How Scientology Spied on Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise and David Miscavige in happy times
Tom Cruise and David Miscavige in happy times

Three former Church of Scientology officials tell the Voice that for years -- at least between 1991 and 2005 -- church leader David Miscavige kept a close watch on Tom Cruise with the use of a man named Michael Doven, who served as Cruise's personal assistant.

For much of that time, 1991 to 2001, Cruise, one of Scientology's most famous faces, was actually estranged from the church (a closely-held secret until just a few years ago). While Cruise kept his distance from Scientology during that period, Miscavige still received detailed, daily reports about the Cruise household through Doven, the former officials say.

Doven was reached on the telephone Wednesday, but he hung up when he learned that it was the Voice calling. An e-mail was subsequently sent to him with specific questions about the allegation that he spied on his employer, Cruise, on behalf of the church, but he did not respond.

Part of the reason for the surveillance, says former church official Claire Headley, was that Miscavige and the church were worried that Cruise would cut ties entirely with Scientology. "Doven told us what Tom was complaining about, about what areas in his life he was having trouble with. Then we could use that information to tailor our approach to him," she says.

Michael Doven (from his website)
Michael Doven (from his website)

Thursday morning, the Voice published a story about Doven, who no longer works as Cruise's assistant but photographs other Scientology celebrities for magazines. Our story was prompted by a mailer sent out recently by the church, which included a lengthy testimonial by Doven about how he had become the first Scientologist to complete testing on a corrected set of L. Ron Hubbard materials which were published in 2007, the "Golden Age of Knowledge for Eternity."

After that story appeared, Marty Rathbun, formerly Scientology's second-highest ranking executive, made public his allegation that for many years Doven had spied on Cruise for Miscavige. Since Rathbun made that allegation public at his blog Thursday afternoon, we have been confirming his statements with other church executives who worked with Miscavige, Cruise, and Doven.

Rathbun went through a detailed history with us of Tom Cruise's involvement in Scientology, and his own role in helping to bring Cruise back into the fold in 2001.

"Doven was there the entire time, reporting to Miscavige everything that Tom was doing," Rathbun told me. When I asked Rathbun how he knew that, he answered in Scientology jargon: "How do I know that? Because I was on that line."

"Doven was personally reporting to you what Tom was doing?" I asked him, for clarification.

"Absolutely," Rathbun answered. "He'd be telling me what was happening with Nic [Nicole Kidman], what was happening in the household, what was happening between Tom and Steven Spielberg. He had been reporting to us from the early 1990s." After 1996, Rathbun says, Doven was making those reports directly to him, and Rathbun was in turn giving the information directly to Miscavige.

In 1998 or 1999, Claire Headley says she too became part of those communications while she worked with Rathbun at the Religious Technology Center, one of Scientology's entities at the church's secretive desert base.

"I was a party to the conversations that Doven was supposed to be, you know, feeding us information and getting Tom back on lines," she says. "I do remember that Doven's reporting led up to retrieving Tom. And subsequently I had a lot of involvement with Marty when he was running Tom on OT IV and OT V." (We'll explain that jargon later in the story. If you're new to the subject, you might want to read our primer, "What is Scientology?")

I asked Headley what kind of information Doven was turning over. "What was happening with Nicole and the divorce. And I remember hearing about problems with Nicole's parents -- or the problems that Tom perceived, with them not wanting Nicole to continue with Scientology," she says.

I also talked with Mike Rinder, who, until he defected in 2007, was Scientology's chief spokesman and ran the church's "Office of Special Affairs" -- its intelligence and covert operations wing.

Rinder related a particularly remarkable episode in Michael Doven's career working for both Cruise and Miscavige, involving an early morning meeting at CAA, one of Hollywood's most powerful talent agencies. Doven's mission that day was to intimidate Cruise's agents into doing something about Comedy Central's embarrassing 2005 South Park episode that ridiculed the church.

Doven may have long been an effective spy, but he made for a lousy intimidator, Rinder says.

Increasingly, as high-level Scientology executives have left the church in recent years, we are learning more than ever about how Miscavige's organization gathers intelligence not only about perceived external enemies, but also on its own people. And apparently, even Scientology's most prominent celebrity member is not immune.

Talking to Ashtrays

In 1990, Marc Headley was told that he had been selected to be a guinea pig for Tom Cruise.

Headley was a worker at "Int Base," a 700-acre complex in the California desert which at that time was almost unknown to the outside world. As he writes in his book about his experiences at the base, Blown for Good, Headley was chosen to be Cruise's test subject because although Headley had been a church employee for years, he had gone through very little of its spiritual training.

