Scientology defectors charge
‘dirty tricks’ in Boston
(Boston Globe, May 31, 1983)1
By Ben Bradlee Jr. / Globe Staff
Robert Dardano and Warren Friske were trusted members of the Boston mission of the Church of Scientology in the mid-1970s when they say they were recruited to join a group of other church members intent on carrying out “dirty tricks” against critics and others deemed enemies of the church in this area.
The activities of the group included break-ins, the theft of documents, harassment and misrepresentation, according to sworn testimony by Dardano in Florida last year and affidavits from him and Friske on file as part of pending civil litigation in Suffolk Superior Court and US District Court in Boston.
In separate interviews with The Globe, Dardano and Friske – both of whom are now assisting Michael J. Flynn, a Boston lawyer who represents almost three dozen Scientology defectors around the country – expanded on those affidavits. They said their efforts were part of a nationwide church campaign to gain incriminating evidence on its critics, as well as to gather intelligence on law enforcement agencies and media outlets, both of which they said the church considered threats.
Leaders of the Church of Scientology of Boston refused to be interviewed about the allegations raised in the documents and interviews.
However, through its lawyer, Harvey A. Silverglate, the church said in a letter to The Globe that it is investigating the charges made by Dardano and Friske to determine if they are true, and what role, if any, others in the church might have played in the activities. But Silverglate said that from the church investigation so far “it appears quite clear” that Dardano and Friske were acting without the authorization of the church and contrary to church policy.
Silverglate wrote that if law enforcement authorities investigate and confirm the allegations, “the church stands ready and willing to cooperate with such authorities to achieve justice.”
Dardano, 32, of Dorchester, was a member of the church from 1972 to 1975, and for part of that time was involved in intelligence gathering and “dirty tricks.” Friske, a member of the church from 1972 to 1982, said he was head of internal security for the Boston church and the custodian of its most sensitive files. He is 35 and now lives in Lynn.
The activities that Dardano and Friske alleged in interviews, affidavits, depositions or other sworn testimony that they and others were involved with on behalf of the church include:
- The burglary of the Belmont office of a psychiatrist in 1975 in order to steal the doctor’s files on one of his patients, who had written a book highly critical of Scientology.
- The theft of documents from the Boston law firm of Bingham, Dana and Gould, counsel for The Boston Globe, in late 1974 as part of a plan to monitor the newspaper’s preparation of a Sunday Magazine article on the church.
- The systematic theft and destruction of books critical of the church from libraries throughout New England.
- The planting of a church member as a volunteer inside the state attorney general’s office to intercept consumer complaints about Scientology. They said the volunteer also used his position to call other law enforcement agencies around the country to elicit information the agencies had on the church.
In addition, according to Scientology documents and interviews with Friske and Dardano, some members of the church were also engaged in a campaign to discredit a member of the faculty at Harvard Medical School, psychiatrist John Clark Jr., who has done extensive research into cults and who has frequently spoken out against Scientology.
Although the Boston church refused an interview with The Globe, its president, Rev. Maureen Nagles, said in a letter to the newspaper that it is “absolutely against every belief and long-standing policies of the church to be a party to any action that is illegal.”
Referring to Dardano and Friske, Rev. Nagles said, “What these two have failed to tell you about is what the rest of the church’s members were doing while they were committing their purported illegal activities. As is our standard daily routine, the rest of us were . . . counselling parishioners . . . providing training courses for ministers of the church as well as courses to help parishioners in their day-to-day living, and assisting in many worthwhile community based projects.”
Most of the Dardano-Friske allegations were given to the attorney general’s office in November 1980, after Dardano gave a statement to Flynn, the Boston lawyer who is suing the church for fraud on behalf of 32 defectors. However, according to Stephen P. Delinsky, former head of the office’s criminal division, a decision was made by the agency not to go forward with prosecution, in part because the six-year statute of limitations for prosecuting some of the alleged crimes was close to running out.
Delinsky also said he felt Flynn was trying to use a possible prosecution of Scientologists to assist his own civil litigation. “I felt that was not the proper use of the criminal justice system, and I felt uncomfortable,” Delinsky, who is now in private practice, said recently. Flynn denied his intentions were self-serving, and said it should be the responsibility of the attorney general to prosecute crimes regardless of who it benefits.
