Double Crossed

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Throughout its nearly half a century of existence, Scientology has been attacked by some former adherents who feed a curious press about the organization's odd beliefs, voracious appetite for parishioners' cash, and aggressive litigiousness. Hubbard responded to such critics by declaring defectors "suppressive persons."

In 1967, Hubbard issued his "fair game" policy, which announced that a suppressive person, or SP, "may be deprived of property or injured by any means, by any Scientologist....He may be tricked, sued or lied to, or destroyed."

Since then, former Scientologists, government officials, and journalists have claimed to have become targets of "fair game":

* Paulette Cooper, author of the The Scandal of Scientology (1971), became the target of Operation Freakout, an attempt by church operatives to either drive her insane or get her put in prison. The operatives managed to get Cooper indicted by framing her for making bomb threats against the church. She was only exonerated when documents detailing Operation Freakout were discovered by government agents.

* In Florida, Scientology made the town of Clearwater one of its two world headquarters (the other is Los Angeles). When Clearwater Mayor Gabe Cazares complained about the church in 1976, FBI documents show the church launched a campaign to spread rumors about his sex life.

* Scientology's most ambitious crusade was directed at its arch enemy: the Internal Revenue Service. From 1957 to 1992, the IRS denied the church tax-exempt status, saying that it was more a moneymaking operation than a religion. In 1977, FBI agents raided the Church of Scientology in both Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., and discovered damning evidence that, for several years, Scientology operatives in the church's secretive Guardian's Office had been breaking into the IRS and other federal offices in Washington and stealing government documents. To this day, Scientology's pilfering of records, which Hubbard designated Operation Snow White, is the single largest infiltration of the U.S. government in history.

Despite uncovering the scheme, the FBI couldn't immediately put its hands on Snow White's chief infiltrator, a Guardian's Office operative named Michael Meisner. Searching for Meisner, FBI agents demanded samples of his handwriting. But the Guardian's Office supplied the FBI with false handwriting samples to throw agents off Meisner's trail. According to a stipulation of evidence in the case signed by church officials, the person who supplied the false signature samples was GO employee Kendrick Moxon -- who today is the church attorney accused by Robert Cipriano of masterminding the plot to destroy Graham Berry.

Eventually, 11 Scientologists, including Guardian's Office director Mary Sue Hubbard (wife of the church founder) were sentenced to prison. "The crimes committed by these defendants is of a breadth and scope previously unheard," wrote U.S. Attorney Charles Ruff in a sentencing memorandum. "It is interesting to note that the Founder of their organization, unindicted co-conspirator L. Ron Hubbard, wrote...that 'truth is what is true for you,' and 'illegal' is that which is 'contrary to statistics or policy' and not pursuant to Scientology's 'approved program.' Thus, with the Founder-Commodore's blessings, they could wantonly commit crimes as long as it was in the interest of Scientology....The standards of human conduct embodied in such practices represent no less than the absolute perversion of any known ethical value system."

Besides Hubbard himself, Kendrick Moxon and 21 others were named unindicted co-conspirators and were not charged. (Moxon tells New Times he didn't knowingly supply false handwriting samples and that the stipulation of evidence was something signed by church officials but written by FBI agents. He says the matter was thoroughly investigated by two bar associations -- in D.C. and in California -- before they admitted him as an attorney. Moxon is in good standing with the bar associations in both jurisdictions.)

After the Snow White debacle, church officials insisted that the Guardian's Office had contained "rogue elements" who broke into government offices without the knowledge or permission of the rest of the organization. The church has promised the IRS and said publicly that it has purged itself of the Snow White operatives. In 1993, the IRS granted tax-exempt status to the Church of Scientology after, among other things, it declared that it had changed its ways.

Scientologists point out that in 1968, Hubbard issued a policy canceling "fair game." Wrote Hubbard: "The practice of declaring people FAIR GAME will cease. FAIR GAME may not appear on any Ethics Order. It causes bad public relations." However, the memo's next line seemed to indicate that while the term "fair game" would cease to be used, the practice of fair game would not: "The [policy letter] does not cancel any policy on the treatment or handling of an SP [Suppressive Person]."

Scientology officials have argued repeatedly that the 1968 policy forever ended the practice of fair game, but former high-ranking Scientologists say the 1968 policy letter was merely a PR tactic and that the policy has never gone away.

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Tony Ortega
Contact: Tony Ortega