Secret Ontario documents found in U.S. cult's files

Toronto Globe and Mail/January 22, 1980
by John Marshall

Confidential documents from various Ontario Government offices including an attorney-general's communication about police intelligence operations have been found in U.S. Church of Scientology files.

The documents were part of the evidence submitted by federal attorneys in the Washington prosecution of U.S. leaders of the cult on charges of conspiring to steal government documents and obstruct justice by coverups and by kidnapping an informer.

Of 12 indicted, including two in Britain and the informer, nine have been tried, convicted and sentenced by a U.S. District Court in Washington. The highest-ranking one is Mary Sue Hubbard, who received the maximum sentence of a $10,000 fine and five years in prison.

She is called Controller and Commodore Staff Guardian of the cult. Her husband, Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, is one of 23 people named as unindicted co-conspirators.

The Canadian material, which also includes private documents from non-governmental agencies, went to the United States under covering letters from the Toronto Guardian offices of the authoritarian cult, which pushes mind-improvement courses for substantial fees.

Traces of the Canadian connection were found scattered among about 33,000 documents made public by the court after the convictions.

Thousands of the documents were obtained by the U.S. Scientologists legally and illegally from public and private agencies.

The rest are their own internal orders (many from Mr. Hubbard), codes, Telex messages, logbooks, plans for attacking critics, and reports from and about spies operating for the Scientology leaders in government and non-government offices where they could gather information to help the cult or hinder its enemies.

The bulk of the communications were between top officials of the cult's Guardian offices in the United States and also in Britain. Two world leaders based in Britain have been indicted but are fighting extradition to stand trial in Washington.

I found no reference to any religious aspects of Scientology operations in the court documents, although a press release from Rev. Kenneth Whitman, president of the Church of Scientology of California, said "the main body of Church activity deals with ministerial training and counselling."

Scientology mixes a belief (which Mr. Hubbard contends is scientifically supported by his own research) in an intergalactic spirit world trillions of years old with a form of psychoanalysis (or "counselling") using a gadget like a primitive lie detector. The device is called an E-meter.

Mr. Hubbard, a former science fiction writer, has claimed his methods can cure or prevent many diseases, can increase IQs, and can produce superior beings with power of mind over matter.

He officially started the Church of Scientology about 25 years ago when he decided to call his movement a religion. Before that he sold courses in his theory of Dianetics, a best-selling fad in book form in the early 1950s, describing his operation as a foundation, association or college.

In the Washington court documents can be found examples of his prolific writings, his orders and policy letters that were to be given top priority in the "orgs" (organizations) and missions in many countries including Canada. Mr. Whitman said there are 298 separate units with a membership of five million. Like orthodox religions, Scientology tends to inflate its figures, according to former members.

They also seem to inflate their paperwork more than any other bureaucracy. I found much duplication as I plowed through boxes of the organization's files under the worried eyes of Scientology public relations officers and the watchful eyes of a U.S. marshal. (When the first batch was released by the court there was little security and some documents disappeared, court clerks reported.)

Mr. Hubbard's followers in the United States and Canada do not try particularly to defend those convicted in the Washington trial. Instead, following long-standing directions from their leader, they attack the attackers. They claim there have been 30 years of civil rights violations against them by the U.S. Government.

And their private communications now lodged in the District Courthouse paint a bizarre continent-wide panorama of paranoia about individuals and agencies plotting against them.

The fears, justified or not, led to the planting of agents to get at files, and to electronic bugging, theft, blackmail, poison-pen letters and to the manufacturing of sex scandals against opponents.

According to the documentary evidence from their own files, the U.S. Scientologists manufactured false identification documents, framed one critic on a criminal charge and circulated intimate details about some of their own members' sexual escapades. At one point, the court was told, they also kidnapped and forcibly detained, handcuffed and gagged Michael Meisner, their former national secretary, after they discovered there was a warrant out for his arrest. Mr. Meisner later became a prosecution witness.

A week-long combing of the court files on the cult's U.S. operations uncovered not only the information they had somehow obtained from public and private agencies in Canada, but also references to a variety of other covert activities in this country.

Letters from Canadian officials to their superiors, and communications between officers at the international and U.S. leadership level reveal that:

  • Private information has been obtained covertly;
  • Front groups have been set up to espouse the cult's programs or to attack critics;
  • Members with cover stories have "penetrated" other agencies and organizations;
  • Dissident Canadian Scientologists have been followed or watched;
  • Efforts have been made to disrupt other organizations by covert means.

Reports on some of these activities went from Canada to be circulated to a number of top Scientology officials.

The letter that went from Toronto with the documents somehow obtained from the Ontario Attorney-General's offices (it's FBI file number 8237 and initialed by one of about 150 agents who raided Scientology offices in Los Angeles and Washington in 1977) is covered with hand-written notations by Scientology officials.

"Joe-see this is all properly filed and cross-filed as it is very good," wrote someone called, it appears, "Dada."

Another official wrote: "Diana, we ought to start LAPD Intell file-go ahead." This was an apparent reference to one of the documents, a long report by the Ontario Provincial Police on a study of Los Angeles police operations.

