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‘Only the ruthless can own it’: behind the scenes of Scientology’s dirty tricks operations

[David Miscavige and, farthest to the left, Marty Rathbun, back in the day]

This is the first of a three-part series by historian Chris Owen taking a deep dive into the mechanisms and structures by which Scientology carries out harassment, surveillance, litigation and influence operations to suppress its perceived enemies and gain influence worldwide. In this first part, we’ll take a look at the two Scientology entities that are principally involved: the Office of Special Affairs and the Religious Technology Center.

Leah Remini’s recent lawsuit does an excellent job of describing the policies set out by L. Ron Hubbard for the harassment of Scientology’s perceived enemies, and the effect that this has had on her life. But how does Scientology’s harassment system work behind the scenes?

Hubbard’s willingness to harass people who had crossed him began even before the creation of Scientology. In 1952, he wrote:

This universe is a rough universe. It is a terrible and deadly universe. Only the strong survive it, only the ruthless can own it. Given one weak spot a being cannot long endure, for this universe will search it out and enlarge it and probe it until that weak spot is a festering wound so large that the being is engulfed by his own sores.

Fighting this battle for survival, and fight it he must, a being in the [physical] universe cannot seem to afford decency or charity or ethics; he cannot afford any weakness, any mercy. The moment he does he is lost.


This philosophy has underwritten Scientology’s approach to its perceived enemies ever since.

Scientology’s organisational structure mandates the existence of a department to deal with intelligence, internal security, public relations, and litigation. That slot was occupied by the notorious Guardian’s Office (GO) before 1983 and by the Office of Special Affairs (OSA) since then. The Religious Technology Center (RTC) plays an important but less well-known part as well, outside of Scientology’s regular departmental structure.

OSA’s mission, like that of the GO, is to create “handled situations which result in the total acceptance of Scientology and its Founder throughout the area” and to “take responsibility for cleaning up the rotten spots of society in order to create a safer and saner environment for Scientology expansion and for all mankind.” Anyone who criticises Scientology is deemed to be part of a “rotten spot.”

Formally, OSA answers to the Church of Scientology International (CSI). However, RTC’s former Inspector General Marty Rathbun said this corporate relationship was a sham and that it was micromanaged by Scientology’s leader David Miscavige, exercising his control through Rathbun.

OSA’s Investigations Officers have a mission that is identical to their GO predecessors: “TO HELP LRH INVESTIGATE PUBLIC MATTERS AND INDIVIDUALS WHICH SEEM TO IMPEDE HUMAN LIBERTY SO THAT SUCH MATTERS MAY BE EXPOSED AND TO FURNISH INTELLIGENCE REQUIRED IN GUIDING THE PROGRESS OF SCIENTOLOGY.” They are trained to “successfully investigate those impeding the forward progress of Scientology and furnish intelligence (prediction) data to management.”

Much of OSA’s work takes place at lower levels, managed by local Directors of Special Affairs who are responsible for overseeing OSA activities in their own countries. Judging from records seized by Greek police in the 1990s, their activities tend to focus on public relations, lobbying politicians and monitoring the activities of ‘enemies’ viewed by Scientology’s management as local rather than international threats.

Threats such as Leah Remini, whose public criticism of Scientology has undoubtedly had a huge impact, are dealt with at the very top. “The highest priority OSA matters that I had to monitor and report on several times a day to Mr. Miscavige were ones that involved his name,” Rathbun said.

“If a staff member left unannounced from the Scientology corporate headquarters, and the person had any personal knowledge of Mr. Miscavige by way of regular contact with him, I was required to personally direct a massive dragnet utilising Sea Org staff from RTC and CSI, and private investigators, to hunt down that staff member. This occurred on average a couple of times per year. I was micromanaged on such manhunts by Mr. Miscavige personally. I would make sure the person was contacted, and put under control and sometimes order ongoing surveillance through OSA that could last up to several years.”

Similarly, if Miscavige was implicated in any litigation, Rathbun “oversaw every aspect of that litigation until Miscavige was no longer subject to inquiry.”

