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Document leak: When the FBI investigated Scientology’s bizarre New Mexico vault

TrementinaVaultHouse

 
We have a juicy document for you today, courtesy of our friend and dogged researcher, R.M. Seibert.

You knew that the FBI investigated and raided Scientology in 1977, and Lawrence Wright revealed in his 2011 New Yorker article that the FBI investigated Scientology for human trafficking in 2009-2010. But here’s what we didn’t know until now — the FBI also investigated Scientology in the late 1980s for the bizarre underground vault it was digging in the New Mexico desert.

We’ve written several times about the most secret of Scientology’s many secretive entities, the Church of Spiritual Technology (CST), which was formed in 1982, two years after Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard went into permanent hiding.

Despite being in seclusion, Hubbard was still fully in control of Scientology in 1982, and the formation of CST and the creation of its bizarre mission was all to Hubbard’s specifications. We learned this from Denise Brennan, who helped make that corporate restructuring happen. Denise told us, before her tragic death last year, that the idea for CST’s strange mission — to dig underground vaults for the storing of Hubbard’s “technology” against nuclear annihilation — actually was modeled after some passages in Hubbard’s new novel that was coming out then, Battlefield Earth.

Ever since, CST has dug vaults in various places, equipping them at incredible expense in order to preserve Hubbard’s words for the coming millennia. (Recently, Scientology itself gave us our best glimpse yet of the costs and materials that are involved.) There are four CST compounds in California, and three of them have vaults. We learned recently from Mike Rinder’s blog that the newest project, in Wyoming, has run into trouble and appears to have been shut down before it could get its vault into the ground.

But perhaps the most well known, and bizarre, of the vault projects is near Trementina, New Mexico. It’s drawn flyovers from news crews for years, including a recent one by the Daily Mail, which gave us the sharpest views of the place yet. John Sweeney tried to drive in to the property for his book, and he got a lot of attention for calling it Scientology’s “space alien cathedral.”

It isn’t that, but it’s not much less strange. Former CST employee Dylan Gill told us back in 2012 what the various features of the place are for. There’s the vault itself, dug into the side of a rocky mesa, where Hubbard’s words are etched on stainless steel plates, kept in titanium containers filled with inert gases, and built to last thousands of years, even through a nuclear blast. The entrance to the vault is camouflaged behind a three-story building that Dylan referred to as the “ventilation house” (pictured, above). There’s another, larger dwelling on the property, but there are hardly ever more than just a couple of people at the site. And the parcel also contains two things visible from the sky — an airstrip, and the CST logo, two interlocking circles carved into the desert.

 
Trementina_Logo

 
Gill called the larger building the “LRH House,” and said that CST employees were seriously expected to believe that the logo carved into the ground would guide the returning thetan (spirit) of L. Ron Hubbard to the LRH House, where he could then live and plot his restoration to Scientology’s leadership.

But it was something a lot less sci fi that got CST in trouble with the FBI. According to the document we obtained, in 1987 some Bureau of Land Management employees discovered that the project was underway when they realized that a new dirt road had been cut illegally across public land.

 
FBITrementina2

Albuquerque, New Mexico
June 1, 1989

CHURCH OF SPIRITUAL TECHNOLOGY (CST); DOMESTIC SECURITY/TERRORISM — CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY

On April 15, 1987, AQ T-1, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), stated that he was currently investigating a complaint against captioned group [CST] in that they had built a road across BLM land in the remote area of San Miguel County off State Road 65 approximately half way between Las Vegas and Tucumcari, New Mexico. AQ T-1 advised that the complaint had been received by another BLM employee.

AQ T-1 stated that on April 15, 1987, he along with two other BLM employees traveled in a marked BLM law enforcement vehicle to the area of the trespass in San Miguel County. He stated that they found a very well maintained dirt road which took them to a campsite operated by captioned individuals. At this site they were met by an individual by the name of [redacted] who identified himself as [redacted] of the CST. AQ T-1 stated that the BLM official told [redacted] that the road built by his group was trespassing on BLM land. [Redacted] readily admitted that his group had built their excess on the BLM land.

AQ T-1 described the camp as having several large U.S. Army type tents, mobile trailers, and storage shacks. These dwellings were surrounded by a four stra[n]d barbwire fence. He also observed three (3) five hundred-gallon tanks and a Chevron diesel fuel tank which probably held 1,000 gallons. In the center of the camp was located a helicopter landing pad with windsock. He noted that [redacted] came out of a small trailer located to a very old rock house. AQ T-1 noticed approximately ten (10) vehicles at the camp, most which were new and appeared to be rental vehicles from Alamo Car Rental.

