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The Scientology spy who came in from the cold: Len Zinberg, who apologized to Paulette Cooper


One of the things that made The Unbreakable Miss Lovely more than Paulette Cooper’s account of her years being harassed by Scientology were some of the other people who provided their own narratives of those events. And none of them provided quite so much impact as Len Zinberg.

While we were researching and writing the book, Zinberg suddenly showed up, emailing Paulette with an apology he said was a long time coming. He explained that in the early 1970s, he had been a Guardian’s Office volunteer, a young Scientologist who helped the church with its spy missions. And some of his assignments involved following or otherwise targeting Paulette.

Since leaving Scientology, he had begun to come to grips with what he’d done and then, in 2013, he had spotted an interview of Paulette by Mark Bunker. At that point, he could no longer remain silent, and he reached out to her. He then became a willing participant in our book project, and he’s been keeping quiet for almost two years now, looking forward to telling his story to you once the book was out.

So here, now, is the story of Len Zinberg. One of the very few Scientologists who has ever reached out to Paulette Cooper to apologize for what she endured.


My name is Len Zinberg, and in 1969 I was 22 years old when my cousin Paul introduced me to Scientology with his childhood friend, Rick Alexander.

But first, let me back up a bit. I had grown up in Brooklyn in a typical Jewish home, but my non-observant parents had sent me to a Yeshiva, a religious school, hoping I’d get a better education. After I graduated, in the summer of 1961 my parents sent me to Israel.

Three things stand out from that experience. I kissed a girl for the first time, I got stung by a bee, and I visited a place in Jerusalem called Yad Vashem, which had opened eight years earlier as Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The indelibility of the horror I saw in that building shocked my 13-year-old soul. I couldn’t understand how human beings could create that kind of unimaginable cruelty. But just ten years later, I had to confront a shocking realization of just how easy it was to fall into that kind of cruelty myself.

In 1969, I was like every other nonconformist of my generation. I had hitchhiked to Alaska, got busted in Denver, and returned to New York to work at a bookstore and protest the Vietnam War. Then, in April, my cousin introduced me to Alexander, who had come from a place called Saint Hill, in England. Rick had piercing eyes, listened without interrupting, and was soft spoken. He was “OT 6,” which I understood was an advanced form of existence. Minty, his wife, was also “OT.” They had evolved to a new state, and I wanted to get there too. So I read the books, took the courses, and believed I was on the “Bridge to Total Freedom.”

By early 1970, I had many new friends, genuinely nice people who, like me, believed that Scientology held the answers. By now, I’d joined staff at the New York Org and I was becoming more and more dedicated to the Aims of Scientology. I’d committed to memory parts of the Policy Letter “Keeping Scientology Working,” having read it so many times. We were working for a noble cause, freeing the planet, and nothing could be allowed to interfere with such a worthy goal.

And soon, I began protecting that goal by volunteering to do tasks for Scientology’s spy wing, the Guardian’s Office.

My father worked for the Internal Revenue Service, and he tried to explain the concept of “inurement” to me, that Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard had personally benefited from and had control of church monies. I didn’t believe a word of it because I knew, as a Scientologist, that the IRS was a “suppressive” organization.

Tax court rulings were published by the IRS in monthly summaries, marked “Official Use Only.” I would go through my father’s briefcase and when I found a mention of Scientology in these reports I’d steal them and take them to someone at the New York Guardian’s Office.

By this time, I was chaplain at the Org, and my immediate senior was an easygoing guy named Jerry Hines. He was a naturally friendly person and easy to talk to. My job was to conduct Sunday Service events, which consisted of reading the Creed of a Scientologist and the Aims of Scientology, then put on a guest speaker and do some group processing. Those were good days. I believed the church was engaged in a noble enterprise, a worthy struggle, and I was on the right side of that struggle.

My own covert involvement deepened after purloining my father’s IRS documents. In late 1971, I had moved in with Sylvia, another GO volunteer, whom I had fallen in love with. She lived in Mill Basin, Brooklyn, and the GO found a way to make use of both of us.

An ad had been placed in the Village Voice, supposedly by a researcher who was critical of Scientology looking for information about the church. Sylvia’s home telephone number was given as the contact. I was told not to “sound like a Scientologist” when I answered the phone.

The two people targeted by this operation were Paulette Cooper and Robert Kaufman. I believe they both responded, and were told that the person who placed the ad wasn’t home, but if they could give us a number and best time for a call back, we’d relay that information. Using Sylvia’s number was designed to give the cult deniability, and Sylvia and I were doing “the greatest good for the greatest number of dynamics.”

Later, Sylvia was told to go to the dance studio where Kaufman played piano and flirt with him in order to get information. These operations were run on a multi-channel basis to ensure their success, so that if one attempt at infiltration failed, another might succeed. Scientology was relentless and unstoppable.

The Guardian’s Office subjected Paulette Cooper to surveillance in shifts. There was a coffee shop on the west side of 2nd Avenue that afforded a clear view of the entrance of The Churchill building where she lived at the time — a high-rise apartment complex with a semi-circular driveway. Kathy Savas showed me Paulette’s picture from a book jacket, but explained that she didn’t look “that good,” and actually looked more like a “witch.” The many hours I spent surveilling The Churchill yielded no results, not for lack of determination on my part. Paulette simply didn’t emerge while I was watching.