Also to be filed was a long letter from the then U.S. attorney-general, John Mitchell, telling the Ontario attorney-general about an inter-agency strike force operating in his country and a system for collecting and filing crime intelligence information.

There was one letter in the Scientologists' files from an RCMP officer in Ottawa to the Ontario Provincial Police fraud squad in Toronto, which was investigating complaints by parents of a teen-age member of the cult. The letter had an OPP stamp indicating it had been received March 3, 1979.

When Deputy Commissioner James Erskine, who headed the OPP fraud squad at that time, was told this week about the letter, he had officers go to the squad's dead files ("they had to climb over three or four cabinets to get to them"). He said they found the slim file on the case still intact. (The matter never went beyond the police investigation.)

He said a preliminary look at the handling of the letter indicated it could not have been copied from the squad's files, which he said had been kept particularly secure. There was reason to believe a copy of it might have been sent to some other agency, Mr. Erskine said, and he was looking into this.

The letter was accompanied in the Scientology files by an internal message between two of the convicted Scientologist leaders and identified in the court documents as FBI item 13968. Another document (FBI 20342) gives one of the many codes used by the cult-Ruby Code. In it, the code name for OPP is KNOK.

Casey Hill, an Ontario assistant Crown attorney assigned to a provincially ordered inquiry into religious cults, made a brief visit to offices of the federal prosecutors in Washington about six weeks ago.

Mr. Hill discussed the Scientology material submitted to the court but brought back no documents. Since then he has received copies of some of them, but there has been no official Ontario investigation at the source.

Simon Chester of the deputy attorney-general's office said in an interview: "Obviously, we're going to have to be examining these documents very carefully ... We treat it seriously but not as a catastrophe ... We'll follow every angle, obviously."

But he added: "We are in an awkward situation."

He was referring to the fact that Daniel Hill, a former chairman of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, has been conducting a preliminary inquiry into the operation of cults in general. Mr. Hill's appointment followed pressures on the provincial Government to take legislative action to control alleged excesses of some cults.

His report to the attorney-general was expected soon, possibly this month, but the U.S. court disclosures could delay it.

Mr. Chester said last month he didn't think Queen's Park would launch an immediate investigation of how Government documents ended up in the hands of others.

"Any action is putting Dr. Hill under a spotlight, so to speak, before his report is going to the minister. It would be unfair to him and his staff who have been investigating so long."

Also in court documents released in Washington was a thick file of material from Ontario Health Ministry files. Like many other items found in the Scientology offices, it was marked "red box".

That, according to evidence before the court, was the code name for an easily portable file that was to contain "anything illegal" implicating the Hubbards or any Scientologists and for documents not obtained through legal channels.

In the "red box" material was a 1966 memo written by Matthew Dymond as Ontario health minister to his deputy about a pamphlet written by Mr. Hubbard. The memo said: "If Hubbard is contravening the Hypnosis Act I think we should take some steps to persuade him to change his mind."

Most of the Health Ministry files among the Scientology documents submitted in court consist of private papers of the Committee on the Healing Arts. During its hearings in the late 1960s, the committee was critical of Scientologists for their conduct before it (they appeared once and had to be subpoenaed to reappear). It also questioned some of the cult's written claims about psychic healing.

The U.S. Scientologists had also obtained the 274-page pre-publication draft of the committee's report on sectarian healing and hypnotherapy, which had been written by John A. Lee and published in 1970.

At the time the draft copy was sent by Toronto Scientologists to their superiors in the United States, the Toronto organization was involved in a lawsuit against Professor Lee. (The suit has been dormant for some years.)

In Toronto, after my reading of the Washington court files, I asked the University of Toronto professor about the documents, which included letters written to him by others on the healing arts committee staff.

He said that at the time of the lawsuit he went to Health Ministry archives to get material for his defence, only to discover many of the committee documents missing.

According to other sources in Toronto, documents concerning the Scientologists have also disappeared from other files in the Health Ministry.

And files involving the controversial cult have also disappeared mysteriously from the Ontario Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations.

David Mitchell, an investigator in that ministry, confirmed that a "banker's box" of material had gone missing. "But it's no hardship, maybe just complaint reports. Other material is in a secure ares. You'd need dynamite to get at it."

Defence lawyers in Washington-a team of 16 represented the nine U.S. Scientology leaders indicted in August, 1978, and sentenced last month- sought to mitigate the crimes against the U.S. Government by saying the Scientologists thought Government agencies were out to destroy their religion.

The organization has been in a long-running battle with governments in the United States, particularly over its tax status as a religion. In some jurisdictions, it is officially recognized as such, in others it is not.

In some Canadian provinces Scientology has won recognition of the right of its ministers to perform marriages.

Late last year the Toronto Church of Scientology renewed a request to the Ontario Registrar-General for official recognition as a religion, asking for marrying privileges for one of its ministers.

That request has been turned over to Frank Drea, who heads the Consumer Ministry under which the Registrar-General operates.

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