[Redacted] told AQ T-1 and the other two BLM officials that his group was drilling a vault in a nearby mountain site as a “document storage facility.” He stated that the group’s road is also possibly trespassing on BLM land near the vault site. [Redacted] stated that the job employs twenty (20) men a day and is costing $10,000 a day. AQ T-1 stated that when he asked to photograph the area from the side of the vault, [redacted] became extremely nervous and informed the BLM officials that they would have to have an escort anytime they were in the area. AQ T-1 stated that from where the vault is being built the entire area is visible and no one would be able to come to the site without being observed.

 
Touchy, touchy. But if they were nervous about being photographed, the motley group appeared to be unarmed…

[Redacted] was described as a white male, 30 years of age, 5’11” tall, light complexion, dark hair, and was wearing blue jeans. He drove a new maroon Jeep, apparently rented from Alamo Car Rental and bearing New Mexico license JHR178. AQ T-1 advised he also observed a Spanish male who drove up in a four wheel drive Suzuki, red in color, with no license plate, but appeared to be brand new. The driver was wearing a camouflage jacket, baseball cap, and blue jeans. Also present was a former BLM employee, [redacted], who had just been hired the last couple of days to do some survey work for the group. Also present was a [redacted] described only as a white male. AQ T-1 advised that no weapons were observed at this time.

One of the BLM officials told AQ T-1 that he thought some of the license plates on the vehicles had been changed from the last time he was at the site. He believed that some of the vehicles had previously borne Colorado plates and now had New Mexico plates on them. AQ T-1 was able to obtain several license plate numbers off the vehicles.

On April 16, 1987, representatives of the BLM and New Mexico State Police (NMSP) met with Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officials at Albuquerque, New Mexico, and requested FBI assistance to determine if the captioned group would be a possible threat to BLM employees, New Mexico law enforcement officers, or any citizens who might unknowingly come across the CST site…

 
With the FBI now involved, the group began chasing down addresses and telephone numbers. They also started looking for any history of these guys in their files.

By communication dated May 5, 1987, FBI Headquarters advised that a check of indices were searched with no records found regarding captioned individuals except for a [redacted] who had assisted the FBI in a case in 1977 and several entries for the name [redacted].

 
Whoops! Does David Miscavige know about this? Someone in super-secret CST had helped out the FBI around the time of Snow White? Yikes. That’s the kind of thing that will keep an ecclesiastical leader up at night.

Anyway, investigators kept checking, and then found the incorporation papers for CST, and….

By communication dated May 6, 1987, the Sacramento Division of the FBI obtained certified copies of articles of incorporation, amendments, and statements by non-profit corporation for the CST. A review of the documents revealed that the CST was associated with the Church of Scientology (COS) founded by L. RON HUBBARD.

 
Bingo!

And now, with Scientology involved, things begin to get a bit more cloak and dagger…

By communication dated May 14, 1987, Los Angeles Division of the FBI advised that an investigation at San Bernardino, California, had determined that 314 West 5th Street is a Secretarial Service providing “mail drop” service for numerous clients. Investigation revealed that [redacted], described as a white male, gray hair, 5’8″ tall, 55-60 years of age, medium to slim build, clean shaven with fair complexion, and a British accent, entered into a mail drop agreement with the Secretarial Services on May 4, 1987. [Redacted] advised the Secretarial Service that the following individuals were authorized to pick up mail for the CST: [redacted] and [redacted]. The address for CST was listed as 4391 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 291, Los Angeles, California…

 
And more details emerge, about clashes with neighbors and using contacts in aviation to identify planes doing flyovers of the property…

On August 26, 1988, AQ T-4 advised that a resident of northern New Mexico had recently had some difficulty with CST inasmuch as they had the telephone lines across his property which covers this rural area to run telephone lines across his property to service their establishment without obtaining the proper easements. AQ T-4 advised that this resident had obtained the legal services of an attorney in his dispute with the CST. Two of the CST representatives met with the land owner and it was determined that these individuals were [redacted], who identified himself as the [redacted] of CST with an address of [redacted], telephone number [redacted] at CST. The land owner told the two representatives that he would make no commitments until he discussed this matter in detail with his attorney.

AQ T-4 stated that [redacted] advised that CST personnel had recently observed aircraft flying over the CST property and that they had determined that these aircraft belonged to environmentalists. AQ T-4 thought it strange that CST was able to identify aircraft until he remembered that [redacted] and [redacted] works for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) at the Las Vegas, New Mexico, airport. AQ T-4 advised that CST has required expenses of up to $4,000,000 in building a “vault” in the side of a rock mountain on their property and have requested at least 600 amps of power from the local power utility and at least 20 private lines from the telephone company. AQ T-4 advised that he has heard small arms fire coming from the CST property on occasion.

