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‘Ruin them utterly’: how PIs and volunteer members work against Scientology’s enemies

[Former Scientology private investigator Cierra Westerman]

In this second part of a three-part deep dive by historian Chris Owen into the inner workings of Scientology’s harassment operations, we’ll take a look at how the church uses private investigators and volunteers to investigate and harass critics. See part one here.

While the Religious Technology Centre (RTC) and Office of Special Affairs (OSA) have continued Scientology’s long tradition of harassing critics, the way it’s done now is somewhat different to how it used to be. OSA’s predecessor, the Guardian’s Office (GO) was brought down by its wanton disregard for the law. Its use of ordinary Scientologists as agents enabled law enforcement agencies to link them directly to the GO leadership.

RTC and OSA avoid these problems through two key departures from how the GO operated. First, planned operations are said to be reviewed beforehand by in-house lawyers to ensure that they are legal (“awful but lawful”), or at least are unlikely to be prosecuted. Second, they make heavy use of private investigators (PIs).

This was in some respects a reversion to Hubbard’s original recommendations in his 1959 Manual of Justice, when he advised using PIs to investigate Scientology’s critics and enemies and “ruin them utterly” if necessary. Scientology used a number of PIs during the 1960s and 1970s, and even experimented with having GO staff trained and licensed as PIs. However, this approach was too expensive and impractical for the huge scale of the GO’s activities.

RTC/OSA operates on a much more limited scale than the GO – principally because Scientology’s shrinkage means that it no longer has enough staff to carry out GO-style operations. Instead of firing wildly in all directions and targeting even trivial manifestations of hostility towards Scientology, it now focuses on what could be described as high-value targets, mainly using PIs.


PIs have major advantages over ordinary Scientologists, despite their high cost. State licensing gives them official permission to do things that unlicensed Scientologists could not. They are often much better trained than the old GO investigators, as many come from law enforcement backgrounds, or have had specialist PI training. They have been able to exploit this experience to obtain information from privileged sources and obtain specialist assistance for operations.

In one instance, a Scientology PI used contacts at a Florida college to recruit newly graduated PIs for operations against Scientology critics in the state in 2008. Another PI linked to Scientology hired overseas hackers to steal data from two prominent Scientology critics – a crime for which he was ultimately jailed.

They are also much better equipped than amateur investigators. PIs operating against Scientology’s enemies have displayed advanced technological capabilities comparable to those of the police or state intelligence agencies. They have reportedly used, among other tactics, GPS devices attached to vehicles to track targets’ movements, remote video surveillance of targets’ houses, email hacking, and cellphone interception using scanners. Some tasks have required Scientology’s PIs to hire outside assistance, such as retaining specialist contractors or finding additional PIs to help with big operations.

Scientology’s PI operations are reportedly highly organised. In Florida, Scientology PIs established an operations centre inside a warehouse overlooking a business run by an ex-Scientologist. As well as monitoring their nearby target from the warehouse, the PIs simultaneously managed multiple operations against different targets.

Cierra Westerman, a former Scientology PI who worked in the Florida operations centre, says that it had “two big screen TVs, a computer, and a phone that was for contacting [Scientology PI] Terry Roffler. The TVs were used for monitoring all the cameras watching the ex-members’ houses. And it was also for watching the cars that all had tracking devices, which was illegal in Florida.” Similar large-scale operations were reportedly being undertaken simultaneously in Los Angeles, Denver, and Texas.

According to former senior OSA and RTC staff, PIs are nominally employed by church lawyers. The church covers the cost of the PIs as part of general ‘attorney fees’ paid to the lawyers. They have no role in directing the activities of the investigators. Instead, this is done directly by a small number of OSA and RTC case officers, who in turn report to the head of OSA and the RTC Inspector General, who both report directly to Miscavige.

According to former RTC Inspector General Mark ‘Marty’ Rathbun, Miscavige himself personally directed the activities of Scientology’s PIs: “Often, he 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.” Some ex-Scientology PIs have said that they spoke directly to Miscavige to report their findings.

The GO was undone by the fact that its operatives, almost all of whom were Scientologists, could fairly easily be linked to Scientology. PIs, by contrast, are able to operate behind layers of obfuscation. Few appear to be Scientologists. In Cierra Westerman’s case, she was employed by a PI who was employed by a lawyer who was employed by Scientology who was reporting to either RTC or OSA officials. Thus, she was at least two layers distant from anyone in the church’s management.

The PIs’ work products were covered by legal privilege which protected them from being turned over to discovery in litigation. In one rare case where a PI targeting Scientology critics was prosecuted for a felony, his ultimate clients were never publicly disclosed, beyond the fact that he was working for lawyers and other PIs. The firewall had held; although the Scientology connection was publicised, the church faced no legal repercussions.

According to former senior church officials, the lawyers act as ‘cut-outs’ to ensure that there is no direct financial link between the church, as the ultimate paymaster, and the PIs. Former RTC executive Jesse Prince explains that the thinking behind this is “to keep as many arms’ lengths from the eventual victim as possible to limit liability. Simply stated, the scam is set up so that all can claim no one knows anything specific, especially those at the top doling out the money.”

