A bombshell this morning from former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder: He claims that a man known nationally as a TSA whistleblower has told others that he was hired to be a security guard to keep Scientology leader David Miscavige’s wife Shelly from escaping a remote mountain compound near Lake Arrowhead, California.
The vanishing of Shelly Miscavige in 2005 (with a brief reappearance in 2007) has been one of Scientology’s most disturbing mysteries in recent years, and something we’ve been paying considerable attention to.
Our sources tell us that Shelly has been living at Scientology’s CST headquarters compound near Lake Arrowhead, and now Rinder, at his blog, is claiming that there’s evidence she was not only there, but that armed security was hired to make sure she didn’t leave.
We’ve reported previously that eyewitnesses tell us Shelly vanished from Scientology’s International Base near Hemet, California after arguing with her husband in August 2005. A man who used to work at the base, John Brousseau, told us he subsequently saw mail for Shelly being forwarded to the CST compound near Lake Arrowhead, a secluded compound that many longtime members of the church weren’t even aware of.
The Church of Spiritual Technology (CST) is Scientology’s most secretive entity, and was created in the church’s organizational restructuring of the early 1980s. CST owns and operates numerous remote compounds in California, New Mexico, and Wyoming, most of which feature bomb-proof underground vaults for the storing of archival copies of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s writings and lectures to ensure that his work survives a nuclear attack. Of CST’s various compounds, the one near Lake Arrowhead is considered its headquarters, and it contains a vault as well as numerous buildings for the preparation of Hubbard archives. Scientologists call the compound by several different names, including ‘Rimforest,’ ‘Twin Peaks,’ ‘Mile High,’ and ‘Rim of the World’ — but almost none of the church’s members (past or present) has ever actually been there. The first CST employee to give a press interview was Dylan Gill, who talked to us at the Voice about his experience in 2012.
The new Vanity Fair Hollywood issue just hitting newsstands contains an excellent piece by Ned Zeman which describe’s Shelly’s background, including her childhood as one of L. Ron Hubbard’s “messengers” on the ship Apollo as Hubbard ran Scientology from the Mediterranean and Atlantic in the early 1970s. Michele ‘Shelly’ Barnett eventually married David Miscavige, the man who would take over the church once Hubbard died in 1986.
But Shelly was not only the wife of Scientology’s leader, she was a top church executive in her own right, and in 2004 she was entrusted with helping find a new girlfriend for actor Tom Cruise, holding ‘auditions’ for actresses that were really tryouts to be Cruise’s next love interest.
By 2005, however, Shelly’s relationship with her husband was crumbling, several eyewitnesses tell us. Then, after a major blowup that August, she was suddenly gone.
In November 2006, actress Leah Remini first noticed that Shelly was missing when she didn’t appear at the wedding of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes in Italy, where David Miscavige was Cruise’s best man. Remini complained about Shelly’s absence, and was reportedly told by then-spokesman Tommy Davis that she didn’t “have the fucking rank to ask about Shelly.”
In the summer of 2007, two years after she first vanished, Shelly Miscavige was allowed to attend the funeral of her father, but in the presence of a church ‘handler.’ She then went back into seclusion, and hasn’t been seen by church members or the public since.
After Leah Remini ditched Scientology last summer, she filed a missing-person report about Shelly with the LAPD on Monday, August 5. We broke the news about that report on the morning of Thursday, August 8, and by that afternoon the LAPD was telling reporters that it had checked on Shelly and had closed the case. An LAPD lieutenant told us his detectives had personally talked with Shelly, but when we asked if that conversation occurred in the presence of church officials, he told us that information was “confidential.”
Our sources assure us that ever since she first vanished in 2005, Shelly has been at the CST headquarters compound near Lake Arrowhead, where she lives with perhaps one or two dozen other people who rarely leave the highly guarded location.
Now, Mike Rinder is adding more credence to that notion with what he says is an account by a man named Robert MacLean, who reportedly said he was hired as part of a security detail whose job it was to make sure Shelly didn’t escape from the CST compound. Rinder describes MacLean’s account to a mutual friend…
The guy proceeded to tell my friend that he had been employed by a private security company working the detail of “guarding Shelly Miscavige at the Arrowhead property.”
He claimed the company also provided armed security for executives of the church when traveling and at the Hemet property. He and the company he worked for were licensed to carry firearms. At the Arrowhead property, they carried semi-auto assault rifles and semi-auto side arms.
He stated the detail was stationed across the road from the Church property at Rim of the World in a rented cabin/house. He said, “I guarded Shelly — that Miscavige guy’s wife. For about six months I worked up there. She was there. Never had any contact with her, but we were told she was there and that she was the reason we were there.”
“Everyone hated that detail. 12 hour shifts, 7 days a week and you just sat there. Nothing would ever happen. A few vehicles would come and go throughout the week; the guard shack would alert us via radio. But it was really a boring assignment. But the pay was good; ya took the assignment because of the hours and the extra overtime.”
