The folly of LRH’s “Intelligence Principles”

A former military intelligence officer looks at the writings Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard created to set up a goon squad to intimidate critics and opponents with dirty tricks. Some people have called this an “intelligence operation” or a private “spy agency.” No way, says our expert.

Note: I’m welcoming the first outside contributor to this blog: Jeff Wasel, a Ph.D. with significant professional and academic expertise in financial crime, money laundering, who’s a retired military intelligence, to boot.  I’ve enjoyed talking with him and I welcome him to this forum.

Take it away, Jeff!  

Recently, Mike Rinder posted an article on his site about the sexual assault accusations lodged against former Scientologist Paul Haggis.

Haggis has said that the Church of Scientology may be involved in these claims, attempting to smear him after his 2008 defection from the church spawned a classic New Yorker magazine article, the award-winning book by Larry Wright, “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief,” and an Emmy-winning/Oscar-nominated HBO documentary of the same name from Alex Gibney.  The cascade of bad press stemming from Haggis’s defection has significantly undermined Scientology’s brand name and thus its ability to recruit new members.

In the article, Rinder published Hubbard’s policy documents outlining strategies for smearing opponents, which Hubbard calls “intelligence principles.”

A lot of people have repeated without thinking the claim that Hubbard was into “intelligence operations,” when all he was merely running a series of smear campaigns.

Having spent 13 years in the Marine Corps, in a variety of billets, including 4 years of which were as an intelligence analyst, I want to show you just how far Hubbard’s goon squad and dirty tricks organization is from a professional intelligence operation.

The Scientology Goon Squad

Hubbard wasn’t doing “intelligence gathering,” and OSA is hardly an omnipotent “intelligence organization.”

In his typically turgid style, Hubbard’s many policy letters on the subject are basically a Hollywood pulp writer’s fantasies about how intelligence organizations really run. Those policy letters are simply a list of cheap tactics to ruin reputations, and nothing more than roadmaps for “fair gaming,” if you will.

Hubbard’s tactics, no matter how lavishly funded or imaginatively devised, lack any of the sophistication and strategic thought that drives a legitimate intelligence organization. This has led to the current state of ineptitude in OSA, resulting in numerous past failures, and more recently, evidence of increasingly incompetent operations.

Operation “Snow White” definitely involved impressive tradecraft in the way that Scientology infiltrated various US government offices and gathered a broad range of sensitive information. But on the whole, it was just a very sophisticated burglary. The Guardian’s organization (GO) utterly failed in the most important part of the intelligence process: exploiting the information obtained. And it failed to prevent the extraordinary blowback when the scheme was discovered, blowback which ultimately almost fatally crippled Scientology at the time. Scientology’s tainted reputation began to accumulate in the wake of the failure of “Operation Snow White,” and continues to cripple Scientology to the present day.

Of course, legitimate espionage organizations occasionally dip into the “black arts” when ruining the reputation of a target, blackmailing them or otherwise discrediting or eliminating them and neutralizing their influence.

For instance, the decades-long Scientology campaign against Paulette Cooper, writer of the first exposé of the cult, is a textbook example. However, this campaign, ably documented in Tony Ortega’s book [link] “The Unbreakable Miss Lovely,” failed to silence Paulette, who remains an opponent to this day.

More importantly, the plot failed to advance the organization’s primary goals, which is the ultimate raison d’être of any professional intelligence effort. Once the scheme was uncovered, it exposed Scientology once again as a sinister, paranoid and ultimately untrustworthy cult, devoid of any moral or ethical foundation. That’s hardly the best way to protect and enhance their brand, let alone expedite planetary clearing.

What Real Intelligence Organizations Do & How They Do It

A real intelligence organization has mastery over the entire intelligence cycle: the targeted collection of information (raw data), the transformation of that raw data into intelligence, interpretation of the intelligence, and dissemination to the correct people in a timely manner so they can take effective action to forward the national strategy. The cycle is completed when feedback from the action is used to improve the intelligence process.

Hubbard is lost in a series of niche tactics, and has utterly lost sight of the end goal of a strategic intelligence campaign.

