Friday, October 14, 2011

Sarah and Greta and John: The Scientology Connection- Part 3/3

The Church
Like her husband, Greta Van Susteren's support of Scientology is well-documented. She has told interviewers that she likes “the ethics” Liking Scientology for its ethics is about the same as liking Jerusalem for its barbecued pork rib restaurants. 
There are, in fact, a lot of celebrities who follow the doctrines. Many come from the entertainment industry and some are more open about it than others. It might be assumed that many of the celebrities have a casual relationship with their professed religion, no more than a passing curiosity, rather than a commitment.
In the case of Van Susteren and Coale, it is a much more than that. The one-time top accountant at Coale & Van Susteren, Loretta Miscavige, is the mother of the leader of the Church of Scientology, David Miscavige. According to one source, Susteren is
"a major donor to the Church, too, although her sizable donations in the late '90s were reportedly listed under the name "Greta Conway." (Conway is her middle name.) Van Susteren and Coale are tight with a number of other high-profile L. Ron Hubbard fans. Tom Cruise once considered making a movie about Coale's legal exploits. And Coale and Van Susteren's firm represented fellow Scientologist Lisa Marie Presley when she divorced Michael Jackson."
Another, more serious charge against Van Susteren is that she has worked behind the scenes to protect the image of the Church. According to one Graham E. Berry, an attorney that has litigated against Scientology:
CNN, the news corporation, decided to expose the Applied Scholastics misrepresentation that it was not part of the church hierarchy. However, one of CNN’s legal commentators, Greta Van Susteran, is a Scientologist. She went to work to convince CNN that they would be subjecting themselves to defamation liability if they published this major exposé on Scientology, and Scientology executives and investigators went to work on the senior management of CNN to convince them that should not publish this major exposé on Scientology.
CNN teams had spent many months talking to people about Scientology. Some of these people being former Scientologists who had never publicly spoken out about Scientology. In doing so, they put their lives at great risk, because Scientology would react through private investigators to disturb and destroy their personal and business relationships. And so they were betrayed and put at great risk when Scientology operatives managed to convince CNN to cancel this exposé, which I have described.

