Scientology Targeted South Park's Parker and Stone in Investigation (UPDATED)
By Tony Ortega Sun., Oct. 23 2011 at 10:30 AM
UPDATE: New Scientology internal documents about the investigation of Parker and Stone leaked. See our new story here.Scientology's South Park Investigation: Orders to Send in a Young Mole
By Tony Ortega Mon., Oct. 24 2011 at 11:12 AM
South Park deeply embarrassed Scientology with its 2005 episode, "Trapped in the Closet."
UPDATE: Scientology responds to our South Park stories, and we decode that response here.Scientology Responds in Typical Fashion to South Park Investigation Documents
By Tony Ortega Tue., Oct. 25 2011 at 11:16 AM
Karin Pouw loves the word "apostate"
As we've been reporting the last couple of days, a man who was once the second-highest ranking executive in Scientology, Marty Rathbun, has made public several documents showing that in 2006, the church attempted to dig up dirt on South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
Those documents come from Scientology's "Office of Special Affairs," which has long overseen the church's retaliation and spying operations. Rathbun himself oversaw similar operations during his many years at the top levels of Scientology, and another recent defector, Mike Rinder, led OSA for some 20 years before leaving the church in 2007.
Yesterday, a newspaper in the UK, The Independent, managed to get a response about the controversy from Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw. And in typical Scientology fashion, her response only makes things worse for the church.
First, a word about Pouw. She is doing double duty since chief Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis went into seclusion. Formerly a ubiquitous presence in television programs about Scientology, Davis has hardly been heard from since he went away earlier this year. (Longtime former Scientologists tell us that they assume church leader David Miscavige soured on Davis's work and has him under wraps at Scientology's secretive California desert headquarters.)
Pouw herself is well-known to regular readers of this blog. As I have written previously, in 1999 I had lunch with her at Scientology's Hollywood Celebrity Centre, and she got angry when I questioned her about the church's upper-level teachings, which include L. Ron Hubbard's assertion that Jesus didn't actually exist, but was a mental implant which the alien souls inside us carry around. Steamed, she eventually blurted out, "So what if we believe Jesus is a figment of the imagination?"
In recent months, I have repeatedly attempted to get Pouw on the phone about the stories we report here, but she never calls me back. She did, however, give The Independent a statement:
Dear Mr. Adams,
Thanks for contacting us.
I looked into it and the Church knows nothing about the document. It was put out by an individual who is an admitted liar and suborner of perjury. He probably obtained the document from Mike Rinder, his best good buddy.
Pouw has already screwed the pooch, and she's only a few sentences into this thing.
"They pretty much acknowledge the authenticity right there," Marty Rathbun said to me this morning after I showed him Pouw's statement. "They never said the document was forged or created. They wouldn't dare -- because that might lead to proceedings where I absolutely would prove otherwise. Lame."
You see, Pouw knows full well that until 2007, Mike Rinder was the executive director of the Office of Special Affairs, and oversaw every one of its operations -- which would include a 2006 investigation of the South Park creators. Rinder left Scientology in 2007. Rathbun had left earlier, in 2004. In 2009, Rathbun started his blog and began releasing internal OSA documents from the time Rinder ran things.
By accusing Rinder of being the source of the documents, Pouw only vouches for their authenticity. He is, after all, the most credible source of such material, since he ran OSA for about 20 years.
In July, we looked carefully at another set of OSA documents that had been leaked by Rathbun -- in this case, to Marc Headley, not on Rathbun's blog -- which showed that Scientology had carried out a complex operation to turn Headley's friends into spies for the church. We were able to confirm with Headley that the documents reflected what had actually happened, and we even were able to get one of the spies to confirm that he had been recruited to get information about Headley, just as the documents describe.
Pouw, in her statement, then describes Rinder in a rather stunning way:
Rinder is another apostate who was removed from his position in the Church for, among other things, his "fight people at all costs" tactics.
In 2009, Rathbun and Rinder both spoke publicly for the first time since leaving Scientology in a St. Petersburg Times series, "The Truth Rundown." Both claimed that they had left the church because church leader Miscavige had become violent and irrational.
Pouw here proposes a very different scenario: that Rinder was too rough in the way he ran operations at OSA, and had to be let go. (This is the first I've heard that version from the church.) It's hard to take that at face value, however, when both Rathbun and Rinder have experienced some of the most brutal retaliation in recent memory. Throughout this year they have been surveilled in their homes, followed in their cars, and have been subject to intimidation tactics designed to disrupt their lives and livelihoods -- all of which has been well documented here.
Rathbun was removed in 2002 and Rinder five years ago. The tales told by the sources of this story reflect the type of mindset that resulted in their removals and later expulsion from the Church. They've been spreading false tales to the media for two years and it is bizarre that they now bring up this alleged document. They are neither current nor credible sources.
