Michael Meisner took his first Scientology course in 1970. He was so impressed that he left college before taking his finals, and became a full-time staff Scientologist. In May 1973, he was recruited by the Guardian's Office, and assigned to the Intelligence Bureau, shortly to be renamed the Information Bureau.
From July to October 1973, Meisner was in Los Angeles learning the complicated internal procedures followed in all Scientology organizations, and other procedures peculiar to the Guardian's Office. He was indoctrinated in Information Bureau techniques. He was taught how to conduct covert investigations, how to recruit undercover agents and place them in "enemy" organizations, as well as techniques of surveillance.
This was nothing new. The GO had been placing "plants" in organizations perceived to be hostile for some years. From 1969 the GO had infiltrated the Better Business Bureau and various mental health organizations including, in 1972, the American Medical Association. The pattern was well established.
In November, Meisner became Director of Branch 2 (B-2) in Washington, DC. Branch 2 dealt with internal security. It monitored Scientology itself, looking for infiltrators, and weeding out anyone who was a "potential trouble source." Independent, or "Squirrel" Scientology groups were also the province of B-2, which would do anything in its power to destroy such groups. At about the time Meisner was posted, Guardian Jane Kember wrote to tell Henning Heldt, her deputy in the United States, that the GO had illegally obtained documents relating to lnterpol. She now ordered Heldt to acquire Ron Hubbard's file from the lnterpol Bureau in Washington.
Meisner rose quickly through the ranks. In January 1974, he was promoted by Kember to Assistant Guardian for Information in Washington, DC. From this position he oversaw both Branch 1 and Branch 2.
In her letter to Heldt, the Guardian had said the GO Legal Bureau had made Freedom of Information Act requests for certain documents, but because the legal approach took too long, B-1 should obtain them anyway. Meisner was given the job. Some Scientologists claim he was a government agent provocateur, who instigated the use of illegal tactics. As we've seen, infiltration and the theft of files was well underway before Meisner began his incredibly successful career. Meisner's orders came from the Guardian, and the theft of government files was an extension of the program written by Hubbard himself in New York in 1973. He had called it Operation Snow White. In 1974, Kenneth Urquhart, who was "L. Ron Hubbard Personal Communicator" at the time, overheard a conversation between Ron and Mary Sue about an agent working in the IRS in Washington. 1
Meisner initiated a "project" to obtain all Interpol files relating to Hubbard and Scientology which called for the lnterpol National Bureau to be infiltrated by a Guardian's Office agent. The project was approved by Meisner's direct senior, Duke Snider, and Meisner assigned it to his B-1 Director, Mitchell Hermann. No immediate action was taken.
In the late summer of 1974, Cindy Raymond, who was the GO Collections Officer U.S., ordered Meisner to recruit a Scientologist to infiltrate the Internal Revenue Service. Prospective candidates were interviewed, but no one with the right psychological makeup was found. In September, Raymond sent her own choice, Gerald Wolfe, to Washington.
It took Wolfe, codenamed Silver, a while to find a job as there was an employment freeze at the IRS. He started work as a clerk-typist on November 18, 1974.
Shortly before Silver started his job, GO agent Don Alverzo flew to Washington from Los Angeles. On the afternoon of October 30, following a briefing by Alverzo, Meisner and Hermann walked into the main IRS building looking for the Chief Counsel's Office. The Scientologists had heard from their lawyers that there would be a meeting to discuss Scientology litigation there on November 1.
On the appointed day, Alverzo and Hermann went into the Chief Counsel's Office before the meeting, and installed an electronic bug. They taped the proceedings via a car FM receiver. Then Hermann went back into the office (on the fourth floor), and retrieved the bug.
At first, Silver did not do well on his IRS mission. In fact, he did not do anything. After a month, Meisner decided to coax him by showing just how easy it was. Meisner and Hermann went into the IRS building on a weekday at four in the afternoon. They waited for the building to empty out, and then at about seven went into the offices of the Exempt Organization Division of the IRS, and stole a file on Scientology. The file was photocopied and Hermann returned it the next day.
At the end of December, three weeks after Meisner's little mission, the Silver lode opened up. He was asked to steal and photocopy files from the office of IRS official Barbara Bird. Meisner reviewed the copies, and sent an edited version to his superiors.
In January 1975, Meisner was also supervising an agent in the U.S. Coast Guard, Sharon Thomas, and another in the Drug Enforcement Administration, Nancy Douglas. Thomas was placed in the Coast Guard in compliance with Kember's Guardian's Order 1344. Later, Thomas and Meisner also performed the fake hit-and-run accident for Mayor Cazares.
