"And, hardest of all, I do not know
and cannot tell the names of
- Plato: Trial of Socrates
SOMETIME during the night of March 8, 1971, a person or persons unknown broke into the FBI resident agency in Media, Pennsylvania. The loot taken by the burglars consisted of confidential files on individuals and organizations that apparently had been targetted by the Bureau for surveillance and harrassment.
The purloined dossiers were delivered anonymously to the sensation-hungry media, where they were given wide circulation. Among the documents were some which carried the designation Cointelpro, a term which, until that time, was unknown outside the FBI. The acronym, which, it turned out,
was an abbreviation for Counterintelligence Program, aroused the interest of an alert newsman (Carl Stern of NBC), who filed a Freedom of Information lawsuit to compel the FBI to release other documents compiled in the course of the Bureau's Cointelpro operations.
Caught in the glare of publicity, the FBI announced that for "security reasons" it was terminating the Program as of April 27, 1971. The action came a decade and a half too late. Documents pried loose from the Bureau in freedom-of-information suits disclosed what the Washington Post accurately described as "an incredible pattern of abuse," extending back over a period of 15 years.
The FBI's covert action - i.e., "dirty tricks" -programmes against American citizens were, in fact, vigilante operations using techniques adopted outright from wartime counterintelligence capers directed against enemy agents and saboteurs. Hence the misnomer given the project.
Describing the kind of operations which had been used against foreign intelligence agents, and later transferred to domestic targets, former assistant FBI Director William C. Sullivan told the Senate Select Committee:
"This is a rough, tough, dirty business, and dangerous ... No holds were barred."
The "dirty business" included unauthorized bugging and wiretapping; mail opening; warrantless break-ins ("black bag jobs"); anonymously mailing reprints of newspaper and magazine articles (some of them planted in the press by the Bureau itself); disseminating defamatory information regarding individuals, much of it false; encouraging street warfare between violence-prone groups; contacting an employee with derogatory information about a person to get the target fired; using the IRS to harrass individuals and organizations by audit; and so on.
As one newspaper writer put it, "almost nothing - beyond lack of imagination - appears to have limited the range of dirty tricks' used by the FBI..."
The explanation offered by the Bureau for its illegal acts was
that the agency found them to be necessary to protect national security (a catch-all pleading invoked by all federal agencies to justify their lawless conduct); and to prevent violence.
That too facile a rationale runs aground, however, on two facts: the FBI targeted groups and individuals which did not remotely pose a threat to national security; and many of the Cointelpro victims were non-violent in both word and deed.
In the programme's later phases, it became clear that it was being used against persons and organizations whose beliefs were repugnant to the Bureau. In short, Cointelpro was J. Edgar Hoover's secret war against what he considered "dangerous" ideas, or sometimes against individuals who were unpopular with his friends and supporters.
What conceivable threat to national security or potential for violence, for instance, was involved in the Cointelpro operation in which the Bureau wrote an anonymous letter to the parents of a Michigan State University co-ed, telling them that their daughter had "a serious infection," implying that she had contracted a veneral disease?
Or, the instance in which FBI agents in Madison, Wisconsin "fingered" for Dane County police a co-ed who danced nude in a production of Peter Pan, because they didn't like her political views? (The memorandum covering the op notes with satisfaction: "Local charges were brought against her.")
Of the 2,370 approved Cointel programmes that have been disclosed so far, perhaps the saddest and most disgraceful of all was the operation against the film actress Jean Seberg.
Documents obtained from the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that in 1970, agents in the Bureau's Los Angeles Division, with the approval of Washington headquarters, concocted a scheme to ruin her reputation by spreading a rumor that she was pregnant by a Black Panther leader.
At the time, Seberg was married to French Diplomat Romain Gary.
The plot was initiated by the Special Agent in charge of the FBI Los Angeles office with a request, dated April 27,1970 and
submitted to the Director in Washington. It read:
"Bureau permission is requested to publicize the pregnancy of Jean Seberg, well-known movie actress by (name deleted) Black Panther (BPP) (deleted) by advising Hollywood "GossipColumnists" in the Los Angeles area of the situation. It is felt that the possible publication of Seberg's plight could cause her embarrassment and serve to cheapen her image with the general public.
