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When Jesse Prince sec-checked David Miscavige: A Scientology interrogation for the ages

Jesse_PrinceWe recently saw Jesse Prince in Toronto, and we were struck by how healthy he looked. If you’ve followed his blog, you know that the former high-ranking Scientology executive struggled through cancer treatments which at one point had nearly destroyed his spine. But now, he’s looking great, and he’s back on the scene. He sat down with frequent contributor Jeffrey Augustine recently to talk about his days working at Scientology’s secretive international headquarters. We asked Jeff for a synopsis, and he sent us this…

Jesse Prince was in the Church of Scientology from 1976 to 1992. After extensive training at Scientology’s “Flag” spiritual headquarters in Cleawater, Florida, Jesse became a “Class IX” auditor. Jesse was then ordered by L. Ron Hubbard to report to Scientology’s secretive international management headquarters near Hemet, California, Gold Base, to serve as the staff auditor. In this capacity Jesse became auditor to the man who would take over for Hubbard, David Miscavige.

In this interview, Jesse recounts being ordered by Hubbard to do a “sec check” — a security check, or intense interrogation — on Miscavige. Hubbard also had another rising young executive, Pat Broeker, sec checked. Did Hubbard doom himself when he ordered Miscavige and Broeker sec checked?

Jesse also discusses the rise of the Freezone (people who use Scientology techniques outside the official church) in the early 1980s, and the fall of David Mayo, the church’s top Tech expert, second only to Hubbard himself. Additionally, Hubbard’s hatred of the 1980s Freezone groups and his hyper-surveillance and infiltration of them is described.

Hubbard’s legal problems and his need for vast sums of cash are described. Hubbard’s physical and mental decline is discussed within the context of the improvisational and often sloppy efforts of the church to work around the threats to Hubbard posed by the IRS, the US Department of Justice, and various lawsuits. Two challenges of the mid-1980s — Lawrence Wollersheim’s lawsuit in Los Angeles and the challenge by L. Ron Hubbard Jr. to take over his father’s estate — are mentioned as particularly large threats. Scientology’s infiltration of the IRS and the US Department of Justice is also examined.


Jesse rose in the ranks at Gold to become Deputy Inspector General, External of the Religious Technology Center, Scientology’s nominally controlling entity, and reported to the then Inspector General RTC, Vicki Aznaran. RTC was charged with oversight for enforcing trademarks, licensing, and royalty payments. Jesse walked out of Gold Base in 1992 and later served as an expert witness against the church in various court cases.

— Jeffrey Augustine



DCookBookDebbie Cook publishes a book

We’ll try once again to explain briefly the backstory on Debbie Cook: She was a longtime, well-known executive in Scientology who left her job and then wrote a stunning message about what was troubling her about the leadership of David Miscavige and the direction her church was heading in. That message famously went out as 2012 was dawning. For that act of complaining about Miscavige (with the use of quotes by L. Ron Hubbard), Cook was sued by Scientology, which said she was in violation of a draconian agreement she had signed when she quit the Sea Org. But then, in a San Antonio courtroom that February, facing huge liabilities that could have potentially added up to millions of dollars and in front of a judge whose leanings on the matter were completely unknown, Cook gave testimony about her treatment in Scientology’s prison for executives, the “Hole,” that was utterly devastating. Press attention to that testimony was so intense, Scientology then quickly surrendered and paid Cook a large undisclosed sum to end the lawsuit the church itself had brought. (Some critics complained that Cook took the settlement rather than somehow continued the lawsuit, apparently unaware that it was Scientology, not Cook, who had sued.)

As part of that large settlement, Cook also apparently agreed not to talk about Scientology any more, and she also agreed to leave the country for three years. We concluded that after watching Cook and her husband, Wayne Baumgarten, occasionally post photos to the Internet from places like the Caribbean and Mexico. Now, we hear, their three-year exile is over and they’re back in the US, but Cook still isn’t talking, which we learned when we made a request for comment with her attorney, Ray Jeffrey.

But then we noticed that under her married name, Debbie Baumgarten, she recently self-published a book with the lengthy title, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue and Chronic Illness: Navigating through the confusion and deception isolating the truly effective, science-based treatments to get the real solutions to recover your health and take back your life!

If you remember our coverage of the lawsuit in 2012, you’ll recall there was testimony about her ill health. We also remember that Cook’s time abroad seemed to restore her vitality, and we assume that’s led her to write this new work.

We sure wish Debbie would talk about Scientology, but short of that, here’s a way to learn what she’s been up to. And maybe, if you’re also suffering, some suggestions for how to feel better.

Also, speaking of writing by former church members, Lori Hodgson has a new posting at her blog about her disconnected children, Jessica and Jeremy.


