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NBC ROCK CENTER LIVE BLOGGING: NARCONON ON THE HOT SEAT

Join us as we watch NBC’s Rock Center talk to two Scientology whistle blowers who are well known here in the Underground Bunker. The show begins at 10 pm Eastern.

Luke Catton and Eric Tenorio have not only come forward with damning allegations about the business practices that they saw while they each worked at multiple Scientology drug rehab facilities, but the former Narconon executives have also been releasing stunning documentation to back up their claims.

We’ll be live-blogging through the evening, and we hope you join us — Catton and Tenorio both may drop by to take part — but we wanted to start things off in our pre-show with a sure sign that Catton’s evidence is giving Scientology heartburn.

This morning, he let us know that he’s now the subject of his very own anonymous attack website.

Some day, maybe, we won’t be the only members of the press pointing out that Scientology retaliates against critics in the scummiest way possible — with anonymous websites that slander people it considers enemies. As anonymous attack sites go, Catton’s is pretty mild, but if he’s being attacked there, he’ll probably eventually show up on the sleazier ones the church secretly operates as well.

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This afternoon, Colin Henderson noted that the Catton attack site is mirrored at “free2believe.org,” which is actually registered to the church. In this case, Scientology’s retaliation machine, the Office of Special Affairs, didn’t even bother to cover its tracks.

Keep that in mind as you watch how much deference NBC gives the church’s statements tonight.

UPDATE: Luke has already posted a response to the attack site at his own blog.

Live-blogging will appear below soon. Set your Disqus to “Newest” so you can keep up with what’s being said as the show progresses.

————–

Posted by Tony Ortega on April 5, 2013 at 19:00

 

8:12 pm

Less than two hours to go now, and we sure have a great gang here already! Now, if the Mets could just score a run.
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9:20 pm

Forty minutes to go. Mole enchiladas devoured. Rum cake tasting good. Mets collapsing.
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9:32 pm

10Oreo
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9:54 pm

Hey, you West Coasters and other people who can’t see the broadcast — keep your eye on the live blog. We’re going to be typing up the transcript at a VERY FAST RATE so you can follow along with the show.
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10:03 pm

OK, first up, a story on adult ADHD. Stand down, crowd, stand down!
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10:17 pm

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Hey, Brian Williams. Luke Catton reached out to me a hell of a long time before your August show, and Eric Tenorio first came out on Reaching for the Tipping Point Forum.

But go ahead, tell people they’re only speaking out because of your reporting if it makes you feel better.
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10:34 pm

Here we go!
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10:35 pm

HARRY SMITH: If you’re about to send one of your loved ones to Narconon Arrowhead, should you be concerned for their safety?

LUCAS CATTON: Absolutely. I would be concerned. I– I would– I personally would never recommend to anybody that they should send their loved one to Narconon.

This is Lucas Catton, the former president of Narconon Arrowhead, a drug rehabilitation center located in a remote area of Oklahoma.

Last year we reported on three young adults who died there within nine months.
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10:36 pm

SHIRLEY GILLIAM: It seems like it was just yesterday…

Shirley Gilliam’s son, Gabriel, died at Narconon in October, 2011. The cause of death could not be determined.

HARRY SMITH: Did you feel like they were completely forthcoming with you on the phone in terms of who they were and what their–

SHIRLEY GILLIAM: No.

HARRY SMITH: –what their procedures were?

SHIRLEY GILLIAM: No.

Gilliam says she is filled with sorrow and regret about sending Gabriel to Narconon.

SHIRLEY GILLIAM: I just wished that I had not taken him there. I wish that with everything inside me.
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10:37 pm

Catton and his former colleague, Eric Tenorio — both executives who cut ties with Narconon three years ago — say though no one died on their watch, they feel compelled to speak out about what they say are the program’s failings.

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HARRY SMITH: We did this story last summer of three different young people who died at Arrowhead. Did you see the story?

ERIC TENORIO: I did. And I felt terrible about it. It coulda been prevented. Absolutely, every single one of those deaths. If those families
would’ve gotten the truth about what they were getting into they would have absolutely not have sent their families there, and I apologize, you know.

And what were they getting into? Catton and Tenorio say a crash course in Scientology.

Patients are called “students.” And they study a series of eight books based on the writings of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

(L. Ron Hubbard film clip) “They can confront their own problems and solve their own problems and so bring themselves up by their own bootstraps.”

