Scientology Operation Against Washington Post Reporter Richard Leiby Exposed


After the jump, Leiby’s ex-wife, Theresa Defino, responds to Marty Rathbun’s allegation that she ‘caved’ to Scientology in its anti-Leiby efforts.

Story originally published at 12:16 pm.

Marty Rathbun has done it again. The top former Scientology figure who left the “church” in 2004 has been gradually releasing damaging information about the organization at his blog, “Moving On Up a Little Higher.”

Rathbun is working with several other defectors who left in recent years, some of them with ties to Scientology’s covert operations wing, the Office of Special Affairs. He’s been making public OSA’s “black ops” investigations of people Scientology considered enemies.

In today’s case, Rathbun has released the first installment of a series that uncovers a stunning secret 2006 operation aimed at Richard Leiby, a Washington Post staff writer and editor who for years did some of the best reporting on Scientology.

According to Rathbun and the documents he has released, Scientology wanted to silence Leiby by investigating his 2005 divorce.

By targeting Leiby’s estranged wife, Rathbun writes, Scientology aimed to use his “divorce proceedings as a boot to Mr. Leiby’s throat.”

Reached at his Washington Post office this morning, Leiby told me he could not make a comment about the matter.

Rathbun has previously posted at his blog formerly secret internal OSA documents. In this case, a 2006 document is marked “Eyes Only” and describes the steps operatives were taking to get information about Leiby and his divorce.

In approximately March of 2005 Leiby was living with Arnie Lerma as he was having marriage trouble and was kicked out of the house by his wife. He had planned to stay there for a month or two while he got things together.

Lerma is a well-known and longtime critic of Scientology who lives in D.C. and was one of the first and most important Scientology investigators who used the Internet to archive and disseminate information about the church.

The document goes on to describe Leiby getting an apartment in Rockville, Maryland, and “fighting over the equity” in the home he shared with his wife. Her place of work is described, and the ages of their children is listed.

The investigator then notes that it was impossible to collect and sift through Leiby’s garbage at his apartment building, but his ex-wife’s garbage was being sorted.

Then there’s this interesting bit, which media critics and historians may take note of:

Leiby has been very stressed out about the divorce and per a source, he gave up his gossip column “Reliable Source” with the Post, as he could not handle it. He also has a situation with his personal finances as he has to pay for the divorce and the attorney fees, plus the house and his apartment.

I’ve been admirer of Leiby’s work for years. Leiby worked at the Clearwater Sun before he was at the Post, in a Florida town that is Ground Zero for Scientology nuttiness. In fact, this isn’t the first time Scientology was annoyed enough at Leiby to go after him.

While he was at the Clearwater Sun, Leiby wrote about one of Scientology’s more notorious operations, its slandering of Clearwater mayor Gabe Cazares as it took over much of the town in the late 1970s. Years later, a former operative for Scientology’s “Guardian’s Office” — the precursor to the OSA — apologized for his role in that scummy sliming not only of Cazares, but also for plotting against Leiby himself:

I remember going to staff meetings where private eyes were sent out to find “mud” about Richard Leiby to “discredit him”. Our info bureau reported that they couldn’t get any dirt on Richard, so the next directive was get dirt on his girlfriend or wife, or whatever it took to silence him.

More than 20 years later, Scientology apparently was still interested in getting to Leiby through his wife.

As for what Leiby was working on at the time that seems to have alarmed Scientology so much, I found this story of his from 2005, when he reported on the nutty church and its New Mexico vault where it stores copies of the writings and speeches of L. Ron Hubbard to last thousands of years.

I talked to Rathbun this morning, asking him about the operation against Leiby. “It’s the church leverage game,” he told me. “You go after someone and go after them until you wear them down.”

He says the next installment of documents will include more about how Scientology pressured Leiby’s ex-wife. UPDATE: Rathbun called me back to clarify that he has more information about Scientology’s investigation of Leiby, but not of his ex-wife.

UPDATE: Leiby’s ex-wife, Theresa Defino, contacted me to say Rathbun’s assessment of her was dead wrong: “I was not ‘blanketed’ and did not ‘cave,” nor did I accept assistance from anyone other than my divorce attorney. There was no ‘boot’ to anyone’s ‘throat.’ As Mr. Leiby knows, I received an uncontested divorce and negotiated settlement in February 2007, which is remarkable in how generic it is. I have sole physical custody of my children with scheduled visitation, shared legal custody, child support according to state guidelines and a 50-50 property/retirement split. All of this is public record. Mr. Rathbun’s telling of this saga also contains numerous other errors, as do the documents he purports to quote from. As far as the news that the ‘church’ went through my trash, I do not find this surprising. This is the same organization that left a headless rabbit in my backyard years ago, under my swing set so my children could find it. Note to the ‘church:’ I have a shredder. In addition to printing falsehoods without verification, Mr. Rathbun thoughtlessly violated my privacy to serve his own ends. Mr. Rathbun has also refused several of my attempts to discuss this matter with him.”

Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he’s been writing about Scientology at several publications. Among his other stories about L. Ron Hubbard’s organization:

The Larry Wollersheim Saga — Scientology Finally Pays For Its Fraud
The Tory Bezazian (Christman) Story — How the Internet Saved A Scientologist From Herself
The Jason Beghe Defection — A Scientology Celebrity Goes Rogue
The Paul Haggis Ultimatum — The ‘Crash’ Director Tells Scientology to Shove It
The Marc Headley Escape — ‘Tom Cruise Told Me to Talk to a Bottle’
The Jefferson Hawkins Stipulation — Scientology’s former PR genius comes clean
The Daniel Montalvo Double-Cross — Scientology lures a young defector into a trap
A Church Myth Debunked — Scientology and Proposition 8
Daniel Montalvo Strikes Back — Scientology Hit with Stunning Child-Labor Lawsuits
When Scientologists Attack — The Marty Rathbun Intimidation
A Scientologist Excommunicated — The Michael Fairman SP Declaration