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Cops, soft porn, and psychiatry: The curious origin of Scientology’s Snow White Program

[Hubbard in his Queens hideout, 1973. Photo by Jim Dincalci]

Chris Owen once again dives into Scientology history and comes up with new evidence and new perspectives…

L. Ron Hubbard’s Snow White Program (often referred to as “Operation Snow White”) has earned deserved infamy since it was exposed by the FBI in 1977. It involved a massive campaign of espionage, eavesdropping and theft against US and Canadian federal and state governments, law enforcement agencies and many other organisations. At least 18 countries were targeted. It had disastrous consequences for Scientology, leading to the jailing of Hubbard’s wife Mary Sue, his own naming as an “unindicted co-conspirator” and the Church of Scientology itself being convicted for crimes in Canada. But what prompted Hubbard to take such a drastic step as to start systematically targeting governments worldwide?

That’s a key question that I’ve been tackling in my current project — a new book exploring Scientology’s relationship with its adversaries around the world from 1950 to the present day. Recent releases of documents in government archives, many of which have never been reported on previously, have enabled such questions to be explored in greater depth than ever before. Those archives reveal that the Snow White Program had its roots in the unlikely surrounds of the southern English market town of Guildford, following a crucial event that happened there exactly 51 years ago today.

(If you can, please help to support this project via my GoFundMe page! Many thanks for everyone who has contributed so far. Your help is making it possible to produce the forthcoming book and spin-off articles such as this.)

A common thread which has emerged from my research is Hubbard’s propensity to take drastic knee-jerk responses to short-term challenges. He had a habit of “going ballistic” when faced with a perceived setback. One of the most egregious examples was “Operation Funny Bone,” his attempt to ruin the career of syndicated cartoonist Jim Bone for his temerity in publishing a cartoon that poked mild fun at Scientology. An untold amount of time and effort was spent pursuing someone who was no threat to Scientology. But Hubbard’s church did face real challenges that required proportionate, carefully-considered strategic responses. Unfortunately for Scientology, Hubbard was incapable of producing one.

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At the time that he wrote the plan for the Snow White Program in April 1973, Hubbard was at a low ebb. He had gone from being the lionised Commodore of his own fleet in the Mediterranean, served day and night by teenage “Messengers” in hot pants and halter tops, to hiding under a pseudonym in a modest apartment in Queens, New York with only two aides for company. The previous five years had seen a series of disasters for Scientology. Government enquiries had been held on Scientology in Canada, the UK, South Africa and New Zealand. Hubbard’s fleet had been kicked out of Greece, Morocco and ports in Spain. Other Mediterranean countries were no longer safe as Hubbard faced possible extradition to France to stand trial on fraud charges. To avoid this danger, he had fled the Mediterranean with his two aides and $100,000 in cash to find refuge in an anonymous part of Queens.

Transcripts of Hubbard’s secret conferences with his aides show him raging for hours on end against those whom he blamed for Scientology’s misfortunes. It was obvious, in Hubbard’s mind, that a worldwide psychiatric conspiracy — which he termed SMERSH, borrowing from the James Bond novels — was responsible. Governments which had never had any previous experience with Scientology were suddenly, mysteriously, becoming hostile. (Naturally, he absolved Scientology of any responsibility for this situation.) He believed that negative information — which he termed “false reports” — was being distributed by “suppressive” governments, especially those of the US and UK, to blacken Scientology’s name.

Hubbard was not entirely wrong. Rather than psychiatrists being behind it all, however, declassified US State Department and UK Foreign Office files show that both governments had to deal with requests for information from Mediterranean states who were puzzled and alarmed by Scientology’s activities in their countries. Regional governments contacted the three countries where Scientology was most active — the US, UK and Australia — to find out what was going on.

