Tom Cruise and Baby Suri Embarrassed? This is Scientology, So Someone Has To Pay
Suri Cruise, with her Scientologist parents
Credit: Vanity Fair
In recent weeks here at the Voice, we've described the Church of Scientology's programs aimed at investigating perceived enemies, who have included former high-ranking Scientology executives, a man trying to bring to market a clean ice-making machine, and even the creators of the television show South Park.
Today, we have another leak of Scientology's internal documents which describe the church's efforts to dig up dirt not on a former high-ranking official, or a member of the Hollywood elite, or even a former parishioner. In this case, Scientology's own documents reveal, the church sicced its private eyes on a cancer victim, an older woman who lives not far from Scientology's own international headquarters, a woman whose only known transgression against the church was having a conversation in a Wal-Mart store.
But what was said in that conversation ended up appearing in the New York Post in 2006, and embarrassed Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, and Scientology. And for that, the woman had to pay.
Once again, we received formerly secret Scientology documents from Marc Headley, a man who for years worked at "Int" or "Gold Base" -- Scientology's secretive California desert headquarters. Headley broke from Scientology in 2005 and has become a vocal critic of the church (we have written previously about the gripping book he wrote about his dramatic escape). He has received numerous internal church documents from Marty Rathbun, who was formerly the second-highest ranking executive in the church until he left it in 2004. Previously, we have written about how the documents Rathbun gave Headley described the complex spying operation against Headley himself, and one of the documents provided detail about the extent of Scientology's operation against South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and their employees.
This week, Headley turned over to us another formerly secret internal document from Scientology's "Office of Special Affairs" -- its intelligence and covert operations wing. Before we show the document to you, a little background is necessary.
On April 18, 2006, Katie Holmes gave birth to Suri, her daughter by her then-boyfriend and now husband, the actor Tom Cruise. Just a few weeks later, Cruise made a trip with his newborn to Gold Base, a sprawling 700-acre compound in California's Riverside County. Cruise has often been a guest at the compound, and he is said to be great friends with the church's ultimate leader, David Miscavige. But as people who have visited the base will tell you, there's one thing you almost never see there: children.
The Scientologists who live at the Base are Sea Org members -- the most hardcore church members, who have signed billion-year contracts and have promised to come back, lifetime after lifetime, as they work incredible hours for almost no pay and under meager circumstances. In order to maintain their 100-hour weeks and put up with spartan living conditions, Sea Org members are prohibited from having children. Sea Org women who do become pregnant have been forced to have abortions, according to the testimony of many women who have left the church.
As a result, there are usually no children at the base, and yet on her way to the compound that day in 2006 was perhaps the most famous infant in the history of the church.
Gold Base dispatched an employee named Hillary Lucas to the nearest town, Hemet, to pick up something for the baby at the local Wal-Mart. We know this, because on May 7, 2006, the following story appeared on Page Six at the New York Post:
CHEAP BABY BOOTY
SURI may be Hollywood and Scientology royalty, but that didn't stop the filthy-rich church from shopping for the TomKat offspring at glamour-challenged Wal-Mart. A public-relations staffer at the church's sprawling desert retreat in Hemet, Calif. -- known as Gold Base -- last week scooped up supplies for the newborn daughter of Tom Cruise and fiancée Katie Holmes at the chain's local store, sources say. Among items Hillary Lucas loaded into her cart were baby blankets, bottles, pacifiers and toys, according to a non-Scientologist who supplies services to Gold Base and witnessed the buying binge. "You'll never guess who these are for," said Lucas, according to the source. "Tom Cruise's baby?" the supplier asked. "You didn't hear it from me," Lucas winked. The news got a curt response from Lucas. "Nothing I bought there would be of interest to your paper -- maybe some ribbon, some toilet tissue," Lucas told The Post's Philip Recchia. "I don't know anything about that person you're talking about." But insiders say there can be no other explanation. "Everyone at Gold Base is a Sea Org" -- Scientology's highest stratum whose members commit for life -- "and they're all prohibited from having kids," said a former Gold Base staffer, who left the church.
The story was yet another embarrassing bit of bad publicity for the church. But as we have seen, Scientology rarely lets such slights go without retaliating in some kind. And this was no exception.
Scientology would have learned from Lucas herself who she had talked to that day at the Hemet Wal-Mart: a local real estate agent and non-Scientologist whose first name is Tressa (we've agreed to Tressa's request that we leave her last name out of this story). And the church had also figured out that the Post had got wind of the story when it spotted something Marc Headley had posted online.