AQ T-3 advised that CST presently owns 400,095 acres in San Miguel County of northern New Mexico and, according to the County Assessor’s Offie, paid $484,316 for the property…

By communication dated February 24, 1989, the Oklahoma City Division of the FBI advised they had interviewed [redacted] on February 23, 1989, at the Office of the Civil Aviation Security Division, FAA, Oklahoma City. [Redacted] stated he is not familiar with [redacted] however, he is acquainted with [redacted] stated he has known [redacted] for over one year. [Redacted] stated he is not affiliated with the CST, however, he does know about their compound in New Mexico. [Redacted] stated he did provide [redacted] with aircraft tail number information and has done so about six times. [Redacted] stated that this was when he was stationed at the Las Vegas Flight Service Center at Las Vegas, New Mexico. [Redacted] stated [redacted] would bring him tail numbers and would ask him to provide him with the names of persons registered to the tail numbers. In addition, [redacted] stated he also provided [redacted] with one set of micro-fiche consisting of approximately 20 cards in the set. [Redacted] did not receive any money or any type of compensation for the information or the micro-fiche provided to [redacted]. [Redacted] also denied the fact that he was actively recruited by [redacted] and other members of the CST and only provided this information in order to keep him from coming to their office. At this point in the interview, [redacted] began to change his story in that [redacted] would bring him a description of an aircraft to include the type of aircraft and color. Based on this descriptive information, [redacted] would then determine the tail number for the particular aircraft and then would provide him with who the registered owner is.

 
CST was also touchy about outside companies serving the compound under construction…

By communication dated March 6, 1989, the Dallas Division of the FBI advised that information had been received regarding a company who had been contracted to install telephone lines at a site near a village in northern New Mexico named Trementina, New Mexico, located at the base of a mountain on Highway 104. Upon reaching the village, the members of the telephone crew were instructed by the customer to install the telephone lines (six in all) one mile from the actual site and that none of the crew would be allowed any closer. The telephone crew refused this request stating that this was against company policy and that final installation would have to be made at the actual site. A compromise was reached at one half mile and terminal jacks were installed on posts near rocks and trees in an inconspicuous manner and the telephone crew was guarded the entire time they worked. The guards were unarmed. Upon questioning one of the guards, it was learned that the site consisted of a chamber cut into the side of the mountain 10 feet wide by 10 feet high at the entrance and 300 feet back. The purpose for the site it was explained was for storing church records. The payment for the telephone service was made by Church Sciences, San Miguel Ranch, California.

 
After checking into things, agents learned that it wasn’t illegal to use tail numbers to identify the owners of airplanes.

By communication dated April 10, 1989, the Oklahoma City Division of the FBI advised that on March 2, 1989, [redacted], Legal Counsel Division, FAA, Aeronautical Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, stated that it was not a federal offense or FAA violation to provide information of aircraft tail numbers to the general public. [Redacted] stated tail number information is considered public property and, therefore, the general public is authorized to receive this information. In addition, [redacted] stated the fact that [redacted] gave micro-fiche documents and other information to private citizens is not a federal or FAA violation. [Redacted] stated as a general practice, FAA disposes of micro-fiche documents and information on a regular basis.

 
Investigators had found some local residents who had been hired as workers, and could describe the vault dug into the hillside.

By communication dated May 10, 1989, the Houston Division of the FBI furnished the results of an interview with [redacted], who stated he had learned from people that were involved in the actual construction of the tunnel in New Mexico, that the tunnel is 600 feet long with 200 foot wings. The tunnel is gunnite lined and has four steel doors at the tunnel entrance, at the midpoint of the tunnel, and at each wing entrance. The tunnel is allegedly located 300 feet under the mesa on the ranch. [Redacted] stated that the tunnel was built by people residing in Trementina, New Mexico, but he was unable to name any of these people. He stated that the same workers were asked to relocate to California to build another tunnel there. He was told this by unknown workers.

[Redacted] stated that the debris from the construction of the tunnel was used to build a road to the base camp. [Reducted] claimed that the tunnel is 18 feet wide and 14 feet high and has a 600 amp electrical service connection. He was told this information by unknown construction workers. He stated that they are also building a two-story house over the entrance of the tunnel in order to hide the tunnel entrance. [Redacted] stated that [redacted] told him that there was a helipad at the base camp on the ranch and the helipad was needed for inspectors to land. The inspectors were allegedly from the U.S. Bureau of Mines.

 
And after all that, the FBI figured it was just best for the BLM and the Scientologists to work out a compromise about the illegal road.

On May 30, 1989, representatives of the NMSP and BLM Law Enforcement Services advised they are not aware of any illegal activity being conducted on the part of CST other than the misdemeanor trespass on BLM property. The BLM representative advised that BLM officials will most likely negotiate the trespass problem with CST and come to an agreement that will both satisfy CST and BLM.

