In Clearwater in January 1976, Gabriel blew his horn.
No walls tumbled. But Mayor Gabriel Cazares' persistent questioning of the motives of a new religious group that had tiptoed into town helped put a crimp in plans of the Church of Scientology to quietly take control of the city.
His whistle-blowing moved him to a high place on the hit list maintained in the church's Guardian Office where officials spent their days operating an espionage system and concocting dirty tricks to discredit "enemies" of Scientology.
Schemes devised to handle Cazares were among the most vicious described in church documents recently released by a federal court in Washington.
Scientology's spy operation was operating smoothly in the winter of '76, and Cazares was destined to become enmeshed in wheels turning in Washington.
L. Ron Hubbard, church founder and commodore, had come ashore in Clearwater. The church had recently purchased the Fort Harrison Hotel for a new base for Flag -- its program and theology center. The commodore, it appears, was operating out of the King Arthur Courts condominium in Dunedin where the church had rented one building of the five-building complex. Mary Sue Hubbard, his wife and the commodore staff guardian, was on the scene.
The spy operation was focused on Washington where Mike Meisner, assistant guardian for information D.C., was running agents (how to run agents had been set forth in detail in a policy letter written some years before by Hubbard). Gerald Bennett Wolfe, whose code name was "Silver," had been employed as a clerk-typist at the Internal Revenue Service since November 1974. Sharon Thomas had been working for the Coast Guard since January 1975, but Meisner had given her orders to get a job at the Justice Department. She went to work there on Jan. 29, 1976.
At the beginning of February, Meisner was ordered to Los Angeles for briefings. While he was there, a Telex message came in from Jimmy Mulligan, commodore staff guardian assistant for information, in Clearwater. He wanted to know the situation regarding access to current information about Scientology in the office of Lewis Hubbard, an IRS official.
Meisner prepared a reply. He said that he and Silver had broken into Lewis Hubbard's office three weeks earlier with the help of Don Alverzo, a church agent who had been sent to Washington from Los Angeles to help because he knew how to pick locks. They found only old data on Scientology, he said.
"I found a note on Hubbard's desk that said something like 'See Friedberg re Scn'," Meisner said. "From that note I assumed that Friedberg (Stephen) was handling the PT (translation: recent) Scn material ... Last week we obtained access to Friedberg's area by leaving one of the doors unlocked during the day ... Friedberg had material on the Calif. scene dated as late as 26 Jan. 76 ... The PT material was sent upline last week."
(Keep Meisner in mind. In the summer of 1977, he turned himself in to the FBI. Information that he provided led to raids on church offices and confiscation of 48,149 documents that were the basis for the indictment and convictions in Washington of nine Scientologists -- including Mary Sue Hubbard, Wolfe and Ms. Thomas.)
Back in Clearwater, Guardian office officials were weighing how they could silence Gabriel's horn.
A six-page list of LRH (Hubbard) orders from about this time has several references to Cazares:
"5/2/76 (Feb. 2) Cazares -- Possibly Jimmy Fischer could get his school records.
"15/3/76 (March 3) Cazares -- is there some possibility the Cubans in Miami might get the idea he is pro-Castro?"
On Feb. 7, the church filed a $1-million lawsuit in U.S. District Court charging that the mayor had libeled and slandered the church and violated its civil rights. On Feb. 28, Cazares replied to the church's libel suit with an $8-million libel suit of his own.
He would have been surprised to know that two days earlier church agents were in Alpine, Texas digging through records in the county clerk's office, the police department, the office of the Border Patrol, the Catholic Church, talking with local doctors, the midwife, long-time residents, looking for information on him. They even visited the graveyard looking for headstones bearing the Cazares name.
In a "Mission Report," Mike C. (Mitchell Hermann) stated: "The mission went to Alpine and succeeded in getting a good amount of legally useable affidavits and letters to support the fact that Cazares was not born in Alpine, Tex. The mission also located a newspaper article announcing the birth of a baby named 'Alpine Bill' Cazares on Jan. 30, 1920, to a father with the same initials (J.O. Cazares) as that of Gabriel's father."
A few days later, Hermann wrote Duke Snider, deputy deputy guardian for the U.S., that Cazares would be in Washington for a national mayor's conference March 13-17. "I am now working on a set of Ops (operations) type actions which could be done to welcome the mayor to the nation's capital," he said.