But how did the story travel from Tressa to Headley? Scientology's Office of Special Affairs wanted to know the answer to that question, and it also wanted to know what kind of dirt could be dug up on Tressa herself.
That's all spelled out pretty clearly in the internal OSA document which Headley obtained from Rathbun, which is dated May 30, 2006, about three weeks after the Post story appeared:
As the document describes, OSA was taking several steps to learn how things said that day at the Wal-Mart traveled from Tressa to Headley (who here is referenced as "BFG," Headley's Internet handle, which stood for "Blown for Good," a reference to his escape from the church).
The first step was to find out who Tressa had talked to. Headley explains that "comm line checks" is a Scientology code for obtaining telephone records. Scientology's operatives have repeatedly been accused of illegally obtaining a target's phone records. Just recently, Rathbun and Mike Rinder, another former high-ranking Scientology executive, revealed that they had each been victimized by someone using "pretexting" to obtain their telephone records from their carrier, T-Mobile. Rathbun and Rinder, who both oversaw similar operations when they were with the church, say it was standard procedure to use private investigators or even employees at telephone carriers to obtain phone records. Headley says the phrase "8Cing the pro" is another code for pushing the operative -- perhaps a telephone company employee -- to hurry up.
The second step was to have a "friend" -- clearly an OSA operative -- call up former Sea Org member (and church critic) Chuck Beatty, who is known not only for helping journalists with their stories, but for also being quite loquacious. Scientology would have known that Beatty was in regular contact with Recchia, the Post writer who is named in the Page Six article. Using a spy, the church hoped to get Beatty blabbing, and might find out how information had traveled in this case.
In the third item, a church is suggesting that its operatives could get negative information about Tressa by contacting two of her "known natural enemies."
This document, on its own, is rather stunning, showing what Scientology is capable of in the case of a simple news story that it found embarrassing. But things got even more interesting after we talked with the people named in the document -- Tressa, Chuck Beatty, and Marc Headley.
It took me a few days to track down Tressa, but once I did, she seemed excited to talk to me.
"I know what happened," she said when I finally got her on the phone yesterday morning. She said she could tell me exactly what happened in the Wal-Mart that day, but first she wanted me to know why she was in a position to talk with a Gold Base employee, Hillary Lucas, even though she was not a Scientologist herself.
"I live in Hemet. I used to sell new homes, in real estate. I've had cancer for 11 years, and in the last two years it's gotten much worse," said Tressa, 63, as she began the tale. Before her diagnosis, she added, she would often drive by Scientology's headquarters as she was working. She couldn't help noticing the invitation on an electronic sign, beckoning people to come in for a tour.
"It said something to the effect of free tours on Sundays, and to call a number for reservations. Well, I'd heard odd things about that place. You'd see all these people out working like slaves in the gardens outside the fences. It was usually women. I was curious about it," she said. So one Sunday, she went down for a tour, and was asked to wait in a room that contained a lot of Scientology materials. "They make you wait so you get bored and start looking at the books and maybe buy something. So I looked through some of them while I was waiting. Then a woman named Hillary Lucas came in and asked if we were ready to go."
Tressa still remembers that first tour quite vividly. "She had a little golf cart. It was a nice, sunny day. They were trying to put on a good show, so you would tell other people that it looks great. It was very controlled," she said. She was surprised, however, when at one point Lucas stopped the tour and lit up a cigarette. That didn't seem very church-like, and she said so. But Lucas told her about the "purification rundown," implying that any toxins she put into her body Scientology could easily pull back out.
Over several years, Tressa says she went on several tours of the base, and got to know not only Lucas, but also a woman named Muriel Dufresne, who heads up PR for Gold Base. She would also see them together in the town of Hemet, and remained friendly with them.
Then, one day in 2006 while she was shopping at Hemet's Wal-Mart, Tressa says she was surprised to see Hillary Lucas there, and she seemed to be on her own.
"She was racing around, she was excited and stressed, she said she's shopping for things for a baby girl," Tressa said. "I had been out to the base and had never seen any kids, and I guessed that some special guest was coming. She wanted me to know who it was, but she didn't want to say."
Tressa steered Lucas over to some baby beds at the store, but Lucas shook her head. "'No, no,' she said. 'I want a little director's chair. Who do you think it's for?' And she winked. But I had no clue," Tressa explained.
"Oh, come on. a little baby director's chair? Her daddy's in the movie business," Tressa remembers Lucas saying.
"Oh my God, Tom Cruise and Katie!" Tressa says she exclaimed. "She confirmed it with her body language, like I guessed right."
