These were enemies of the church. You shut them down. You find out what you can about them. You find their weak spot and you expose it. You make it so that they cannot survive or exist. You literally destroy them.

Frank Oliver, former OSA Agent. From ABC 20/20 – Scientology. Transcript

“In my opinion the church has one of the most effective intelligence operations in the U.S. rivaling even that of the FBI.”

Ted Gunderson, former head of the FBI’s Los Angeles office. Quoted in Time Magazine, 6 May 1991.

The Church of Scientology has throughout its history had a strongly paranoid outlook. L Ron Hubbard envisioned an enormous conspiracy arrayed against his organisation, co-ordinated by psychiatrists but encompassing fields as diverse as intelligence services from multiple nations, the IRS, Interpol, and a number of other players. An abbreviated version of this conspiracy theory can be found on the CoS website. This led to the creation of the Guardian’s Office, a division within Scientology dedicated to protecting Scientology’s “interests.” A 1978 LA Times article described it as follows:

In a 1955 publication by Hubbard still sold in the church’s bookstores, he said the purpose of a lawsuit against those who make unauthorized use of Scientology materials “is to harass and discourage rather than to win.”

He also said in the same publication, “… We do not want Scientology to be reported in the press anywhere else than in the religious pages of newspapers … Therefore, we should be very alert to sue for slander at the slightest chance so as to discourage the public presses from mentioning Scientology.”

Eight years later, a five-page policy letter put out by Hubbard entitled “press policies” suggests “We prefer no press because it slows our word- of-mouth amongst the people.”

As with its war on government agencies that the church perceives as hostile to it, Scientology’s conflict with individual critics are the business of the church’s Guardian Office, a legal, public relations and intelligence staff represented in each Scientology church in the United States and other countries.

Directed from the organization’s headquarters in Sussex, Eng., the Guardian Office is a world apart from the thousands of predominantly young people devoted to the church, and who feel that its form of counseling, called “auditing,” has benefited them.

Indeed, the Guardian Office poses what would seem to be the central paradox of Scientology: It is a sternly disciplinarian, combative — and by the acknowledgement of church officials keenly litigious — unit of a religious organization that says it seeks to “increase the spiritual, cultural, and moral values of man” and to ameliorate the “harsh demands of a modern society.”

LA Times, “Scientology Critics Assail Aggressiveness of Church,” 28 August 1978.

The Guardian’s Office was the division of the cult responsible for Operation Snow White. In what has been described at the largest single infiltration of the US government in history, Scientology operatives bugged, wiretapped and stole documents from offices of various government departments as well as those of foreign embassies and other organisations. Its uncovering in the late 1970s led to a number of high-ranking Scientologists going to jail.

The bulk of the Guardian’s Office’s responsibilities were passed to the Office of Special Affairs in the 1980s. As with the supposed cancelling of the cult’s notorious “Fair Game” policy towards critics, this was a change more in name than in policy. The Office of Special Affairs – OSA – serves a number of functions within the cult’s structure, including publicity, intelligence, dealing with critics, and legal affairs. Frank Oliver, a former OSA agent who defected in the early 1990s, described the organisaton’s function:

The Office for Special Affairs, OSA, has two main missions: propaganda and investigations. Both departments work hand in hand. When enemies of the organization are to be silenced, such as authorities, critics, journalists or psychiatrists, the machinery of the OSA goes into motion. The collected information goes into the propaganda department, which then uses it to denounced alleged enemies in public and to make them absolutely untrustworthy. It’s not for the general good of the populace. It’s very self-serving.

Frank Oliver, former OSA Agent. Quoted in Missing In Happy Valley (an investigation into Scientology’s labour camps, the Rehabilitation Project Force). Transcript at

OSA has been a key part of the cult’s disputes with its critics, both on and off the internet. The mid-1990s saw OSA carry out a number of high-profile operations, including raids and lengthy court proceedings, against anti-cult organisations and other critics. Some key cases include:

The destruction of the Cult Awareness Network, or CAN. CAN was set up in the aftermath of the Jonestown tragedy with the aim of collecting information on groups referred to as cults, to help family members of cult members and people concerned about groups they were involved with. OSA instructed Scientologists to attempt to join CAN en masse in order to change its agenda from the inside. In this respect, the project was similar to that carried out against the National Institute for Mental Health (now MIND) in the 1960s, in which large numbers of Scientologists joined and attempted to further an anti-psychiatry agenda within NIMH before being collectively expelled (see Believe What You Like, C H Rolph.)

With CAN, Scientologists were instructed to join the network using a form letter “in their own words” (many simply sent the original on) and specifically mentioning their being Scientologists. When CAN refused them membership, dozens of lawsuits were directed against the organisation alleging discrimination. While many of those cases were later dropped, the expense of handling the lawsuits led CAN to be forced into bankruptcy. See: 60 Minutes – the Cult Awareness Network.

The Xenu Raids. In 1994, the full text of the cult’s confidential Operating Thetan Level Three (OT3) material was posted anonymously to the newsgroup alt.religion.scientology. The following year, Scientology materials submitted in evidence in the case of Church of Scientology International v. Fishman and Geertz were posted to the group in their entirety. These materials included all of the Operating Thetan levels and a number of other classified cult documents. These postings led the CoS to attempt to shut down the newsgroup, and later to attempt to flood it through spam.

