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The Dreaded “Joburg Sec Check”: Scientology Interrogations, Explained!

InterrogationRoomClaire Headley is taking us on our journey to train as Scientologists. She and her husband Marc were Sea Org workers who escaped from Scientology’s International Base in 2005. She spent years working with Scientology’s “tech,” and was trusted to oversee the auditing of Tom Cruise. Go here to see the first part in this series.

Claire, you’ve been helping us see how much of Scientology is all about indoctrination and control as church members move up the “Bridge to Total Freedom.” We’ve now reached something called “Expanded Grade 2,” and there’s more repetition — once again we’ll be drilled on “overts and withholds” (moral transgressions, and making them worse by trying to keep them hidden). But for many folks, this is also when they first encounter the dreaded “security check” or “sec check.” In other words, Scientology’s interrogation culture now kicks into high gear.

CLAIRE: That’s right, and it includes (but isn’t limited to) what is known as the “toughest” sec check in Scientology, the “Joburg.” It was developed in Johannesburg for the most hardened of criminals.

The ability gained here on Grade 2 is “Relief from the hostilities and sufferings of life.” And some of the subjects covered in this level are missed withhold manifestations, the murder routine, animal reactions, and dirty needles.

THE BUNKER: Murder routine? What the hell is that?

Up_The_BridgeCLAIRE: I thought you might be curious about that.


Let’s say you’re sec checking someone (interrogating them), and they refuse to answer a question. The murder routine is a procedure designed to get an answer out of someone. The idea is to ask questions that would most likely be much worse than whatever it is the subject is holding back.

So you might say to the person, “Well, did you murder someone?” “Did you hurt someone?” “Did you do something illegal?”

On and on. Until finally the subject blurts out, “No! I didn’t murder anyone. I — ” and then they spill what they’ve been holding back.

THE BUNKER: Isn’t this church fun? But hey, take us back to the beginning. Going into Grade 2, what did you think sec checks were like, and how was your first one different than you expected?

CLAIRE: Well, keep in mind, my first sec check was at age 7 when I was in the Cadet Org, so in many respects I was already pre-conditioned to this.

THE BUNKER: Ah yes, the children’s sec check, dreamed up by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard in 1961, for kids as young as six years old. No wonder Katie grabbed Suri and ran.

CLAIRE: Even though I’d been through that and had some idea what to expect, as I began Grade 2 and my first in-depth sec check, I remember feeling fearful and apprehensive. At this point, you do the Joburg Sec Check and then custom sec checks tailored to specific areas where you are suspected of having overts and withholds.

THE BUNKER: Let’s take a look at some sample questions from the Joburg.

6. Have you ever blackmailed anybody?
16. Have you ever told lies in Court?
20. Have you ever peddled Dope?
23. Have you ever raped anyone?
24. Have you ever been involved in an abortion?
27. Have you ever practised Homosexuality?
28. Have you ever had intercourse with a member of your family?
32. Have you ever slept with a member of a race of another colour?
37. Have you ever done any illicit Diamond buying?
38. Have you ever betrayed anyone for money?
43. Have you ever been a spy for an Organization?
44. Have you ever had anything to do with Communism or been a Communist?
45. Have you ever been a newspaper reporter?
46. Have you ever had intercourse while under the influence of drugs?
52. Have you ever had anything to do with a baby farm?
53. Have you ever been a spy for the Police?
57. Have you ever done anything your Mother would be ashamed to find out?
78. Do you feel Communism has some good points?
81. Do you know any Communist personally?
82. Have you ever injured Dianetics or Scientology?
86. Have you ever had unkind thoughts about LRH?
88. Have you ever had any unkind thoughts about Mary Sue?
94. Have you ever used Dianetics or Scientology to force sex upon someone?
95. Do you know of any plans to injure a Scientology Organization?
96. Are you upset about this Security Check?

CLAIRE: In retrospect, it really seems this is all about control. In other words, it makes you feel there is nothing you can hide or keep to yourself. You’ve now revealed your inner secrets and those will remain on file forever.

I didn’t really understand why I needed to be asked all those questions.

THE BUNKER: What happens when you admit to something during the sec check?

CLAIRE: For the sake of an example, let’s say the answer to one of the questions is “I stole an apple.”

The next questions will be: When was it? Where was it? Is that all of the overt? Have you justified the overt?

Over and over again until you have no more answers. Then, you’ll be asked, Who missed it? What did he or she do to make you wonder whether or not they know? Those two questions are asked over and over again until no more answers.