Lucas was unable to find small director's chairs, and Tressa suggested she pick up a number of gossip magazines that had Cruise and Holmes and Suri on their covers, but Lucas told her that would be "cheesy." Instead, she was going to purchase a trunk, and paint it pink. "She was going to be up all night on this project," Tressa added.
Then, she says, Lucas said something that struck her as very odd: "I'm sure you'll run home and call your closest 50 friends."
Tressa admits she doesn't have 50 friends. In fact, the only person she could think to share the tale with was her friend Carolyn Truskowski.
Carolyn and her husband Rick own Hemet's Tru-Value hardware store, and for years had been supplying Gold Base with material. Headley tells me that when he was an employee at the base, he would often place orders with the Truskowskis.
"I was the one who placed the Tru-Value orders, and I worked with Rick. That's where we got all the paint, and the gloves, and the nails. It was several thousand dollars a week. The base was his biggest customer, by far," Headley says.
By the spring of 2006, both Headley and Tressa say, the Truskowskis were also in regular contact with a man named Stefan Lewis, who later changed his name to Stefan Castle.
Readers of Janet Reitman's terrific history of the church, Inside Scientology, will remember that Stefan Castle and his wife Tanja provide one of the most gut-wrenching and cinematic episodes in the book.
Tanja, an attractive young woman, was a favorite secretary of church leader David Miscavige, Reitman explains in the book, and he became jealous of the time she wanted to spend with her husband. Stefan was eventually banished from the base to Los Angeles, and then he left the church entirely. Tanja, meanwhile, was put under intense pressure to divorce him, which she did in 2004. Stefan and Tanja still didn't give up the idea of reuniting, even though she was a virtual prisoner at Int Base.
Headley tells me that Rick Truskowski was crucial to helping the Castles. It was Truskowski who was able to tell Stefan where his wife was working at the base, so that he might be able to reach her.
In one scheme to get word to her, Tressa tells me, Stefan gave a cell phone to the Truskowskis, and asked them to smuggle it into the base in a shipment of gloves. But Tressa says that the Truskowskis considered it too risky and decided not to do it.
However, when Tressa told Carolyn about her encounter with Hillary Lucas at the Wal-Mart, Carolyn passed on that information to Stefan.
Stefan, in turn, shared it with Marc Headley, who is a good friend. Headley posted something about it on the Internet, and then the Post had its story.
Even Headley wasn't aware that this is how the information traveled to him. Tressa never knew how the information got from Stefan to the Post. Now, each of them for the first time understands how the Wal-Mart incident got to the outside world.
All Tressa knew at the time was that after the story hit the Post, she started getting multiple phone calls every day from Scientology. A woman named Linda, she says, kept pressuring her to say who she had told the Wal-Mart story to. But Tressa says she never gave away her friend Carolyn. She would just say that someone must have overheard her conversation with Lucas, and that she had told no one else. But the church kept calling, and calling.
She was unaware, however, that OSA had planned to pull her phone records, and that it also wanted to talk to her "enemies" -- a woman Tressa calls a "neighbor from hell," and a man who she says cheated her with some cheap art imitations.
"I think it's really creepy and I feel violated," she says about the OSA document with her name on it. "I felt very threatened and fearful at the time because they were calling me so much."
Even if Tressa never gave up her friend, another OSA document shows that within a few days of the Post story, the church was already zeroing in on Stefan Lewis and the Truskowskis:
It's pretty obvious from that initial paragraph that Stefan's phone records had been obtained. Three calls were found to the hardware store, and operatives then deduced from that who he was talking to -- the Truskowskis.
Tressa talked to the Truskowskis yesterday, who told her that about this time, in 2006, Scientology stopped ordering from their store, and they've been on a blacklist ever since.
(The Truskowskis declined to talk to the Voice for this story. Stefan Castle is out of the country.)
Also included on that document is a notation about digging through Headley's trash ("special collections") to check up on an equipment purchase he made.
As Reitman explains in her book, later in the year, in August, 2006, Stefan Castle was finally able to get word to his wife Tanja by smuggling a cellphone in a Victoria's Secret package -- the only thing he knew that Sea Org snoops would not search. She called him, learned that he was desperate to get her back, and they then set up her daring escape to freedom.
Tressa was thrilled when I told her that happy ending for the Castles. She had not read Reitman's book and was unaware that Stefan was finally able to reunite with his wife.
She was less thrilled about this story being published, and worries that Scientology will retaliate against her yet again. I told her that would only result in further stories, and she has my telephone number.
There's still one person named in the OSA document that I wanted to mention. Chuck Beatty has appeared here at Runnin' Scared several times. He was a longtime Sea Org member who spent the last several years of his time in the church in the Sea Org's "RPF," its prison detail. These days, he tries to help journalists who want to write about Scientology.