According to Mike Rinder, who headed OSA between 1987 and 2007, “Miscavige received a daily report concerning every legal case, every media action and every investigation ongoing in the world.” The OSA Daily Report was compiled by Rinder, passed to Rathbun and finally hand-delivered to Miscavige in an unmarked, sealed envelope without any indication of who it was written by or addressed to. Rinder explains that this was to ensure that there was no paper trail to link Miscavige to OSA’s activities. A separate Investigations Report, describing all ongoing intelligence activities, was also compiled and sent with a very limited distribution including Miscavige and Rathbun.

Rathbun commented that the briefing “was usually several pages [long] summarising reports from private investigators and Scientologists serving as undercover spies watching and interacting with Scientology critics. The written briefing, contrary to established corporate policy, had no routing information on it. That is, the daily briefing had no indication who wrote the report or who it was directed to. If a report ever got out of the Church, it could not, on its face, be used to incriminate any of its author or recipients.”

After Miscavige had read the intelligence reports, according to Rathbun, they would routinely be shredded as “there could be no trace of it”.

As well as delivering the written report, Rathbun was required “to brief Miscavige verbally on any major developments on matters handled by the OSA network around the world or matters concerning security. My briefing to him would begin with major problems which he insisted he know about. My briefing included reports about handling the media stories, investigations, legal cases, security breaches, and potential security situations. That briefing would last anywhere from a few minutes on a quiet day with no major developments, to all day when something was afoot that riveted Miscavige’s attention.”

Miscavige frequently micro-managed the activities of OSA, calling at least daily to discuss the Daily Report and summoning Rinder and Rathbun to his office several times a day to discuss OSA’s affairs. Rathbun recalled that often, Miscavige “would instruct me to order OSA to direct an operative or private investigator to find out something to do concerning the target of infiltration or investigation. On other occasions, Mr. Miscavige would joke about what was reported about a particular target, or rant about the target’s activity.”


Orders were issued verbally by Miscavige to Rathbun, and Rathbun to Rinder. ”Most often”, Rathbun later recalled, “I would call Mike Rinder into my office and I would brief him verbally on Miscavige’s directives. Mr. Rinder would then return to his own office and type up the orders as written directives to OSA. Those directives would be worded as if the orders were originated by him, with no reference to me or RTC, and especially not to Mr. Miscavige.” Rathbun was responsible for supervising Rinder to ensure that Miscavige’s orders were only issued under Rinder’s name.

Rinder was closely managed by Miscavige when he was sent to ‘handle’ the BBC journalist John Sweeney in 2007 while the latter was making a documentary on Scientology. As Rinder followed Sweeney around the US, he was bombarded with often viciously abusive text messages demanding updates and berating him for supposed failures. The messages ostensibly came from Miscavige’s ‘Communicator’ (secretary), Laurisse Stuckenbrock, but were clearly relaying Miscavige’s own thoughts.

While OSA is responsible for most of Scientology’s intelligence activities, the Religious Technology Center (RTC) also plays a key role. Its remit is narrower than that of OSA – protecting Scientology’s trademarks and copyrights, rather than the whole of Scientology. It also does not have a worldwide network like that of OSA. However, its position in the Scientology hierarchy as the church’s senior management organisation means that it has an outsize role in managing Scientology’s intelligence activities.

For many years, Miscavige and Rathbun oversaw OSA’s work together. Rathbun described his role as having been “a go-between for Miscavige and OSA.” RTC has also, for many years, carried out its own intelligence activities. As early as 1984, when Scientology was being challenged by breakaway groups – and before Miscavige had taken over RTC – an intelligence unit was set up within RTC with the task of putting Scientology defectors in jail.

In the next part, we’ll look at how RTC/OSA use private investigators and Scientologist volunteers for intelligence-gathering and harassment.

— Chris Owen


Technology Cocktail

“Until some responsibility is run on some cases no present life overts show up. Responsibility is the key to high and low tone arms, not overts. Handle any severe overts that turn up on a case with responsibility process. Do not run a mass-less terminal such as ‘sex’ or ‘help.’ Find instead some actual terminal, not a significance. Beware running adjectival commands such as ‘frigid woman’ or ‘a little boy with a mole under his left grind.’ Run instead the plainest terminal that drops.” — L. Ron Hubbard, 1960



We first broke the news of the LAPD’s investigation of Scientology celebrity Danny Masterson on rape allegations in 2017, and we’ve been covering the story every step of the way since then. At this page we’ve collected our most important links as Danny faces a potential sentence of 45 years to life in prison. NOW WITH TRIAL INDEX.



