"Necessity knows no law."
- Francois Rabelais
It was a super-secret operation that would be unimaginable to most people. A Government official remarked in awe that it would have done credit to the intelligence service of a major country. Yet, it was conceived and carried out by a small group of Scientologists who had resolved to save their church from what they perceived as a fatal threat to its very existence by an all-agency conspiracy of the federal Government.
I have not been able to substantiate nor to disprove all the alleged details of the remarkable derring-do; so I merely record here the official Government account, which Scientologists have neither denied nor acknowledged to be true.
Perhaps the best point in time at which to enter the scene would be in early 1975, when Jane Kember, the church's Guardian Worldwide, issued an order (identified as GO 1361), calling for a decisive programme of action against the Internal Revenue Service.
The project, according to government allegations, was to include litigation in the courts, a public relations campaign, and penetration of the IRS intelligence division, Special Services staff, and the chief counsel's office by covert operatives.
The undercover agents were to obtain and make photocopies of all the files pertaining to the Church of Scientology and its founder, which had been withheld from FOI requests. It was to be a kind of turnabout caper in which the spied upon would themselves become spies.
Targets of the GO 1361 directive included the IRS National Office in Washington, D.C., and field offices in Los Angeles and London.
In compliance with the order, the Los Angeles Guardian Office, in the summer of 1974, decided to recruit a Scientologist "trustworthy and well grooved in," to seek employment with the IRS in Washington D.C., in order to gain access to that agency's files.
It was not until October, however, that Cindy Raymond, a senior staff member of the Information Bureau in Los Angeles, informed Michael Meisner, Assistant Guardian for Information in Washington, that she had found a suitable field staff member for the post. His name was Gerald Wolfe, and he would be coming to Washington to apply for a clerk's position with the IRS.
Despite a national hiring freeze in Government employment at the time, Wolfe obtained a clerk-typist's job in the Income Tax Division on November 18, 1974.
As a secret agent, however, the youthful Wolfe was not an immediate success. He reported to his superiors that he was not able to gain access to the documents he had been ordered to obtain.
In order to assess the difficulty of the mission and to show
young Wolfe the way, so to speak, Michael Meisner and Mitchell Hermann (the latter was Branch I Director of the D.C. Information Bureau) entered the IRS Building at 4 p.m. on a weekday, and remained inside until after 7 p.m. At that time, they went into an office of the Exempt Organization Branch on the seventh floor and removed a Scientology file from a filing cabinet.
The "borrowed" file was taken to the D.C. Guardian Office, where it was photocopied. The following day, Hermann returned it to the IRS cabinet without being detected.
He then telephoned Duke Snider, Deputy Guardian for Information (US), and informed him of the clandestine operation. He pointed out that it proved conclusively how easy it was to obtain documents from IRS files.
In another daring, reverse-role mission against the agency, Hermann entered the IRS building and planted an electronic bugging device in the conference room of the IRS Chief Counsel's office, where a major strategy meeting of top Revenue Service officials concerning the Church of Scientology was to be held.
On the morning the conference was to convene Hermann took a multiple electric outlet containing a miniature transmitter and planted the device in a wall socket of the room where the high-level discussion was to take place.
He then left the building and waited in a car parked in the driveway of the Smithsonian Institution, which faces the IRS building. Hermann and another Scientologist who went by the name of Don Alverzo, who had brought the eavesdropping gadget from Los Angeles, monitored the entire meeting through the FM radio in their car. They also recorded the proceedings on tape.
After the pow-pow ended, Hermann re-entered the conference room and removed the bugging equipment. He also carried away various notes, and the meeting agenda, which the participants had conveniently left behind.
The undercover team of Meisner, Hermann and Wolfe continued their incursions into IRS files. A telex message dated
December 4, 1974, from Duke Snider to Mo Budlong, Deputy Guardian for Information Worldwide, reported that he and his associates had received two shipments of documents "about ten inches thick" - from Hermann and Wolfe in Washington.
Wolfe was directed by Hermann to continue searching the files in the office of Barbara Bird, an IRS attorney in the Refund Litigation Section. Thereafter, Wolfe found a way to enter Attorney Bird's office, from which he took many documents relating to Scientology. These he photocopied on a zerox machine in the IRS building, then returned the originals to the files. Many, if not most of the documents were those which Bird had acquired from former IRS attorney, Charlotte Murphy. (This was the same Charlotte Murphy who, with her colleague June Norris, informed Shirley Foley of the U.S. Labor Department that Scientologists made "ritual use of LSD and electric shock", and had shot, "but not killed" members of families in different parts of the U.S.")