"'It is proposed that the following letter from a fictitious person be sent to local columninists:
"I was just thinking about you and remembered I still owe you a favor. So ---- I was in Paris last week and ran into Jean Seberg, who was heavy with baby. I thought she and Romaine [sic] had gotten together again, but she confided the child belonged to (deleted) of the Black Panthers, one (deleted). The dear girl is getting around!
" 'Anyway, I thought you might get a scoop on the others. Be good and I'll see you soon.
"Usual precautions would be taken by the Los Angeles Division to preclude identification of the Bureau as the source of the letter if approval is granted."
The agent making this proposal signed the document with his initials, RWH. It was approved by his superiors, WGG and RMB. While the FBI has refused to identify these agents, according to a source close to the activity, the originator of the memorandum was Richard Wallace Held, later promoted to the job of Inspector with the Bureau in Washington. The same informant identified the special agent in charge as Wesley G. Grapp, now retired; and RMB as Richard M. Bloesser, also retired, but then a supervisor over Squad #2 in the Los Angeles office.
On information and belief (as the lawyers say) the Black Panther leader named in the proposition was Raymond
(Masia) Hewit. In a separate op, the FBI falsely identified him as an undercover informant for the agency. The official letter was planted in his car with the expectation that one of his fellow Panthers would find it and assault him.
Days later, approval for the project came from the FBI headquarters in Washington. The memorandum contained a note of caution.
"To protect the sensitive source of information from possible compromise and to insure the success of your plan, Bureau feels it would be better to wait approximately two additional months until Seberg's pregnancy would be obvious to everyone."
The headquarters memorandum also added this note:
"Jean Seberg has been a financial supporter of the BBP and should be neutralized. Her current pregnancy by (name deleted) while still married affords an opportunity for such effort."
In terms of circulation, the FBI's black propaganda effort met with notable success. On May 19, 1970, Los Angeles Times keyhole columnist Joyce Haber included the defamatory tidbit in her day's reportage. Haber's effusion was thereafter picked up and reprinted by Newsweek magazine, the American Weekly, and a French publication called Minute.
The actress' French husband said that soon after reading the false stories, his wife, who was then in the seventh month of her pregnancy; had to be hospitalized. Three days later, she went into labor and gave birth to a stillborn child, a white female.
The infant was placed in an open casket so that those who may have believed the cruel canard could view the truth in its most tragic setting.
Romain Gary affirmed that he was the child's father, and said that the shock of losing the child made the actress become psychotic. Every year, on the anniversary of the incident, she attempted suicide.
Finally, on September 10, 1979, the denouement of the harrowing events set in motion by the FBI, occurred. Jean
Seberg died in the back seat of her car in Paris, of an overdose of barbituates.
Gary tersely delivered the last summary of the case:
"Jean Seberg was destroyed by the FBI."
In a face-saving editorial, the Los Angeles Times deeply regretted that that newspaper had carried the calumny, but took consolation in a statement issued by FBI Director William H. Webster, to wit:
"The days when the FBI used derogatory information to combat advocates of unpopular causes have long since passed. We are out of that business forever."
No such consolation is to be found, however, in the final report of the Senate Select Committee which investigated the Cointel operations. The committee concluded:
"Cointelpro activities may continue today under the rubric of 'investigation.'
"The word 'counterintelligence' had no fixed meaning even before the programs were terminated. The Bureau witnesses agreed that there is a large gray area between 'counterintelligence' and 'aggressive investigation/ and that headquarters supervisors sometimes had difficulty in deciding which should go on certain proposals.
"Aggressive investigation continues, and may be more disruptive than covert action. An anonymous letter (Cointelpro) can be ignored as the work of a crank; an overt approach by the Bureau ('investigation') is not so easily dismissed. The line between information collection and harrassment can be extremely thin." (Emphasis added.)
The Committee also notes that the memorandum officially terminating the Cointel programmes contained a slippery proviso, which read:
"In exceptional circumstances where it is considered counterintelligence [Cointel) action is warranted, recommendations should be submitted to the Bureau under individual case caption to which it pertains. These recommendations will be considered on an individual basis."