THE PODCAST: How many have you heard?

[1] Marc Headley [2] Claire Headley [3] Jeffrey Augustine [4] Bruce Hines [5] Sunny Pereira [6] Pete Griffiths [7] Geoff Levin [8] Patty Moher [9] Marc Headley [10] Jefferson Hawkins [11] Michelle ‘Emma’ Ryan [12] Paulette Cooper [13] Jesse Prince [14] Mark Bunker [15] Jon Atack [16] Mirriam Francis [17] Bruce Hines on MSH

— SPECIAL: The best TV show on Scientology you never got to see

[1] Phil Jones [2] Derek Bloch [3] Carol Nyburg [4] Katrina Reyes [5] Jamie DeWolf

— The first Danny Masterson trial and beyond

[18] Trial special with Chris Shelton [19] Trial week one [20] Marc Headley on the spy in the hallway [21] Trial week two [22] Trial week three [23] Trial week four [24] Leah Remini on LAPD Corruption [25] Mike Rinder 2022 Thanksgiving Special [26] Jane Doe 4 (Tricia Vessey), Part One [27] Jane Doe 4 (Tricia Vessey), Part Two [28] Claire Headley on the trial [29] Tory Christman [30] Bruce Hines on spying [31] Karen de la Carriere [32] Ron Miscavige on Shelly Miscavige [33] Karen de la Carriere on the L’s [34] Mark Bunker on Miscavige hiding [35] Mark Plummer [36] Mark Ebner [37] Karen Pressley [38] Steve Cannane [39] Fredrick Brennan [40] Clarissa Adams [41] Louise Shekter [42] John Sweeney [43] Tory Christman [44] Kate Bornstein [45] Christian Stolte [46] Mark Bunker [47] Jon Atack [48] Luke Y. Thompson [49] Mark Ebner


Source Code

“I’ve been working on a clear cut statement of what are the beliefs of Scientology. It will be under survey. I am working on the Scientologists Hat. Without such a statement it is hard to get word of mouth. We are well into a Messianic period on Earth. Progress has been made on this. I can write, I think, a ‘Book of Fate.’ I have also made an advance in research on the character and handling of mental mass. Some weeks ago I conceived we did not know all there was to know about high and lo TAs and have suddenly made big progress. The answer was unexpectedly simple and includes auditing over out suppressed ruds that one doesn’t suspect are out! We just don’t pay enough attention to it. Big answers are very basic. So I feel cheerful.” — L. Ron Hubbard, August 17, 1971



Avast, Ye Mateys

“US DOLLAR: The Socialist planning for crashed finance goes along apace. Nixon has just announced the forthcoming devaluation of the dollar. Means it will buy less. We are safe enough at the moment. But this rapid deterioration of the existing US cultural scene pushes us. We have to get Europe viable fast fast fast. That means translations more and faster. That means a beefed up EULO. A special action is needed for AF. UK needs picking up quickly.” — The Commodore, August 17, 1971


Overheard in the FreeZone

“The goal of Scientology is not to produce sensation. The goal of Scientology auditing is not to produce good feelings. Most Scientology haters say Scientology is a scam because the sensations they got faded away. But that’s just normal. It’s like when you graduate. You feel great, then you feel normal again, that doesn’t mean that your studies were worthless. But that’s the position that many haters seem to hold. The goal of Scientology is to increase knowledge, understanding, to help you regain awareness and increase ability in general. And it works, it does deliver.”


Past is Prologue

1998: Bob Minton reported that Scientology has conducted a deposition of former RTC executive Jesse Prince, who is now testifying on behalf of Lawrence Wollersheim in his efforts to collect a judgment against Scientology. “Jesse concluded 2 days of questioning by Rosen — the transcript of which will no doubt become available — in the Factnet case. Rosen used everything from Jesse’s PC folder. Not even a second thought. Strange policy or calculated evil? What did you expect from the church of hypocrisy?”