In May 1975, Meisner received a copy of Project Horn from its author, Gregory Willardson. Willardson was B-1 Director U.S. "Project Horn" was meant to create a cover story whereby stolen documents could be publicly released, without revealing the identity of the thieves. Meisner's team was to steal documents which did not relate to Scientology. They were also to steal IRS stationery, so that a fictitious disgruntled ex-employee of the IRS could release these documents to the organizations and individuals they concerned.
The Church of Scientology would also ostensibly receive letters from this "former IRS employee," along with a wealth of documents, which would help in their fight against the immoral steps the IRS had taken against them.
Having banished his initial hesitance completely, Silver stole, copied and replaced a ten-foot stack of documents from the IRS by May 1975. About 30,000 pages.
Jane Kember's Guardian's Order 1361 ordered the theft of documents from the Tax Division of the United States Justice Department. Meisner set to work in April 1975.
The Guardian's Office Legal Bureau told Meisner that attorneys Harold Larsen and Stanley Krysa had represented the government in litigation against Scientology in both Hawaii and Florida. Meisner ordered Silver to go into their offices, in the Tax Division of the Department of Justice, and steal all files relating to Scientology.
On three successive Saturdays in May 1975, Silver went into the Star Building, to the offices of the Tax Division. He used his IRS identification card. He stole and copied twelve files relating to litigation against the Church. He passed the copies to Meisner at their usual rendezvous, Lums restaurant in Arlington, Virginia. As usual, Meisner wrote a synopsis of the material, and sent this to his seniors. The Controller, Mary Sue Hubbard, was among those informed of the thefts from the IRS. A letter in her hand approving the strategy was later used in evidence against her.
On June 11, 1975, Meisner wrote "Project Beetle Clean-up," the purpose of which was to obtain copies of all the Washington IRS files on the Hubbards and Scientology. This included files held in both the Intelligence Division and the Internal Revenue Service's Office of International Operations. The project was approved by Meisner's senior, Wi!lardson.
Silver set to work immediately. The IRS was about to begin a major audit of the Church of Scientology of California--the then "mother church." During this audit, between two and three million pages of material would be reviewed. Heading the audit was Lewis Hubbard of the IRS Chief Counsel's Office. So Silver broke into Hubbard's office and made copies of everything he could find, even his daily jottings. Now the Guardian's Office knew the IRS strategy, and which of the Church's many weaknesses it would have to defend.
In July, Cindy Raymond told Meisner that the Church had brought a Freedom of Information Act suit against the Internal Revenue Service, charging that the IRS had failed to give proper access to files on Scientology. Meisner was ordered to obtain documents from the office of Charles Zuravin, the IRS attorney who would be defending the Freedom of Information case.
The Church created a pattern, bringing suits against agencies, then penetrating their attorneys' offices to see how the agencies proposed to defend themselves. In the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) suits, these attorneys had access to the very files which the Scientologists were suing to obtain. Eventually, the Scientologists stole far more material than they were ostensibly trying to gain through legal action.
Silver added Zuravin's office to those he was monitoring. Zuravin was amassing documents relating to Scientology from IRS offices throughout the United States, so he could prepare an FOIA index. These documents represented the dealings of the IRS with the Church over twenty years. Zuravin's task was awesome. He had to prepare a Vaughn Index (listing every document potentially subject to an FOIA request). Zuravin also had to explain IRS reasons for non-disclosure for each document the IRS had refused to release.
The IRS was doing the GO's work for it. All Silver had to do was copy the documents as they came in, and the GO would have every scrap of information from the IRS files, indexed at IRS expense, with the added bonus of the list of IRS reasons for non-disclosure.
In September 1975, Guardian Jane Kember issued "commendations" (yet another military term used in Scientology) to those who had worked on Guardian's Order 1361; those who had committed the criminal acts of burglary and theft for the good of the cause.
In October, attorney Zuravin completed his index. Every document was numbered, giving the GO an excellent reference work. The index was handed over to Scientology attorneys. Within days it had been edited, so Silver would only steal the "exempted" documents, not wasting his time on those already obtained through FOIA requests.
Silver went to Zuravin's office, and in a single weekend stole some 3,000 pages of documents. Even this haul did not net all of the denied documents. At the end of November 1975, before Silver had completed his work, Zuravin's office, and that of Lewis Hubbard, were placed within a "red seal," or high security area, inside the main IRS building. From this point the doors were locked at all times. Zuravin's papers were moved into a locked file room.
At the beginning of December, Meisner flew to Los Angeles for a conference with his superiors. He was shown the newly issued "Guardian's Program Order 158 - Early Warning System," which the Guardian had approved. This program had come into being as a direct result of a Hubbard order. Its purpose was to keep Hubbard out of the hands of the courts. The GO were to anticipate any law suit against or subpoena on the Hubbards.