It was not an easy question to answer, however, as Scientology’s obsessive secrecy made its affairs opaque to outsiders. The British police had received a steady stream of complaints about Scientology since the 1950s, when it had briefly been the subject of a secret investigation by Scotland Yard’s Special Branch section, responsible for national security matters. On 19 March 1968, Surrey’s Chief Constable, Herman Rutherford, wrote to Britain’s most senior policeman, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Joseph Simpson, to highlight his concerns about Scientology. Calling it “an organisation run for cranks by criminals or near criminals,” he highlighted the condemnation it had received in Australia and the US FBI’s interest in it. “[T]he time is now ripe,” Rutherford declared, “to … thoroughly investigate Hubbard and his team both from a criminal angle, a security angle and a social angle.” He called for the police and government to pool their knowledge of Scientology “to clear the air and consolidate our thinking on this obnoxious organisation.”

The Metropolitan, Surrey and Sussex police forces organised a high-level meeting that agreed that Scotland Yard’s Criminal Investigations Department (CID) would lead an investigation to which the other forces would contribute. However, the police were hampered by an aura of fear and silence around Scientology. Sussex’s deputy chief constable, George Terry, noted that his force had encountered “great difficulty” in interviewing people connected with the organisation. They refused to be interviewed if they were still members, while even ex-members retained what he called a “psychological link” or were otherwise afraid of reprisals and did not want to provide evidence against it. It was his experience, he said, that if anyone was interviewed about Scientology, “information about the interview would get back to the organisation.” He noted that it appeared to have a “strong-arm element” about it — an accurate verdict, though if anything, an understatement.

A CID undercover officer briefly infiltrated Scientology’s Saint Hill headquarters to gather information on it from within. However, the investigation found “little or no evidence on which a prosecution for fraud would succeed against Scientology,” though there was “no doubt the organisation is indulging in sharp practices.” Nonetheless the investigation was kept open “to obtain sufficient evidence to prosecute Hubbard and his associates as it is suspected that they have committed offences of fraud, grievous bodily harm and blackmail.” This almost certainly referred to reports which the police had received from ex-Sea Org members of the physical abuse to which they were subjected aboard Hubbard’s ships, which included being imprisoned in chain lockers and being thrown overboard.

At the same time, Scotland Yard was receiving a steady stream of requests from other police services around the world for information on Scientology. The two Scotland Yard officers investigating Scientology compiled a report in response to a query forwarded from the West German Bundeskriminalamt (BKA), the Federal Criminal Police. Scotland Yard provided it in confidence to the BKA and a number of other police forces which had sent similar requests for information. By 1973, at least half a dozen police services had received copies via Interpol, the International Criminal Police Organisation, which served as a liaison network for the world’s police organisations.

The Scotland Yard report drew heavily on the highly critical Anderson Report, published by the government of Victoria, Australia, in 1965. It described Scientology’s practice of ‘auditing’ as “a method of brainwashing” that resulted in the subject becoming “mentally confused.” The E-meter was “no more than a powerful gimmick for controlling preclears and developing in them a sense of awe and submission to a dependency upon the organisation.” Hubbard was reported to receive ten percent of Scientology’s income — amounting to perhaps £10,000 a week — and “still plays an active part in the general policy of the organisation,” despite his supposed resignation in 1966.

The report was scarcely less complimentary about his followers, charging that Scientology “caters for the inadequate” and appealed to those affected by “mental instability, unhappiness and uncertainty.” This, according to the authors, had led to a number of tragic incidents of “severe mental deterioration.” They commented that “drug-taking is suspected” but was not thought to be encouraged by the organisation. Scientologists were believed to be “brainwashed to sign over their entire assets.” The report also cited information from the FBI that Hubbard himself had been convicted of fraud and involved in bankruptcy proceedings in the US. (This was the sole extent of the FBI’s contribution to the report, despite Scientology’s conspiracy theories that the FBI was behind its production.)

The report’s criticisms and findings were very inconvenient for Scientology and for Hubbard, who was especially keen to suppress the accounts of his income and his criminal record. In 1966 he had established the Guardian’s Office (GO), an intelligence agency within the church and headed by his wife Mary Sue, to block criticisms and exposures of Scientology. It was already well-versed in harassing and suing authors and journalists, and had long experience in infiltrating media, medical and government organisations seen as enemies.