Michael Meisner, who was directing the Washington operation, assembled the zeroxed documents, underlined those portions he believed would be important to top church officials, and retyped those which were partially illegible or handwritten. He then distributed the covertly obtained material, together with a covering memorandum, through the Assistant Guardian for the District of Columbia, to his superiors in Los Angeles and to Mary Sue Hubbard.
In the summer of 1975, Wolfe was ordered to monitor and to obtain Scientology documents from the files of the Exempt Organizations offices. Accordingly, he checked each of these offices on a weekly basis, as faithfully as a lobster fisherman tending his pots. Among the files he reviewed and photocopied were those of Jeanne Gessay, chief of Ruling Section One, and of her associate, Muriel Moritz; Assistant Commissioner Alvin Lurie; Deputy Commissioner Theodore Rademaker; Special Assistant to the Assistant Commissioner, Charles Rumph; Technical Advisor Howard Schoenfeld; and Director Joseph Tedesco.
Agent Wolfe, who in the beginning could hardly find -his way to the men's room, was by this time more familiar with the IRS files on Scientology than the agency's own personnel. His acquisition was truly prodigious. During the first five months of 197.5 alone, the documents he located and photocopied totalled some ten feet in height.
These files all came from the office suite of the IRS Chief Counsel.
(The fact that one division of the IRS could have that much material in their files concerning the Church of Scientology is enough in itself to raise the eyebrows of all except the most stupid.)
In a CSW (completed staff work) memorandum dated 7 May 1975, sent to Deputy Guardian for Information Worldwide Mo Budlong, church executive Greg Willardson informed his superior that the enormous size of the document collection had created a crisis in the Information Bureau by creating a slowdown in the collection process, which needed urgently to be eliminated. He explained that some 15,000 documents had been sent without the usual review and exerption in order to speed up the process.
One of the targets of Guardian Order 1361 was the Tax Division of the U.S. Department of justice. Michael Meisner, who was directing the covert activities, learned that the offices were located in the Star Building at 1101 11th Street, N.W. He obtained a directory of the Justice Department and identified within the Tax Division those offices which would have, files relating to the Church of Scientology.
He then oriented Wolfe with respect to their location on the fourth floor of the building, and instructed him to obtain copies of all documents concerning Scientology.
On three successive Saturdays thereafter, Wolfe entered the Star Building, using his identification card as an IRS employee. He located twelve separate files pertaining to the church, which he photocopied on a zerox machine in the Tax Division offices. After each entry, the documents taken were turned over to Meisner whom Wolfe met at Lums Restaurant
in nearby Arlington, Virginia.
Yet another assignment which Gerald Wolfe carried out during his brief but busy career as a covert operative was that of searching the files of Charles Zuravin, an attorney who represented the IRS in its legal fight against disclosure of Scientology documents under the Freedom of Information Act.
Wolfe made a series of entries into Zuravin's offices between July and November 1975. A substantial number of documents were reviewed and copied, as in other entries, using a zerox machine conveniently situated at the site. As the Government's later stipulation of evidence fatuously observes:
"Of course, all this was done without permission."
While Wolfe was so successfully performing his awesome feats of clandestine data collection, other secure agents of the church were executing their own ops in other federal agencies. These included an attractive young woman named Sharon Thomas, at work in the Coast Guard Intelligence; and another, Nancy Douglass, boring away in the Drug Enforcement Administration.
In December 1975, Collections Officer Cindy Raymond, evolved a plan requiring the acquisition of Interpol documents relating to the Church of Scientology, which had been withheld by Government agencies from the church's FOIA requests.
(Interpol is the cable designation for the International Criminal Police Organization, a semi-private league of lawenforcement agents from 125 countries throughout the world, whose membership is sponsored by their respective governments. Essentially, the organization is a clearing house for information through an international communications network, headquartered just outside Paris, France. Interpol is completely autonomous; it is not answerable for its policies
and actions to any national government nor sovereign power. During the war years, it was operated by Hitler's Gestapo; and as late as 1972, its president was a former Nazi SS officer. There are at present no enforceable guidelines limiting the kind nor amount of information about U.S. citizens that can be disseminated to foreign police, including those of its Communist-bloc members.)
To implement the programme for obtaining the Interpol material, Meisner decided to assign a covert operative to the office of Justice Department Attorney Paul Figley, who was representing the Government in the church's Freedom of Information suit against the National Bureau of Interpol. To that end, he instructed Sharon Thomas to leave her post in the Coast Guard Intelligence and to seek employment in the justice Department.
