Scientology’s South Park Investigation: Orders to Send in a Young Mole


UPDATE: Scientology responds to our South Park stories, and we decode that response here.

NEW: Filmmaker Lloyd Kaufman confirms that he was asked about Trey Parker and Matt Stone by Scientology’s Eric Sherman in 2006. And Mark Ebner adds further confirmation with his own leaked document of OSA activity. Also, a private investigator describes sifting trash for the Church of Scientology.

Yesterday, we reported that former Scientology executive Marty Rathbun had revealed at his blog that in 2006, Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs — the church’s intelligence and covert operations wing — was actively investigating South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone by looking for vulnerabilities among their close friends.

Today, we have more leaked OSA documents which give some idea of the extent of the spying operation on the South Park offices and the people who worked there.

They suggest that after traditional approaches with private investigators had stalled, OSA turned to film consultant Eric Sherman, a Scientologist, to help them find a young filmmaker who would make an effective mole at the South Park offices.

For decades, Scientology has earned a reputation for severe retaliation against perceived enemies and carrying on “noisy investigations” that involve private investigators and intimidation squads. We’ve been documenting many examples of that this year as Scientology goes through perhaps its most difficult period.

The defection of former high ranking officials Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder has been a nightmare for the church. As Scientology expends enormous resources to surveill and harass each of them, Rathbun continues to leak formerly secret OSA documents at his blog.

Not on his blog, however, is a document which he supplied to Marc Headley, a man we have written about frequently here at the Voice, and who was subject to his own retaliation and spying operations by the church. Rathbun gave Headley extensive OSA documents which showed how the church attempted to turn his Scientologist friends into spies.

These documents are in the forms of reports made by operatives to OSA executives. Rathbun and Rinder say these reports would also have been read by church leader David Miscavige who, they say, watches carefully over all of Scientology’s covert operations.

For some reason, in a document about Headley’s Internet activity, there’s also a portion about South Park. The document is dated April 24, 2006:

The document suggests that Parker and Stone’s offices were under close watch by Scientology’s private eyes. The next portion of the document shows how much information they had gathered about the people who worked there:

After detailing what the private eyes have learned about the people who work with Parker and Stone, the operative suggests that the next step would be to get these people interviewed. But how?

That’s where the document Rathbun made public yesterday comes in. As we saw, OSA was frustrated that they weren’t getting closer to Parker and Stone at this point. Their private eyes had brought back information about the South Park offices, the employees, and even Parker and Stone’s cars, but they weren’t finding any vulnerabilities to exploit, apparently.

As we saw yesterday, OSA then turned to film consultant Eric Sherman, who went to Troma Studios founder Lloyd Kaufman to tell him what he knew about Parker and Stone. (The Voice has left e-mail and voice messages for Sherman, and we will continue to try to speak with him and with Kaufman today.) Update: We have now spoken with Kaufman, who confirms that Sherman pumped him for information, but he denies that he told Sherman anything about Parker and Stone’s friends. In fact, Kaufman says he didn’t even know Stamos and Romijn, for example, were friends with the animators. Sherman or the OSA must have obtained the name of Parker and Stone’s friends elsewhere. As we reported yesterday, Kaufman reportedly told Sherman the names of some of Parker and Stone’s friends, and OSA then ordered that these friends, including John Stamos and Rebecca Romijn, go through extensive public records checks and trash digging, looking for “strings that can be pulled.”

Today, Rathbun sent us an additional OSA document, dated May 3, 2006, which suggests that Scientology wanted to go even further to get close to the South Park duo. OSA talked to a student of Sherman about using Kaufman to “get intelligence” about Parker and Stone:

These are raw intelligence reports from inside OSA. Whether Scientology was ever successful at digging up dirt on the filmmaking duo or their friends is something we’ll be trying to find out. While the church has earned its reputation for retaliation and harassment, it also sometimes fails spectacularly in its attempts to attack perceived enemies.

Mike Rinder, who was once executive director of OSA, is currently in the UK, but both he and Rathbun continue to search through their files for more material on OSA’s investigation of South Park, and they promise to get back to me soon. So please check back at Runnin’ Scared in the coming days as we investigate the full scope of Scientology’s moves against Parker and Stone.

Update: Speaking of Rinder and his trip to the UK, Rathbun just put up a post with an eyewitness account of the kind of stalking Rinder is getting there.

2nd Update: Surprised to find that Scientology investigated Parker and Stone? You shouldn’t be.

Here at the Voice, we’ve detailed many retaliation operations and other examples of questionable behavior by the Church of Scientology. Here are some other stories that will help you understand how the church operates:

Scientology Hates Clean Ice: A man has invented a potentially life-saving clean-ice machine for hospitals. But Scientology is going to extraordinary lengths to ruin his business before he can bring the machine to market. Why? Because he employs former Scientology executive Mike Rinder. (Part 2: When a girlfriend becomes collateral damage.)

Lori Hodgson’s Mad Dash to the Hospital: Scientologists are encouraged to “disconnect” from members who leave the church — even if that means children breaking away from their own parents. In this case, a former Scientologist frantically tried to get information about her seriously injured son at a San Jose hospital, but ran into interference from her Scientologist family members.

In August, we made public an audio recording, secretly made, in which you can hear Scientology executive Tommy Davis pressure a young church member about how his family will “disconnect” from him if he does not stop working for a man the church considers an enemy. A chilling tape that gives an absolutely rare opportunity to hear a Scientology executive talk to a member without the knowledge that he will be heard by the outside world.

Marty Rathbun dared to leave Scientology in 2004 after being one of its most powerful executives. In 2009, he began criticizing publicly church leader David Miscavige. In retaliation, the church began a 5-month siege of his South Texas house, and even had him arrested.

For daring to leave Scientology and speak publicly about what he knew after working at its secretive headquarters, Marc Headley was the subject of a complex operation whose goal was to turn his friends into spies.

You’ll find links to many other stories we’ve done here at the Voice since we stepped up our Scientology coverage to daily reporting this past April…

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.

@VoiceTonyO | Facebook: Tony Ortega


[All recent stories] | [Top 25 People Crippling Scientology] | [Commenters of the Week] [Thursday 2pm Stats!]


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