Dardano said that his role in carrying out “dirty tricks” took place in 1974 and 1975, the year he quit the church. Friske, however, said he was heavily involved in a harassment campaign against Clark in 1981, and a harassment campaign against Flynn that he said was ongoing when he left the church last year.
Their activities, according to affidavits and church documents seized by the FBI, were coordinated with the nationwide campaign by the church to combat criticism and investigations of its operations. While the assertions of Dardano and Friske involve activities in the Boston area, nine high officials of the church, including the wife of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, signed an official document in 1979 that detailed their criminal activities, during four years in the mid-1970s, against several federal agencies in Washington that had been investigating the church.
Drawn up by the US Department of Justice, the 282-page “stipulation of evidence” stated that among the acts carried out by church members were: bugging the conference room of the Internal Revenue Service’s chief counsel; breaking into private IRS offices; illegal copying of confidential files of the Justice Department, and surreptitious placing of church members in IRS and Justice Department offices in Washington. The nine were convicted on a variety of charges, including conspiracy to obstruct justice, lying to a grand jury and theft of government documents.
According to the Justice Department’s stipulation, the operations in Washington were spearheaded by the Information Bureau of the church’s Guardian Office, which oversees decision-making for the church. Under the church’s hierarchy, each of the major Scientology missions in the United States is run by local Guardian Offices that coordinate their activities with the national and worldwide headquarters.
In conjunction with its investigation of the church, the FBI raided church offices in Washington and Los Angeles in 1977. Among the thousands of documents seized in the two raids was one dated Sept. 18, 1973, that outlined intelligence-gathering plans by the Boston mission of the church.
While the document does not divulge any plans for break-ins, it does call for “future areas of penetration actions” to be carried out at the following agencies: Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, Governor’s Office of Human Services and the United Fund.
In his sworn affidavit, Dardano said that in the summer of 1974 he became a member of the Boston Guardian Office’s “Branch 1” unit charged with gathering intelligence and carrying out operations against designated church enemies.
His first assignment, he said in the interview, was to head an “overt data collection” effort that involved supervising a small team of Scientologists who gathered information from public sources on persons and agencies who opposed or could oppose the church.
By late 1974, Dardano last year told a Clearwater, Fla., city commission, he was appointed head of “covert data collection” for the Boston church. In his sworn testimony, he said his immediate supervisor was William Foster, and both he and Foster reported to Deac Finn, then head of Branch 1 for the Boston Guardian’s Office. Clearwater is the world headquarters of the church.
In the Globe interview and in his affidavit, Dardano said his covert activities were sanctioned by his church superiors, Foster and Finn, and that the information and documents gained from the activities were sent to the church’s national headquarters, in Los Angeles.
“All of the information that we gathered, files that were stolen, were Xeroxed into weekly reports,” Dardano stated in his affidavit. “. . . As far as I know the information went to Guardian’s Worldwide in Sussex, England,” which was then the worldwide headquarters for the church.
One of his first covert efforts, Dardano said, was breaking into the office of Dr. Stanley Cath, a Belmont psychiatrist. Cath had treated Paulette Cooper, a New York writer who in 1971 wrote “The Scandal of Scientology,” a book critical of the church.
In testimony before the city commission in Clearwater, Dardano said he was one of four Scientology members involved in the burglary.
“It was just a matter of driving down to the office,” Dardano testified. “A couple of people got out of the van, went into the office. They were able to jump over a small partition wall and get into the office and look her name up in the file, pull the file, and just walk out of the building. There was no great security.”
Dardano said the file was kept for several weeks at a rented house in Tewksbury where he and six other agents for the Boston Guardian’s Office then lived. During that time, he said in the interview, the file was copied and sent “up lines” to Scientology’s national headquarters in Los Angeles. Later, a second break-in was staged at Cath’s office to return the file, he said.
According to a church document seized by the FBI in its raids of church offices in Los Angeles and Washington, another break-in of Cath’s office was planned in 1976. The document, called “Project Owl,” said the files to be gathered included other material on Cooper and the file on a Scientology defector, who had demanded a refund of money donated to the church.