Random Howdy

“Hubbardese was definitely inspired by ‘Newspeak,’ in my opinion. All cults engage in it to some degree.”



Full Court Press: What we’re watching at the Underground Bunker

Criminal prosecutions:
Danny Masterson charged for raping three women: Found guilty on two counts on May 31, remanded to custody. Sentencing on Sep 7.
‘Lafayette Ronald Hubbard’ (a/k/a Justin Craig), aggravated assault, plus drug charges: Grand jury indictments include charges from an assault while in custody. Trial scheduled for August 15.
David Gentile, GPB Capital, fraud.

Civil litigation:
Leah Remini v. Scientology, alleging ‘Fair Game’ harassment and defamation: Complaint filed August 2, hearing on proof of service on Oct 3.
Baxter, Baxter, and Paris v. Scientology, alleging labor trafficking: Forced to arbitration. Plaintiffs allowed interlocutory appeal to Eleventh Circuit.
Valerie Haney v. Scientology: Forced to ‘religious arbitration.’
Chrissie Bixler et al. v. Scientology and Danny Masterson: Appellate court removes requirement of arbitration on January 19, case remanded back to Superior Court. Stay in place at least through sentencing of Masterson on Sep 7.
Jane Doe 1 v. Scientology, David Miscavige, and Gavin Potter: Case unsealed and second amended complaint filed. Next hearing Nov 6.
Chiropractors Steve Peyroux and Brent Detelich, stem cell fraud: Ordered to mediation.



After the success of their double-Emmy-winning, three-season A&E series ‘Scientology and the Aftermath,’ Leah Remini and Mike Rinder continue the conversation on their podcast, ‘Scientology: Fair Game.’ We’ve created a landing page where you can hear all of the episodes so far.


An episode-by-episode guide to Leah Remini’s three-season, double-Emmy winning series that changed everything for Scientology watching. Originally aired from 2016 to 2019 on the A&E network, and now on Netflix.


Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Other links: SCIENTOLOGY BLACK OPS: Tom Cruise and dirty tricks. Scientology’s Ideal Orgs, from one end of the planet to the other. 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 a weekly series. How many have you read?


[ONE year ago] The best TV show on Scientology you never got to see, Episode 2: Derek Bloch
[TWO years ago] Danny Masterson accusers answer Scientology’s salvo at California appeals court
[THREE years ago] Brian Statler’s family wins right to police report and Scientology surveillance footage
[FOUR years ago] ‘Scientology and the Aftermath’ participants send in their tributes as series is set to end
[FIVE years ago] The Garcias won’t go down without a fight: Filing appeal of Scientology’s ‘arbitration’ farce
[SIX years ago] Celebrity battle lines: Michael Peña’s wife asks Scientologists to ‘Stand with Daniel Masterson’
[SEVEN years ago] A rare gem from 1968: When the Daily Mail tracked down L. Ron Hubbard in Tunisia
[EIGHT years ago] Once shy about the Internet, Scientology is now oversharing on social media
[NINE years ago] Scientology Sunday Funnies: The apocalypse is here, and it is ideal
[ELEVEN years ago] Jason Beghe’s Letter to Scientology Attorneys: Yes, I’ll Settle Your $1 Million Lawsuit for $19K
[TWELVE years ago] The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology, No. 20: Trey Parker and Matt Stone


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley (1952-2019) did not see his daughter Stephanie in his final 5,667 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 3,124 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 3,639 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 3,189 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 2,179 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 2,060 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 5,364 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 3,235 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 2,340 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,787 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 4,129 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 12,695 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 8,614 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,781 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 4,363 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 4,624 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 3,660 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 3,376 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 2,940 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 1,255 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 2,430 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 6,981 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 4,112 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 4,450 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 9,305 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 4,424 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,780 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 7,083 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 3,189 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 3,587 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 3,463 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 3,028 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 3,541 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,795 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,904 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on August 17, 2023 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, 1995-2022 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2022), 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, 15 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


Tony Ortega at The Daily Beast


Tony Ortega at Rolling Stone


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