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The Guardian’s expose of Narconon is great — except for this puzzling issue

[Narconon Ojai and ABLE’s ED]

We want to thank all of the readers who sent us messages about this weekend’s terrific expose of the Narconon drug program in the Guardian*, which involved a nine-month investigation and publication on the newspaper’s front page.

Journalist Shanti Das did a superb job not only describing the risks of Narconon’s cold-duck approach to serious drug addiction, but also pointed out the glaring issues about the lack of regulation and oversight of the Narconon clinic in England.

Journalists have been exposing Narconon as a quack therapy for many years, and for that reason we wanted to bring up something about the Guardian’s otherwise excellent piece. We have a feeling this wasn’t Das’s choice, but for some reason legacy outfits like the Guardian make no mention of the decades, literally, of previous journalistic exposes of Narconon, and in this case it led to the one puzzling aspect of the resulting article: The odd way it handled the connection between Narconon and Scientology.

Readers of the Bunker know very well that there is no question about this. But the Guardian was puzzlingly circumspect about it, saying things like, “Scientology beliefs also appear to influence Narconon’s approach.”

Appear to influence?


We thought we would present some of the key evidence that Narconon is Scientology in case there are readers of the Guardian’s piece that are left wondering about it.

First, there are the former Scientology executives who are happy to tell you that even if Narconon was started by a prison inmate named William Benitez in 1966, Narconon was definitely part of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s “social coordination” program of the early 1970s, establishing a number of front groups whose mission is to carry Hubbard’s name into drug rehab (Narconon), school curricula (Applied Scholastics), prisons (Criminon), and business administration (WISE), particularly among dentists, veterinarians, and most especially chiropractors.

Narconon is, there is no question about it, a front group for the church of Scientology, and every single Narconon clinic in the world can only operate under a license of another of Scientology’s subsidiaries, the Association for Better Living and Education, or ABLE.

This is all well established in dozens of court cases and other documentation, and former Scientology executives such as Mike Rinder or Claire Headley are happy to say so for a publication like the Guardian.

And let’s go through some of the other things we have seen over the years that leave no doubt that Narconon is a creature of Scientology and not simply under its “influence.”

1. Luke Catton. At one point, Lucas Catton was the president of what was then the most important Narconon center in the world, Narconon Arrowhead in Oklahoma. In 2013, Luke went public with a book and an appearance on NBC’s Rock Center, explaining that Narconon of course is Scientology, from its rehab programs to its licensing to its control by ABLE and ultimately its subservience to Scientology leader David Miscavige. Luke has continued to speak out about this, putting out a new book in 2020, and there are few people were in a better place to describe how a Narconon outfit works, day in and day out.

2. David Miscavige. If Scientology is only an “influence” on Narconon, why does David Miscavige talk about it like it’s part of the Scientology organization in his annual speeches? And during those speeches, video graphics play behind him such as the one here, as he describes that Narconon clinics are part of the expansion that his “Ideal Org” program promises, with new churches and clinics spreading across the world.

3. Marc Headley. It was Marc Headley who first told us that not only does ABLE control Narconon, but ABLE is staffed only with Scientology Sea Org members, the hardcore elite of the movement who have all signed billion-year contracts. Marc knew this because he was one of them, and he’d be happy to tell any journalist that yes, Narconon is controlled by a Scientology entity that is entirely staffed by Scientology’s ersatz navy.

4. Scientology announces changes at Narconon. One of the best single pieces of evidence that Narconon is fully under Scientology control is when they came out and said that they were making radical changes to it.

Don’t remember that? We sure do. It was 2015, and Narconon had been under serious attack for years following the deaths of several patients in this country. Attorneys smelled blood in the water, and dozens of lawsuits were filed around the US. We closely documented the changes we saw to Narconon’s overall management, and then in 2015, ABLE’s own executive director, who was a woman named Shannon Walker, then began personally showing up to open some new facilities then (including the celebrity drunk tank that they created out of Larry Hagman’s old estate in Ojai, California), making it very plain that ABLE had taken tighter control of the struggling network.

“I said it a year ago. He’s going to have to abandon Narconon as he knows it. The only thing he didn’t change was the name,” Mike Rinder told us then, referring to Scientology leader David Miscavige making wholesale changes that remain in place today in the US, where Narconon is only a shadow of what it was previously. At one point there were 21 clinics in the US, today there are only five.

And one of our favorite pieces of evidence, the plaque.

5. David Venemon. In 2019, a man named David Venemon came forward to reveal that he had been behind some of the biggest leaks of information out of Narconon, including a photo of a plaque given to Narconon Fresh Start owner Larry Trahant for helping to recruit so many patients to Scientology’s “Bridge” itself.

It was Venemon who had also smuggled out key scripts which demonstrated how Narconon fooled unsuspecting callers into sending their loved ones to Narconon centers with a lot of misinformation.


We were grateful to Venemon for having the fortitude to bring out so much information making it plain how Scientology controls Narconon, as have so many others.

There’s simply no excuse for news organizations today to hesitate pointing out this relationship, and we want to make sure these great exposes of the past are not forgotten.

[* For our British friends helpfully pointing out that the story appeared in their copies of the Observer on Sunday, we read it at its sister publication the Guardian’s website on Saturday, and we hope you can overlook our lack of familiarity with British publication branding.]


