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Operation Meisner

Why should a man certain of immortality think of his life at all?

- JOSEPH CONRAD, Under Western Eyes

Early in June 1976, the GO issued "Project: Target Dodell." Dodell was too successful in the defense against the Scientology FOIA legal suits. Meisner was ordered to steal files from Dodell's office which could be used to formulate an operation to remove him as an Assistant U.S. Attorney. By this time Meisner had requested and received written permission to use the Bar Association Library.

At seven o'clock on the evening of June 11, Meisner and Wolfe (Silver) signed in. This time Wolfe was using a card in the name of "Thomas Blake." Meisner showed librarian Johnson the written permission he had obtained. They followed their usual route through the back of the library, but found that cleaners were still at work in Dodell's office.

While Meisner and Wolfe were waiting at the back of the library, two FBI agents approached them. Librarian Charles Johnson had reported their earlier visit to the U.S. Attorney's Office. Little was made of it at the time, but Johnson was instructed to call the FBI if the two suspicious IRS men returned. Meisner presented his false IRS credentials, and said he had since resigned from the IRS. One of the agents stayed with Meisner and Wolfe, while the other went to find an Assistant U.S. Attorney.

Meisner said they were doing legal research, and had been using the photocopier to copy legal texts. He gave an address, a few doors from his own, to FBI agent Christine Hansen. After about fifteen minutes of questioning, Meisner asked if they were under arrest. When he was told they were not, he said they were leaving. The other agent, Dan Hodges, saw them on his way back to the Library. Meisner called to him to say Hansen had given them permission to leave. Once again Meisner had faked out the enemy.

They walked for several blocks to make sure they were not being followed, and then took a taxi to Martin's Tavern restaurant. Meisner phoned his superior, Mitchell Hermann, in Los Angeles, and in a roundabout way told him they had been stopped. Hermann told him to call him back at a public telephone. In the subsequent conversation, Hermann told Meisner to wait at the restaurant, and phone back an hour later, so Hermann could contact the Deputy Guardian for Information U.S., Richard Weigand.

Meisner's incredible luck had finally turned. The GO operation in Washington was finished. A "Church" had penetrated U.S. government agencies willy-nilly. They had come and gone undetected for eighteen months, copying tens of thousands of pages of government files, including very sensitive and restricted material. It is little wonder that when the FBI raid against the Church of Scientology finally came, a year later, it was a show of strength. Few people would understand the reason for such a show. It was intended for those in the Guardian's Office, who would understand only too well.

The GO ordered Wolfe to turn himself in, as part of the operation to conceal their involvement. He was arrested at his desk at the IRS before he had a chance to surrender. The FBI had simply checked every record where "John M. Foster" had signed into official buildings. Then they had checked the identifications given by the man with him. "W. Haake" and "Thomas Blake" had not turned up anything, but sometimes Wolfe had used his real IRS credentials. He was arrested for using false credentials the other times. The FBI proved that the monolithic U.S. government agencies were not quite as stupid as the GO had come to believe.

Wolfe told the FBI he had been doing legal research under his own steam, and said he had never known the other man as anything other than "Foster." The story was manufactured in the GO, and Wolfe was drilled on it. He maintained it through a grand jury hearing, adding perjury and conspiracy to obstruct justice to his other crimes.

Two months later, at the end of August 1976, an FBI agent arrived at the Church of Scientology in Washington with a warrant for the arrest of Michael Meisner. In the Courthouse library, he had given an address a few doors from his own. The FBI had traced him by talking to his neighbors.

Instead of turning Meisner in, the GO added harboring a fugitive to its growing list of crimes. The GO was in a state of panic, and suggestions of how best to handle the situation multiplied. The first plan was to fly Meisner to Europe to wait it out. His appearance was immediately changed. He was to look like a middle-aged man trying to be fashionable. He was to shave his head, wear contact lenses, have a tooth capped, lose or gain weight, and wear "earth shoes" to change his posture. He went through a rapid succession of identities, becoming first "Jeff Burns," then "Jeff Marks," and then "Jeff Murphy." Controller Mary Sue Hubbard wrote to one of her juniors that it would be safest for Meisner to disappear in a big city.

Mary Sue Hubbard also acknowledged receipt of a copy of Meisner's arrest warrant, and continued to discuss various concocted alibis for Meisner with Guardian Jane Kember and other GO officials. The FBI discovered these exchanges in their 1977 raid.

Lieutenant Warren Young, a Scientologist in the San Diego police, checked the National Crime Information Center computer records to see how the hunt for Meisner was progressing. The FBI questioned Young, who claimed he had arrested Meisner for a pedestrian violation.

The GO in Washington supplied false samples of Meisner's handwriting to the FBI. These were to be compared to the signatures in the logs of various government buildings. Mary Sue Hubbard requested a list of buildings illegally entered by Meisner. It was impressive, eleven were listed in the reply: the Department of Justice, the Internal Revenue Service, the Office of International Operations, the Post Office, the Labor Department's National Office, the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of the Treasury, U.S. Customs, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the offices of the American Medical Association's attorneys, and the offices of the St. Petersburg Times' attorneys in Washington.

One of Meisner's seniors even toyed with the idea of creating a cover for Meisner whereby he would claim to have been researching the poor security of government buildings.