The GO likely obtained information about the Scotland Yard investigation from one of its agents. It sought to turn the tables by investigating the investigators, publishing the names of the investigating officers in its magazine Freedom. The GO’s second-in-command, Jane Kember, wrote to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner in September 1972 to confront him about the investigation, which was by then largely at a standstill. She stated that she had knowledge “from an impeccable source” and demanded to see the contents of Scotland Yard’s files in order to “give you the correct data” about Scientology. She also wanted to know “what the crimes or suspected crimes are supposed to be.”

Kember argued in a follow-up letter that the police needed Scientology’s help as “your files are full of lies and inaccuracies” — though she did not explain exactly how she knew this. She subsequently asked the force to confirm that it was “not currently investigating Mr. L. Ron Hubbard for fraud, blackmail, assault or causing grievous bodily harm.” This was a nearly direct quotation of what the Scotland Yard report cited as its grounds for investigating Hubbard. Her words suggest that the GO already had a copy of the report or at least a summary of its contents. Not surprisingly, her demand was refused; it was hardly common practice for those suspected of criminal activity to be allowed to review what the police knew about them. However, Scotland Yard seems to have missed the implications of Kember’s apparent inside knowledge.

Hubbard would certainly have been briefed on what Kember knew. Just weeks after she sent her second letter to Scotland Yard, he fled from Morocco to the safety of New York City, where he brooded on his problems and drew up plans for a response. It came with the issuance of the secret Guardian Order 732 on 28 April 1973 (a copy can be read here), outlining what he called the Snow White Program. The problem he sought to address was what he called a “gradual reduction in available countries” for the Sea Org. He identified the root of the problem as “false reports” produced by the governments of the UK and US which were causing “real scene data which is factually good” to be ignored by the Mediterranean states. The problem had been identified as a result of “recent exposures of official records” — almost certainly the Scotland Yard report and evidence of its routing via Interpol — which showed that “England and the US have in the past spread false reports in several other countries which have caused trouble.”

In response to this problem, Hubbard instructed that all “false and secret files of the nations of operating areas [are to be] brought to view and legally expunged and OTC, Apollo and LRH free to frequent all western ports and nations without threat and all required ports open and free.” Hubbard ordered a massive campaign of litigation against multiple countries and using the UN as a vehicle to “have all the files in immigration, police and Interpol in all parts of the world corrected.” Subprojects, each code named after aspects of the Snow White story, set out “operating targets” for dozens of countries, the UN and Interpol. But the programme appears to have involved illegality from the start, despite later disclaimers by Scientology. The head of the GO in Canada later testified that a few weeks later, he was shown a secret directive from Hubbard himself mandating the use of “rip-offs” and agents, and was ordered by Kember to target dozens of Canadian government agencies and individuals.

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The Scotland Yard report on Scientology was at the heart of the “false report” issue that had so concerned Hubbard. If the GO had a covertly acquired copy of it, it could not have been disclosed without Scientology facing legal and political consequences for illegally acquiring a confidential police document. However, the report’s conclusions were to enter the public domain in July 1973 via a leaked West German police memorandum, only a few months after Hubbard launched the Snow White Program.

The GO had been heavily attacking a West German psychiatric organisation, the Max Planck Institute, for alleged mistreatment of patients. Hubbard believed that it was funded by Nelson Rockefeller, the American billionaire who he accused of being the hidden funder of psychiatry worldwide. The Institute complained to the West German government, which requested information on Scientology from the BKA. Its head, Dr. Horst Herold, replied with a memorandum that largely incorporated the 1969 Scotland Yard report. A copy of the BKA memo was sent to the Institute, but soon afterwards, it was leaked by someone to the soft porn magazine Neue Revue, which published extracts from it as part of an exposé under the lurid headline “Die mieschen Geschäfte der falschen Christen” (“The Rotten Business of the False Christians”). It was a curious choice of outlet, as the magazine does not appear to have shown any previous interest in Scientology.

