronto in 1983, Rathbun was part of a mission that destroyed evidence to keep it from falling into government hands.
At the time, Rathbun today admits, he chased away thoughts that what he was doing was wrong.
But pages later, he writes about the most elaborate scheme to bury Flynn — by trying to connect him to a plot by some fraudsters who attempted to write themselves a $2 million dollar check on L. Ron Hubbard’s account at the Bank of New England. Desperate to prove that Flynn had some connection to it, church officials paid off a crook in an Italian jail, hobnobbed with gangsters in Boston, and hired the thug Ingram.
Thirty years later, Rathbun wants us to believe that Ingram was kicked out of the LAPD for “trumped up charges” — even though Ingram would spend decades engaged in reprehensible behavior for the church, including being accused of impersonating police officers to strongarm people in church operations.
Again, it’s valuable to learn what Rathbun thought of Ingram and other people he worked with at the time. But after thirty years, Rathbun hasn’t really come to grips with the acts that a church was willing to take part in.
Even today, for Rathbun, Ingram is a great guy, and it’s Flynn who was the crook.
We don’t want to give the impression, however, that there’s not a lot that’s very useful in this lengthy book. Rathbun has repeatedly proved that he’s willing to anger his fellow “independents” by taking hard looks at Hubbard.
In 1983, for example, Rathbun tells us that Hubbard blamed his wife Mary Sue for the cancellation of Scientology’s toxic policy of “disconnection.” So that year, Hubbard reinstated it with a vengeance. Now, if a member continued to associate with someone who had been “declared a suppressive person,” he or she risked excommunication as well.
“These policies,” Rathbun says, “laid the foundation for Scientology’s subsequent degeneration into an insular cult.”
(We don’t imagine that line is going to go over very well with Rathbun’s critics.)
At least, in this case, Rathbun puts that decision about disconnection on Hubbard and not on Miscavige. And things would get even tougher for Rathbun’s unwavering loyalty to the old man. Over the period of 1981 to 1984, Rathbun explains, Hubbard was increasingly laying the world’s problems on psychiatry. Hubbard even said that the thetans — immortal souls — of psychiatrists were a different breed than the rest of humanity.
But Rathbun knew enough history to understand that psychiatry had only emerged in the late 19th century. Thetans were supposedly trillions of years old — what had these special psych thetans been doing for all that time?
The answer to that question was one of the most interesting things we found in this book. Rathbun says that Miscavige shared with him a dispatch from Hubbard that had been labeled “secret”…
In the dispatch, Hubbard matter-of-factly detailed how psychs are a special breed of being. He said they were raised and trained on a planet called Farsec. They were sent to Earth in order to keep its population under control, ignorant, obedient and slave-like. Earth is a prison planet, he said, and most of its inhabitants were pirates, rebels or artists, millions of years before being deposited here by a regressive inter-galactic government. The psychs were also assigned to see that no mental or spiritual technology arose that might expose the nefarious plot. They had always been with us on Earth. Before the advent of psychiatry, they had been priests and shamans…
Rathbun admits that it was difficult for him to reconcile that kind of writing with Hubbard’s other bulletins, which he considered “lucid, rational, even brilliant.”
He was told that if the Farsec material made no sense to him now, it would later on, after he’d received more Scientology processing.
“I took refuge in the belief that it would all make sense further on up the road. I became a true believer, a religious crusader,” he writes.
Thus insulated from common sense, Rathbun says he became capable of doing almost anything for Hubbard.
On several occasions we engaged in acts which, if not criminally prosecutable, certainly would subject us to civil liability if discovered. For one, Miscavige instructed me to never allow damning evidence to be produced in civil litigation discovery. On several occasions during the early eighties, we conducted massive shredding parties after catching wind that there might be a DOJ or IRS raid (much like the Canadian mop-up described in the previous chapter). When I balked at the idea of destroying evidence, Miscavige accused me of being a GO-influenced idiot. “Don’t you get it that LRH was pissed that the GO got caught?” he asked impatiently. “I was there when the raid went down and he was first informed.” He described the scene in some detail — Ron in his bathrobe at the Rifle house in La Quinta, being told of the simultaneous raids on church premises in Los Angeles and Washington D.C. in July, 1977. “He was in shock — shock that they were so stupid as to get caught. Read his dispatches, damn it. It is clear.”