Cruise, who was coming off his star turn in Days of Thunder, was spending a lot of time at the base as church leader David Miscavige groomed him to be an ideal face for the movement. Cruise had been introduced some time earlier to the religion by his first wife, the actress Mimi Rogers. (They were married in 1987 and divorced in 1990.)

Part of becoming a more advanced Scientologist meant that Cruise needed to learn how to "audit" -- or counsel -- other church members. Headley was chosen to be audited by Cruise, and the two spent hours and hours performing standard Scientology "training routines." As Headley explained to me in 2009, these drills included Cruise instructing Headley to talk to ashtrays, bottles, and books.

That same year, 1990, Cruise had begun dating Kidman. But if Miscavige was hoping that Cruise was going to become a more involved Scientologist, instead the actor pulled away. Late in 1990, Cruise and Kidman were married. In 1991, Cruise all but separated from Scientology, but the church managed to keep it quiet.

"Nicole was really sour on Scientology and kept pressing Tom to stay away from Int Base," Marty Rathbun tells me. Until 2004, Rathbun was perhaps the highest-ranking official in the church after Miscavige. (He wore the title of the RTC's Inspector General-Ethics, but all that really mattered was that he answered to only one person -- Miscavige.) "Nicole spotted Miscavige and didn't like what she saw. Her big issue was that Tom was becoming like Miscavige. Nicole didn't like the relationship that was developing between them," Rathbun says.

"She was sort of leading him away from it. I don't think Tom did really anything from 1991 to 2001, except for a few sessions in 1998. And he hadn't talked to Miscavige that whole period, which really drove Miscavige ape shit," Rathbun adds.

Rathbun then corrected himself, remembering that Cruise and Kidman showed up at a 1993 event -- the annual gala for the International Association of Scientologists. (We recently reported on the 2011 event.) But at the 1993 gala, Rathbun says, Cruise didn't stay long. "He and Nicole left in the middle of it, which really peeved Miscavige. After that there was very little communication."

But throughout the period when Cruise stayed away, Rathbun says, Miscavige received detailed information about the Cruise household through Doven, who had become Cruise's assistant. (According to IMDB, Doven's credits working as either an assistant or associate producer with Cruise span the period from 1992's Far and Away through 2004's Collateral.)

I asked Rathbun how Doven got that information to the church. "It was phone calls. A lot of phone calls. He reported directly to Shelly Miscavige a lot," Rathbun says, referring to David Miscavige's wife and assistant, who has not been heard from or seen in public since 2006. "Then, in 1998, it really picked up with me, because I had given Tom four straight days of auditing sessions."

Rathbun says that Cruise had made a tentative return to the fold, and Rathbun remembers that it was in October, during the World Series between the San Diego Padres and the New York Yankees. "Tom was going to those games in San Diego," Rathbun says. And then he was joining Rathbun in Los Angeles at the Management Building on Ivar Street for the auditing sessions. "The building had a secret entrance we could use to get up to the 11th floor, where the RTC offices were. He couldn't go to the Celebrity Centre in Hollywood. It wasn't secure enough."

Rathbun then went to Clearwater, Florida for the next two years as Scientology weathered one of its worst publicity nightmares -- the church had been indicted in the death of parishioner Lisa McPherson. But even then, Rathbun says, the information about Cruise kept coming.

"I would receive calls from Doven regularly. What Tom is up to. How to get him in for more auditing. He'd tell me what was going on with Nic. And I would immediately pass that on to Miscavige. You could get in trouble for interrupting Dave, but for that it was the opposite, I would get in trouble for not getting that immediately to him," Rathbun says.

I asked Rathbun if Cruise realized he was being spied on. "I'm not sure what Tom knew," he answered. "But he treated Doven like shit in front of me."

Why, I asked him, did he think Miscavige wanted Cruise watched so closely?

"It was a personal thing. He wasn't obsessed with Travolta or the others. It was about being Tom's pal, being near him, and having Tom admire him," Rathbun replied.

"Your needle is floating"

"I had two interactions with Doven," Claire Headley tells me from Colorado, where she lives with her husband Marc and their two young children. In 2005, she and Marc escaped from Int Base in dramatic fashion, which Marc describes in Blown for Good. Claire told her story to the St. Petersburg Times in 2010, including her two forced abortions as a Sea Org member prohibited from having children.