What this meant, quite simply, was that in future,
Cointelpro-type operations would be buried in the Bureau's 500,000 case files, each one of which would have to be searched to turn up all the Cointelpro actions.
When the Committee asked the FBI to provide it with a list of any Cointelpro activities undertaken since the programmes were officially abolished on April 28, 1971, the Bureau at first said that a review had "failed to develop any information indicating post-termination Cointelpro activity."
Afterward, however, the Bureau located and furnished to the Committee two instances of such operations. Committee investigators discovered a third instance on their, own. How many others have taken and are taking place, is a matter of conjecture.
The fact is that, whatever public posture the Bureau may have adopted officially, the agents involved in Cointelpro, almost to a man have defended their despicable acts as proper and necessary. One Cointelpro unit chief declared: "The Bureau people did not think that they were doing anything wrong and most of us to this day do not think we were doing anything wrong."
That was the feeling of Section Chief Goerge C. Moore as well: "I thought I did something very important during those days. I have no apologies to make for anything we did, really. "
In 1974, then-FBI Director Clarence Kelley commented on the Cointel programmes thus:
"For the FBI to have done less under the circumstances would have been an abdication of its responsibilities to the American people."
When three top FBI officials were arraigned on April 21, 1978 for conspiring to violate the rights of citizens by authorizing break-ins, a crowd of 750 FBI agents held a demonstration outside the Washington court, indicating their support of a solidarity with the accused. Special Agent Patrick Conner from the New York field office, which had carried out the alleged break-ins into residences of innocent friends and relatives of the fugitives they sought, told media representa-
"Let this event today clearly reflect our personal commitment and show the American people that our fight against those terrorists was nothing more than our just and sworn duty."
It was, of course, much more than their "sworn duty." It was a serious violation of the law.
But, as this and other post-Cointelpro events clearly show, inside the Federal Bureau of Investigation, there has really been no change of heart; merely a change of record-keeping.
Whether the Church of Scientology was formally a part of the Cointelpro or not, many of the same techniques used by the FBI during the 15 years that those programmes were in operation, were also employed against Scientologists.
During more than 20 years, the Bureau conducted a deliberate smear campaign against the church, one which has had lasting effects. The agency became an avid collector of unfavourable news stories and magazine articles concerning Scientology and its founder. Enquiries from individuals, other agencies and foreign governments were all provided with these materials and referred to other sources of derogatory allegations.
To conceal the fact that the FBI was the source of the slander, Hoover would introduce the libel with the statement that "No investigation has been conducted by this Bureau concerning Hubbard [or "Scientology"]. However, our files reveal that... There would then follow a deadly selection of venemous gossip, rumour and false published reports from the copious FBI files, but attributed to other founts.
Sometimes, the Director would close his letter with the words: "I am enclosing some material which I thought you might like to have."
The "material" referred to would be a packet of black propaganda in the form of raw data accumulated by the Bureau.
Over the years, the defamatory reports thus generated by the FBI began to percolate among other governmental agencies and departments which, in turn, built their own files and
became new centers for further diffusion of the falsehoods. The exchange was a contagion that eventually spread to the remotest corner of the world. (See chart on adjoining page.)
Internal memoranda clearly show that Hoover was aware that the Church of Scientology was neither violence-prone nor subversive. His letters to his own field offices contain such statements as the following (sent to the Special Agent in Charge in San Francisco):
"Bufiles contain no information of a subversive nature regarding captioned organization or its president, Lafayette Ron Hubbard."
To outside terminals, however, the Bureau sent "confidential" information quoting informants as having asserted that the church was involved in drugs, brainwashing, Communism, atheism and materialism.
Reports of this kind were sent to, among others, the CIA, the Alaskan State Police, the British Government, the White House, and to the legal attache at the U.S. Embassy in Paris.
The Director's oft-repeated statement (in correspondence to outsiders) that the Bureau had conducted no investigation of Hubbard or the Scientologists was untrue.