MacLean has already made the news. In 2003, he was an air marshal who blew the whistle on what he said were staffing cuts that were putting passenger safety at risk. Appearing in silhouette on MSNBC, MacLean said that the suits air marshals had to wear could give them away. The TSA fired him in 2006 after an investigation into his leaks.
Last year, however, after a seven-year legal battle, a court ruled that MacLean was protected under the federal Whistleblower Protection Act, and ordered that he be reinstated with back pay.
Rinder says MacLean told his friend that he was ready to go public with his story of working for Scientology, and Rinder tried to convince MacLean to tell his story to Vanity Fair. But after Zeman checked out MacLean’s credentials, Rinder says, MacLean stopped returning his calls. We’re going to be reaching out to MacLean to see if he’ll confirm Rinder’s account.
As Rinder points out, MacLean’s story puts into question the notion that Shelly Miscavige is living and working at the CST headquarters entirely of her own will.
It puts the lie to the church assertion that Shelly is somehow “doing what she wants” working for the church. The church hired armed PI’s and rented the house across the street from the entrance to CST Mile High property to watch for Shelly trying to escape (and perhaps someone arriving to try and break her out). The property is VERY well guarded already. The main gate has a security booth. There are cameras everywhere and razor wire fences. But still, Miscavige was so concerned about her somehow escaping his clutches that all his internal security precautions were backed up with hired armed security personnel to watch the watchers.
If he’s right, Rinder’s bombshell throws the LAPD’s visit with Shelly into serious question. But will MacLean back him up? Even Rinder admits that Scientology can be very persuasive about keeping its current and former employees quiet.
“Apparently the church persuaded him it was not in his best interests to talk to the media and tell what he knew about Shelly Miscavige being ‘disappeared’,” Rinder writes. “You can imagine why.”
UPDATE: We have had a text conversation with Robert MacLean.
He initially sent us this statement:
MacLean: I never witnessed nor do I have any knowledge of wrongdoing or criminal activity associated with current or former members or officials of the Church of Scientology. There is one item that is true: most ALL security work is extremely boring.
We then sent him this reply:
The Bunker: Thank you, Bob. Are you denying that you worked a security detail for Scientology, even if there was no criminality involved?
MacLean: Is the story about my employment history, or a person being held against her will?
We messaged him that we were hoping to talk on the telephone. Instead, he sent us another message as we continued a text conversation:
MacLean: I have absolutely no knowledge of Shelly Miscavige or her whereabouts. If she was at all in or near my presence, I was certainly oblivious to that fact.
The Bunker: Can you tell me the length of time that you provided security at or near the CST facility, and during which year?
MacLean: If this is about my employment, that is now up to the U.S. Supreme Court — where the government has dragged me into after I prevailed 10-0 in appeals court.
The Bunker: I’m asking about a private security detail, not your TSA dispute. And congratulations on that victory, by the way.
MacLean: That victory was ended when the U.S. Solicitor General appealed to the Supreme Court. If I can pick a fight with govt, I’d have no problem going after CoS.
The Bunker: Let me try it this way. Did you work for Talon executive services in a job for the Church of Scientology?
MacLean: Again, why is this about me and not a victim of crime that I have no knowledge about?
The Bunker: I don’t know that Shelly is a victim of crime. But it is interesting to me to know that Scientology hired an outside firm for security at its CST compound.
MacLean: To put things in perspective: corporations, and foreign and U.S. governments spend billions on private security. The “Swiss Guard” is a private security firm.
The Bunker: We already know that Scientology spends millions on security. That’s not the question. But outside security for the CST compound is unusual. So again, I’m wondering how long you worked there and which year it was.
We’re still waiting for a reply to that last message.
2nd UPDATE: MacLean also put an additional statement in the comments section at Rinder’s blog. We’re printing what he posted in its entirety…
Dear Mr. Mike Rinder,
My comment already addressed all of the pertinent facts. With all due respect sir, you are barking up the wrong tree in the wrong orchard. I really hope that you are not attempting to use my very public 10-year case with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) — which has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court — as a means to further an agenda regarding a your dispute. Your grievance should brought before the civil court system or prosecutors.
Questioning my courage is laughable considering my very publicized war exposing high-level government wrongdoing and violation of law. Do not anoint me as your pawn in this.
I wish all of you the best. This is my final comment — my plate is full…
Robert J. MacLean
It was pretty obvious to us that Rinder’s initial story had really nothing to do with MacLean’s experience at the TSA, and we’re not sure why he keeps bringing it up.
He is saying a lot without addressing the point — that he was heard talking about providing security for Scientology outside its CST compound, where he reportedly said he was told that Shelly Miscavige was being held.
We’ll continue to reach out to MacLean for further clarification.
A stunning view of Scientology’s Ideal Orgs — from the inside
We’re posting part one of what promises to be a dynamite new series of videos from Karen de la Carriere — interviews with Chris Shelton about his experience working at a Scientology “Ideal Org.”
And finally, a bizarre little story out of Israel, claiming that a couple of Scientologist ‘lecturers’ were kicked out of a business seminar after their association with Scientology was revealed. No names on the two culprits — we’d be interested to learn their identities.
Posted by Tony Ortega on February 7, 2014 at 09:40
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