Accordingly, Miss Thomas resigned her position with the U. S. Coast Guard on February 28, 1976, and shortly thereafter obtained work as a secretary in an office across the hall from that of Paul Figley.
Meisner was able to brief Thomas on the general layout of the Figley office because he and Wolfe had already made surreptitious entries into the premises two months earlier. They had copied documents from the files of both Paul Figley and Jeffrey Axelrad. The latter was another attorney in the Civil Division's Information and Privacy Unit.
On the two occasions that Meisner and Wolfe had "reviewed" the Figley files, they had entered the Department of Justice building during working hours by using Wolfe's IRS identification card. They waited in the Department's main library doing "legal research" until the offices closed at 5:30 p.m. Then they proceeded to Attorney Figley's office. The rest was as easy as taking candy from a baby. The office door was unlocked, and inside there were Scientology files everywhere - on Figley's desk, on the window ledge, in his unsecured file cabinets.
Meisner took the files that interested them to the photocopying machines on the fourth floor of the building, where
they zeroxed the documents in double quick time. Then they returned the originals to the respective places from which they had been removed.
It was not long after Sharon Thomas obtained employment across the passage from Paul Figley's office before she was a regular after-hours visitor to her neighbor's copious files. It was rewarding work. Figley had been assigned the processing of FOIA cases involving the CIA; the U.S. Customs Service; The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); the Defense Communications Agency; Department of Army; the U.S. Postal Service; and Interpol.
To endow her task with the thoroughness it deserved, Miss Thomas soon became Figley's personal secretary. It was then that she learned that the bulk of the Interpol documents the Scientologists were looking for were not in Figley's possession, but were in the care and custody of Assistant U. S. Attorney Nathan Dodell.
Dodell's offices were situated on the third floor of the U.S. Courthouse at 3rd Street and John Marshall Place, N.W., in Washington, D.C. Meisner planned to reconnoiter the premises at the earliest opportunity, preparatory to making a furtive entry.
Meanwhile, Meisner was instructed to obtain an IRS identification card for himself, which would allow him to come and go freely at the IRS building.
In compliance with this directive, Meisner and Wolfe entered the main IRS building after hours, using Wolfe's legitimate I. D. Wolfe led Meisner to the room in which equipment used to make identification cards was kept. They forced open the door by using a small metal sheet. Inside the darkened room, they moved about cautiously, with only a small flashlight for illumination.
Meisner located a booklet of instructions for use of the photographic equipment. He read it through carefully. His companion selected two blank I.D. cards and on them typed in the fictitious names of Thomas Blake and John M. Foster. Meisner then placed Wolfe's false I.D. card in the camera
equipment and photographed Wolfe. Wolfe, in turn performed the same service for Meisner.
The badge numbers that were placed on the cards were taken from a log book maintained in the I.D. room, listing all credentials issued by the IRS. The number selected for the Foster card (to be used by Meisner) was 800-00487, belonging to William T. Lyons, IRS Regional Counsel in Cincinnati, Ohio.
(The Government maintains that between April and late June 1976, five other Scientologists followed the example set by Meisner and Wolfe, and made similar counterfeit cards.)
Meisner was reminded by his superiors that the proposed collection of documents from Interpol was a high-priority order, and that he ought to get cracking on its execution.
Nancy Douglass, the church's covert operative in the Drug Enforcement Administration learned that an Interpol Liaison Office had been set up within the Department of justice, as the first step in the eventual transfer of Interpol's National Central Bureau from the Treasury Department. Douglass had tried unsuccessfully to get a job with the new department.
Upon receiving this intelligence, Meisner and Wolfe decided to make a preliminary incursion into the new office to see what files it might contain. They walked through the main entrance of the Justice Department Building at 9th and Pennsylvania Avenue N.W., shortly before 5:30 p.m., using Meisner's false IRS identification.
After all the personnel had left the Interpol Liaison Office on the sixth floor, they entered. There were a number of filing cabinets and two safes in the room, but all of them were securely locked.
Meisner and Wolfe spent the next half hour searching for the keys to the cabinets and safes. Unable to locate them, the pair left the building.
A week later, however, they had a second go at the target.
Meisner tried in vain to pick the locks on the cabinets and the two operatives had to leave the building once again emptyhanded.