He was not surprised to see his name listed on the OSA document, and that OSA planned to have a spy call him to get him talking about the Post story.
"I had three and four people coming at me at that time," Beatty told me by phone from Pittsburgh, where he lives. "I was constantly asked about what's the latest."
He isn't sure which of the handful of people who constantly called him for Scientology updates was the spy OSA put on him, but he has his suspicions.
He reminded me that OSA was running its own operation on him, which was spelled out in graphic detail in another internal document which Marty Rathbun made public at his blog in January.
Titled, "Beatty Handling Program" and dated February 21, 2006, this is one of the most vile, reprehensible Scientology internal documents I have ever seen.
Beatty is called a pervert who is into kiddie porn. ("Of course not, it's not true," Beatty tells me.) And OSA operatives are instructed to use this against him.
To give you some sense of this document, just consider one of these instructions:
17. Beatty is currently living with his sister in Pittsburgh. Have the PI get Beatty signed up to receive kinky materials (at the house).
Let that sink in. A church is instructing its operatives to send "kinky materials" to a man's house in the hopes that his sister will kick him out of her house.
With many similar suggestions, the OSA operatives hoped to "neutralize" Beatty as a church critic.
Let that sink in a moment, too. A church was hoping to ruin a man's reputation, to encourage him to download kiddie porn and get him arrested for it, simply because he dared to criticize the organization.
I was stunned that Beatty allowed Rathbun to post the document in its entirety, with nothing redacted.
"I was totally OK with Marty leaking the document on me. I want people to see what they were doing," he told me.
That's Chuck Beatty.
And those documents -- well, that's Scientology. Still spending freely on private investigators, intimidation, and thuggery.
With the help, that is, of your tax support.
POSTSCRIPT: Since I've been getting no calls back from Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw after numerous tries this year, I did not bother with a call this time, but instead used her website's contact form to send her an e-mail. It read, in part...
You haven't been answering my phone calls, but I hope you can respond to an e-mail. I have OSA documents that show how OSA went after a woman named Tressa following a May, 2006 story in the New York Post... She is, naturally, very upset to find out that she was targeted for investigation by OSA because of the Post story, even though she never talked to that newspaper.
This is yet further evidence of the way Scientology retaliates against people through OSA for embarrassing the church with criticism. In this case, Tressa is a private person, not a former high-ranking church official (like Rathbun and Rinder) or a Hollywood player (like Parker and Stone), but just a cancer victim who did not want to get harassed daily with phone calls from the church.
I could really use any perspective you could give me about why the church insists on these retaliation campaigns against people it perceives as enemies.
Tony Ortega Editor The Village Voice 212-475-2405
I'll let you know if I get a response.
The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology #1: L. Ron Hubbard #2: David Miscavige #3: Marty Rathbun #4: Tom Cruise #5: Joe Childs and Tom Tobin #6: Anonymous #7: Mark Bunker #8: Mike Rinder #9: Jason Beghe #10: Lisa McPherson #11: Nick Xenophon (and other public servants) #12: Tommy Davis (and other hapless church executives) #13: Janet Reitman (and other journalists) #14: Tory Christman (and other noisy ex-Scientologists) #15: Andreas Heldal-Lund (and other old time church critics) #16: Marc and Claire Headley, escapees of the church's HQ #17: Jefferson Hawkins, the man behind the TV volcano #18: Amy Scobee, former Sea Org executive #19: The Squirrel Busters (and the church's other thugs and goons) #20: Trey Parker and Matt Stone (and other media figures) #21: Kendrick Moxon, attorney for the church #22: Jamie DeWolf (and other L. Ron Hubbard family members) #23: Ken Dandar (and other attorneys who litigate against the church) #24: David Touretzky (and other academics) #25: Xenu, galactic overlord
Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he's been writing about Scientology at several publications.
Keep up on all of our New York news coverage at this blog, Runnin' Scared
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MARTY RATHBUN AND THE SIEGE OF SOUTH TEXAS
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SCIENTOLOGY SPYING AND "FAIR GAME"
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JANET REITMAN'S INSIDE SCIENTOLOGY
[Our review of Inside Scientology] | [An interview with Janet Reitman] | [A report from Reitman's first book tour appearance] | [At the Half-King: Reitman not afraid] [Scientology doesn't like Inside Scientology] | [Q&A at Washington Post] [A roundup of Reitman's print reviews, and why isn't she on television more?]
HUGH URBAN'S THE CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY
EX-SCIENTOLOGISTS SPEAK OUT
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THE VIEW INSIDE THE BUBBLE
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