As early as 1951, the FBI began an internal security investigation of Hubbard and his organization. Documents reveal that "contacts" inside the Chicago branch of the Hubbard Dianetics Foundation (a precursor of the Church of Scientology) conducted a detailed investigation and supplied the Bureau with details as to the business affairs, office personnel, and procedures of various branches across the country. Later the FBI planted undercover agents in the church to spy upon its members and ministerial staff and to make regular reports to the agency.
One of these secret agents was named Chico Henderson, who came to Los Angeles from Flint, Michigan, where he had worked as an undercover sleuth for the Flint Police Depart-
ment. In a sworn statement, made after he discontinued his work for the FBI, Henderson said he had been recruited for the job by FBI Special Agent Jim Oppy. Agent Oppy was later to play an important role in the Government's persecuting of the church.
Another "confidential informant" for the FBI was Jack Graham, who was a member of the church. Beginning in 1973, Graham worked for the Los Angeles office of the Bureau during the ensuing five years. His FBI contact was Special Agent Robert Kilbane.
It is not known what inducement Agent Kilbane used to enlist Graham's service as a spy in his church; but in an affidavit sworn to by Graham in October 1977, he states:
"In Chicago in late 1974 or early months of 1975 I called FBI Agent Robert Kilbane in Los Angeles, seeking to make a deal to obtain his assistance in a criminal case then pending against my father. Mr. Kilbane referred me to the FBI agent in Chicago who, Kilbane said, may be able to help me."
Graham said that later, "in the early months of 1976, I put my father ... in touch with Agent Tucci [of the Drug Enforcement Agency] and the DEA, through Agent Tucci, sent my father to Mexico City pursuant to their agreement."
While carrying out assignments for the FBI in Chicago, Graham said that, upon the instructions of FBI Special Agent Robin Tomlin, he made an illegal purchase of a semiautomatic pistol. He was then given $50 by Agent Tomlin to illegally purchase a .38 caliber revolver. (The implication here is that the FBI were having the illegal purchases made to entrap a suspect.)
Upon returning to Los Angeles on April 15, 1977, Graham resumed contact with Agent Robert Kilbane. The G-man asked the informant to help him find out if any members of the Church of Scientology were engaged in unlawful activities.
Graham offered to induce a friend who had access to the Church's Guardian Office to obtain documents for the FBI. Agent Kilbane told him the Bureau was not interested in
documents from the church because "we have a whole storeroom full of them."
Instead, he told Graham that he did want the name of any church member responsible for break-ins at U.S. Government installations to steal official documents.
"I have no knowledge or information that in any way supports Agent Kilbane's allegation of illegal activities on the part of members of the Church of Scientology," Graham declared in a sworn statement made March 3, 1978.
John Cole, another FBI snooper who was assigned to get a line on the Scientologists, apparently jumbled his mission somewhere along the way, and got his come-uppance at the scene. In 1971, he sued church members Terry Milner and Henning Heldt who, he alleged, assaulted him in the church offices. He had been there in search of confidential information, for which he assured the two church executives, he was willing to pay.
When it came to pressing his suit in court, however, Cole had a problem. On January 27, 1971, Moton B. Holt, Jr., his legal counsel, wrote to the United States Attorney in Los Angeles:
"Confirming our conversation, I am attaching interrogatories in subject action by which defendants seek to discover information of Mr. Cole's prior activities which included undercover work, special assignment and informant duties in various Governmental agencies, including the Justice Department, Senator Eastland's Committee, the FBI, the CIA, the C-11, and others. The FBI recommended that I contact your office with respect to any suggestions you may have to avoid answering any of the propounded questions in this area.
"Mr. Cole advises that the information is highly confidential from the Government's viewpoint and disclosure of the same is not in the interest of national security and, further, would endanger the lives of at least four Government agents.
"I have various citations which could be used including the Internal Security Act, the Espionage and Censorship Act and
various Departmental Orders."
Attorney Holt said that the judge hearing the case had granted the defendants' motion to compel him to answer questions on the grounds that such questions were material to show loss of earnings while Cole was hospitalized. He added:
"Cole does not want to appeal due to the publicity involved. The original story when the suit was filed was squelched by the FBI." (Emphasis added.)