Undaunted, a week or so later, Meisner entered the office a third time, on this occasion in the company of Sharon Thomas. This time, they made a thorough search of the office, looking for the combination to one or both of the safes. Eventually, they found what they were seeking in a file card box on a secretary's desk. Opening one of the safes, they discovered keys to the file cabinets and had soon extracted a pile of documents three or four inches thick. These they carried downstairs to the fourth floor where there was a photocopy machine. They xeroxed the Interpol material and returned the original documents to their proper places in the file cabinets. The whole op had taken less than two hours.
Meisner and Thomas made one more entry into the Interpol Liaison Office, and then Meisner assigned Thomas and another undercover agent named Michael Baum to make weekly incursions to examine each file cabinet for any new documents that may have arrived. These visits produced a stack of documents three feet high.
About this time, according to Government sources, the PR Bureau in the D.C. Guardian's Office learned that a justice Department attorney named John E. Shaw was supervising the move of the Interpol National Central Bureau to the new office.
Meisner and Thomas thereupon began monitoring Shaw's files in search of Interpol documents. On three occasions they entered the Department of Justice Building after working hours, using Sharon Thomas' identification card. They proceeded to Shaw's first floor suite of offices, where they opened the locked door by inserting a strip of plastic to force back the latch.
They passed through the secretary's area and into Attorney Shaw's private office. There it was, piled neatly on his desk, a stack of documents five inches high, and all of them the Interpol-related material they were looking for. Meisner stuf-
fed the lot into his briefcase and, with Sharon Thomas, repaired to the fourth floor where photocopying equipment and supplies had been provided, courtesy of the Department of justice.
The original documents were returned to Shaw's desk, and the copies carried from the building in Meisner's briefcase.
Meisner and Thomas repeated this op three times acquiring fresh material during each clandestine visit to Room 1103.
There was still AUSA Dodell's office to be dealt with. Security was tight in the U.S. Courthouse, where it was located, and the intruders were mindful that they would have to proceed with extra caution.
During the first week in May 1976, Meisner and Wolfe entered the courthouse during business hours to survey the area and locate Dodell's offices.
They went first to the District of Columbia Bar Association Library on the third floor and from there explored the surrounding corridors until they found Dodell's office in the rear section of the Civil Division area, just off a short hallway near a key-operated elevator used by court personnel after working hours and on week-ends. The back door of the Bar Association Library also opened into the passage.
The next consideration was photocopy equipment. They found a coin-operated machine in the adjoining library, and two large copiers in the U. S. Attorney's suite next to the Fraud Division.
At 5:30 p.m., after all the office employees had left the building, Meisner and Wolfe returned to Dodell's office. The door was locked. They tried to open it with the metal sheet which had served them well in other entries. But the latch on AUSA Dodell's door would not yield. They finally gave up and left the building.
Meisner directed his partner Wolfe to return during business hours and to unobtrusively inspect the door latch to see
how it might be forced.
A short time afterward, Wolfe telephoned Meisner at the latter's office at the Founding Church of Scientology. He informed him that he was calling from Dodell's office. Both the Assistant U.S. Attorney and his secretary were apparently at lunch, and the secretary had left her keys on her desk.
Meisner instructed Wolfe to take the keys and to meet him outside the building. Half an hour later, the two had located a locksmith at Seventeenth Street and Columbia Road, N.W., where they had duplicates made of those keys which appeared to fit the kind of lock that was on Dodell's door.
They then returned to the courthouse and proceeded to the targeted office. In the hallway just outside the door they dropped the keys on the floor, believing that when they were found, Dodell's secretary would assume they had fallen from her pocket or purse.
A week later, Meisner and Wolfe again rendezvoused at about 6:30 p.m. in the parking lot behind the IRS Building. From there they drove to the U.S. Courthouse.
When they entered the building, Meisner signed the register with the name John Foster, using his counterfeit IRS card to identify himself. They told the security guard that they were going to the Bar Association Library to do legal research. Accordingly, the guard issued them a key to the elevator.
After signing in at the library entrance, they walked to the rear of the library near the door which opened into the short hallway leading to Dodell's office. There they took several legal books from the library shelves, sat down at a table and pretended to be engaged in research. When the librarian's attention was distracted, they slipped through the door and proceeded to Dodell's office. One of the duplicate keys they had had made fitted the lock to the office door, so they encountered no difficulty in gaining access to the darkened suite. The intruders worked by flashlight to avoid detection by any of the janitorial staff who might pass that way. After examining the files in several drawers, they found those they sought - the Interpol documents. In addition, they came
upon some Scientology files containing material originated by the church's relentless enemy, the D.C. Police Department.