 
Hey, but that’s not all. Added to the report later was a backgrounder on what the FBI generally knew about Scientology, and it was dated just a few days before Scientology won tax exemption from the IRS. It’s also a fascinating document…

 

September 21, 1993

CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY

The central files of the FBI reveal there have been numerous inquiries from citizens to the FBI regarding the Church of Scientology (COS) dating from the 1960s. We have also received numerous allegations of criminal violations of child labor laws, prostitution, drugs and theft.

COS was founded by Lafayette Ron Hubbard, whose theory of “scientology” was an alleged science which instilled self-confidence, assisted in removing mental problems and was dedicated to the freedom of the “spirit.” Hubbard died January 24, 1986. Attached are three memoranda which contain additional background regarding COS and a series of articles on the COS that had been printed in the “Toronto Sun,” a Toronto, Canada, newspaper.

In May, 1976, members of the COS impersonated United States (U.S.) Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Agents and gained access to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C. They were discovered in the act of reproducing Government documents. This incident precipitated a massive investigation by the FBI against various officials of the COS for Federal violations, ranging from Theft of Government Property to Aiding and Abetting.

During our investigation, two COS offices (California and Washington D.C.) were searched in July, 1977, and over 20,000 documents were confiscated.

In October, 1979, nine officials of the COS were convicted for directing a conspiracy to steal Government documents regarding COS. In December, 1980, two more officials were extradicted from Europe and convicted in this case.

Our Tampa, Florida, Office conducted an investigation in 1984, and our Los Angeles, California, Office conducted an investigation in 1988 into charges that COS had set up an elaborate scheme to utilize drugs and prostitutes to compromise Federal judges presiding over civil litigations involving the COS. Investigations failed substantiate the allegations and prosecution was declined in both cases.

In November, 1984, an individual contacted our San Francisco Offie and stated he had started employment with the COS in October, 1984, and he was concerned he had furnished classified information to COS.

This individual stated he was interviewed on November 16, 1984, at COS in San Francisco, California, and was questioned in depth concerning his service in the U.S. Navy. The interview lasted six hours. After the interview, he was advised he was no longer employed at COS.

The individual stated he returned to COS on November 28, 1984, and talked to a woman who advised him the COS would be willing to send him to their “Flag Base” in Clearwater, Florida, for a six-week training course in counterintelligence, to include investigative procedures and how to report results of investigations to COS. In return, he would be requested to furnish all details of his naval experience, to include ship security measures, his knowledge of the IRS, FBI and opinions of taxation.

 
Hey, anyone know who that Navy person was who Scientology tried to recruit as a spy?

COS was the subject of an Obstruction of Justice investigation by our San Antonio, Texas, and Boston, Massachusetts, Field Offices in 1985. COS reportedly hired private investigators in an attempt to uncover what our field offices were doing in their investigation of the Hubbard Check Case and to determine the identities of our Agents. No prosecution resulted.

 
This is a reference to the notorious Bank of New England $2 million counterfeit check controversy that we wrote about at some length in our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely. It’s interesting to learn that the FBI investigated whether to charge Scientology operatives with obstruction of justice over that little caper.

Reportedly, COS has an enemy list and they attempt to discredit, embarrass or harass former members of COS, their attorneys, and others.

Reportedly, COS has attempted in the past to establish an intelligence center in San Antonio, Texas. The purpose of this intelligence center was to conduct nationwide investigations on individuals and organizations, such as the FBI and IRS who were involved in litigation and/or investigations against COS or otherwise of interest to COS.

In addition, attached is a memorandum captioned “Church of Spiritual Technology (CST); Domestic Security/Terrorism — Church of Scientology,” [the 1987-89 vault investigation] which contains additional information concerning COS.

COS has filed numerous civil action suits during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.

Say what? A San Antonio intelligence center? Did OSA plan some kind of spy super-center in Texas? Oh, there are some fun leads to follow up on here. We’d like to hear your thoughts about this document in the comments section.

FBI Trementina Investigation 1987-1989

 
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BOOK NOTES
3D-Unbreakable

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.

Our book tour is concluded for now. (But you can re-experience it through this nifty interactive map!) We’ll let you know about future appearances. Previous events: 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), London (8/4), Boston (8/24), Phoenix (9/15), Cleveland (9/23), Minneapolis (9/24), Portland (9/27), Seattle (9/28), Vancouver BC (9/29), Sydney (10/23), Melbourne (10/25), Adelaide (10/28), Perth (10/30)

 
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Posted by Tony Ortega on December 9, 2015 at 07:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com 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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