The Order directed that an agent be placed in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington, DC. Any Federal agency which was in litigation with the Church, or was planning litigation, would report to the U.S. Attorney's Office. An agent was also to be placed in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles. Another agent was to be infiltrated into the IRS Office of International Operations (OIO), because they were preparing a tax case against Hubbard. This last agent was to steal any files on either of the Hubbards, and to report any developments. Close liaison was to be maintained with the agents already in place in the Coast Guard, the Drug Enforcement Administration in Washington, DC, and the IRS in Los Angeles and Washington, DC.
Back in Washington, Meisner started his compliance with the Order. The internal procedures of the GO required that all major actions be "okayed" in writing by a senior. These Orders, and Meisner's responses to them, were reported step by step through the hierarchy to Mary Sue Hubbard, the Controller. Mary Sue Hubbard was living with her husband at this time, and no doubt kept him informed of Meisner's spectacular offensive against the United States government.
Meisner and Silver performed a series of burglaries on the Justice Department. They stole documents from the offices of Paul Figley and Jeffrey Axelrad in the Civil Division's Information and Privacy Unit. Figley had been assigned to the defense of the Freedom of Information Act suits brought against government agencies by the Church of Scientology.
Meisner and Silver went into the Justice Department library using Silver's IRS identification card. They waited until after office hours, and went into Figley's office. As ever, they used the nearest photocopier. On two occasions they stayed in the building until 10:00 p.m., copying files on Scientology, and every Interpol document they could find. Further burglaries of Figley's office were committed by Silver, with GO agents Joseph Alesi and Richard Kimmel.
On Saturday, January 17, 1976, Don Alverzo again flew to Washington. The next evening, accompanied by Silver and Meisner, he entered the main IRS building, using Silver's IRS identification. They went up to the third floor where Lewis Hubbard's office and Zuravin's file office were. Silver stood guard while Alverzo tried to pick the lock on Hubbard's door. Meisner worked on Zuravin's door. Their GO training, the "Breaking and Entering Hat," did not serve them well. After about an hour and a half, the exasperated Meisner forced Zuravin's door. The three went into the office, stole the remaining "exempt" documents from Zuravin's index, and took them to a photocopier on another floor. After a while, Meisner and Alverzo left Silver to the copying and returned to Hubbard's office. Eventually, Alverzo managed to force the latch with a strip of cardboard. They took all the files which had not previously been copied. The party left at two in the morning with a one foot stack of documents. Alverzo returned to Los Angeles the next day.
At the beginning of February, Meisner again flew to Los Angeles for a conference. There were representatives from the Guardian's Office Legal and Finance Bureaus at the meeting, as well as Church accountant Martin Greenberg. The meeting discussed IRS strategy with regard to the Scientology audit, as revealed in the stolen documents. Meisner was instructed to look out for any documents dealing with the Religious Research Foundation, a front through which Scientology monies were paid to Hubbard. Mary Sue's Office was informed.
In Washington, Meisner relayed his instructions to Silver. The offices of the Exempt Organizations Division were to be monitored for files. The GO wanted advance warning in case there was an adverse ruling on Scientology's current attempt to regain tax-exempt status. They wanted to know before it was finalized, so they could prepare their next line of defense.
Meisner had ordered Sharon Thomas to leave the U.S. Coast Guard, and find a job at the Department of Justice. After initial difficulties, she finally managed to do this, and started work there on February 29, 1976.
Silver had to be slightly more inventive than usual to get into Joseph Tedesco's suite of offices. During the day, Silver removed the knob from a door which led into the suite, and disabled the lock. The door was not normally in use, so the ploy went unnoticed. That night Silver returned and carried out his usual procedure.
Silver also stole files relating to the American Medical Association's tax-exemption, as ammunition for Scientology's long standing battle against the AMA.
At the beginning of March, Meisner decided to refine the GO operation. He and Silver went into the main IRS building, again using Silver's legitimate card, in his real name, Gerald Wolfe. They went to the IRS Identification Room on the first floor, and forced the door. While Meisner read the instruction booklet for the photo equipment, Silver typed two fictitious names for himself, and two for Meisner, onto cards. They then used the photo equipment to put their faces to the names. Meisner selected numbers from the log of previously issued cards. During the next few months, false identification cards were made for four other GO agents.
In March 1976, Mary Sue Hubbard approved a Program written by Cindy Raymond, for the collection of what were termed "non-FOI data" - i.e. documents not available through the Freedom of Information Act. Raymond, who was the GO Collections Officer U.S., planned to infiltrate no less than 136 government agencies! She also ordered Meisner to obtain material relating to proposed amendments of the Freedom of Information Act.