They placed the documents in their briefcases and walked through the third-floor hallways to the area where the photocopy machines were located. Following their established routine, they copied the documents (a pile about six inches high), returned the originals, and left the courthouse, carrying the copies they had made in their two briefcases. These included the documents which Interpol had withheld in their entirety from the church's FOIA request.
A week later, it was once again business as usual for the intrepid file collectors. They met, as before, about 6:30 p.m. outside the IRS Building and drove in Wolfe's car to the U.S. Courthouse. There Meisner again signed in as John M. Foster, using his false I.D. card. Wolfe signed the building register this time as T. Haake, using as identification a Bar Library card which he had borrowed from a fellow employee at the IRS.
They took the same key-operated elevator they had used in their previous forays, and went directly to the third floor. They entered the library through the rear door without signing in, a departure from their earlier routine, and one they would later have a reason to regret.
They waited inside the library for a brief time, until they were certain that no one was in the area of Dodell's office. When they were satisfied that the coast was clear, they went to Dodell's office and let themselves in with their duplicate key. From the files they took a stack of documents about one foot high, stuffed them into their briefcases and carried them to the photocopy machines where for the next hour and a half, they made reproductions.
As they passed through the library on the way back to AUSA Dodell's office, Meisner and Wolfe were stopped by the night librarian, who asked them if they had signed in. They admitted they hadn't done so and the librarian had them sign the register. He told them they could not use the library in future unless they had authorization from the head librarian.
When the librarian was out of sight, Wolfe and Meisner returned the documents to Dodell's office and left the building. After they were gone, the night librarian informed the security guard, who reported to the U.S. Attorney's Office that two individuals who had identified themselves as IRS employees, had been observed using the copy machines in the U.S. Attorney's office. Both the guard and the night librarian were directed to call the FBI if the two "legal researchers" returned.
Meisner carefully reviewed the documents they had taken and decided that one more covert entry would be necessary to complete their mission. In preparation for the final intrusion, he obtained from the chief librarian of the Bar Association Library, a letter authorizing him to use the reading room for his "research."
The final (and fatal) act of the hugger-mugger episode was carried out on June 11, 1976, when Meisner and Wolfe repeated their earlier performances. They met at the IRS parking lot, parked Meisner's car and drove to the courthouse in Wolfe's car. At the guard's desk, Wolfe signed in as Thomas Blake and Meisner as John M. Foster, both using their bogus IRS credentials.
Using the elevator on the opposite side of the building from that which they had previously taken, they went directly to the library, where Meisner presented the letter of permission he had received from the chief librarian. Their plan was to proceed at once to Dodell's office; but when they scouted the area, they found that the cleaning women were still at work in the office.
They took some books from the shelves and sat down at their accustomed places at a table in the rear of the library to wait until the clean-up crew had completed their janitorial duties.
In the meantime, the night librarian had telephoned the FBI to report that the two young men who had been using the U.S. Attorney's copying machines were once again on the scene.
FBI Special Agents Dan G. Hodges and Christine Hansen arrived while Meisner and Wolfe were still waiting for the charwomen to finish their work and move on to a different floor of the building. The federal officers demanded to see their identification.
Meisner showed his counterfeit card in the name of John Foster, but informed the agents that he had resigned from the IRS. Upon hearing this, they confiscated the credential. With respect to Wolfe's false I.D., it so happened that a Thomas Blake did in fact work for the IRS. When the FBI agents confirmed this by telephone, he was allowed to retain his card.
Meisner gave his home address as being on the same street, but at a different number several doors away from his actual residence. He explained that he and Wolfe had come to the library to do legal research and had used the U.S. Attorney's copying machine to xerox passages from law books.
After being questioned for about a quarter of an hour by the FBI agents, Meisner and Wolfe were given permission to leave. They hurried down the staircase to the first floor, turned in their elevator key, and left the building. In order to give the slip to any pursuer who might be shadowing them, they walked briskly, making quick turns into side streets.
When it appeared that they were not being followed, they caught a taxi and proceeded to Billy Martin's Tavern at the corner of Wisconsin and N. Street, N.W. From a public telephone there, Meisner called Mitchell Hermann at the Guardian's Office in Los Angeles. Without being explicit, he conveyed to Hermann that something had gone wrong and that urgent and immediate action was needed.
Hermann gave him the number of a telephone outside the Scientology office and instructed him to call back after the lapse of a few minutes. In his second call, Meisner told Hermann in detail what had occurred. Hermann directed Meisner and Wolfe to remain at the Tavern and to start writing a report on the incident, telling in detail what had happened. He was to call Hermann back in an hour, during which time the Los
Angeles staff member would consult with his superiors to determine what course should be followed in handling what might well be an awkward situation.
