Freelance writer Paulette Cooper is a finely honed, long-haired accumulation of nervous energy. She was dressed with a New York flair that seemed out of context in the small windowless room in the grey dignity of the U.S. District Court building in Washington.
She sat beside me at a long table covered with cartons packed with some of the 33,000 documents seized from "Church" of Scientology files in 1977 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
"If you see anything about Operation Freakout, please let me know," she said. More than once. Intensely.
Her obsession could be excused.
She had been living with it since the publication in 1971 of her book, The Scandal of Scientology, subtitled "A chilling examination of the nature, beliefs and practices of the 'now religion.'"
And from hearings in which the documents helped implicate U.S. cult leaders in criminal conspiracies, she had learned Operation Freakout was the code name for one of the Scientologists' obsessions -- her.
Around the table and squatting on the floor in the cramped stuffy room that day were nine other journalists, all from U.S. newspapers. A copying machine was rarely out of use.
Two young Scientologists from the cult publication Freedom were also examining the documents, which told a bizarre story of spying, theft and electronic bugging by the cult, and of blackmail, poison-pen letters, scandal-mongering and other kinds of harassment to silence critics.
A U.S. marshal posted in an anteroom kept looking through the door, and he checked all papers any of us took from the room.
Miss Cooper thought she was ready for anything she would find.
There were many documents about her. She could even joke about some. There was one giving the purpose of Operation Freakout -- "to get P.C. incarcerated in a mental institution or jail, or at least to hit her so hard that she drops her attacks."
She'd had years to get ready for this day -- and the many more days she worked with the Scientologists' most secret files.
They had been nightmare years of borrowing money to defend herself against 14 lawsuits filed against her by the litigious cult, and to file counter- suits.
She told of finding evidence that her telephone was tapped. She received anonymous threats that she would be killed. Neighbors received disgusting hate letters about her, such as one saying: "Her tongue is noticeably swollen from an attack of venereal disease."
There were times when she considered suicide.
She lost the love of a male friend of six years, who said she had changed under the stress and was no longer fun to be with. His employers had received smear letters about him.
Other friends of Miss Cooper also were harassed. Some received phone calls saying they could be involved in legal action because of her.
And then came the topper. In May, 1973, she was indicted by a grand jury on two counts of making bomb threats against the "Church" of Scientology and of committing perjury by denying the accusations. There were threatening letters on her stationery and with her fingerprints on them.
Even her own lawyer urged her to confess. She refused. She passed a lie- detector test. She and a cousin told about the visit of a woman soliciting donations for a union fund, during which the woman never took off her gloves. A box of Miss Cooper's stationery was in the room. The bomb threat was reported the next day.
The charges were finally dropped; but she did not feel her name was cleared, she said, until the fall of 1977. That was when she learned from an FBI contact that evidence found in the July, 1977, raids on the Scientology offices showed it had all been a frameup.
I found one of the references to it in the files released by the Washington court that convicted nine U.S. Scientologists on charges related to theft of government documents and obstructing justice.
In one file was a letter dated June, 1974, from Dick Weigand to Henning Heldt, two of the leaders sentenced last month to four years in prison. Included in a review of an operative's past activities for the cult was the observation: "Conspired to entrap Mrs. Lovely (code name for Miss Cooper) into being arrested for a felony which she did not commit. She was arraigned for the crime."
The Mrs. Lovely name came up again and again. This time it was found by Miss Cooper as she sat beside me. "Oh, this is it," I heard her sigh.
She had in front of her pages of detailed reports from another cult operative. She had expected they might exist, but she hadn't been sure. He had, for a short while, been very close to her, and pretended to be in love with her.
She began to read them, but found that she could not brave the attempt there. Grim-faced, she duplicated them.
"I need to read these with friends beside me," she said. She did that evening at dinner with myself and Nan McLean, a close friend from Sutton, Ont., who's a former Scientologist.
In a log entry for a few days after her indictment for the bomb threat, the agent wrote: "We have Mrs. Lovely in a very perplexing position."
She read it aloud to us. But it was tough going. Much of it she read in silence.
In the words of the man to whom she had confided her most intimate memories, to whom she had given full trust, she read a description to his "church" leaders of how she had told him about her first youthful sexual awakening.
Another page referred to a time when, depressed about her problems, she had spoken one dark night about suicide.
