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How dishonest is tabloid media about Scientology? Here’s a pretty good example.

Rod Keller is on assignment and we don’t get a day off this week. So we’re going to have a little fun today at the expense of Star magazine.

Not even our most vigilant correspondents who scour the Internet for Scientology news seem to have noticed that on Wednesday, Star published a “bombshell” about Scientology based on new FBI documents. Here’s some of the magazine’s breathless reporting…

Tom Cruise, Kirstie Alley and John Travolta are all marked for death in a terror threat against the Church of Scientology!

In a Star world exclusive, an FBI file on the chilling case has been opened for the first time, exposing the plot against the church and its highest-profile celebrity followers!


According to one document, the security director of the church’s L.A. headquarters called the FBI to report that they had received an email, signed by an anonymous “concerned citizen,” warning them that a shadowy individual (whose identity was included) connected to “right wing” Aryan and “patriot” groups — as well as Timothy McVeigh, the man convicted of the horrifying 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City — was planning a series of coordinated “attacks on Church offices across America.”

The centerpiece of the plot, according to the FBI document, was “a plan to bomb the Scientology building in Los Angeles [and] commit terrorist acts against high-profile members of the church (Tom Cruise, Kirstie Alley, John Travolta).” The May 1996 email also claimed that the terrorists would “attack the premiere of Cruise’s new movie, Mission: Impossible.” The email concluded with a dire warning: “This man is a potential killer and must be stopped.”

By this point in the story, you may be noticing that something is amiss. Star tells us that Cruise, Alley, and Travolta are marked for death, as if this were a present danger facing Scientology’s glittering celebrities. But three paragraphs later, Star lets slip that this “threat” was contained in a 1996 email — sent 21 years ago.

Are you getting a sense that maybe there’s more to the story that Star isn’t telling you?

Well, yes, of course.

Recently, we’ve brought you a couple of fascinating new releases of FBI documents. One of them detailed a 2009-2010 human trafficking investigation of the Church of Scientology. And yesterday we posted files from a 2008 FBI investigation of the Anonymous movement. These new releases are happening because of a lawsuit against the FBI that is prying loose some old files, some of which are really significant, and others that are less so.

One of them is truly trivial. It details a feud that happened in the mid-1990s between two critics of Scientology, former church member Dennis Erlich and fake former Scientologist Steven Fishman.

Erlich took on Scientology in the 1980s and 1990s when it really mattered, and helped to bring crucial Scientology secrets to the early Internet. He paid for it by being raided, arrested, and sued by the church.

Fishman we’ve written about at some length. In 2015 we posted court documents explaining why Fishman today is serving a 21-year prison sentence for helping run a stock swindle operation. He’s doing time on Terminal Island in San Pedro, California. As we explained in our piece about him, Fishman was key in bringing some of the “OT” levels to the public by way of a court disclosure. But he was also a major fake who pretended to have had extensive involvement in Scientology as explained in his book “The Lonesome Squirrel,” which turned out to be almost completely fiction.

It maybe isn’t so surprising that Fishman and Erlich hated each other’s guts. And in 1995, the Church of Scientology believed, Fishman tried to get Erlich into trouble by sending in a fake warning about Erlich threatening to blow up Scientology buildings.


The Church supplied the FBI with lots of background material about both Erlich and especially Fishman, but when Fishman was interviewed by the FBI on August 6, 1996, he denied being the source of the document.

“It’s Fishman from beginning to end,” Erlich told us yesterday after looking at documents from the file. “Fishman hated me because I called him on his lies. He was a professional con artist who was using anti-cult activity to gain leverage over the cult, I believe.”

The FBI file is filled with sniping back and forth between Fishman and Erlich at alt.religion.scientology, the Usenet newsgroup which was then the major source for Scientology news. But the FBI was unable to get help from the remailer about who had sent the threat, and Fishman maintained his innocence, so the agency dropped the matter.

In other words, it was a complete waste of everyone’s time.

But hey, Star magazine got to use the words “Tom Cruise” in a headline, so why not pretend that it was something more, right?

For you masochistic completists, here’s the file itself. Please don’t expect to learn anything from it, except that, as we’ve pointed out in the past, Star magazine sucks.


FBI 1996 investigation of Fishman and Erlich by Tony Ortega on Scribd


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,855 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 1,838 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,612 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 1,958 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,452 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,492 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,204 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 730 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,819 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 1,959 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,279 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,254 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 610 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 4,912 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,019 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis for 1,421 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,294 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 875 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,380 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,624 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,733 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on August 27, 2017 at 07:00

E-mail 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. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. 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

Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | 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 | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | 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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