All year, Rathbun has made public documents which show how OSA operates. He has many more he still plans to make public. This week, it happened to be about South Park's Parker and Stone. That timing might appear bizarre to Pouw, but it doesn't make the documents any less compelling.
Both sources have already confessed, in their own words, that the type of conduct they are referring to is exactly what was unacceptable to the Church, stating such things as, Rinder: "Bottom line is that I have had a totally criminal moral code and operated with a totally criminal mind attitude that I have not fully confronted (even down to lying about lying and doing illegal things)." And Rathbun: "When there is a threatening situation or suit, [I] get the [external affairs] staff and attorneys wound up toward 'destroying the threat.'"
Note what Pouw is doing here -- she is trying to hurt the credibility of Rathbun and Rinder by quoting them as they talk about how they operated while they were Scientology executives. The documents Rathbun has leaked, meanwhile, only go to confirm what they had said about themselves, that as church leaders, they were charged with attacking perceived enemies. Pouw, in other words, only provides justification for the behavior described in the OSA papers.
As to South Park, the Church has nothing to say. We haven't heard about the show in years. The record shows that since the show aired, the Church never did a thing.
You are being led down the primrose path by a couple of liars posting sensationalistic rumors on a small time blog. This isn't a story, I'm sorry.
And there you have it: no denial from Pouw that the church surveilled Parker and Stone, searched through public records and their trash -- and did the same to their close friends -- or attempted to put a mole in their office.
Scientology knows only one way: attack the critic. And once again, that's what they've done here.
We're only beginning to look into the OSA documents that describe Scientology's operation against South Park. I've seen several news organizations refer to our coverage and say that the OSA operation either didn't turn up dirt on Parker and Stone or that it "fizzled out." We don't know that, and we haven't said that. As soon as I have additional documents which describe what did actually happen to OSA's attempt to put a mole in the South Park offices or when it went through John Stamos's trash, I'll let you know.
Yesterday, we reported that former Scientology executive Marty Rathbun had revealed at his blog that in 2006, Scientology's Office of Special Affairs -- the church's intelligence and covert operations wing -- was actively investigating South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone by looking for vulnerabilities among their close friends.
Today, we have more leaked OSA documents which give some idea of the extent of the spying operation on the South Park offices and the people who worked there.
They suggest that after traditional approaches with private investigators had stalled, OSA turned to film consultant Eric Sherman, a Scientologist, to help them find a young filmmaker who would make an effective mole at the South Park offices.
For decades, Scientology has earned a reputation for severe retaliation against perceived enemies and carrying on "noisy investigations" that involve private investigators and intimidation squads. We've been documenting many examples of that this year as Scientology goes through perhaps its most difficult period.
The defection of former high ranking officials Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder has been a nightmare for the church. As Scientology expends enormous resources to surveill and harass each of them, Rathbun continues to leak formerly secret OSA documents at his blog.
Not on his blog, however, is a document which he supplied to Marc Headley, a man we have written about frequently here at the Voice, and who was subject to his own retaliation and spying operations by the church. Rathbun gave Headley extensive OSA documents which showed how the church attempted to turn his Scientologist friends into spies.
These documents are in the forms of reports made by operatives to OSA executives. Rathbun and Rinder say these reports would also have been read by church leader David Miscavige who, they say, watches carefully over all of Scientology's covert operations.
For some reason, in a document about Headley's Internet activity, there's also a portion about South Park. The document is dated April 24, 2006:
The document suggests that Parker and Stone's offices were under close watch by Scientology's private eyes. The next portion of the document shows how much information they had gathered about the people who worked there:
After detailing what the private eyes have learned about the people who work with Parker and Stone, the operative suggests that the next step would be to get these people interviewed. But how?
That's where the document Rathbun made public yesterday comes in. As we saw, OSA was frustrated that they weren't getting closer to Parker and Stone at this point. Their private eyes had brought back information about the South Park offices, the employees, and even Parker and Stone's cars, but they weren't finding any vulnerabilities to exploit, apparently.
As we saw yesterday, OSA then turned to film consultant Eric Sherman, who went to Troma Studios founder Lloyd Kaufman to tell him what he knew about Parker and Stone. (The Voice has left e-mail and voice messages for Sherman, and we will continue to try to speak with him and with Kaufman today.) As we reported yesterday, Kaufman reportedly told Sherman the names of some of Parker and Stone's friends, and OSA then ordered that these friends, including John Stamos and Rebecca Romijn, go through extensive public records checks and trash digging, looking for "strings that can be pulled."
Today, Rathbun sent us an additional OSA document, dated May 3, 2006, which suggests that Scientology wanted to go even further to get close to the South Park duo. OSA talked to a student of Sherman about using Kaufman to "get intelligence" about Parker and Stone:
These are raw intelligence reports from inside OSA. Whether Scientology was ever successful at digging up dirt on the filmmaking duo or their friends is something we'll be trying to find out. While the church has earned its reputation for retaliation and harassment, it also sometimes fails spectacularly in its attempts to attack perceived enemies.