When Meisner hung up from his call to Los Angeles, he dialed a local number and reached Joseph Alesi, the church's Branch I Director for the District of Columbia. He instructed Alesi to come to the restaurant. When the latter arrived, he was given the keys to Wolfe's car, which had been left at the courthouse, and told to bring it back to Martin's Tavern. Alesi was also told to telephone Meisner's wife and ask her to pick up Meisner's car, which was still in the IRS parking lot.
At the end of an hour's time, Meisner placed a call to Los Angeles again. He was now informed that Hermann had discussed the present complications with Deputy Guardian for Information Dick Weigand, who had directed that Meisner come to Los Angeles the next morning for a debriefing.
Meisner did not return home, but, with his wife, spent the night at a motel in Arlington, Virginia. The following morning, a member of the Washington Guardian staff brought him funds and took him to the National Airport, where he emplaned for Los Angeles.
Department of justice sources allege that during the next full year, the church's Guardian Office in Los Angeles held Meisner a virtual prisoner, while various plans were made and abandoned, to provide him with a cover-story for his covert activities in Washington.
The facts which I have been able to verify, and the manner of Meisner's eventual departure from Los Angeles, however, do not square with this charge. Meisner may have been restrained by persuasion or threat of the consequences of defection, but there is evidence to support the claim that, for a time at least, he was as eager as anyone else to find some means of avoiding arrest and prosecution for his clandestine activities in the Capital.
For a short while after Meisner's return to Los Angeles, he kept on the move, staying never more than a few days at a time at various motels in the Los Angeles area. To avoid being recognized, Meisner shaved his mustache, cut his hair and dyed it red; and obtained contact lenses to replace the spectacles he normally wore.
In early October, the Guardian's Office rented an apartment for Meisner and he settled into a daily routine, spending most of his time at local libraries. There he reportedly did legal research on the security of government buildings to support one of the cover stories he might use to explain his actions in the federal buildings that had been the scene of his intrusions. He would claim that he had entered the building to do an exposÃ© on the lack of security.
Meanwhile, in Washington the FSM, Gerald Wolfe had been arrested and charged with the possession and use of a forged official credential of the United States. He was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Henry H. Kennedy, and released on his own recognizance, pending a preliminary hearing.
That hearing was held on July 28, 1976, at which Magistrate Kennedy found that probable cause existed, and ordered the case bound over for the action of the Grand jury.
A week later, Kennedy issued a sealed warrant for the arrest of Michael Meisner on the same charge as that for which Wolfe was being held.
Although the arrest warrant was secret, Sharon Thomas (who was still personal secretary to AUSA Paul Figley) overheard a conversation in which it was disclosed that such a warrant had been issued. She promptly informed the Guardian Office in Los Angeles.
As a precaution, Meisner was told to sever his official connection with the Guardian's Office, although he would be allowed to continue his functions with the church in an informal way. He complied, but remained in close touch with activities of the Guardian's Office, and sometimes offered his opinion and advice in dealing with problems, not only his
own, but others as well.
The Government's stipulation of evidence alleges that Meisner wrote a letter to Mary Sue Hubbard in which he stated that regardless of what cover story was eventually used to handle the ever-widening investigation by the FBI in Washington, he would have to explain where he had been living since leaving Washington. In any event, he said, the FBI would ask how he had managed to support himself during the long period he was in hiding. He added that he and Cindy Raymond had worked out a plan for him to tell the FBI that he had been living with a friend in Canada. In a postscript to the letter, he declared that "in my opinion, no matter what story we use, the longer we wait to implement it, the less believable it will be and the more that the government will be inclined to believe that the Church is behind it."
The fact was that Meisner was beginning to be restless and uncooperative in his role of fugitive from justice. He expressed his displeasure with the delays in resolving his predicament. Toward the end of March, he wrote to Deputy Guardian Henning Heldt, asking him to take a personal hand in dealing with the situation because the delays were becoming intolerable. He said he was prepared to go back to Washington, D.C. and take the matter into his own hands.
On one occasion, he made an unannounced trip to Las Vegas, where church members persuaded him to return to Los Angeles. (An FBI agent's affidavit asserts that he was "returned under their custody to Los Angeles where he was again placed under house arrest.") This, however, may be an exaggeration.
The Government's own account of the affair notes that "Mr. Meisner, still troubled and confused, agreed, nonetheless, to return to Los Angeles."