It was never determined who leaked the BKA memo. A pro-Scientology author blamed the leak on the Institute, while Hubbard put the blame on “German police Interpol” for giving the report to the press. One tantalising but so far uncorroborated possibility is that the GO leaked the report itself as a deniable means of getting it into the public domain. Following its publication, Hubbard sent a confidential memo declaring that “the strategy I advised has apparently worked: we can now sue the magazine independently, mop up the ground with them and then use them to attack the police in Germany.” He did not go into detail about what the strategy was — his comment hints at the GO being behind the leak — but he was exultant about the opportunities that the revelations afforded.

The consequences, he forecast, would be far-reaching: The head of the German justice system, the British Home Secretary, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, the FBI Director, the US Attorney General and the US Secretary to the Treasury would all be forced to resign. Interpol itself would “either fold or drastically reform,” as it would be exposed as “a conspiracy against all honest citizens.” It would enable Scientology to declare it a scandal and “make press like 6½ million dead Jews.” Scientology’s position would be transformed as a result: Scientologists would no longer be dismissed by the world at large but would be met with an enthusiastic “YES sir” from previously dismissive outsiders. At the end of the battle, he concluded, Scientology would be left with “no opponents at all.”

Hubbard’s predictions were typically fantastical, but his strategy was purposefully calculated to cause the maximum amount of cost and disruption to Scientology’s enemies in the law enforcement community. He told the GO to use the case to break the back of the supposed international conspiracy against Scientology by exploiting it to obtain information on anyone who had been involved in the production of the “false reports.” Every deposition, he wrote, “becomes bait for a perjury charge or damages,” and the case against the BKA was to be continued “as long as you can bleed it for more cases.” It could result in “a hundred suits in a dozen countries.” He did not hesitate to exploit anti-German prejudice; it was a stroke of luck, he wrote, that “GERMAN, which to the world means NAZI, police are at the bottom of this.” Every other police force or agency linked to the matter would “all become Fascists by association.”

Scientology pursued litigation against the publishers of Neue Revue, the BKA and Scotland Yard for the rest of the 1970s, seeking damages equivalent to a billion Deutschmarks. It even pursued the individual Scotland Yard investigators, claiming that they had carried out a conspiracy to “cause a public nuisance” by investigating Scientology. However, it failed to achieve any of the goals that Hubbard had set out. The cases, brought in at least six different countries, were eventually dismissed by the courts. Scientology continued to attack Interpol well into the 1990s until it came to an accommodation with the agency. In North America, Hubbard’s fury at what Scientology later called the “Dossier Disease” led to a frenzy of infiltration and theft. GO operatives stole literally roomfulls of confidential government papers in search of more “false reports,” before they were caught red-handed in 1977, leading to the subsequent criminal convictions of the GO’s leadership.

Hubbard was off target in blaming the report, and government “false reports” in general, for Scientology’s problems in the Mediterranean. There’s no evidence from the UK government’s declassified files that the Scotland Yard report played any role in Scientology’s troubles in the Mediterranean.

Instead, trouble followed the Sea Org due to Scientology’s secretive and sometimes bizarre behavior. The cover stories that Scientology adopted were so flimsy and ill-considered that rumor and speculation filled the information gap that Hubbard had created. This led to widespread suspicions in the region that the Sea Org was a CIA front. In other countries — notably France and Italy — Scientology’s legal troubles resulted from allegations about fraudulent activities by Scientology’s local organisations, quite separately from anything that was going on with the Sea Org or elsewhere in the world. The French police did receive a copy of the report but it does not seem to have been a decisive factor in the decision to prosecute Hubbard for fraud and eventually convict him in absentia.

Hubbard, however, was incapable of accepting that his own actions or policies might have led to Scientology having difficulties with the authorities. For him, all problems were the result of the failures, misunderstandings or malicious actions of others.