An intelligence report dated January 29, 1969 filed in the Drug Enforcement Agency archives throws additional light on Cole's activities. The document lists articles taken from church offices in Los Angeles. It is captioned, "From: Cole -To: Slagel."
In 1974, Tom Johnson, FBI Special Agent in San Francisco, tried over a period of several months to recruit a young Scientology student named James Robert Welder to become an undercover operative in the church.
"He made it clear to me that if I was caught, they would handle it. I asked, why me? They said we'll pay you money. All you have to do is give us something that will hold up legally in court against Scientology."
Welder said he would think over the proposition. He was contacted by Agent Johnson again three days later.
"I got a phone call and he said, this is Mr. Johnson. He told me to go to Marchetti's, a bar across the street from work. He told me someone would meet me there after work."
Johnson and another FBI agent met Welder in the parking lot and drove him to a residential section about five miles from the bar. There they parked on the side of the road.
"They asked me what I had decided, and I told them I was willing to look at the deal they had."
The Agents offered Welder $800 a month, and pay for his study courses in Scientology, as well as reimbursement for the money he had already invested in his classes.
"I told him I'd like to think about it some more. He said, 'We'll contact you in about a week.' "
Later, a man came to Welder's apartment, saying he had
been sent by Agent Johnson to teach the youth karate. "He said if I was involved with them I could have no weapon, so I ought to be able to defend myself and that they'd be in the background. I had made no agreement to cooperate; but he came over three days a week."
In the end, Welder decided against becoming a spy. "I decided not to get involved. I wanted Scientology. I saw him [Johnson] on October 3, 1974 at Sambo's and told him I wanted out, what did I have to do?
"He said, 'Nothing; just drop out.' He said if I tried to prove anything against them, it wouldn't do any good. He asked me why I had changed my mind. I said it was just a personal feeling."
Documents reveal that the FBI (as well as other federal agencies) had secret operatives at work in virtually every branch of the Church of Scientology. Material obtained under the Freedom of Information Act also makes it clear that in some instances, church members were coerced into supplying the agency with confidential information, by the threat of, or offer of immunity from criminal prosecution on some charge unrelated to Scientology.
In addition to paid spies, spiteful rumour mongers, and coerced informants, intelligence agencies of the Government made use of illegal wiretapping and bugging in their warfevered assault on the Church of Scientology.
The nature and extent of this global, electronic eavesdropping will never be known. Many of the guilty weasels have been too adroit at covering their tracks.
Judging from the documentary evidence available, however, the coordinated efforts of the following agencies have been massive and widespread: the National Security Agency, the U.S. Justice Department, FBI, FDA, CIA, IRS, Bureau of Customs, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA, formerly the BNDD), the Department of Defense, the Defense Intelligence Service, Interpol, U.S. State Department, U.S. Post Office, U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF), Department of
Labor; Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW), the Secret Service, and the police departments of 26 American cities, from New York to Honolulu; from Montpelier, Vermont to Dallas, Texas.
In addition to these federal, state and local agencies, Scientologists' legal representatives have called for a review of the investigative files of law-enforcement and intelligence services in 41 foreign countries.
The immense difficulty of recovering records of intrusions, the majority of them illegal, on such a vast scale, augurs little success in the undertaking.
Here at home, the case of the FBI is typical. Testimony before the Senate Select Committee revealed that prior to 1960, the agency maintained only rudimentary indicies in each of its field offices. There was no central index; and the often-ambiguous files kept in the field offices "were believed to be inadequate by Justice Department officials."
FBI spokesmen admitted to the Senate committee that even after the Bureau had established a central index, ELSUR (electronics surveillance), at their headquarters in Washington, overhears may not have been recorded, logs have been destroyed, and voices not immediately identifiable, have not been indexed, even though they were singled out later.
During the course of legal proceedings, ELSUR supervisor John Smythe testified that the FBI central index includes only full names of persons eavesdropped on, dates of the overhear, and the field office source of the report. In other words, the integrity of the index depends upon the Bureau's field offices sending to the central files the full names, or the first and suspected surnames of the individuals being monitored. Agent Smythe conceded that field offices do not always do that. (Almost certainly an understatement of the situation.)