On May 13, 1977, Gerald Wolfe went before U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Flannery and entered a pleas of guilty to the
one-count charge of wrongful use of a Government seal. Several weeks later he was sentenced to a term of probation and was required to perform 100 hours of community service.
However, immediately after sentencing, in the same courtroom he was served with a subpoena ordering him to appear the same afternoon before the federal Grand Jury, which was investigating the entries into the U.S. Courthouse.
Among the things the Grand Jury sought to learn from Wolfe was the identity of the John M. Foster who had accompanied him on his visits to the courthouse. He was also asked how he and "Mr. Foster" had obtained the counterfeit IRS credentials they had used to gain admittance to the courthouse.
Wolfe related to the Grand Jury the same cover-up story he had earlier given the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's office. He had met Foster at a bar and with him had gone to the Bar Association Library to study in order to improve his prospects of obtaining a better-paying job. He used the xerox machines to copy case histories from law books. He did not know Mr. Foster by any other name and did not know where he lived.
After his appearance before the Grand Jury, Wolfe was debriefed by officials of the Guardian's Office in Washington. A transcript of the debriefing was sent to Los Angeles, where it was analyzed and exerpted by the Church's Legal Bureau.
Justice Department sources say that Meisner was given a copy of the debrief transcript to read so that he could begin adjusting his own cover-up account to conform to that given by Wolfe to the Grand Jury.
Brian Andrus met with Meisner at the latter's apartment on June 17 to discuss with him the legal defense for him that had been worked out by the Legal Bureau. He carried away the impression that Meisner was in good spirits and better prepared to face his ordeal.
He was wrong. Three days later - in the early morning of June 20 - Meisner packed a few things in a valise and decamped. He boarded a bus and went to a bowling alley, where he placed a call from a public telephone to Assistant United
States Attorney Garey Stark in Washington, D.C. To the operator who answered, he identified himself as Gerald Wolfe. He said later that he did this because he was afraid the church might still have a "mole" in the U. S. Attorney's office.
When AUSA Stark, who was handling the case of the courthouse entries, answered the telephone, Meisner identified himself by his true name and told Stark that he wished to come to Washington, face the criminal charges against him, and cooperate with federal authorities who were still investigating the incursions into the offices of the U.S. Attorney.
Stark directed Meisner to remain at the bowling alley, while he arranged to have FBI agents in Los Angeles come out to pick him up. About two hours later, three FBI agents showed up (overkill is apparently a standard policy at the Bureau) and took the defecting Scientologist into custody. He was taken immediately to the Los Angeles Airport, where he was put on a flight to the Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
There he was met by FBI Special Agents Robert S. Tittle and James R. Kramarsic, who took him into custody. He was kept overnight in a motel, and on the following morning taken to the office of AUSA Stark.
There is evidence to suggest that Stark may have been active in the governmental plot against the Church of Scientology at an earlier date. In the church files was a report made to the Guardian's Office by Michael Meisner in February 1974. In the memorandum, Meisner tells of interviewing a Det. Earl Gold of the D.C. Police Department Fraud Unit. The police officer did not know that he was speaking with a Scientologist. He expressed the opinion that Scientology was a fraud, a kind of "pyramid marketing scheme" like the "Dare To Be Great" case, which the U.S. Justice Department prosecuted. Gold referred Meisner to a Gary Stark in the D.C. Corporation Counsel's Office, regarding Scientology, saying that he had worked with Stark on the "Dare To Be Great" case.
Although Meisner in his report spelled Stark's first name with an "e," when records were checked, it was found that
there was no Gary Stark nor Garey Stark in the D.C. Corporation Counsel's office in 1974. AUSA Garey Stark, however, was on the staff of the U. S. Attorney's Fraud Unit at that time.
On October 11, 1976, Kendrick L. Moxon, the church's Director of Legal Affairs in Washington, was served a subpoena signed by AUSA Stark, ordering him to appear on October 14 before the District of Columbia Grand Jury, and to bring certain records with him.
Moxon collected the documents which had been subpoenaed and, with his attorney, appeared in Stark's office on the date designated. He gave Stark the documents, but was not called before a Grand Jury. The following week, Moxon telephoned Stark and asked if the material had gone to the Grand Jury. He learned then that the documents not only had not gone to the Grand Jury, but that the Grand Jury did not even have the case before it. Stark's abuse of the subpoena power was of the kind that has apparently become an accepted practice at the U.S. Department of justice.