It you have a floating needle you’re done. If not, you’ll be asked: Is there an earlier similar time you committed an overt? And you’re back at it.

And then when you’re done with all that, the original question will be checked again until you have a floating needle on it.

THE BUNKER: So let us make sure we’re understanding you. What you seem to be saying is that the questions of the Joburg are just the beginning. If the needle reacts to any of the questions, then it could have you chasing down whatever it is the interrogator thinks is there, even if it means tracking down a transgression in a past life (an “earlier similar”)?

CLAIRE: Yes, you are understanding this correctly. And the Joburg is just one sec check that is done on Grade 2. There can be a number of others added, as programmed by your case supervisor.

For example, someone might go through and make a list of every job you ever held, and then ask tailored questions to find overts you may have committed on those different jobs.

Or perhaps you have an “extensive 2D history” — meaning sexual history — you’ll get asked a boat load of sec check questions oriented to your crimes and transgressions in that area.

THE BUNKER: And can you give us some indication of how the Joburg questions are asked? Is it aggressive?

CLAIRE: Well, in my experience, that often depends on the circumstances. On Grade 2, it’s a slightly milder approach than a sec check for purely investigative purposes. After a sec check session on Grade 2, you are given the “forgiveness statement,” which was something along the lines of “By the power vested in me by the Church of Scientology, you are hereby forgiven for all overts you have fully and truthfully disclosed…”

That’s supposed to mean that information you divulged will not be used against you. However, that statement is rarely made in practice. (I did hundreds of hours of sec checking — both giving and receiving — and I think in all that time, I was instructed to give that statement probably four times.)

In terms of how the questions are asked, you’ve reminded me of “sec checker beingness” defined by Hubbard as:

“A Sec Checker is a detective. He is there to FIND OUT.

“Any theetie-weetie attitude or a coy ‘You don’t have any withholds do you?’ approach are straight routes to failure as a Sec Checker.

“The good Sec Checker is marked by his thoroughness, his willingness to pry, his swinish suspicion. He’s a believer in the meter and little else when he is on the trail of a pc’s withhold.”

THE BUNKER: In other words, it’s not a sec check if it isn’t brutal as all hell. Last week, Claire, we said Grade 1 would cost about $20,000.

CLAIRE: Factoring in the sec checking, I’d estimate Expanded Grade 2 would come in at about $30,000.

THE BUNKER: One more question: Although you got sec-checked at 7, it sounds like for most folks this is their first sec check experience, at Expanded Grade 2. But do sec checks then become recurring in a typical Scientologist’s career?

CLAIRE: Yes, this would be most people’s first experience with sec checking. And it will be one of many. Any time they get in trouble of any kind — admit to wanting to leave, or don’t desire further auditing, just to name a couple — you will be sec checked.

There’s also a round of sec checking one has to do before being allowed on the Operating Thetan levels. And then before every OT level, most people will get another round of sec checks. And then on OT VII, you’ll be getting sec-checked every six months.

In my years as a Scientologist, I had much more sec checking than any other one particular style of auditing, upper levels included.

THE BUNKER: And you were charged for every hour of it. Incredible.


COST SO FAR: $88,197


Eddie Frencher Has a New Sweetheart!

Look who went public with his new romance! It’s Eddie Frencher, former boyfriend of Tom Cruise’s daughter Bella. One of our tipsters alerted us that yesterday, Eddie proclaimed that he’s now in a relationship with Delphi grad and fellow Scientologist Robin Anderson.



If you remember, news that Frencher was dating Bella Cruise broke in January 2012. That summer, they were living together in downtown Los Angeles, but then we broke the news that Eddie was joining the Sea Org. Bella joined her father on his film shoot in England, and Eddie soon washed out of the Sea Org and joined Bella in the UK for a short time. We had even heard that they were engaged. But earlier this year, it became obvious that they’d grown apart. Bella is going to art school in London, we hear.

Well, we wish the best of luck to Eddie and his new gal. They sure look happy!


Bodhi Elfman, Comedian

Thanks to another tipster for pointing out the comedic stylings of Jenna Elfman’s husband.


“JoJo Zawawi,” by the way, goes way back to Scientology’s early days — she was on the yacht Apollo when L. Ron Hubbard was running the church from its helm in the early 1970s. More recently, she’s become known as Scientology’s “Facebook Nazi” for leading purges of undesirables from the friends lists of church members in good standing. But what a sense of humor!


Posted by Tony Ortega on August 27, 2013 at 07:00

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