Smythe said that there is no topical listing in the centralized ELSUR index, although such a listing is conveniently tucked away by code name in the agency general index of investigations. Moreover, the index does not list surveillance by telephone number, address, or case; nor does it record surveil-
lances conducted on telephones unless the full name of the user is known.
He further testified that he would have no way of knowing whether other agencies - state, local or otherwise - had provided the FBI with information derived from their own electronic traps. At the same time, he said, when FBI field offices request permission to make a "tap search," the headquarters approval always includes the following advice:
"It is suggested that you contact any other federal agencies to determine if they have conducted any electronic surveillance" [of the same subject]. When other agencies do provide a field office with data from their own wiretap files, only the field office keeps case files indicating the source of the information. The FBI, like other federal intelligence agencies, is careful to conceal its exchange of covertly obtained data with other law-enforcement bodies including local police departments.
In an affidavit submitted to a U. S. District Court by a lawyer representing an executive of the Church of Scientology, the attorney notes that "The FBI Manual of Instruction provides that information may be transmitted to a local law enforcement agency on blind memoranda,' which is plain stationery with no identification of the FBI as the source . . . Moreover, the FBI transmitted these 'blind memoranda' only if the local police agreed that the Bureau's 'identity as source of the information must be kept strictly confidential.' "
It is a common practice for information to be passed between the various agencies by an informal "buddy" system, that is, in an oral exchange between the agents concerned.
The Scientology attorney just quoted also observes: "Because of the above described inadequacies of the records, and the proven reluctance of the agencies to make thorough searches [of their files] and honest disclosures, the case annuals are replete with instances of belated disclosures after denials were accepted by the courts as complete and credible."
Illegal surveillance is often disguised in agency reports by attributing the information to code names or to "confidential
Another stratagem employed by federal agencies for disposing of evidence of illegal eavesdropping is for agents to listen to tapes of the intercepted conversations, from which they obtain investigative leads, and then erase them.
Warrantless wiretapping is not an uncommon practice among local police departments in the U.S., sometimes with the knowledge, and the financial and technical help of the FBI.
Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that police departments throughout the United States participated in the federal conspiracy against the Church of Scientology. There is documented evidence that police in New York, Washington, D.C., Detroit, Los Angeles and Eureka, California engaged in surveillance of the church. At the same time, they received from, and disseminated to, the federal agencies information obtained from various sources.
It is, of course, difficult for a private citizen or group to prove a wiretap or electronic intrusion conducted by law enforcement personnel. It has been shown in testimony before Congressional investigative committees that telephone companies cooperate with federal agencies such as the FBI and the IRS in their unauthorized eavesdropping. A significant number of telephone company security officers are former FBI special agents, still fiercely loyal to the Bureau and, it may be fairly assumed, in complete accord with the practices of their former colleagues.
Not long ago, the Ruff Times, a widely circulated newsletter published by conservative economist Howard Ruff, reported that they had been provided with a telephone number which, when dialed, would indicate whether the subscriber's phone was tapped. The number was (213) 348-0003. A busy signal would indicate that the caller's telephone was "tuned in." On the other hand, a wavering, whistling sound signified that the phone from which the call was being made was untapped.
Immediately after publication of this intelligence, the telephone company installed an answering device at the number,
on which a recorded voice declared:
"The number you have reached is for Pacific Telephone internal use, and in no way will it determine if a telephone is being wiretapped."
The busy signals, or the wavering, whistling sounds previously encountered when the number was dialed, were now absent. The telephone company did not disclose what "internal use" the number had.
During recent years, the telephone has become an instrument of frustration and annoyance to many Scientologists. The nature,. extent and frequency of the difficulties they have experienced reflect adversely on the qualifications of the instructors who teach Government-run seminars in the use of surveillance equipment. Curious noises on the line, disrupted service, verbal encounters with unidentified individuals on the line, overhears of federal agents talking to each other or "reporting in," - all these and other contretemps make it plain that undercover operatives in the lower echelons are in urgent need of additional training in intrusion techniques.