I was now a participant in a project, devised and executed by the Church of Scientology, whose aim was to destroy Paulette, a woman who had done me no harm and bore me no malice.

On another occasion, I was enlisted by Kathy Savas of the NY Guardian’s Office to drop off papers at the midtown office of Paulette’s father. They were photocopies of pages from Paulette’s teenage diary, with embarrassing passages about her parents, and about sex. It was hoped that by having her father read them, Paulette would be sufficiently humiliated or, in Scientology terms, “caved in” so that she would cease her “attacks.”

Kathy told me to dress like a “street person” and get in and out of Ted Cooper’s office quickly. She suggested that I mispronounce his name as I dropped the papers off with his receptionist and then leave, fast. I took the stairs back down to the street.

Thinking back, I have to wonder, how far would I have gone for the Guardian’s Office? Would I have committed bodily harm? Today, I cannot say with certainty.

Compounding matters, Kathy Savas had told me that Paulette had falsely claimed to be a Holocaust survivor, and I believed her. I did not know then that Paulette was a survivor who had lost both of her parents at Auschwitz. Thinking of my role in her persecution and suffering, I am reduced to tears. God help me, my behavior paralleled that of the Nazis.

I, who had sobbed and wept at Yad Vashem a scant 10 years earlier amid the piles of shoes and eyeglasses of those who had perished — I had to now ask myself that very question I asked at 13: How could people be so unimaginably cruel?

It was only very recently that I even began to come to grips with these questions.

I was involved in several other operations against Scientology’s “enemies.” As Tony described in his book, I helped break into Robert Kaufman’s apartment and searched it with several other people. Another time, the Office of Special Affairs, successor to the GO, created a phony organization called “Systems for the Assimilation of Youth,” which, as Charlie Batdorf explained to me, contained a “button” that had come up in surveys of Jewish people. Under the alias “Tom Cook,” I rented a room in an SRO hotel off of 7th Avenue for the fake association to receive mail. The operation involved mailing hundreds and hundreds of letters and I was instructed to wear rubber gloves when handling the sheets of paper and envelopes. Batdorf explained to me that fingerprints could be lifted from paper. Many of the letters that were sent were addressed to congressmen and senators.

In the Wollersheim trial, I testified on behalf of the cult. Obviously, my testimony did not affect the outcome, for which I am very thankful.

One of the last things I did for OSA, in 1987 or 1988, concerned some Freezone people in Ithaca, New York. OSA believed they had the secret NOTs materials and wanted to find out if that was true. I would commute to Ithaca on weekends and paid $1,000 to do a course with the Freezoners. The money came out of the account of a law firm hired by Scientology. I never did find out about the NOTs materials, and I’m glad. They seemed like nice people.

Although I left Scientology by 1990, the process of my disentanglement continues to this day, almost a quarter century later.

And in 2013, I watched a short interview of Paulette Cooper by Mark Bunker and something, or everything, changed.

I do not know whether the anti-Semitism of Scientology played a part in its persecution of Paulette, but I cannot ignore the references, such as Hubbard’s assertion that Scientology’s enemies consisted of 12 men, world bankers. More damning is the Holocaust denial in Scientology ascribing the horror of the Holocaust to the field of psychiatry. Scientology is seemingly in a perpetual state of war with history and truth.

I believe I’ve learned a few things. First, that fear leads to paralysis, and paralysis leads to acquiescence. Acquiescence to evil is evil. Never surrender your moral compass. Ever.

Getting involved with Scientology was the biggest mistake of my life. But it is silence about Scientology that is the real crime. Redemption is possible.

— Len Zinberg


We didn’t get a chance to include photos in our book, so we’ve posted them at a dedicated page. Reader Sookie put together an index and we’re hosting it here on the website. Copies of the paperback version of ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely’ are on sale at Amazon. The Kindle edition is also available, and shipping instantly.

Our upcoming appearances (and check out the interactive map to our ongoing tour)…

June 20: Chicago (with Christian Stolte) The Annoyance Theater, 5pm: This event is SOLD OUT.

June 22: Toronto (with Paulette Cooper) Toronto Public Library, 40 Orchard View Blvd, 7:30 pm, sponsored by the Centre for Inquiry-Canada

June 23: Toronto (with Paulette Cooper) The “Getting Clear” conference

June 28: Clearwater, Florida (with Paulette Cooper) Clearwater Public Library, 2 pm, sponsored by Center for Inquiry-Tampa Bay

July 12: Washington DC, Center for Inquiry (with Paulette Cooper)

July 14: Hartford, MARK TWAIN HOUSE (with Tom Tomorrow)

July 17: Denver, The Secular Hub, 7 pm (with Chris Shelton)

July 20: Dallas, Times Ten Cellar, 7 pm (with Robert Wilonsky)

July 22: Houston

July 24: San Antonio

July 25: Austin

July 29: Paris (with Jonny Jacobsen)

August 4: London (with John Sweeney)

August 24: Boston

September 16: Arizona State University


Posted by Tony Ortega on June 15, 2015 at 07:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of LA attorney and former church member Vance Woodward

UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists

GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice

SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer
The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill
The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield


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