Marc and Claire Headley and their sons
Marc and Claire Headley and their sons

She says her first interaction with Doven occurred before she had become a high-ranking executive. "I was just a pee wee nobody at Gold. I was word clearing with him. And that was part of an ethics handling that Marty was doing with him at the time because he wasn't getting Tom back on the straight and narrow," she says. (Scientologists place a great emphasis on understanding vocabulary, and they must "clear" a word if they are unsure of its meaning. An "ethics handling" refers to reforming someone who has performed poorly in some way, in this case Doven was not perceived to be doing enough to help them get Cruise back in the church.)

I asked her for a specific memory, and she remembered Doven talking about Cruise "going haywire on a refrigerator" in a tantrum.

Later, in 1998 or 1999, she says, she had moved up in the organization to become the "Director of AVC - Corrections." This made her more involved with interrogations ("sec-checking") and so she was privy to the information that Doven was feeding Rathbun, and then, in 2001 and later, with Cruise's own auditing with Rathbun.

"Marty audited him on the Suppressive Person rundown in relation to Tom's divorce with Nicole," she says. (When someone expresses criticism or doubt about Scientology, the church may declare him or her a "suppressive person" or "SP" -- the equivalent of excommunication. Cruise and Kidman separated in February, 2001.)

"Nicole was Tom's SP. The purpose of the rundown Marty ran on him was to audit it until Tom and Nicole were reconciled," she says.

With Nicole out of the picture, Cruise was finally brought back into the church for good. Rathbun says he audited Cruise intensely from July to November in 2001, and then again from February to April in 2002. (Jason Beghe confirms that at this time, he was alternating with Cruise for his auditing sessions with Rathbun, who was known in the church as perhaps the best auditor in Scientology.)

If Cruise was back, Rathbun himself defected from the church in February, 2004.

Claire Headley says she had an additional experience working with Cruise after Rathbun left, in July of 2004.

"That's when Tom Cruise, along with [church spokesman] Tommy Davis and Tom's entourage came to Int Base for his six month check, when he was OT VII. Greg Wilhere audited him. Hara O'Hare was his case supervisor. Sue Wilhere was his examiner most of the time, and I was Tom's examiner a couple of times," Headley says. (After several years, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in counseling, Scientologists reach upper-level teachings called "Operating Thetan" or OT, which go as high as OT VIII.)

I asked Claire what it meant to be Cruise's "examiner." She explained that an auditor and his subject would reach the successful end of a session when the auditor could see that the e-meter's needle was "floating." At that point, an examiner comes in to check the e-meter to confirm that the meter is, indeed, in a floating state.

Cruise, she says, had been auditing for days, and was scheduled to leave the next day. He could only leave, however, if Claire Headley agreed that he had achieve a floating needle.

"Yes, I was intimidated," she says, as I asked her to remember what that was like, walking over to decide whether Tom Cruise -- Tom Cruise -- could get up and finally leave his auditing session. "But I'm like, I'm going to end up on the RPF if I say there's a floating needle and there isn't one," she says, referring to the Sea Org's prison detail, the Rehabilitation Project Force.

She says that the examiner looks at the e-meter and then says one of two things. "I would either say, 'Thank you, your needle is floating,' or, if it wasn't floating, I would just say, 'Thank you.'"

So, with Cruise holding onto the sensors of the machine, she looked at it carefully.

"Thank you," she said.

I asked her what his reaction was when it dawned on him that she had not seen a floating needle and was not signing off on his session.

"He was just kind of confused and flustered," she says.

Miscavige, however, went "ape shit," she says, and took over Cruise's case personally, signing off on it so Cruise could leave.

Seven years later, now out of the church, I asked her how she feels about the episode.

"I maintain that his needle was not floating," she says with a laugh. "But whether that means anything, who knows. That one situation really highlighted for me the layers of bullshit in Scientology. I mean, no matter what you believe, that was bullshit."

Doven Pumps Up His Impingement

"It was very early in the morning. December 7, 2005. 8:30 am. In a CAA conference room," Mike Rinder tells me.

He's setting the scene to describe a remarkable confrontation. The month before, Scientology's secret upper-level teachings had been ridiculed in spectacular fashion in an episode of Comedy Central's show South Park. As we reported earlier, Scientology would retaliate against South Park's creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, with the use of private investigators in the spring of 2006. But at this point, late in 2005, Rinder explained, Miscavige was livid and wanted to use the church's biggest star, Tom Cruise, to punish Viacom, which owned Comedy Central.

Mike Rinder
Mike Rinder

Viacom also owned Paramount Pictures, where Cruise was on contract. Rinder says Miscavige wanted pressure applied on Paramount and Viacom to rein in Comedy Central.