Just in case you’ve never heard of Scientology- (you really do need to get out more, you know) I will try to give you a very quick background summary.
The first Church of Scientology was set up in Camden, New Jersey in 1953 by American science fiction author, L. Ron Hubbard and his wife. His goal was to create a belief system aimed at, as Hubbard stated, "A civilization without insanity, without criminals and without war, where the able can prosper and honest beings can have rights, and where man is free to rise to greater heights, are the aims of Scientology." Nothing wrong with that. However, after that, things get a little more strange. According to Wikipedia:
Hubbard said that the modern-day science fiction genre of space opera is merely an unconscious recollection of real events that took place millions of years ago. These events include the story of Xenu, the ruler of the Galactic Confederacy who brought billions of frozen people to Earth 75 million years ago, stacked them around volcanoes and blew them up with hydrogen bombs, creating swarms of disembodied alien souls known as Body Thetans. Xenu is only one element of Scientologist beliefs in alien civilizations. Such doctrines have existed in Scientology virtually since its beginning: In the 1950s Hubbard wrote and lectured about civilizations such as Helatrobus, Espinol and Arslychus, and in the 1960s he introduced Xenu's Galactic Confederacy. He described repeated instances of their using brainwashing implants on hapless beings. He also spoke of alien invasions of Earth, such as that carried out around 6235 BCE by the Fifth Invader Force, who were "very strange insect-like creature[s] with unthinkably horrible hands."
Well, ok..then. Of course, you have to invest a LOT of money and spend a LOT of time inside the organization to prepare yourself to receive that kind of truth. 
But you might well ask, is this really a religion or..something else? The United States government apparently thinks it is a religion, equally as valid as the Christianity, Islam and Judaism. 
After a crackdown on the Church in 1967, the IRS stripped the Scientology Church of its tax exempt status, deeming it a commercial enterprise. For the next 26 years, the church would sue again and again to regain its tax-exempt status. The case was finally resolved in 1993 at a cost of 12.5 million- reportedly far less than the IRS had intitially demanded. This victory for the Church was seen as proof that Scientology was a accepted religion by the government. As Cliff Kincaid and Sherrie Gossett put it, writing for Accuracy in Media,
The IRS finally granted Scientology its desired status under President Bill Clinton, the recipient of massive donations from the Hollywood glitterati.
Scientology's leader David Miscavige
All of this could be dismissed as just another crazy aspect of American culture. However, as TIME magazine reported back in 1991
In reality the church is a hugely profitable global racket that survives by intimidating members and critics in a Mafia-like manner. At times during the past decade, prosecutions against Scientology seemed to be curbing its menace. Eleven top Scientologists, including Hubbard's wife, were sent to prison in the early 1980s for infiltrating, burglarizing and wiretapping more than 100 private and government agencies in attempts to block their investigations.
The article goes on to say:
The group, which boasts 700 centers in 65 countries, threatens to become more insidious and pervasive than ever. Scientology is trying to go mainstream, a strategy that has sparked a renewed law-enforcement campaign against the church. Many of the group's followers have been accused of committing financial scams, while the church is busy attracting the unwary through a wide array of front groups in such businesses as publishing, consulting, health care and even remedial education.
Seduction and Infiltration
According to a Gawker story from 2009, back in 1986, John P. Coale was the author behind a plan to infiltrate Washington D.C., using friendly politicians to further the cult’s agenda. And It is not an easily-dismissed conspiracy theory. The memo by Coale carefully lays his methodical approach. 
The idea was to launch a political action committee that would attract donations from Scientologists but could be plausibly distanced from the cult, which claims to be a church and therefore barred from engaging directly in political activities....

The PAC was to be called FLAGG PAC, which stood for "Freedom, Liberty, and Good Government Political Action Committee," but would act as a sort of dog whistle for Scientologists, who would hear an echo of "Flag Land Base," the group's international headquarters in Clearwater, Florida.
According to memo released by Gawker, Coale’s plan outlined the lines of influence that would be needed.
  • Political- any political figure on a state or US level, local or national level. Such as senators, congressmen, local city officials, mayors, governors, members of parliament and councillors etc. It would include government officials, civil servant and tax and immigration officials.
  • Media- any media terminals such as owners or members of magazines or publishing houses, TV networks or stations, radio and wire services etc.
  • Judical/Legal - any justice department officials, judges, senior legal officials, senior partners in large or prestigious law firms.
  • Financial/ corporate- any members of the board or president, vice-presidents or other senior officials/ executives within banks or other financial institutions... Also financiers, stockbrokers and very wealthy individuals.
  • Entertainment/ Celebrity- any producers, directors etc in stage, motion picture or television.

Coale himself confirmed that he had developed the idea but, he adds, it had never really gotten much of a response. (Of course, he would say that). The question remains whether Coale’s free assistance in setting up her legal defense fund and her SarahPAC was not intended to be some part of this infiltration. Reviewing the list above, one can see how advantageous Van Susteren, through her contacts in Fox News, would be as a well-placed operative for the Scientology agenda.

As frightening (or absurd depending on your own opinion) this plan might sound, it should surprise nobody who has done any research on the Church of Scientology. Infiltration of government agencies has always been a primary goal of the cult. Here is a example from a one report:
In 1973, Hubbard authored a plan.. called "Snow White," gain access to all federal agencies to obtain their files on Scientology. The name of this operation derived from Hubbard's opinion that once these agencies had their files "cleaned," they would be "snow white."
Infiltrating, or "penetrating," these agencies was achieved by having a Scientology agent obtain employment at an agency, then use his credentials to gain access to desired materials in the agency's files.
A report called Compliance Report lists 136 such agencies targeted for penetration, prioritized by a star system, i.e.,
* low priority,
** higher priority, and
*** highest priority.
Some of the ***agencies listed in this report are: the AEC, the CIA, the FBI, the FTC, the FDA, the IRS, the NSA, the US Air Force, the US Army, the US Attorney General, the DEA, the US Coast Guard, the US Department of Justice, the US Department of Labor, the US Department of State, the US Department of Treasury, the US House of Representatives, the US Department of Immigration and Naturalization, the US Marshall's Office, the US Navy, the US Post Office, the US Selective Service, and the US Senate.