After his interrogation by AUSA Stark, the substance of which is still not known outside official circles, Meisner conferred with a court-appointed attorney. He then agreed to enter a plea of guilty to a charge of conspiracy, a felony carrying a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.
The Government went through the usual motion of denying that Meisner had been offered any kind of immunity from prosecution in return for his indispensable help in convicting his erstwhile accomplices. Such denials, of course, fool no one except the hopelessly gullible. It is an established principle (if that is the proper word) in the American system of justice that if a self-confessed felon will turn stool pigeon and make the Prosecutor's job easy, his sins will all be forgiven. The prosecutor and not the court has the first choice and the power of dispensing absolution.
After Meisner's furtive departure from Los Angeles, his
colleagues in the Guardian's Office did not suspect that he had betrayed them. They concluded, rather, that he was hiding somewhere in the Los Angeles area, while he did legal research in a library regarding his possible defense in the Washington, D.C. case.
Some concern was felt about his physical and mental health, since he had a history of fainting spells and convulsions dating back to his childhood.
Meisner's "time track" (his personal history) was reviewed to see if there were any indications that he might turn traitor. There were none. His family background, educational experience, and marital relationship all followed a normal pattern. He was born in Chicago on August 3, 1950, to middle-class Catholic parents. When Mike was four years old, his family moved to Hinsdale, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. He attended Catholic parochial schools through high school. When he was 17, he was arrested for drinking and smoking while underage, a minor offense in our time.
He later attended the University of Illinois, where he met and married Patsy Bell. Like most of his compeers, he experimented once or twice with marijuana, but did not become a regular user of the drug.
He became interested in Scientology in 1970, and in 1971, left the University to join the staff of the church's Urbana (Illinois) Mission. He was later appointed to the Guardian's Office, where he worked his way up to the responsible post of Assistant Guardian for Information in Washington, D.C. There he sought to undermine his superior with complaints about her inefficiency and private associations. The convulsive seizures which had occurred intermittently throughout his life continued. His wife reported that he had a morbid fear of blood and needles. He was afraid of cats and considered himself a compulsive gambler.
None of that data, of course, impugned his loyalty to the church.
Mary Sue Hubbard reportedly ordered the Information Bureau not to waste resources looking for him in the Los
Angeles area. She said she believed that he was more likely to be holed up in a community such as San Francisco or Berkeley, where there were good libraries available.
A note from Meisner to Brian Andrus seemed to support the latter speculation. It was written, no doubt at the behest of the Justice Department, after Meisner had been taken into custody; and it had been posted for him in San Francisco, so it would bear the postmark of that city. It read:
I know you don't understand what is going on, but I still need time to myself. I'm making enough money to get by on so there's no problems.
I'll be in touch in a couple of weeks.
Herb [Meisner's code name.]
The U.S. Attorney's office would have good reason to mislead the Scientologists regarding the whereabouts and activities of Michael Meisner. On the basis of his very lengthy confession and detailed information concerning the internal affairs of his church, the FBI was preparing a 33-page affidavit, sworn to by Special Agent Robert Tittle, requesting the issuance of a search warrant that would purport to authorize the most massive raid in the history of the Bureau, on three Church of Scientology religious centers.
On July 4 (a significant date in U.S. history) at 2 a.m., Magistrate Henry H. Kennedy, Jr. of the U.S. District Court signed the warrant permitting the FBI to conduct a search of the premises of the Founding Church of Scientology in Washington, D.C. The description of property to be seized under the warrant's authority included 162 items. All but one of these were documents of various kinds -memoranda, letters, files, cable messages, etc. Being properly identified by description which included such indicatory data as names, dates, and contents, they clearly met the particularity re
quirement of the First Amendment.
The 162nd and final item, however, was anything but specific. It read: "Any and all fruits, instrumentalities, and evidence (at this time unknown) of the crimes of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and theft of government property in violation of 18 U.S. Code Sections 371, 1503 and 641 which facts recited in the accompanying affidavit make out."
The wording of this item had been cleverly based upon a previous case in which the Supreme Court had seemingly arrogated to itself the power to supercede the Constitution by approving a general, exploratory search.
Two other search warrants with identical wording were issued by Magistrate James J. Penne in the Central District of California. It commanded a search of two Los Angeles area church premises. One was a seven-storey victorian building known as Fifield Manor, at 5930 West Franklin Avenue, Hollywood. The other was an eight-storey, multi-winged building complex known as Cedars-Sinai, which occupied an entire city block and fronted on Fountain Avenue, also in Hollywood.
After a quarter of a century of trying, the federal Government at last had "got something" on the Scientologists. Something big.