Scientology Stalking Richard Leiby, Part 2: Frenemies Among Us

Village Voice/May 12, 2011

This evening, former high-ranking member of Scientology Marty Rathbun made public additional secret documents which he says outline Scientology's investigations of Washington Post reporter Richard Leiby.

Wednesday, Rathbun released a document which showed operatives for the "church" investigating Leiby's 2005 divorce by sorting through his ex-wife's garbage.

Tonight, we get a document which reports how information about Leiby was gathered by using people he trusted as friends.

A friend asked Leiby how his trip to California was. He said that it was terrible because of the rain. They know each other through Ida, and she knew he had been in California working on an article. The topic initially was Ida and some concern about her health.

It took me a while to register who this "Ida" was that is mentioned in Scientology's document. But then I remembered. And then I really got angry.

For years, when I was doing some of my own investigations of Scientology as a reporter in Los Angeles, I would receive e-mails from a kind woman named Ida Camburn. She had been fighting Scientology since losing her son to the organization in the 1970s.

She lived in Hemet, near Scientology's secretive desert headquarters, and she tirelessly tried to expose Scientology's abuses, earning her the nickname "Queen of Critics" among ex-Scientologists.

When you're in this business, let me just say, you deal with all sorts of people. Some of them are incredibly helpful, others waste your time. Some are a pleasure to deal with, others try your patience. No one, in the 16 years I've been reporting on Scientology, was more pleasant and helpful than Ida Camburn.

Last year, Ida passed away. If she were still alive, I suppose she would not be surprised to know that Scientology was so concerned about her activities, it cultivated a mole that knew both her and Leiby.

In the document, this "friend" who knew them both reported back to Scientology that Leiby was apparently showing some frustration on the job:

Leiby said that he has been busy working in other priorities. When the friend wished him good luck on his story on Scientology, he went down tone. The friend commented that he did not appear to be enthusiastic about it. Leiby response was, "sometime other things take priority and you get taken off something and don't get excited any longer." Leiby said that it would take some months before he does anything with the Scientology story and he said it as if he had no idea himself of when this would be. He then told the friend that he doesn't have an exact timing or deadline to do it. The friend wished him well and ended the conversation.

I talked to Rathbun tonight, and he explained to me how he knew the document had been unaltered since it was smuggled out of Scientology. I asked him why he thought it was a significant item.

"I'm exposing a technique," he said. "I want to show to what lengths these people will go. That they will spend years to get people close enough to you to get the information they want."

An additional item in the document reports that an operative spoke to Chuck Beatty, a well-known ex-Scientologist and critic of the church. Beatty supposedly tells the operative that Leiby is a better reporter than many that call him with dumb questions.

Beatty responded with a comment in Rathbun's blog, asking if he needed to check his records to try to figure out who this spy was. Rathbun tells me that Beatty is now doing just that.

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