In this report, several agencies, such as the IRS, the DEA, the US Coast Guard, and the US Department of Labor are marked: "Done."
And this plan was actually put into action. According to Wikipedia:
This project included a series of infiltrations and thefts from 136 government agencies, foreign embassies and consulates, as well as private organizations critical of Scientology, carried out by Church members, in more than 30 countries; the single largest infiltration of the United States government in history with up to 5,000 covert agents. The resulting investigation would eventually led to the arrest of eleven highly-placed Church executives, including Mary Sue Hubbard, wife of the founder..
Admittedly that was some time ago and, despite claims to the contrary, the membership has fallen a great deal. However, the extent of the infiltration and their determination makes them a force to take seriously.
Greta and John, Hilary and Bill ... and John Travolta
Author and filmmaker, Geoffrey Dunn, writing for Huffington Post, has investigated the Scientology connections in some depth and has made these interesting observations.
Coale was a major contributor to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, and then abruptly switched sides when Hillary was denied the nomination. There is an interesting notation in the FEC documents of a "negative" contribution, or withdrawal, from Clinton's campaign on August 28, 2008--the same date that Obama made his historic acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention.
 The following day, Palin was named as John McCain's running mate.From that point on, Coale dumped nearly $60,000 into the McCain-Palin campaign and the Republican National Committee, including a last-hour donation on New Year's Eve of $26,200 to the RNC. In respect to Hillary Clinton, not only did he contribute thousands of dollars to her ill-fated presidential run, he also contributed thousands to her 2000 race for the U.S. Senate.
It is a fair question to ask how a person can suddenly switch from the Left to the Far Right in a matter of a day. What was it about Hilary that attracted him so much that, when it was clear she would not be president, he was ready to switch completely his political allegiance and party?

After all, most people would agree that, besides being women, Hilary and Sarah have very little in common. And that was the way it was portrayed, that it revolved about feminism and putting women in power. Never mind that Palin was running as vice-president, not president.
Dunn cites another source to explain the possible reasons for the closeness between the Clintons and Coale. It has far less to do with political idealogy and much more to do with being a friend to the space opera cultists.

Dr. Stephen Kent, Department of Sociology, University of Alberta, Edmonton in his well-researched article, Hollywood Celebrity-Lobbists and the Clinton administration's American Foriegn Policy Toward German Scientology, describes how the Church of Scientology had undertaken a long term infiltration of the US government. Following its historic agreement with the IRS in 1993, Church leaders targeted legislators through intensive lobbying efforts.
(I)t set out to improve its image with politicians and the population at large by undertaking a major public relations effort in the nation's capitol. As part of this public relations effort, a Scientology affiliate in Los Angeles was paying "almost $725,000 to a Washington-based firm [Federal Legislative Associates] to lobby Congress in 1997 and 1996"
It didn't take long for their efforts to bear fruit. President Bill Clinton had developed a special -unusual- relationship with certain Hollywood stars, all of them Scientologists.