Or at least, that was the theory. Rinder says another concern Miscavige had was that Kim Christensen, a reporter at the Los Angeles Times, was working on a story about the church's influence over Cruise.

2005, after all, had been a complete disaster for Cruise and Scientology. After firing his longtime publicist, Pat Kingsley, Cruise had put his own sister, LeAnne DeVette, in the position. Rinder says Miscavige had long been frustrated that Kingsley had advised Cruise not to talk publicly about Scientology. But now, Cruise made up for lost time with his disastrous argument with Matt Lauer and his couch-jumping episode on Oprah Winfrey's show. Suddenly, Cruise was the symbol of Scientology, and it had gone terrible wrong.

Rinder says he and Doven were given orders by Miscavige -- go to CAA, Cruise's talent agency, and get them to do something about Viacom and about the Times.

In the conference room was Kevin Huvane and Rick Nicita with CAA, as well as attorney Bert Fields and publicist Paul Bloch, Rinder says.

"I was the head spokesman of the church, and I was dispatched with Michael Doven to get CAA to beat up the LA Times to convince them that there was no influence of the church over Tom Cruise. Do you get the irony of that?" Rinder asked me.

"Also, there was a lot of talk about how Comedy Central was going to be gotten under control through Paramount, because Brad Grey had been made president, and there were supposed to be new contract negotiations with Tom Cruise. And Miscavige's position was that Cruise was such a big money maker, there could be pressure brought through Brad Grey to Les Moonves and the others on Viacom's TV side to shut Comedy Central up," he says.

Miscavige, he says, had told Doven to get tough with the agency.

"Huvane and Nicita were sitting there trying to explain to us that this is what Comedy Central does. It's comedy, don't get your knickers in a twist," Rinder says.

"Little did they know that Doven had been wound up in a meeting at ASI [Author Services, Inc., another Scientology entity] by Miscavige. 'You better get in their faces! You better impinge on them!' Miscavige yelled."

So Doven did his best. "It was a big show. These guys had never seen Doven like that. You heard him on that phone call with Marty. He's meek. He's like the most laid-back, mousy person that you could ever imagine," Rinder says, referring to a recording of a 2010 telephone conversation between Doven and Rathbun that we published Thursday morning.

"And he's there pounding his fists on the table at CAA, shouting, 'Fuck this! Fuck this!' It was quite funny, actually. You could see Rick and Kevin looking at each other, wondering what was going on."

After the meeting, Rinder says, Doven looked for affirmation. "Do you think I impinged? Do you think COB is going to think I did enough? You're gong to tell him I really impinged, right?" Rinder remembers Doven saying, referring to one of Miscavige's honorifics, for "Chairman of the Board."

They went to see Miscavige, who said he wanted to hear exactly what went down. Doven, he says, did his best to "pump up his impingement." Rinder remembers him telling Miscavige, "I got right in their faces. I was screaming at them!"

"And that's what makes Miscavige happy," Rinder says.

"I know that Tom was in agreement with Miscavige doing that. By that point, if Miscavige told Tom, 'This is what needs to be done,' Tom was on board. 'OK, Dave, whatever you say'," Rinder adds.

Rinder says he thinks that CAA did try to do what they were asked. "They did make phone calls, and they did try to leverage their influence to pressure Comedy Central and Viacom," Rinder says.

(CAA didn't however, appear to bother with trying to fend off Kim Christensen at the LA Times. "I don't think there was any kind of overt pressure by CAA of any kind," Christensen tells me. Rinder says Miscavige gave up on trying to stop the Times from doing the story, and instead sent over a photograph of himself with Tom Cruise and their motorcycles. How this was supposed to derail the idea that Cruise was under the influence of the church, even Rinder can't fathom. Christensen's story appeared on December 18, 2005, which was 11 days after the meeting at CAA. The photo of Miscavige and Cruise, meanwhile, lives on in infamy.)

"You know the end result in all this," Rinder says. "In August 2006, [Viacom owner] Sumner Redstone announced that he wasn't renewing the contract with Tom Cruise, and the relationship with Paramount ended. I would say that it's not a stretch to conclude that this is yet another case of Miscavige creating enemies in his fervor to try and protect his image."

I asked Rinder the same thing I asked Rathbun: was Cruise aware of the extent of spying on him by Doven and Miscavige?

"I don't think he was aware of the extent to which it was done," he says. "And Doven was answerable to Miscavige way before he was answerable to Tom."

Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he's been writing about Scientology at several publications. | @VoiceTonyO | Facebook: Tony Ortega

Keep up on all of our New York news coverage at this blog, Runnin' Scared


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