On occasion, the tapee has learned of his ghostly listeners from official sources. For instance, Mrs. William Franks, a Scientologists, affirmed under oath: "That on or about the 7th of August, 1975, DC Metropolitan Policeman Bobby Condon called me on the telephone at the address of the Founding Church of Scientology, 2125 S St., NW, Washington, D.C. The number at which Condon called was 797-1204. During this communication, Condon asked me to go to another phone, because the phone at which we were speaking was wiretapped; however, he refused to elaborate further or name the source of the tap or the source of his information of the tap."
In another sworn statement, John Taussig, a member of the church's Gaurdian staff, reported that since May, 1974, he has on numerous occasions noticed curious acoustic phenomena while using the telephone lines of the legal office. He states that the most frequent and noticeable noises have been mysterious clicking sounds. He has also on several occasions
experienced interruptions which clearly did not originate in his telephone or that of the party with whom he was conversing. He avers that other staff members have complained to him or to other members of the legal department of similar experiences.
At least two attorneys representing Scientology defendants in a criminal case have been the subject of Government eavesdropping. One of the lawyers, Philip Hirschkop, was overheard by the FBI on numerous occasions. The FBI has admitted to the overhears in 1971, but the contents of these taps have not been divulged, nor has an examination of the agents involved been conducted.
Another prominent attorney, who was representing Mary Sue Hubbard, wife of Scientology's founder, was also "overheard." Benjamin Civiletti, now U.S. Attorney General, admitted in a letter to attorney Leonard B. Boudin that "various conversations to which you were a party were overheard by the Bureau as a result of electronic surveillance of other subjects."
The Government claimed that all except one of the monitored conversations were classified, "but will be reviewed for possible classification."
To date, neither the unclassified intercept, nor those to be reviewed, have been revealed.
Sometimes, when the tin ear on the Scientologist lines overheard something unfavorable to the Bureau, he hit the interference button. That's what happened when Jon Christian Volz was dictating a news release to Radio Station WTSB in North Carolina.
"An announcer from the station, Don Babson, had previously said that he wanted to have my story. I made the call from a telephone in the church's offices.
"Whilst I was dictating, the phone went dead. I called back and the same thing happened. I called again, and this time Don Babson asked if the phone I was calling from was tapped. I told him that this was a distinct possibility and he said that in his experience he had had news items constantly cut off whilst
being relayed over the phone if those tapping the phone did not want the message to be relayed."
After six unsuccessful attempts at unbroken communication, Volz tried another telephone in the church office. After the second try on this phone, he was able to read the full dispatch.
"On each attempt, my call was cut off at precisely the same point in my dictating of the release. This happened whether I read the release slowly or quickly, so was not after a uniform time period from the start of the call.
"The call was cut off each time after I had read the first six lines, which read as follows:
"'The FBI was forced last week in a Freedom of Information suit to admit that they were involved in dirty tricks and disinformation techniques against citizens and groups.
"What wasn't released was that the Defense Department is also fully involved in this type of harrassment."
At that point, the hidden censor pulled the plug.
Appelate courts have recognized the near-impossibility of proving illegal wiretaps by Government agents. For that reason, they have generally held that a showing need not be more elaborate or even more specific than a mere assertion of illegal surveillance. To require more, they have correctly reasoned, would impose a minimal burden on the Government while requiring a defendant to run a hopeless obstacle course in their struggle against official concealment.
Furthermore, said the courts, the mere say-say of the prosecutor that there has been no unlawful intrusion is not an adequate response. A search of agency records is required.
In one case, involving two grand jury witnesses (who were not even criminal defendants), the court observed:
"If we were to hold that a witness could make a 'claim' only when he has found an electronic bug in his home, heard mysterious bleeps in his telephone or rifled the files of the Justice Department, we would merely succeed in encouraging the Government to improve its security as well as its technol-
Even if Government prosecutors must show that a search of files in ten agencies (which seems to be the present minimum acceptable to higher courts), the inadequate record-keeping and deliberate concealment by federal agencies will always give the Government the edge in the matter of illegal electronic surveilance.
Then, too, there remains the question of covertly obtained information in the files of "friendly" foreign intelligence agencies. Such files - and there are a great number of them - will always remain beyond the reach of U. S. courts.