In April, Meisner and Silver returned to the Justice Department. Meisner used an identification card made out to "John M. Foster," while Silver used his own genuine IRS card, which later proved to be a crucial mistake. They burgled the office of Deputy Attorney General of the United States, Harold Tyler, and copied memoranda which the Justice Department was about to send to Congress outlining its position on proposed amendments to the FOIA. The office door was forced to gain entry.
A few days later, Cindy Raymond wrote to Meisner explaining that the Justice Department had just conclucted an investigation of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The distribution of the "DeFeo Report" was designated "severely limited." The Church had just lost an FOIA case against the DEA. Raymond told Meisner to steal the DeFeo Report. Meisner knew where to go, having noticed the Report during his last raid.
Meisner put "Operation Chaos Leak" into action. The DeFeo Report was highly critical of the DEA, so leaking it would create adverse press. The GO believed a scandal might help to color the judge's view in their appeal against the DEA decision. Half of the DeFeo Report was given to the Village Voice in New York by Meisner, who pretended to be a disaffected Justice Department employee. Meisner had been ordered to obtain all files relating to Ron and Mary Sue Hubbard from the Office of International Operations of the IRS (OIO). Silver and Meisner, the latter using his "Foster" identification, entered the OIO building, and went to the tenth floor to burgle the office of Thomas Crate. The door was locked. One of the cleaning ladies told a security guard there were two suspicious characters on the tenth floor. Silver and Meisner fobbed the guard off with their IRS identification cards. The cleaning lady then opened Crate's office for them. By this time, Meisner had nerves of steel.
They found more documents in a locked cabinet belonging to Crate's superior, Howard Rosen. They could not find a photocopying machine in the OIO building, so took the files to the main IRS building, and copied them there.
During the next few months, Sharon Thomas stole files from the Information and Privacy Unit of the Department of Justice relating to pending Scientology initiated FOIA suits. Files relating to the Church's FOIA suit against the Energy Research and Development Administration were also stolen. The lnterpol Liaison Office was raided, and the safe broken into. The material stolen included lnterpol files on terrorism. Meisner had been instructed to take all and any lnterpol files, so that material obtained could be used to show Interpol's "criminality." Several thousand pages of Interpol documents were taken.
In a chambers hearing of a Scientology FOIA case, Judge Hart asked Justice Department attorney Nathan Dodell whether he had considered taking L. Ron Hubbard's deposition. The Scientologists' attorney, Walter Birkeli, reported back. In the panic, Meisner was ordered to check Dodell's office to see what he was planning. He was also ordered to find information which could be used to remove Judge Hart from the case. Safeguarding Hubbard, even from an appearance, was the GO's top priority.
Early in May, Silver and Meisner reconnoitered the United States Courthouse building. They went first to the Bar Association library, on the same floor as Dodell's office. They found the nearest photocopy machines, and then went to Dodell's office. The door was locked, and the tool they usually used failed to lift the latch. For once, they left a mission incomplete.
A few days later, Silver phoned Meisner from Dodell's office. No doubt in hushed tones, he excitedly told his superior that a secretary had left her keys on the desk. Silver and Meisner found a locksmith, who made copies of the keys for them. Once again GO operatives had waltzed through the security system of a U.S. government agency.
On the evening of May 21, Silver and Meisner presented themselves at the U.S. Courthouse, showing the security guard their fake IRS credentials. They were given permission to do legal research in the Bar Association Library. They went up to the third floor and signed the log. Putting a few books out on a table at the back of the library, they left through the back door, which led into the hallway outside Dodell's office. Using the duplicate keys they entered the office. With a flashlight they peered at the files on Scientology. After copying about 1,000 pages, they returned the originals, and went back to the library, leaving at about 11:00 p.m. The documents were the Interpol files which had been withheld from Scientology by the National Bureau of Interpol.
A week later, Silver and Meisner again went to do "research" in the Bar Association Library. They had signed in as "John Foster," and "W. Haake" (perhaps an elaborate joke since Sir John Foster and F.W. Haack were both critics of Scientology), and copied about 2,000 pages of documents relating to Scientology, most from Washington, DC, police files, and Food and Drug Administration files. All were taken from Dodell's office.
They were replacing the originals, when librarian Charles Johnson stopped them. He asked if they had signed in, and told them not to come back without the permission of a chief librarian. Having braved this challenge, they had to sneak back to Dodell's office and replace the stolen originals.
Principal source: Stipulation of Evidence in U.S.A. vs. Mary Sue Hubbard et al., District Court, DC, criminal case no. 78-401.
Additional sources: Sentencing memorandum in U.S.A. vs. Jane Kember; interviews with former B-1 agent; documents quoted in text.
1. Interview, Urquhart