Scientology's Dept. 20:: a memoir
Part 4 - Preparations
by Robert Vaughn Young
A press conference - at least a Scientology press conference - has basic elements that Jeff and I had to create. It needs a press release that is given out to the media and a written statement, that is read at the start of the press conference. Quotes from it are used in the release.
But before these, we had to know what it was we wanted to say.
Jeff and I were at his desk in the PR Snow White office of the US Guardian's Office, on the seventh floor of the Fiefield Manor. By now it was perhaps nearly 10 a.m. The press conference was set for something like noon, so we only had a couple of hours for all the preparation. Meanwhile, downstairs and at the end of the hall, scores of FBI agents were prowling through offices and files, hauling boxes of documents down the elevator. It was unnerving and the adrenaline in both of us was pumping.
Within minutes, Jeff had calmed down. But one has to know Jeff Friedman to know what that meant. Jeff was one of those hyper-types that took me awhile to enjoy. His state of "relaxation" was what most of us achieved with our fourth cup of coffee. I tended to hang back and that would get on Jeff's nerves but in time, we somehow matched or balanced each other in some bizarre way that only the two of us comprehended and now was one of those times. Although the FBI was down the hall and could come through the door at any moment, we began to bounce the ideas off each other as we had for years. If nothing else, it helped us to shut out everything else.
Okay, what's the message, Jeff asked as he paced and I shoved the paper into the typewriter.
FBI raid, film at eleven, I chimed as I clicked the paper down.
Jeff laughed, more from nervousness than the humor. We need a hook, he said as he continued to pace. How about COINTELPRO?*
Maybe but it's been used. Need something tighter.
Artie said it's in the search warrant. They're trying to stop our investigation of Snow White.
Trying to stop our exposure of Nazis!
Trying to _hide_ Nazis!
Protecting the drug traffickers.
"Church raided for exposing Nazi-drug link to DOJ."
Yeah, I like it. Let's do it.
And so, with not a shred of evidence, we began to concoct a statement that said the Church of Scientology was being raided by the FBI in retaliation for our exposure of Interpol's Nazi ties to the Department of Justice and Interpol's role in drug trafficking.**
"We need the search warrant," I said. "That way we can use the actual wording for the Snow White section."
"Good idea," Jeff said. "Let's get it."
"What do you mean?" Artie asked. "Why do you need it?"
"For the statement, Artie! We want to quote it!"
Artie paused. "Okay, he said, I'll get it up to you. Get back to work."
A couple of minutes later, someone brought it up to us.
It was the first time either of us had seen a search warrant, let alone one to search our premises. There was a bunch of legal mumbo-jumbo in the front and at the end was a list of items to be found. There were scores of items, including Guardian Orders, Guardian Programme Orders and at the end, something about anything regarding Snow White. That was the kicker catch-all. It sent a chill through me to see the words. That was the FBI's license to prowl through the building.
I put my finger on the line and looked at Jeff.
"Shit," I said, "look at that."
We flipped back through it looking for anything to use.
"There's something about an affidavit attached," Jeff noticed. He was right. There was nothing attached.
"Hang on," I said, as I headed to Artie's office.
Artie had a blank face at my asking for the affidavit. It was a blank face that I should have recognized. In about two hours, I'd learn the reason for his expression.
"That's all I have," he told me. Naively, I nodded and went back upstairs.
"He said he doesn't have it," I told Jeff, who shrugged.
After another twenty minutes, I pulled the sheet out and Jeff began to review it, making a few handwritten changes.
"Wonder how many will be there," I mused as I looked out the window across Hollywood.
"Be where?" asked Jeff.
"At the press conference."
"Who knows?" Jeff said with a shrug.
I tried not to think of it. I tried to not even think of the raid or if there was another reason why the agents were looking for Snow White documents. I had to focus, to keep my attention on what we were doing. I had to give a press conference in less than two hours and I had to be ready for it.
"Okay," Jeff finally said. "Let's go."
We took the statement down to Artie. It attacked the FBI and the Department of Justice for seeking to shut down our investigation of Interpol. Fortunately, for us, the US Interpol Office was located in the DOJ, so we could make this conspiratorial link. It also allowed us to dump everything I had found out about the group, especially their World War II Nazi history.
Artie sat at his desk reading it. Artie had this habit of rapidly bouncing his right leg when he was reading material for approval. When it stopped, we were in trouble. I watched the leg. We were doing fine. He had a few changes to suggest (Artie always did) and we were off to write the press release.
Thirty minutes later we were done. I was given the task of going down the hall to the copying room, next to Linda's Snow White Programmes Office. No one was there, which was no surprise. Usually there was always someone in front of me. But today, the halls were empty, except for FBI agents. So I walked in and started making copies. As the huge machine chugged them out, an agent looked in. I said nothing. He left. Surreal, I'm thinking. Completely surreal.
By the time I got back to PR, it was a little after 11. I had less than an hour before the press conference.
"We've notified the media," Artie told us. A few of the staff had been on the phone to tell the LA Times, the Herald-Examiner and all the radio and TV that we would be holding a press conference. For once, everyone paid attention because right now, we were the number one item on the local news. It wasn't every day that over 100 agents FBI raid someone in Hollywood.
"And you'll need to get in collar," Artie said.
Collar. That meant the turned-around collar that Catholic priests wear. We had been wearing them as part of our "Religious Image Programme" for the last few years. I hated them. Frankly, so did Artie, who was Jewish, as did all the rest of the PR regulars. But they were part of the "image" so we pulled them on when needed. Today was one of those. We had to make every appearance of being a church "raped" by the FBI.
Someone said they had a collar-bib that I could use. I also needed a jacket as I had arrived without one. Someone suggested a Scientology cross. Good idea, I thought. Makes me look more clerical. While the outfit was being assembled, we did some fast drilling in Artie's office. He and several others fired questions at me and I responded. We didn't have the time or the inclination for the usual setting, with a "coach" etc. All I could think of was that we were drilling behind locked doors, the FBI only a few feet down the hall, to send me to a press conference across town. I read my statement and someone had some suggested changes. No way, I said. This is it. We have no time for changes. Oh. Then to the questions. I fielded them, staying on the attack vector, per Hubbard's policies to always attack, never defend.
"How ya doin'?" Artie asked.
I nodded as someone brought in the collar and cross and jacket.
"I better get dressed," I said.
Twenty minutes later, I was in the front seat of a too-small car. Someone was firing questions at me, continuing the drill as much as getting me into the mood. For a fleeting moment, I thought, this is insane. At the same time, I thought, this is what it should be like: to see how quickly one can mobilize and think on one's feet. I went with the latter feeling as we pulled into the Los Angeles Press Club on Vermont Avenue with ten minutes to spare.
Unbeknownst to me, I was about to be thrown to the wolves.
* COINTELPRO was an FBI counterintelligence program directed primarily at people that Director J. Edgar Hoover despised. The general purpose was to disrupt or ruin their lives.
** We had come up with the names of some South American police officials who were also Interpol and who were publicly connected to drug trafficking allegations but we had no hard evidence of our own.
end of Part 4
Copyright © 1997 by Robert Vaughn Young
All Rights Reserved