Hiding in plain sight: how Scientology nearly got away with its 1970s espionage campaign - 2019-09-25
At 6 am on 8 July 1977, 134 FBI agents descended on three Scientology buildings in Los Angeles and Washington, DC, in one of the largest raids in the Bureau's history. Armed with power saws, crowbars and bolt cutters, they smashed their way into the secure offices used by Scientology's Guardian's Office (GO) and seized over 48,000 files.
The trove proved that the GO had carried out a years-long campaign of espionage against the US government. Eleven Scientologists, including L. Ron Hubbard's wife Mary Sue, were subsequently jailed for their role in the campaign. The scandal plunged Scientology into years of turmoil and legal jeopardy, and forced Hubbard into hiding for the rest of his life.
The GO's campaign has been described as the largest episode of domestic espionage in the history of the US government. Yet, remarkably, declassified government documents and seized GO files show that the government knew of the campaign as far back as 1973 but did nothing about it. Equally remarkably, they also show that the GO might have got away with it even after its operatives had been caught by the FBI in 1976, had it not been for an entirely coincidental intervention by US Customs at a critical moment.