What happened then was described by government attorneys in a "Sentencing Memorandum" to U.S. District Judge Charles R. Richey in Washington earlier this month as he prepared to sentence the nine Scientologists.
"Shortly thereafter," the memorandum said, "defendant Hermann ordered Mr. Meisner to carry out an operation on Mayor Cazares during his Washington trip -- that operation was to involve a fake hit-and-run accident. Defendant Sharon Thomas was to be the main participant in that operation. She was to meet Mayor Cazares, drive him around town, and at a predetermined location stage a hit-and-run accident with Mr. Meisner as the 'victim.'
"At the same time that defendant Hermann was directing Mr. Meisner to carry out the 'accident,' defendant (Dick) Weigand responded to defendant Snider's earlier orders by sending him a list of Clearwater, Fla., 'enemies' and their priority for 'handling' purposes. Mayor Cazares ranked second on the defendants Weigand's and Snider's list, right behind the St. Petersburg Times.
"On March 14, 1976, District of Columbia Collections Officer Joseph Alesi, posing as a reporter, interviewed Mayor Cazares. During that interview, he met defendant Sharon Thomas. Thomas then offered to show Mayor Cazares the town. During that drive, defendant Thomas, who was driving, staged her fake hit-and-run accident in Rock Creek Park, hitting Michael Meisner. She drove on without reporting the incident to the police. Of course, defendant Thomas knew that no harm had been caused to the 'victim.' In a letter dated March 15, 1976, to CSG Assistant for Information Jimmy Mulligan and fugitive defendant Morris (Mo) Budlong, defendant Weigand discussed how Scientology could use that 'fake' accident against Mayor Cazares and concluded that 'I should think that the Mayor's political days are at an end'."
The church did not use the hit-and-run incident against Cazares immediately. That would come later.
Meanwhile, the Guardian Office was working on "Operation Italian Fog." It was a simple Op, said Randy (National Operations Office Bruce Raymond, also known as Randy Windment) in a March 23 letter to Dick and Greg. "The purpose of this Op," he said, "is to actually get real documentation into the files of Mexican license bureau of bureaus stating that the Mayor got married to some Mexican gal 25 years ago who is not his wife so puts the mayor in a position of bigamy. This can be accomplished either by a bribe or a covert action. Once the docs are planted, it is cleverly exposed that the Mayor is promiscuous and a bigamist."
The detailed plan for the operation was written April 9. It was accompanied by a handwritten note that said: "As part of the security, if a bribe is used data should be given to the person accepting the bribe to pinpoint a false Who in his mind, ideally one of the Mayor's known enemies so that if the Op gets blown up to the person who was bribed that person would give data on the planted Who and S. (Scientology) would never come up."
Cazares, a Democrat, was by then a candidate for the congressional seat held by Republican Rep. C.W. Bill Young. The church worked hard to hurt his campaign. The congressman said recently that Steven Heard, a church public relations official, offered over lunch with Douglas Gregory, Young's administrative assistant, to supply the congressman with information that could damage Cazares' campaign. Gregory -- and a day later Young, by letter -- refused the offer.
On July 12, Operation Keller was given a green light. Its stated purpose was "to create havoc and possible political decay for Cazares."
Within a few days, fake letters from "Sharon T" were mailed by church agents to political leaders and reporters in Pinellas County. The letters said Cazares had been involved in a hit-and-run accident in Washington.
Cazares asked the FBI to investigate. Young received a letter saying the "Sharon T" letter was really authored by the Cazares campaign to make it look like Young was involved in dirty tricks. He turned it over to the FBI.
In an Oct. 7 weekly report, Dick Weigand told Mo Budlong that the handling of the mayor was continuing. "A recent poll conducted by the CW Sun received phony responses from the public generated covertly which showed that his opponent had a crushing lead on him," Weigand said.
And on Nov. 3, 1976, Joe Lisa informed Duke Snider that Mayor Cazares had been defeated in the congressional race as a result of Guardian Program Order 398 -- an operation to create strife between Cazares and the city commission, and to place a church agent in his campaign organization to create problems -- and other Scientology actions which included "spreading rumors inside his camp, contributing to disorganization in his campaign."
The church's libel suit against Cazares was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Ben Krentzman in Tampa in the spring of '77. The church later dropped two other suits against Cazares, and he withdrew his suit against the church.