…After that I never thought twice about destroying evidence. I had no problem with running intelligence agents in on enemies, provided they did nothing that could get us into trouble. L. Ron Hubbard was the source of any power we might have. He was the only power worthy of defense, since his power was exclusively directed at clearing the planet of war, insanity and criminality.
Therefore, all future warlike, insane and criminal behavior on our part was justified, in that it was the only way to end warlike, insane and criminal behavior on planet Earth. It was cognitive dissonance supreme.
But only a few pages after describing Hubbard’s bizarre words about “Farsec,” and the mentality in him it produced, Rathbun is back to his old 1980s self, saying that “Flynn [had]…no compunction about inventing facts.”
Rathbun makes that statement in regards to one of Scientology’s all time legal defeats, the 1984 Gerry Armstrong trial. Armstrong had worked as Hubbard’s archivist for a future authorized biography, and had become concerned when he realized that Hubbard’s private papers contradicted what Hubbard and the church had said publicly about him. If those papers got out, Hubbard’s credibility would be ruined. But when Armstrong brought that up with his superiors, he was punished. He left the Sea Org, and took some of the documents with him as protection. The church sued him, wanting the documents back.
The problem with the trial, Rathbun tells us, is that Flynn was a liar and manipulator, the judge was biased, and that Scientologists were “too honest.”
Again, that may have been the mentality of Scientology’s top officials at the time, but in retrospect, Armstrong’s documents proved without a doubt that what he was saying about Hubbard was true.
But even today, Rathbun seems to tell us (in an extremely murky passage) that the portrait of Hubbard in Armstrong’s documents — bigamist, black magic participant, not a war hero — is still a pack of lies.
The case resulted in a huge defeat for the church as Judge Paul Breckenridge found for Armstrong, and many of the documents were put into the public record. But Rathbun congratulates himself for filing 42 separate appeals and other delaying tactics so the documents remained under seal for the duration of Hubbard’s life — which lasted another two years.
Even though our scorched-earth litigation efforts to keep damning evidence out of the hands of enemies no doubt worsened the courts’ already dim view of Scientology’s credibility, it might well have saved L. Ron Hubbard from spending his final days in jail, alongside his last chosen close associates, Pat Broeker and David Miscavige.
Rathbun then explains how the church got back at Armstrong soon enough with its Griffith Park double-agent videotape operation, which encouraged Armstrong to unwittingly plot on camera with church members he was told were going to launch a palace coup against Miscavige. (One of them was a young Mike Rinder, who would go on to become the church’s chief spokesman and now one of the most prominent independent Scientologists.)
We learn that Miscavige weeded out wimpy attorneys based on which ones were comfortable with this kind of cloak-and-dagger work by the church.
But Miscavige loved it, and the attorneys who encouraged it — people like Gerald Feffer and Earle Cooley — soon rose to the top of the church’s litigation team.
Again, we gain access to the heady atmosphere as the legal machine deals with such legendary church battles as the Julie Christofferson-Titchbourne trial in Portland and the Lawrence Wollersheim case in Los Angeles.
But in the end, the team fails to give Hubbard the “All Clear” that he was hoping for. There are still plenty of legal troubles facing the church as Hubbard dies on January 24, 1986.
Rathbun can still remember his tears as Miscavige told him that Hubbard had “dropped his body.”
The book continues on a little after the Commodore’s death. Hubbard had appeared to annoint his final caretakers — Pat and Annie Broeker — to be his successors after naming them to the new post of “Loyal Officers.” But Rathbun says that Pat Broeker forced this document on Hubbard to sign, and soon enough Miscavige muscled Pat out of the way to become Scientology’s ultimate leader.