Mike Rinder, head of OSA from 1987 to 2007, comments that “it gives a level of protection on disclosure [of] their activities, it provides plausible deniability to Scientology and it masks HOW MUCH they are paid.” “It had to be two or three steps removed,” Rathbun said, to ensure that the PIs’ conduct did not implicate the church. “We had to pretend like all that [covert] stuff was behind us”, he said. “But that was total subterfuge.”

The Church of Scientology spends huge sums on PI operations. When David Miscavige’s father Ron left Scientology, the younger Miscavige hired a paid of PIs to follow his father for over a year at a cost of $10,000 a week; the total cost of the operation was at least half a million dollars. In an even more extreme example, two different PIs were paid $32,000 a month to follow a single target over 24 years, at a cost to Scientology of between $10 and $12 million. The payments were reportedly made in amounts of under $10,000 to avoid alerting the IRS.

These were just two of hundreds of PI operations reportedly carried out by Scientology since 1988. In a 1992 submission to the IRS, the church stated its expenditure on “legal and professional fees” was approximately $1 million per month. In reality, Rinder says, this was a gross underestimate; at one point, OSA International alone was spending $2 million a month on lawyers and PIs.

Millions more dollars were spent by other Scientology corporations in the US and abroad. An investigation by the St Petersburg Times found that in 1988 alone, Scientology spent over $30 million on legal and professional fees, which would certainly have covered work done by PIs.


Rinder notes that even on Scientology’s own figures, if no change in the amount of spending is assumed the church has spent over $300 million on lawyers and PIs since 1992. Given the scale of Scientology’s legal and PR challenges from the late 1990s onwards, it is quite likely that it has in fact spent considerably more than this.

Individual Scientologists also play an important role, though in a more limited capacity than in the days of the GO. Rinder says that long-term Scientologists who are viewed as loyal and progressing well in Scientology are preferred as candidates for OSA recruitment.

An internal OSA spreadsheet from 2006, published by Rathbun, lists several hundred Scientologists in the Western US who volunteered for OSA work. Some are recorded as assisting OSA intelligence-gathering on demonstrators outside Scientology orgs, carrying out actions such as videoing picketers and taking photographs of their vehicle licence plates. A number are listed as “Internet volunteers”, carrying out activity against Scientology’s online critics.

One such volunteer was Patty Pieniadz Moher, a Connecticut Scientologist whose career in the church spanned over 27 years. She joined the Boston Guardian’s Office in 1979, running Scientology’s ‘social reform’ front groups in New England for a time until leaving in 1981 to start a family. She escaped the subsequent purges and abolition of the GO. She was eventually re-recruited as an OSA volunteer in the 1980s.

Her volunteer career, which lasted on and off for around 14 years, followed what appears to have been a fairly typical pattern as she gradually proved her trustworthiness to her OSA handlers. She began with ‘overt data collection’ against Scientology’s enemies (for instance, using public records to obtain information on them), then graduated to covert activity such as infiltration and stealing trash from those deemed enemies of Scientology.

“I truly believed that the sneaky activities I was involved in for the Church were for the ‘greatest good’,” Patty says of her years working for OSA. Critics of Scientology, in her mind, were “evil people and trying to stop the expansion of Scientology due to their horrific crimes against humanity. I completely justified my behavior in Scientology and working with OSA because I felt I was one of the good guys, trying to expose one of the bad guys. I was a true believer that happily went along with any and all things sanctioned by the C of S or LRH, and I was completely trusted.”

OSA’s use of volunteers in operations against Scientology’s enemies is highlighted by two internal documents published by Rathbun in 2011. One of them, the “Beatty Handling Program,” was a plan of attack against former Sea Org member and Scientology critic Chuck Beatty. Written in 2006 and published by Rathbun five years later, the plan’s stated purpose was to “end CB’s black PR of Scientology” through achieving two major targets: “Crimes on Beatty found and documented” and “CB dismissed as an attacker or totally restrained and muzzled.”

The plan called for the use of a number of covert human intelligence sources, described as “resources” — presumably OSA volunteers — in San Francisco and Pittsburgh, where Beatty lived and worked. One was to concentrate on sending him “defeatist” messages to discourage him from criticising Scientology. Another was to push him to “go out and start meeting girls at bars, clubs, etc,” while a third operative in Pittsburgh, named in the plan as ‘Sam,’ was to socialise with him and “verify if Beatty is into downloading child porn”. If he was, this was to be reported immediately to law enforcement.

A Pittsburgh PI was to be tasked to disrupt Beatty’s relationship with his sister, with whom he was living, by getting him “signed up to receive kinky materials (at the house).” OSA’s investigations chief was also tasked with sending Beatty links to porn websites and ”materials and URLs for local sex locations that he would be interested in going to.” The ultimate goal was to “Expose this and get CB dismissed as an attacker.”

Another campaign from 2006 is said to have been directed against Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) professor David S. Touretzky, a vocal Scientology critic. It similarly appears to have relied heavily on OSA volunteers. As with the Beatty plan, much emphasis seems to have been placed on infiltrating the target’s social and professional circles.