In an interview, Cath said he had not missed the file because by 1975 he no longer was treating Cooper. He said he first learned of the theft when Cooper called and told him that parts of her file had been sent to her anonymously. Later, he said he was interviewed by the FBI. “I felt indignation, anger and rage,” Cath said. Cooper, for her part, has three suits pending against the church. One of them, in US District Court in Boston, lays out some of the information in the Friske and Dardano affidavits, as well as in the FBI-seized church documents.
Dardano said his first covert operation for the church took place in late 1974, and involved the Boston law firm of Bingham, Dana and Gould, which represents The Globe. At the time, a Globe reporter was preparing a Sunday Magazine article on the Scientology Church.
Dardano told the Clearwater commissioners that a church member, David Grace, was able to gain employment as a cleaner in the Boston building where the law firm was located. Daily, Dardano testified, Grace would check the files of James A. McHugh, the newspaper’s principal litigation attorney at the firm, to “interrupt the correspondence between The Boston Globe and the attorney’s office.”
In his recent interview with The Globe, Dardano expanded on his knowledge of Grace’s activities.
“He just opened up the file, looked under ‘S’, and there was Scientology,” recalled Dardano. He said he did not remember if Grace actually took the file out of the office or copied its contents on the premises, but in any case, Dardano said he reviewed the file’s contents. Grace could not be reached for comment.
Getting a Scientologist hired as a cleaner or security guard in the building where a perceived enemy was located was a favorite intelligence- gathering tactic, according to interviews and the church documents seized by the FBI.
For example, the “Project Owl” document proposed that a church member be placed in a downtown office building as a cleaner or security guard to “obtain” the files of John M. Lynch, the Boston attorney who was then representing a former defector seeking a refund of the more than $30,000 donated to the church.
In addition, a Boston Scientologist was hired in 1974 by the private security company that guarded The Globe building in an attempt to gain information from the reporter who was preparing the article on the church.
According to Friske, another operation of the Boston church in the mid- 1970s was the theft of anti-Scientology books from libraries in New England. In his affidavit, and in a deposition taken last September by church attorney Silverglate, Friske said the book thefts were part of a national program called “Operation Hydra” to purge the country of literature that portrayed the church in a bad light.
Friske said “piles” of the stolen books were hidden behind a false wall on the fifth floor of the Boston church’s headquarters, located at the former Chandler School for Women at 448 Beacon St. in 1977, after the FBI raid. Friske said that on orders from his superiors in the church, he destroyed the books, along with scores of other sensitive files detailing church operations against Paulette Cooper and others, which had also been hidden behind the wall.
“All the GO’s (Guardian’s Offices) were on alert . . .” Friske said in his deposition to Silverglate, “and we didn’t want to get caught with the same stuff . . . as the guys . . . in D.C. and US” in Los Angeles.
One unsigned internal church document seized by the FBI spells out security procedures for files on Boston dirty tricks. It says that documents must be destroyed within one minute of a raid or the serving of a search warrant, and that shredding is not reliable because documents can be reassembled. “Fire is usually most thorough and practical,” the document says, and it advises staffers to keep on hand a metal trash can, lighter fluid and matches.
Following the 1977 FBI raid, Friske said in his affidavit, the church began to take steps to disavow its involvement in alleged illegal activities. A representative of the church’s national headquarters in Los Angeles was sent to various missions throughout the country to gather affidavits from persons involved in the activities, he said.
The affidavits, many of which Friske said he saw, also stated the church members had undertaken their alleged criminal operations on their own, without the knowledge or approval of the church, Friske said, “all of which is a total fabrication.” Dardano said he routinely signed such an affidavit to protect the church, but Friske said he did not.
Friske said in his interview that he was also involved in operations to discredit Clark, the psychiatrist and Harvard Medical School faculty member who has been outspoken against cults. Clark had helped form the Center on Destructive Cultism, a now-defunct nonprofit group that researched cults and counselled persons involved in groups like Scientology, which he considers “destructive.” Clark persuaded various persons and corporations to contribute to his group, including $6000 from the Gillette Co. and $1000 from The Globe Newspaper Co. in 1981. His group has since become part of the American Family Foundation.
According to Friske, the Scientologists went to great lengths to obtain the trash generated by Clark’s center when it was located on State Street in Boston. “We placed an empty Coke can with rocks in it in the bathroom trash barrel,” he recalled in an interview. “When the trash was cleaned from that floor, the can would be included. Our people waiting at the trash bin would shake all the bags until they discovered the one with the can in it. The one that rattled, that’s the one we took.”