Technology Cocktail

“The budding psycho-analyst gets the shock of his life when he sees there IS SOMETHING THERE. Before us, people thought the brain had short circuits in it (psychologists and psychiatrists) or that a beast called a Censor lived in a dungeon in it (Freud), or that evil spirits haunted one (Christianity). The whole answer to the mind is mental pictures and masses created by the thetan. There is no other source or cause of aberration.” — L. Ron Hubbard, 1966



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 [50] Bruce Hines [51] Spanky Taylor and Karen Pressley [51] Geoff and Robbie Levin [52] Sands Hall [53] Jonny Jacobsen [54] Sandy Holeman


Source Code

“I don’t say that you could walk up to the tomb of Alexander and bring Alexander back into the tomb and have him knock the dust together again and resurrect. See, I don’t say that you could do this. But I don’t say you can’t.” — L. Ron Hubbard, February 5, 1957


Avast, Ye Mateys

“The demands for books to meet increased org activity generated by the FEBCs returning is a subject of concern. Pubs Org fell low in income after mid-1970 and has not recovered and is travelling at a non-viable level now reflected in its crossed Cash-Bills. Non E has been assigned with a Liability Condition in the offering and a general rocket has been set. A strong US center is being urged by me, an order not fully carried out a long time ago. Measures will have to be taken. Eval in Data Bureau should get to work on its WHY. There was a spectacular stat change in mid 1970 after which no recovery.” — The Commodore, February 5, 1971



Overheard in the FreeZone

“Because the tech was created in the future then this timeline was created in this future and sent here to this time now I don’t want to confuse anyone. The static creates the new viewpoint but since the real time this universe is running is in a future time then the static created this viewpoint in the now of the future but sent me to this period of time. Does this make sense?”


Past is Prologue

1996: Dennis Erlich, sued by Scientology for copyright infringement and by his ex-wife for child support, posted some court filings this week. “Here is my most current filing. It is a motion to quash production of my bank records back to 1985 and my personnel records from my previous employer. I have already opposed the subpoena for documents from my former employer by a previous motion to quash filed June 13, 1995. Despite the earlier motion to quash, the Respondent acquiesced and allowed the contents of his personnel file, along with payroll records to be forwarded to the Petitioner. The Respondent’s former employer also was subjected to a deposition regarding these same records by the Petitioner. The Petitioner has now filed another invasive subpoena for the same irrelevant records. Since the April 1995 filing contained the Petitioner’s current address, and despite being unemployed, I have forwarded every required child support payment to Petitioner. In October the Petitioner forwarded to me un- itemized bills for dental work ostensibly done on HOLLY. I was not employed, nor did I have the income to pay the bills, even if they had been properly itemized. I am currently unemployed. My unemployment insurance runs out in 2.5 weeks. From then on until I find other employment, I will have to borrow to live. My ability to pay child support will cease. I have forwarded all this information to the Petitioner, asking her to desist from these unwarranted and burdensome motions. In spite of these compelling defenses, the Petitioner has gone forward with these wasteful motions. I believe these motions have been put before the court simply and only for the purpose of harassing me, invading my privacy and consuming my precious time.”


Random Howdy

“The one thing that LRH and D.M. have elevated to a fine art is cheapness. I heard stories about J. Paul Getty when I was a kid and he had nothing on these guys.”



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. Sentenced to 30 years to life 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. Next pretrial hearing January 29, 2024.
David Gentile, GPB Capital, fraud.

Civil litigation:
Leah Remini v. Scientology, alleging ‘Fair Game’ harassment and defamation: Complaint filed August 2, motion to strike/anti-SLAPP motions by Scientology to be heard January 9, 2024.
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: Discovery phase.
Jane Doe 1 v. Scientology, David Miscavige, and Gavin Potter: Case unsealed and second amended complaint filed. Scientology moves for religious arbitration.
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] VIDEO: This is what you really want out of Scientology, right? Super Power!
[TWO years ago] Patriot logic: In 1997 JFK Jr predicted our QAnon future in George magazine
[THREE years ago] Judge to Valerie Haney: You need to get this Scientology ‘arbitration’ underway
[FOUR years ago] Scientology provides all the proof you need that Narconon is more than ‘tied’ to it
[FIVE years ago] Tonight, Leah Remini looks at Scientology’s ultimate prize: The protections of tax exemption
[SIX years ago] Best reactions to last night’s Scientology Super Bowl ad, which asked, ‘Curious?’
[SEVEN years ago] Scientology’s 2017 Super Bowl ad, ‘Your Full Potential,’ is another mystery sandwich
[EIGHT years ago] Scientology is the bomb diggety, and here’s proof, starring Leah Remini’s husband!
[NINE years ago] SCIENTOLOGY DENIED: Australia’s only Narconon rehab center loses zoning fight
[TEN years ago] The secret of everything? It’s time for Scientology’s Original Operating Thetan Level Five!
[ELEVEN years ago] Jenna Miscavige Hill on her Uncle, Scientology’s Leader: A Bully Too Afraid to Show His Face


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley (1952-2019) did not see his daughter Stephanie in his final 5,667 days.
Tammy Synovec has not seen her daughter Julia in 2,801 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 3,296 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 3,811 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 3,361 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 2,351 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 2,232 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 5,536 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 3,407 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,959 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 4,300 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 12,867 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 8,786 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,954 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 4,535 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 4,796 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 3,832 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 3,548 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 3,112 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 1,427 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 2,602 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 7,153 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 4,284 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 4,622 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 9,477 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 4,596 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,952 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 7,255 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 3,361 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 3,759 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 3,635 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 3,200 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 3,713 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,967 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 15,076 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on February 5, 2024 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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