The secret agent told his superiors that on the outside he was sympathetic but inside he was laughing: "Wouldn't this be a great thing for Scientology?"
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Paulettec) Newsgroups: alt.religion.scientology Subject: Paulette--Why you're wrong about me(1) Date: 9 May 1996 18:32:04 -0400 Message-ID: <email@example.com>About a year ago I went on line, lurking on a.r.s. before posting to clarify several erroneous statements I had read about myself. But almost a year later, I still see these misconceptions, so let me explain....
After my book came out, reporters, parents, confused former members, law firms, national and international agencies--even someone from the White House once--all called me for help. Unfortunately, they had no other person to turn to.
I listed my number, and tried to assist all who called. There was no Internet or a.r.s., so someone had to disseminate supporting documents and information, and put people together.
Not surprisingly, Sci felt that I had to be stopped. There was only one other person (Nan McLean in Toronto) who was also doing this, so we ended up with all the harassment and litigation. For over a decade, they put the full weight of the entire B1 GO (equivalent of OSA) on me.
Imagine on a.r.s. if Steve, Arnie, Larry, Dennis, Ron, Henri, Martin, Jeff, Karen, etc., were all one person. And all of OSA and all Scientology lawyers and all their private eyes only had to deal with this person, using millions of dollars and limitless energy coming up with suits and ops against them. That was the situation I found myself in--without the kind of emotional support people now have today with the internet.
In December of 1972, the Scientology PR person received two bomb threats and named me as someone likely to have sent them. I was indicted on May 9, 1973--23 years ago today, the worst day of my life--and arrested and arraigned 10 days later (even worse.)
Those months under indictment, awaiting trial were the most horrendous in my life--I don't feel that I ever completely recovered. The charges were finally dropped by the government in October of 1973 when they learned enough to make them wonder whether I was really the one who had written those threatening letters.
In 1976, the Scientologists decided it was time to try to shut me up again with another bomb-threat frame-up, and they wrote up "Operation Freakout," which appears to be later attempts to duplicate the earlier successful frame-up against me of 1972-3.
Around then, others became involved in the fight, and I began to feel that I could think about stopping working 16 hours a day to fight them (and support my lawyers!) and live my own life.
The harassment was effecting my health, my emotional state of mind, my social life, and I was upset becaue the Scientologists were harassing my elderly parents, and had deposed 50 of my friends and editors, asking them personal questions about me, etc. Even so, I continued my anti-Scientology activities until the end of 1984, when I was assured that Scientology had changed and harassment of critics was a thing of the past. (LOL)
A few things had leaked out, but I think I was the first writer to uncover the Foster (Anderson) report, Hubard's academic background and marital problems and status, potential fears of blackmail, early auditing, Charles Manson, etc. Sure we know much more now, but the material was very startling then. And I am very proud of the investigative research job that I did.
to be continued.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Paulettec) Newsgroups: alt.religion.scientology Subject: Paulette P.2--Why you're wrong about me Date: 9 May 1996 18:54:54 -0400 Message-ID: <email@example.com>
Instead of going to trial, we settled the suits and Scientology paid my legal expenses for this suit they had instituted!
Scientology told me that one reason they were unhappy with my book was that no one could figure out my footnotes, and therefore people didn't know that I was reporting something and had not been at the event to make sure it happened.
I agreed to *clarify* certain sentences in an affidavit that was supposed to make it clear that I had gotten certain information from secondary sources and had no personal evidence of the events. (For example, in my book, I quoted the Anderson or Foster Report as saying something, but it may not have been apparent to readers who couldn't figure out the footnotes that I wasn't there to see it myself.)
I've never considered my clarification to be a retraction--regardless of what Scientology says--and I believe every word of my book to be correct today. Just too weak.
My interest in Scientology has alway been solely as an investigative journalist, since I was never a former member. Although I got sidetracked after my book came out for many years with my crusade, I have since tried to go on with my life and write about other things. Indeed, I have written a total of 8 books on other subjects, and probably around 1,000 articles.
I am very happy I came to a.r.s.--I have made some wonderful friends--and I love the whole on-line world. (Thank you Ron for calling me a year ago to tell me about the Internet!) But I have no interest in doing any anti-Scientology activities any more.
(not so freaked out) Paulette Cooper