By the end of October, Meisner, in hiding in Los Angeles, was expressing concern at the vacillations of his superiors. He was assured that Mary Sue Hubbard was working on his case personally. Indeed she was, and a few days later she suggested that Meisner turn himself in, saying the whole affair had arisen out of his jealousy of his wife's consistently superior performance in the Guardian's Office. To outdo her, he had organized the burglaries of government offices, unbeknown to any of his GO colleagues.

Then it was suggested that Meisner turn himself in, plead guilty, and take the Fifth Amendment (refuse to answer questions because they might incriminate him) if asked about his superiors. Meisner was willing to be the scapegoat, and willing to go to prison, such was his devotion to the cause: but the sooner the "shore story" was settled the better. Otherwise the FBI might hit paydirt. He was fearful of the consequences for Scientology, and aware that his own fate could only be worsened by delay.

While in hiding, Meisner continued to work for the Guardian's Office, and to receive Scientology auditing. His pleas for a swift resolution were repeatedly rejected, and he threatened to leave, for either Washington or Canada, if decisive action was not taken. This was the situation in April 1977, ten months after the Courthouse library incident. He had been a fugitive for eight months. The GO responded to Meisner's threat by transforming his "case officer," Brian Andrus, into his jailer.

Andrus and three heavies, accompanied by two high officials of the Guardian's Office, visited Meisner. He was told that from now on he would have to follow orders. His apartment was searched, and anything which might conceivably connect Meisner to Scientology removed. As usual, Mary Sue Hubbard was informed.

A month later, Andrus visited Meisner and told him he was going to be moved to another apartment. He refused to leave, and the "two guards handcuffed him behind his back, gagged him and dragged him out of the building. Outside, they forced him onto the floor in the back of a waiting car. In the car, one of the guards held Meisner down with his feet." This account comes from the Stipulation of Evidence signed by Mary Sue Hubbard and eight senior GO officials, as do all of the principal details of this chapter. There is no conjecture. There are reams of uncontested documents.

Meisner gradually persuaded his captors that he was willing to cooperate, and by the end of May he was down to a single guard. One day, Meisner broke away and leapt into a taxi. He went to a bus station, and from there to Las Vegas. Despite everything, Meisner was still devoted to Scientology. He felt his captors had failed to take the proper course for the good of Scientology, and wanted time to think the situation through.

The next day, Meisner phoned the GO and told them he was in Las Vegas. They had already worked out a new angle or "shore story" in case Meisner had gone over to the "enemy." Cindy Raymond suggested that the FBI be told that Meisner was trying to blackmail the Church, by threatening to pretend that it had harbored him after the warrant for his arrest was issued.

Meisner agreed to meet one of his former guards, Jim Douglas, in Las Vegas. At the meeting, Meisner refused to return to Los Angeles. It was too late, the GO had found out where he was staying, and another official met him there, and persuaded him that everything had changed with the removal of a senior GO executive.

The Scientologists constantly excuse reprehensible acts by blaming them on a Suppressive who has subsequently been removed. Hubbard had first used this scapegoat approach as early as 1952 with his outlandish attack on Don Purcell. This is what comes from believing in the evil influence of Suppressives, and their magical power for disruption. Most Scientologists accept the excuse every time it is trotted out. Meisner did, and he returned to Los Angeles.

In fact, Andrus had ordered that a new apartment be found for Meisner. Meisner was to be put in a room either with a window too small for him to escape through, or no window at all. He was to have no further contact with the outside world. Meisner was installed in the apartment immediately upon his return to Los Angeles.

In June 1977, in Washington, DC, Gerald "Silver" Wolfe was sentenced to probation and community service, having pleaded guilty to the forgery of credentials. On the day he was sentenced, Wolfe was subpoenaed to appear the same afternoon before a grand jury, which had been investigating the entries into the U.S. Courthouse. The FBI was hot on the trail.

Wolfe paraded his carefully drilled story, claiming he had gone to the courthouse library to educate himself in legal research, so he would be able to get a better job. He said his accomplice was only known to him as "John Foster." After his appearance, Wolfe was meticulously debriefed by the GO.

Meisner managed to ingratiate himself with his captors again. From June 17, 1977, he was no longer guarded at night. Three days later, he collected a few clothes and left the apartment. He watched his back carefully to make sure he was not being followed, and changed buses twice en route to a bowling alley. From there he made a collect call to an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Washington, pretending to be Gerald Wolfe, just in case the GO had an operative in the Attorney's office. Two hours later, Meisner surrendered himself to the FBI.

While the GO was concocting a story about Meisner having tried to blackmail them after setting up the Washington operations on his own initiative, the FBI, with Meisner to help them, was moving at full speed. Meisner contacted the GO to say he was thinking things over. They were put off guard. In fact, Meisner had at last thought things over, and concluded that there was something very wrong with an organization which resorted to the criminal tactics of the Church of Scientology. He had broken out of the Kafkaesque nightmare, and made his confession, this time not to a Scientology Auditor, but to the FBI. On July 7, 1977, the FBI carried out one of the largest raids in its history: on the Guardian's Office of the Church of Scientology, simultaneously in both Los Angeles and Washington, DC.

As a result eleven GO officials, including Guardian Jane Kember and Controller Mary Sue Hubbard, were eventually imprisoned.


Principal source: Stipulation of Evidence in U.S.A. vs. Mary Sue Hubbard et al., District Court, DC, criminal case no. 78-401.

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