Mike Rinder, who was once executive director of OSA, is currently in the UK, but both he and Rathbun continue to search through their files for more material on OSA's investigation of South Park, and they promise to get back to me soon. So please check back at Runnin' Scared in the coming days as we investigate the full scope of Scientology's moves against Parker and Stone.
Update: Speaking of Rinder and his trip to the UK, Rathbun just put up a post with an eyewitness account of the kind of stalking Rinder is getting there.
2nd Update: Surprised to find that Scientology investigated Parker and Stone? You shouldn't be.
Here at the Voice, we've detailed many retaliation operations and other examples of questionable behavior by the Church of Scientology. Here are some other stories that will help you understand how the church operates:
Scientology Hates Clean Ice: A man has invented a potentially life-saving clean-ice machine for hospitals. But Scientology is going to extraordinary lengths to ruin his business before he can bring the machine to market. Why? Because he employs former Scientology executive Mike Rinder. (Part 2: When a girlfriend becomes collateral damage.)
Lori Hodgson's Mad Dash to the Hospital: Scientologists are encouraged to "disconnect" from members who leave the church -- even if that means children breaking away from their own parents. In this case, a former Scientologist frantically tried to get information about her seriously injured son at a San Jose hospital, but ran into interference from her Scientologist family members.
In August, we made public an audio recording, secretly made, in which you can hear Scientology executive Tommy Davis pressure a young church member about how his family will "disconnect" from him if he does not stop working for a man the church considers an enemy. A chilling tape that gives an absolutely rare opportunity to hear a Scientology executive talk to a member without the knowledge that he will be heard by the outside world.
Marty Rathbun dared to leave Scientology in 2004 after being one of its most powerful executives. In 2009, he began criticizing publicly church leader David Miscavige. In retaliation, the church began a 5-month siege of his South Texas house, and even had him arrested.
For daring to leave Scientology and speak publicly about what he knew after working at its secretive headquarters, Marc Headley was the subject of a complex operation whose goal was to turn his friends into spies.
You'll find links to many other stories we've done here at the Voice since we stepped up our Scientology coverage to daily reporting this past April...
Also, Scientology responds to this story, and we decode their response for you.
Another interesting revelation at Marty Rathbun's blog this morning: Rathbun released what he said was an internal Scientology document which suggests that the church targeted Trey Parker and Matt Stone for a classic OSA investigation in retaliation for the infamous South Park episode that exposed the religion's bizarre upper-level teachings.
Rathbun tells me this initial document is just the beginning of a trove that describes how Scientology investigated Parker and Stone over a significant period after the duo deeply embarrassed the church with its 2005 episode, "Trapped in the Closet."
Marty Rathbun himself was once a powerful executive in Scientology who defected in 2004, and since 2009 has been criticizing church leader David Miscavige at his blog. At various times this year, Rathbun has made public similar documents which reveal the covert operations of Scientology's Office of Special Affairs.
The document he revealed today suggests that Scientology had identified Parker and Stone's close friends, and was examining public records on those people, looking for a vulnerability.
"To find a direct line into Stone and Parker some of their friends have been identified," reads the document, which reads like a typical OSA report on an ongoing investigation. The church's information allegedly was coming from Eric Sherman, a film consultant who Rathbun identifies as a Scientologist (the Voice is attempting to reach him), and who had talked with Troma Studio's Lloyd Kaufman for information about Parker and Stone.
Several friends to the South Park duo are then identified: writer Matthew Prager (That's My Bush), actor John Stamos, actress Rebecca Romijn, and writer David Goodman.
"These connections are being PRC'd," reads the document, and Rathbun explains that the acronym stands for "public records check." Scientology's standard procedure would be to put its private eyes on a complete check of these people and their property, legal, and other public records. If they owed taxes, or had been in messy divorces, or had been arrested, Scientology would soon know about it.
"There are some strings that will be pulled on the PRC on Stone," the document reads, suggesting that investigators had already found something about Matt Stone in public records that would make him vulnerable.
"Otherwise the special collections will be debugged in order to get some viable strings that can be pulled," the document then reads, and Rathbun explains that "special collections" is Scientology's code for trash digging.
I asked Rathbun what kind of things OSA's operatives would be looking for in the trash of Parker and Stone and their friends.
"Phone records. Bank records. Personal letters that expose some kind of vulnerability. They'll read stuff into the kind of alcohol you're drinking and how much. Prescriptions. They'll figure out your diet. They can find out a lot about you through your trash," he told me this morning by phone from his home in South Texas.
"You can see that the commanding officer is pissed off and not enough is getting done," he says about the final lines from the OSA document. But additional documents show that the investigation did get going in a big way, and we'll have more about that soon.