CruiseShroudArtist trolls Cruise, press goes nuts

We really didn’t want to write anything about the stunt by artist Daniel Edwards to troll Tom Cruise with his “shroud” silliness. We can’t believe some people actually thought this had something to do with the Church of Scientology. It turns out that Edwards’ PR man on this stunt, Corey Allen, happened to go to high school with Underground Bunker friend Colin Henderson, and Colin sent our questions to Allen and the artist, who each claimed to be on the road and mostly unavailable. (Sure.) Asked about the shroud, Allen replied, “It’s part of what the artist does conceptually with all of his works. It’s more of a current topic approach and commentary on society as a whole and not specifically set against Scientology.”

Yeah, whatever. We didn’t get an answer, however, when we pointed out that Tom Cruise first got into Scientology, thanks to Mimi Rogers, in 1986, which was 29 years ago. (They were married on Dianetics Day – May 9 – in 1987.) We wondered where Edwards got the idea that Cruise was somehow celebrating only 25 years in the church.

Details, details.


Addendum to our interview in Salon

With not a great connection on our phone from London, we still managed to have a fun interview with Salon writer Scott Timberg, who did his best to scribble notes and keep up. But we wanted to give you a better sense of one of the answers we gave him — about the development of Scientology’s relationship with the press over time.

We told him that Scientology has had an interesting history of dealing with the press. In the 1980s and 1990s, spokesman Heber Jentzsch could be combative, but in general he had good relationships with reporters and was known for taking phone calls and being willing to appear on television. He was relegated to a more subservient role in the late 1990s as Mike Rinder became the media point man. Rinder also was savvy and would sit for lengthy interviews, even if he ended up giving answers that were pure church spin (as can be seen in footage used in Alex Gibney’s film, Going Clear).

But then, in the mid-2000s, Scientology leader David Miscavige took a new approach to the press. Rinder and Jentzsch had both been banished to “the Hole,” and spokesman duties fell to the young and brash Tommy Davis, who was much more confrontational. From about 2006 to 2011, Scientology’s strategy was to be very aggressive with the media, and it backfired in a very entertaining way. (Davis is still a beloved figure for many because of his spectacular fails.)

Since then, we explained to Timberg, Scientology has pulled in the drawbridge. It has no one it can put on camera, and it won’t even answer phone calls. Requests for comment may result in an email from Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw or, on occasion, a message from attorney Gary Soter. Pouw’s responses have been getting increasingly unhinged — she recently referred to a police report of Scientology spy activity as “provable bullshit” — and we’ve long suspected that her name is simply being attached to messages actually written by Miscavige himself.

Scientology now has a disastrous approach to the press, but that’s a pretty good reflection of the overall health of the organization.



We’ve been so busy traveling all over the place for our book tour, we failed to keep a close watch on our comment counter here at the Bunker. So we’re a little belated in telling you that some time in the last couple of weeks, we reached a milestone.

Yes, thanks to you, our amazing commenting community, the Underground Bunker has blown past a million comments.

As of 2 am Eastern time, the Bunker had collected 1,012,913 comments since this website came to life on September 28, 2012. For a single-subject website that generally posts only once a day, we figure that’s not too shabby.

We get about 20,000 unique visitors a day here at the Bunker, and in the 1,038 days since the site began, we’ve put up 1,196 posts, for an average of 847 comments per post.

Hey, what do you say we keep this thing going?



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 a complete 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.

Tony Ortega’s upcoming appearances (and check out the interactive map to our ongoing tour)…

August 4: London, Conway Hall, 19:30, (with John Sweeney)

August 24: Boston, Boston Skeptics in the Pub, 7 pm (with Gregg Housh)

Sept 15: Barrett the Honors College, Arizona State University, ASU in Downtown Phoenix campus

Sept 23: Cleveland, Parma Heights Library, 7pm sponsored by Center for Inquiry – Northeast Ohio

Sept 24: Minneapolis

Sept 27: Portland

Sept 28: Seattle, Razzi’s Pizzeria, 7 pm, with Seattle Skeptics and Seattle Atheists

Sept 29: Vancouver, BC, Seven Dining Lounge, 7 pm

Oct 23: Sydney, Giant Dwarf Theatre (with Sen. Nick Xenophon)

Oct 26: Melbourne

Oct 28: Adelaide (with Sen. Nick Xenophon)

Oct 30: Perth

Past dates: Santa Barbara (5/16), Hollywood (5/17), Orange County (5/17), San Diego (5/20), San Francisco (5/22), New York (6/11), Chicago (6/20), Toronto (6/22), Clearwater (6/28), Washington DC (7/12), Hartford (7/14), Denver (7/17), Dallas (7/20), Houston (7/22), San Antonio (7/24), Austin (7/25), Paris (7/29)


Posted by Tony Ortega on August 1, 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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