Narconon promotes itself as a non-medical rehabilitation program. Its methods include five hours a day in a sauna for thirty straight days and mega-doses of the vitamin Niacin, all part of a larger system of life skills training that Narconon says has helped tens of thousands lead drug-free lives.
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10:38 pm

LUCAS CATTON: You were taught in Hubbard’s language, that you are the expert in mental health.

This is Lucas Catton as a young man. He arrived at Narconon as a patient in 1998 when he was 20 years old. His parents were concerned he was drinking too much.

He got a job at Narconno as a counselor in 2000, and quickly worked his way up to president.

At the time, and for years afterwards, he believed the program was helpful and gave this 2009 testimonial to the Church of Scientology.

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Lucas Catton (2009 testimonial): There is not a more comprehensive rehabilitation program available than Narconon.
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10:38 pm

HARRY SMITH: In this process, while you were at Narconon, did you become a Scientologist?

LUCAS CATTON: I did. I came a full fledged scientologist. Absolutely. I dedicated all of my time, life, money; everything was dedicated toward the purpose of advancing Scientology’s aims. That is what you’re doing at Narconon, is you’re advancing the aims of Scientology.

HARRY SMITH: From your perspective and you were the President of the Narconon Arrowhead, does the Church of Scientology use Narconon as a way to recruit new members?

LUCAS CATTON: Absolutely it does.
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10:39 pm

The other main objective of Narconon, Catton says, was to pull in millions of dollars in revenue… The three-to-six-month program, costs ,000 per patient.

LUCAS CATTON: So therefore you’re willing to either lie to them or misrepresent who you are or– take people who aren’t really qualified; anything to bring in the money to keep the facility going, week after week after week.

In a statement to NBC News, the Church of Scientology said the cost of Narconon is comparable to other addiction treatment programs.

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Eric Tenorio also came to Narconon as a patient in 1996.

Upon completing the program he, like Catton, got hired on as staff. He, too, became a Scientologist and gave this 2008 testimonial to the church.

Tenorio (2008 testimonial): There’s no way that I would have got to the point where I am right now if it wasn’t for the Narconon program.
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10:39 pm

He worked his way up the ladder at Arrowhead, and in 2004, took a position as executive director at Narconon’s Freedom Center in Michigan.

HARRY SMITH: If you’re on the staff at Narconon beyond the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard, is there any instruction whatsoever– in terms of– of your dealing with people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol?

ERIC TENORIO: None.

HARRY SMITH: Zero?

ERIC TENORIO: Zero.
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10:40 pm

Tenorio showed us official-looking certificates he received as a quote unquote certified alcohol and drug counselor in Michigan. They came from an organization called the PITA Group, run by a Narconon Arrowhead contractor.

HARRY SMITH: That’s the kinda thing you got–

ERIC TENORIO: That’s– that’s– yeah. It’s got a nice seal on it to make it look very official. You stick it on your wall and– any unsuspecting public will h– will be none the wiser.

HARRY SMITH: What did you do to– to– to get this?

ERIC TENORIO: Wrote ’em a check.

HARRY SMITH: That’s it?

ERIC TENORIO: That’s it.

HARRY SMITH: No course?

ERIC TENORIO: No course. No tests. No oversight.

HARRY SMITH: No curriculum?

ERIC TENORIO: No nothing.

HARRY SMITH: It feels like fraud.

ERIC TENORIO: It is fraud. It’s absolutely fraud.
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10:41 pm

The PITA Group denies Tenorio’s assertions and says it requires 20 hours of training and two years of experience to obtain a certificate.

HARRY SMITH: Do you blame Narconon for your daughter’s death?

ROBERT MURPHY: Absolutely.

Robert Murphy’s daughter Stacy died of an overdose inside Narconon Arrowhead last July. He and the families of the other deceased have sued

Narconon. The program denied wrongdoing in any of the deaths.

Murphy says the advertized success rate of 75 percent is what drew them to Narconon.

HARRY SMITH: You’re thinking, “This might be the answer?”

ROBERT MURPHY: Oh yeah. Because they tout such high– success rates.
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10:41 pm

Tenorio and Catton say that number is a complete fabrication.

LUCAS CATTON: And it’s well-known, internally, that– that they cannot produce that success rate.

HARRY SMITH: They know inside?

LUCAS CATTON: Absolutely they know.

Narconon says it stands by its statistics.