In August 1981, a Scientologist posing as a courier sent by the Harvard Medical School stole Clark’s personnel file from the Erich Lindemann Mental Health Center, where Clark worked from 1970 to 1973, according to Dalene Henshaw, director of the center. Henshaw, in a March 31, 1982, letter to Clark, said that several months after the incident, a Scientology representative came to her and acknowledged the theft. She quoted the Scientologist as saying that the person involved had been fired and that such tactics were “no longer endorsed.”
The fruits of these covert maneuvers, together with an exhaustive background check on Clark, were published by the church in a series of “investigation” reports, and sent to Harvard, Massachusetts General Hospital (with which he is associated), medical authorities, various corporations and news media.
As of the time Friske left the church in 1982, he said in an interview, Clark was being kept under regular surveillance by Scientologists. “He’s followed anywhere he goes. When he goes out of the country, Scientology missions overseas are alerted, and he is picked up. His lectures are regularly attended.”
Clark has been sued twice by Scientology for allegedly trying to conspire to deprive defectors of their civil liberties by counselling or “deprogramming” them. One of the suits was dismissed, the other is pending.
“It’s not particularly funny to be a target of a multimillion-dollar organization like Scientology,” said Clark. “They have all the advantages. I have very few. They can do what they want. They have all the lawyers.”
The intelligence-gathering apparatus of the Boston church was also used against its own members. In his capacity as head of internal security for the Boston church, Friske stated in his deposition last year, he and other members of the Guardian’s Office regularly “culled” the supposedly secret “auditing” files of other Scientologists who had been urged to confess all their past sins as part of the therapy they received.
Though persons joining the church are given assurances that their files will be kept confidential, Friske said those promises are routinely broken and the files checked for evidence of past crimes or other embarrassing material, which the church can then use as blackmail to keep would-be defectors in the fold or prevent them from suing Scientology.
According to Dardano’s testimony in Clearwater and interviews with him and Friske, the placement of Scientology church member George Bristol as a volunteer in the consumer affairs division of the attorney general’s office for several months in late 1974 and early 1975 was considered a coup. Bristol’s job was to screen consumer calls, and he would occasionally deal with someone complaining about Scientology.
“It was very difficult for a . . . person in Boston to make a complaint about the church and have it go anywhere,” Dardano said last year in his Clearwater testimony. “We had all the bases covered . . . If they called the attorney general’s office, George Bristol was sitting there . . . So, it was just, ‘Fine, ma’am, we’ll take care of it.’ and it wouldn’t go anywhere from there.”
Dardano and Friske said in their interviews that besides putting out such brush fires, Bristol used his position to call other states’ attorney general’s offices and ask what information they had on Scientology.
They said Bristol gathered considerable data and generated several written reports as a result of this activity. Then, apparently emboldened by that success, he called the Justice Department in Washington asking for its files on Scientology. But Bristol’s cover was blown when someone representing Justice called back and asked if Bristol was authorized to request such information.
Thomas Kiley, Bellotti’s first assistant, confirmed that Bristol did work in the consumer affairs division as a volunteer. “I have no idea what any volunteer did in 1975, and nobody here has any memory of any volunteer calling other AG’s,” Kiley said. “. . . We know when we take volunteers that people can come in for an ulterior motive. We therefore confine them to nonsensitive matters, and supervise their duties as closely as possible.”
Dardano added in his interview that Bristol also posed as a representative of the attorney general’s office in a meeting with a group of parents of three Boston Scientologists, including Dardano’s own mother, who were contemplating suing the church. Again saying he represented Bellotti’s office, Bristol met with Mike Taibbi, a television reporter then with Channel 5, who was contemplating doing a story on Scientology based in part on information supplied by one of the parents. Taibbi confirms this. Bristol could not be reached for comment.
In addition, Dardano testified in Clearwater that a female church member was placed as a volunteer in the Boston office of the Better Business Bureau to interrupt complaints concerning the church. Leonard Sanders, president of the Boston office, confirmed that the woman worked for the bureau during that period.
“We were a conspiracy formed by the church against The Boston Globe, the Attorney General’s office, the Better Business Bureau . . . and Paulette Cooper . . .” Dardano added in Clearwater. “We considered anyone and everyone an enemy of the church.”