Snow White was not a complete waste of time; there was certainly inaccurate information about Scientology in government files, and the church likely benefited from having it corrected. Yet its costs certainly far outweighed any possible benefits. The criticisms in the Scotland Yard report were relatively mild compared to the years of bad publicity that resulted from the exposure of the Snow White conspiracy. The huge disruption that Scientology faced in the aftermath of the Snow White criminal trials caused it vastly more damage that it had ever suffered from supposed “false reports.” It was a fiasco that was completely avoidable but was brought about by Hubbard’s hubris, addiction to conspiracy theories and inability to plan strategically.

 
— Chris Owen

 
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HowdyCon 2019 in Los Angeles

This year’s HowdyCon is in Los Angeles. People tend to come in starting on Thursday, and that evening we will have a casual get-together at a watering hole. We have something in mind, but for now we’re not giving out information about it.

Friday night we will be having an event in a theater (like we did on Saturday night last year in Chicago). There will not be a charge to attend this event, but if you want to attend, you need to RSVP with your proprietor at tonyo94 AT gmail.

On Saturday, we are joining forces with Janis Gillham Grady, who is having a reunion in honor of the late Bill Franks. Originally, we thought this event might take place in Riverside, but instead it’s in the Los Angeles area. If you wish to attend the reunion, you will need to RSVP with Janis (janisgrady AT gmail), and there will be a small contribution she’s asking for in order to help cover her costs.

HOTEL: Janis tells us she’s worked out a deal with Hampton Inn and Suites, at 7501 North Glenoaks Blvd, Burbank, (818) 768-1106. We have a $159 nightly rate for June 19 to 22.

 

 
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Scientology’s celebrities, ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and more!

[The Big Three: Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Kirstie Alley]

We’ve been building landing pages about David Miscavige’s favorite playthings, including celebrities and ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and we’re hoping you’ll join in and help us gather as much information as we can about them. Head on over and help us with links and photos and comments.

Scientology’s celebrities, from A to Z! Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Scientology’s ‘Ideal Orgs,’ from one end of the planet to the other! Help us build up pages about each these worldwide locations!

Scientology’s sneaky front groups, spreading the good news about L. Ron Hubbard while pretending to benefit society!

Scientology Lit: Books reviewed or excerpted in our weekly series. How many have you read?

 
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THE WHOLE TRACK

[ONE year ago] Not-ready-for-Scientology TV: L. Ron Hubbard’s fortune telling tricks still being sold today
[TWO years ago] Scientology’s pitch to Clearwater: Let us buy land for hotel, and we’ll gussy up downtown
[THREE years ago] A Scientology spy comes forward: Now he’s ready for ‘war’ with David Miscavige
[FOUR years ago] ‘Going Clear’ fallout: Imagining the fate of Scientology and David Miscavige
[FIVE years ago] Finally, a last stand against space cooties: It’s Scientology’s New Operating Thetan Level 7!
[SIX years ago] Early On, Scientology Turns You Into a Snitch
[SEVEN years ago] FBI Investigation of Scientology: Already Over Before We Even Heard of It

 
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Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,392 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 1,521 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,025 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,505 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 568 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 456 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 3,763 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,631 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,405 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,179 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,525 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,091 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,011 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,178 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,759 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,019 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,059 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,771 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,297 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,386 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,526 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,846 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,702 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,821 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,177 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,479 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,585 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,987 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,859 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,442 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,937 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,191 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,300 days.

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Posted by Tony Ortega on March 19, 2019 at 07:00

E-mail tips to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We also post 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 new book with Paulette Cooper, Battlefield Scientology: Exposing L. Ron Hubbard’s dangerous ‘religion’ is now on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. Our book about Paulette, 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, 1995-2018 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2018), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Other links: BLOGGING DIANETICS: Reading Scientology’s founding text cover to cover | 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 | 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 | 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

Watch our short videos that explain Scientology’s controversies in three minutes or less…

Check your whale level at our dedicated page for status updates, or join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.

Our non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news | Battling Babe-Hounds: Ross Jeffries v. R. Don Steele

 

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