Catton stepped down as president in 2004 but stayed close to the program. For the next five years he worked as a contractor selling Narconon to desperate relatives of drug addicts from around the country… All looking for help on the Internet, with no indication the sites they werviewing might lead them to Narconon.
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10:42 pm

LUCAS CATTON: I had a series of websites that were non-branded. Like, generic websites for people to look for drug treatment and rehab help.

HARRY SMITH: So if I went on the internet looking for drug treatment I’d land on one of your sites?

LUCAS CATTON: Land on one of my sites, pick up the phone, call. Either myself or somebody who I employed would answer the phone or respond to your e-mail. And start taking down information, asking pertinent questions, listening for a few key things. Whether or not you had money, whether or not you had some type of insurance. They really teach you to listen for– and even use the term, “Listen for the money.”

HARRY SMITH: Listen for the money?

LUCAS CATTON: Listen for the money.

Catton says he referred those who could afford it Narconon. The rest he says he referred elsewhere. He made a 10 percent commission, or ,000, on every person who went to a Narconon facility.
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10:43 pm

HARRY SMITH: Did you make pretty good money doing this?

LUCAS CATTON: I did. Yeah, I used to.

HARRY SMITH: In a given year, how much?

LUCAS CATTON: Easily 0,000, 0,000.

HARRY SMITH: Do you think Narconon preys on vulnerable people?

LUCAS CATTON: I absolutely believe Narconon preys on vulnerable people. That’s part of the sales techniques. One of the techniques that they do is called, “finding your ruin.” And they teach people who are on the phone with families, find out what are the biggest problems in their lives. What is the thing that they’re most afraid of is gonna happen? And you hit that over and over and over again until they break down and go, “Oh my gosh, we have to do something.” And you’re there to tell ’em, “Well, we have the answer.”
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10:44 pm

“And where are the regulators?” you ask. Catton says as president of Narconon Arrowhead, he helped Narconon take advantage of loopholes in Oklahoma state law to avoid any kind of meaningful regulation by the state.

HARRY SMITH: Does the state have a kind of a hands-off policy when it comes to– comes to that facility?

LUCAS CATTON: Absolutely, they have a hands-off policy. They don’t know how to handle it.// 04;08;14 The state, unfortunately, has not done their job.

The state regulatory agency says Narconon Arrowhead is currently certified to provide non-medical detoxification services, and that an investigation into the deaths is ongoing.

Catton says he started to question Narconon and Scientology after he began to look into unfavorable reports about the church in 2010. He says when he started to question church authorities he was excommunicated.
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10:44 pm

Tenorio stopped working for Narconon in 2010 after tiring of what he calls fraud and poor management. And leaving Narconon essentially ended his connection with the church.

Both men say they are ashamed of their involvement with Narconon and Scientology.

ERIC TENORIO: Well, it’s definitely embarrassing. You know, I don’t– I don’t go around tellin’ people that I meet that, “Oh, yeah, I used to be in a cult.” You know? I–

HARRY SMITH: Used to be in a cult?

ERIC TENORIO: Yeah, ‘Cause I don’t like to say, “Yeah, I– you know, I wasted this time doing this activity that I thought was right, when in actual fact it’s just pseudo-science. Or, you know, it’s this guy sellin’ snake oil.”
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10:45 pm

Narconon and Church of Scientology officials declined our request for on-camera interviews. But in statements both organizations said that Narconon is not a source of recruitment for the church, and said only a very small percentage of patients join Scientology.

In an email to NBC News, Narconon Arrowhead CEO Gary Smith said “Of Narconon Arrowhead’s current staff, approximately 25 percent are Scientologists.”

He said “Narconon’s chief concern is to salvage people from the ravages of drug addiction” …and “nothing in the procedures puts money before helping the person who is suffering…”

CEO Smith also said Catton has ties to anti-Scientology activists.
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10:46 pm

HARRY SMITH: We’ll be in communication with Narconon. And the first thing we’re gonna hear: You guys are discredited. You’re out to destroy Narconon. You’re not to be trusted.

LUCAS CATTON: Right.

HARRY SMITH: To which you would say what?

LUCAS CATTON: For me, personally, I think it’s quite the opposite. Why would I incriminate myself? Why would I give up my certifications? Why would I do all these things? It’s purely so that the truth can come out, so that people can stop hurting, so that people can stop dying, and so that there can be full transparency.

ERIC TENORIO: They go to great lengths at quieting people. They’re not gonna do that with me. I’m gonna tell the truth and there’s nothin’ they can say or do to– to stop that.
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10:46 pm

Whew, my fingers are smokin’

 

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