With the documents available, a number of raids were carried out against Scientology critics suspected of being responsible or of possessing the documents. These included Arnie Lerma, Karin Spaink, and Lawrence Wollersheim and Robert Penny of FACTnet (another anti-cult network) among others. During the raids, Scientology officials accompanied federal marshals and were granted access to critics’ computers in their entirety, searching their contents for supposedly copyright material. alt.scientology.war, Wired, 1995.

Targetting the Woods’.

Bonnie and Richard Woods are former Scientologists and founders of Escape International, a counselling service helping victims of the cult. The Office of Special Affairs targetted them for harassment, picketing their home and distributing libellous pamphlets about the couple. The Woods’, in conjunction with Liberty, sued the CoS and won in 1999, forcing an apology in the High Court:

Some time later she and her husband began to provide information, operate a call line and offer advice about Scientology to families and friends of members of the Church of Scientology. Mrs Woods also publicly criticised the Church of Scientology and spoke to the media about her experiences as a member of the organisation. Several times she attended vigils outside the Church of Scientology bookshop in East Grinstead and handed out a document which was very critical of the Church of Scientology. As a result of her activities, in June 1993 the Fourth Defendant (which is Church of Scientology Religious Education College Incorporated, the body responsible for the propagation and practice of Scientology in the United Kingdom) produced a leaflet showing a photograph of Mrs Woods above the words “Hate Campaigner Comes to Town”.

A group of Scientologists put the leaflet through the letter boxes of those living on the Woods’ road and handed it out to members of the public on East Grinstead High Street during one of their vigils. The leaflet described Mrs Woods as a “hate campaigner”, that is, someone motivated by hatred and religious intolerance, and as a “deprogrammer” who tried to force people away from their chosen faith. It also cast doubt on the sincerity of her claims to be a born-again Christian. As the defendants now accept, the allegations in the leaflet about Mrs Woods were untrue.

The cult was then forced to pay thousands of pounds to the Woods in damages.

Handling the Media

We are not interested in sensationalism personalities, or the complexity of Scientology methodology being discussed by the general public. At a subdivision of this, we do not want Scientology to be reported in the press, anywhere else than on the religious page of newspapers. It is destructive of word of mouth to permit the public presses to express their biased and badly reported sensationalism. Therefore we should be very alert to sue for slander at the slightest chance so as to discourage the public presses from mentioning Scientology.

L Ron Hubbard, quoted at

When journalists go to work investigating the Church of Scientology, they often end up having Scientology investigate them. Over the years, media outlets from Time Magazine and The Washington Times to the Readers Digest and BBC’s Panorama have found themselves targetting by OSA investigation and legal action.

In 1994, Brighton-based journalist Paul Bracchi investigated the Church of Scientology for a series of articles to be published in the Argus. The articles – Secrets of Saint Hill, Just The Worst Two Years Of My Life, and How a Church aimed to sell itself – detailed Bracchi’s time spent inside the cult researching for the article, including Scientology’s “justice” system, absolute control over its members, and high pressure sales.

Once his role became clear, the cult went to work targetting Bracchi personally. In 2007, in the wake of Scientology’s targetting of Panorama journalist John Sweeney, Bracchi reflected on the experience:

The voice at the end of the line was trembling. “Is that Mr Bracchi?”

“Yes, it is,” I replied. The caller could not have been more relieved. I was supposed to be dead. Someone had started a rumour that I had been killed in a fire.

The same people who had tried to obtain my ex-directory phone number, handed out pamphlets attacking me and dispatched an American private detective – an ex-Los Angeles police officer – to Britain to frighten and smear the source who had helped me expose their activities.

Almost daily threatening letters arrived by fax and post at The Argus where I used to work.

Messages were left on the answer machine at the home of the managing director. Strangers turned up in his village asking questions about him.

And the culprits behind this campaign of intimidation? Step forward the church of scientology.

In 2007, John Sweeney set out to investigate the Church of Scientology for the BBC’s Panorama program. During the investigation he was followed to his hotel, tracked down during interviews, and followed while driving from one place to another. In response to the Panorama documentary the Church of Scientology issued its own version of events, accusing Sweeney of orchestrating an anti-Scientology picket and sending terrorist death threats to a Scientology mission in London. Sweeney described his treatment in an article published at the same time as the documentary:

But start asking questions and you see a different face of Scientology.

While making our BBC Panorama film “Scientology and Me” I have been shouted at, spied on, had my hotel invaded at midnight, denounced as a “bigot” by star Scientologists and been chased round the streets of Los Angeles by sinister strangers.

Back in Britain strangers have called on my neighbours, my mother-in-law’s house and someone spied on my wedding and fled the moment he was challenged.

The Office of Special Affairs has been compared to the KGB and other secretive intelligences throughout the world. It, together with the cult’s internal “justice” system and penal measures such as the Rehabilitation Project Force, maintains a strict control within Scientology while handling its critics and other factors deemed a threat.

12th July sees Anonymous take part in pickets around the world, many under the theme of “Spy vs Sci,” drawing particular attention to OSA and Scientology’s other means of investigation. For further information please consult the 12th July section. For the London event see – Cult’s Closed, a mass party with Tory “Magoo” Christman and Mark Bunker of Xenu TV.