Rathbun said that in 2006, Touretzky was the subject of “dozens of …. daily reports” compiled from intelligence provided by OSA informants and private investigators. A leaked report indicates that OSA was “activating” Scientologist CMU alumni to use as assets against Touretzky. One OSA volunteer at CMU was described as ”43 years old and he will be used to befriend Touretzky, and find names of current CMU students who can then be surveyed to get their parents contacted and stirred up.”

In the next and final part of this series, we’ll look at two essential ingredients of Scientology’s strategy to defeat its enemies and win global power – its lawyers and its influence operations.

— Chris Owen



Technology Cocktail

“An E-Meter is better known as a ‘lie-detector’ and is used to ascertain truth of background and conduct. The following points will be covered by the examiner: Any criminal background; Any Communist or subversive connection; Spreading of slander concerning Saint Hill or its people; Discouraging new employees by malicious lies; Receipt of commissions on purchases for Saint Hill; Overts against Doctor or Mrs. Hubbard. No staff at Saint Hill are exempt.” — 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

“This quarter of the universe, by the way, is suffering from an overdose lousy civilization. See, that’s what it’s suffering from. It apparently has been recently conquered in recent times (in the last few hundred thousand years) but those who were conquered had already been — their governmental action had already been set up for their own failure, see? They’d been set up be conquered by using, themselves, mental technology which made slaves. They implanted their own troops. Oh-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho,
ah-ah-ah-ah-a ah-ah-ah.” — L. Ron Hubbard, August 21, 1963


Avast, Ye Mateys

“I was looking over the schooner just down the dock, a handsome three master. PR-wise their appearance ship wise and crew-wise is ideal. Our crew is not yet poshly uniformed and ship appearance could do with upgrading. But for all its sharp appearance their sailors get drunk ashore and dump rubbish in the harbour. One thing no-one will excell us in is the friendliness of our crew, our orderly behaviours and pride in duty. That’s our PR gem!” — Lt. Cmdr Diana Hubbard, August 21, 1970


Overheard in the FreeZone

“Can one develop high OT level abilities while intending to use these for evil purposes? The answer is: Yes! Christianity had the answer to this all along in its concept of the devil i.e. highly capable, with OT abilities, but evil. The Ron’s Orgs are still working in present time on ‘handling’ Xenu. This character is the summum of evil and yet is so capable that so far nobody has been able to deal with him effectively and finally, talking about ability! So the point is that there is no reason why the originator or inventor of a mental spiritual technology has to be well intentioned. It is similar to the ‘gun’ debate. A gun can be used for good or for evil and thus it is with technology. There could be no mention of black Dianetics if this weren’t the case.”



Past is Prologue

1995: New recipients of legal threats from Helena Kobrin this week: Ray Russ and David Gerard. David’s letter was unique, as he describes: “Helena has been mailing my postmaster. A copy of the standard letter (re: OT7-48) and an ‘aggrieved user’ letter because I allegedly reposted the ‘I am the very model of a modern legal criminal’ song, which she claims is libelous. (Hint: every allusion in it is true! It’s a work of art!)”


Random Howdy

“It was speed which was readily available back in his day. When Hubbard talks about ‘Pinks & Grays’ he’s most likely talking about Dexedrine and Phenobarbital or Librium.”


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] Elisabeth Moss declines Valerie Haney’s nomination as arbitrator, says Scientology
[TWO years ago] Why isn’t Scientology promoting the Covid-19 vaccines like it did hand-washing and masks?
[THREE years ago] The Top 25 People Enabling Scientology, No. 21: Parents who subscribe to ABCMouse
[FOUR years ago] Has Scientology’s leader David Miscavige gone underground in the face of a legal onslaught?
[FIVE years ago] See the Scientology-like ad for Scientologist-owned ABCMouse, made by Scientologists!
[SIX years ago] DOX: The full FBI file from its 2009-2010 human trafficking investigation of Scientology
[SEVEN years ago] Who are the clergy Scientology convinces to attend its ‘interfaith’ farces?
[EIGHT years ago] VIDEO: Scientology rehab salesmen — Just exactly the humanitarians you imagined
[NINE years ago] Jon Atack: The games L. Ron Hubbard played
[ELEVEN years ago] Oklahoma State Senator on Scientology’s Drug Rehab: ‘If This Were a State Facility, It Would Already Be Shut Down’
[TWELVE years ago] Scientology Surf Report: Making Waves at the New York ‘Org’


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 3,128 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 3,643 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 3,193 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 2,183 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 2,064 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 5,368 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 3,239 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 2,344 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,791 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 4,133 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 12,699 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 8,618 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,785 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 4,367 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 4,628 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 3,664 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 3,380 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 2,944 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 1,259 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 2,434 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 6,985 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 4,116 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 4,454 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 9,309 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 4,428 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,784 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 7,087 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 3,193 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 3,591 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 3,467 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 3,032 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 3,545 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,799 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,908 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on August 21, 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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