According to this report, certain celebrity Scientologists took their cause directly to President Clinton himself. Their request was that pressure be put on the German government to relax its policies on Scientology. Growing concern by authorities had convinced the German parliament the need to investigate the Church. Additionally there were numerous complaints of infiltration of the business and political structures, and charges of brainwashing (confinement and physical coercion) and harsh “re-education techniques,” which included social and psychological degradations, forced confessions, and hard physical labor. For these reasons, the German government singled out Scientology as a threat. As Kent puts it,
The German government's position, however, that Scientology was both non-religious and a potential threat to democracy brought it into direct conflict with its American counterpart.
German official were unprepared and puzzled by the American reaction on the restrictions.
A German state official raised the issue ... in response to a harsh "open" letter to Chancellor Helmut Kohl that equated the German government's handling of Scientology with Nazis' persecution of Jews prior to World War II. Published as a full page ad in the International Herald Tribune, thirty-four Hollywood personalities signed it, including actors Dustin Hoffman, Goldie Hawn, director Oliver Stone, writer Mario Puzo, and CNN talk show host, Larry King.
According to Kent’s sources, the Church of Scientology found an unlikely ally in the White House. John Travolta - a well-known member of the Church- managed to get the attention of then-president Bill Clinton at an April 1997 summit on volunteerism in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The Saturday Night Fever star was there "to present educational materials created by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard." The next day, Travolta met President Clinton who told him,
"Your program sounds great.... More than that..., I'd really love to help you with your issue over in Germany with Scientology"
Clinton informed Travolta that "he had a roommate years ago who was a Scientologist and had really liked him, and respected his views on it. He said he felt we were given an unfair hand in [Germany] and that he wanted to fix it."
And Clinton was as good as his word.
Clinton followed up on this conversation by going "to the extraordinary length of assigning his national security advisor, Sandy Berger, to be the administration's Scientology point person". In September 1997, when Travolta and Chick Corea were in Washington (presumably for their testimony before the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe), Clinton "had White House political affairs director, Craig Smith, arrange a meeting between Berger, Travolta, and jazzman Chick Corea, also an avid Scientologist. According to a senior administration official, the straight-shooting Berger briefed Travolta on the administration's efforts in the same manner he would a senior senator.
In fact when news of this high level meeting broke, the State Department received some criticism and the White House was put into an uncomfortable position in defending Clinton’s decision. Others were not so quick to forgive and forget.
Europeans, ...likely saw the Clinton-arranged meeting in the context of other actions the American president had taken on behalf of Scientology. For example, the section of the State Department's 1996 human rights report that was harshly critical of Germany's actions towards Scientology "was written by the White House...." Its condemnation was so strong that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright apologized to the German government because of it.
So it doesn’t take too much imagination to understand why John Coale would have preferred to see Hilary Clinton in the White House. Anyway, how else can one explain Van Susteren’s defense of Bill Clinton during the long and painful Monica Lewinski scandal? Hadn't she left CNN by dropping off an angry at how badly women and minorities had been treated there? But now, here was, defending a president with a long history of womanizing and philandering. Why shouldn't that have also been "a woman's thing"?

The Seduction of Sarah
The Scientology connection can also explain why debt-ridden Sarah Palin appealed to Coale “charitable nature.” On the surface, it appears that the seduction of Sarah Palin, for one reason or anything, was put on hold. Or was this rejection- "throwing under the bus" as one newspaper called it- of Coale and his wife merely a bit of theater? Certainly, Greta Van Susteren hasn’t been any less fawning.
It's an intriguing question. Perhaps Van Susteren and Coale were drawn to Sarah Palin merely because of shared interests and compatible dispositions. After all, critics of Scientology have claimed that the church leaders are interested in only two things, Power and Money. If so, they might have found their own Joan of Arc.
Besides, it was, L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the the Church of Scientology that stated while outlining his training techniques.

"The only way you can control people is to lie to them.. because the second you start telling anybody close to the truth, you start releasing him and he gets tougher and tougher to control."

It appears that's the kind of philosophy would probably have appealed to the Palins.


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If you are interested in learning more about the Church of Scientology, here is a fascinating BBC Panorama documentary on this subject. This is what good journalism is all about.

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