The Broekers had cared for Hubbard at a ranch near Creston, California. Also working at the ranch was Steve “Sarge” Pfauth. In Going Clear, Lawrence Wright says that Pfauth told him that at the end of his life, Hubbard wanted Pfauth to build an electrified e-meter that would deliver a fatal shock to him.
Rathbun produces a fascinating conversation he recently had with Pfauth with more detail about the machine.
Hubbard wasn’t kidding, and Annie pressured Pfauth to build the machine or he’d have an outsider do it, Pfauth told Rathbun. So Sarge built a contraption with 12-volt batteries so it would shock Hubbard but not kill him. And Hubbard actually used it, Pfauth told Rathbun.
Pfauth said that Hubbard hoped the shock would not only help him “drop his body” but also kill the “body thetans” that were plaguing him. (Upper-level Scientologists pay huge amounts — up to a thousand dollars an hour — to have these invisible alien souls removed from them.) Pfauth also described a confused Hubbard wandering around the ranch in a nightgown, talking about psychs putting rose perfume in shampoo in order to control people.
Pfauth assured Rathbun that no one killed Hubbard (he died of natural causes a couple of months after testing the electrified e-meter), that Hubbard knew it was the end and welcomed death, and that Pfauth had personally seen Hubbard sign a will only two days before he died — but Pfauth said Hubbard was in no shape to be signing it.
After Hubbard’s death, many of Scientology’s legal challenges lost steam, Rathbun writes. Seven years later, the IRS caved and gave the church tax-exempt status, for example.
Flynn was also convinced to end his cases with a global settlement. Years earlier, Rathbun notes, the church had a chance to settle with Flynn for $1.6 million. Instead, the church spent $100 million fighting his lawsuits, only to settle later for $2.6 million.
Rathbun at least recognizes what a colossal waste of time and money that was.
But he says that he’s ending his memoir at 1986 because, he tells us, “what happened after L. Ron Hubbard is of little importance.”
Apparently, that means we’re not going to learn about the operations of the 1990s, including the raids on the homes of people like Dennis Erlich and Arnie Lerma, the infamous “Bloody Butt” episode, the legal fight over the death of Lisa McPherson, or the turning of Bob Minton.
But that only confirms that this book is not a confessional. In fact, it’s the opposite. Rathbun apparently sees himself as something of a legendary character, from his electro-shock prenatal memory, to his charmed life on the basketball court, to his rise in the Sea Org, to his brilliant fights in the courtroom. It’s David Miscavige, ultimately, who let him down, not Hubbard. But even today, Rathbun is still a “Scientology Warrior,” even if he does anger some of his fellow independent Scientologists by criticizing some of Hubbard’s policies and treating some of Hubbard’s space opera as “metaphor.”
As in his first book, Rathbun once again feels compelled to tell us that the genius of L. Ron Hubbard’s notion of a “clear” is a human being who simply knows his or her “basic personality.”
Rathbun is supremely satisfied that this is what Hubbard gave him all along. Rathbun knows himself, and that is enough.
But after getting through this book’s 326 pages, it’s even clearer to us that Marty Rathbun hasn’t even begun to understand himself or what he did in the name of Scientology.
Perhaps we’ll have to wait for his fourth book.
Garcia Lawsuit Update
We understand that there have been some issues with the website for some readers over the past couple of days. We know that our host had some database issues, and we’re trying to make sure everything’s working smoothly.
In case you missed any of the updates we’ve made lately, here’s a short list of what was added in the last 24 hours…
Yesterday, our latest installment of “Up the Bridge with Claire Headley” — a piece on L. Ron Hubbard’s “Tone Scale” — went up late at about 1 pm.
Last night, we posted the response from Luis Garcia to Scientology’s attempt to get his attorneys disqualified in his federal fraud lawsuit against the church. We’ve now added attorney Robert Johnson’s affidavit to the post.
Posted by Tony Ortega on May 29, 2013 at 07:00
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