In Hubbard’s case, the lack of adherence to a formal process creates strategies for the group based on guesswork. In Scientology’s case, the “strategy” is essentially to destroy someone, simply as an expression of spite, malice and revenge.

True intelligence professionals would never ignore the time needed for thoughtful analytical processing and would work diligently to ensure that the action chosen in response to the analysis actually forwards the organization’s goals.

Interestingly, one consequence of Scientology’s flawed methods is that they can’t even identify “potential trouble sources” (PTS’s) in their own organization. That is, they now have so many defectors from their dirty tricks squad that exposure is frequent. Stories about these defections can be found on Tony Ortega’s and Mike Rinder’s blogs, here and here.

The internal organizational structure significantly harms Scientology’s ability to acquire and position infiltrators and sources for PR campaigns, thus paving the way for intelligence failures, or exposure of their ham-handed methods.

To show you just how flawed and inept Hubbard’s intelligence vision is, I’m providing a list of intelligence·principles utilized by intelligence· professionals across a variety of agencies; they are not listed in any particular order:

Planning: rigorous, methodical planning ensures that agencies collect all the information they need, and then process and deliver it appropriately, all in the timeframe required by decision-makers. Planning ensures that intelligence delivered (the “product”) meets user requirements. You’ve probably heard the 5 P’s before: proper planning prevents poor·performance. Any intelligence professional would consider the 5 Ps an important maxim for their job.

Exploitation of all sources: you must use a variety of different sources to ensure that you’re getting the information you need, to form an objective, multi-sourced foundation for successful and effective action. Sole-source dependence often results in confirmation bias, which can be disastrous.

A significant ongoing concern for intelligence professionals is a source being compromised or countered. An obvious example is when a satellite pass over a target is blocked, or countered, by clouds. A much trickier and far more dangerous example is when a human intelligence asset (a spy) has either been turned by the opposition and is feeding you bogus data, or has been eliminated altogether.

Real-world intelligence professionals often must work with multiple agencies to get a complete picture· from different sources. Some agencies have specific skill sets or resources that are unique to a specific requirement as an example. There are 17 different intelligence· agencies in the US, each with its own mission, but many have information that would help each other, thus coordination is as important as collection. Clearly, Scientology does not need to worry about this, but they must worry about the opposite problem: too much reliance on a single source, often resulting in rampant confirmation bias.

National agencies look at a broad variety of intelligence from multiple sources: TECHINT from intercepted and decrypted e-mail and similar sources, SIGINT from radio communications, SATINT from satellites, as well as the millennia-old use of HUMINT, or human intelligence sources. Judgement and experience are necessary, in understanding how each of these sources can be fooled, either by deceptions laid by the opposition or by sloppy thinking, as well how they can best be exploited within the intelligence process.

Time: there’s an old saying about how “time spent on planning is never wasted.” Professionals use this saying to motivate planners and analysts to be “forward-looking and forward thinking.” You always need to be anticipating the next threat, regardless of how remote it may seem, and not simply focusing on detecting the last one. Warfare and conflict are constantly evolving, so strategies and methods, as guided by an effective and adaptable intelligence process, must evolve as well, as they are the keys to survival.

A key example of this is the invasion of Afghanistan in the wake of the 2001 Al Qaeda terrorist attacks. Rather than using conventional infantry, the US deployed Special Forces, in league with their Northern Alliance allies, and routed the Taliban using guerilla and light mobile strike force tactics. Contrast this with Iraq, where the US military, well-schooled in fighting large-scale wars against organized military forces, initially triumphed against Iraq’s conventional forces. Having disbanded the original army, it now faced a raging insurgency as a result, one that would take 4 years to quell, through the use of classic counter-insurgency, rather than the traditional infantry tactics used to conquer Saddam’s army. Intelligence triumphed in the former, and while accurate in the later, was ignored by policy makers, resulting in unnecessary losses in blood and treasure.

Scientology has proven to be a colossal failure at harnessing time and forward-looking thinking, as well as the ability to adapt strategically. They are stuck in a 1950’s playbook, written by a man whose strategic thinking appears to be stuck in 1930’s pulp detective novels.

When you master time, you ensure that you can deliver on the following specific and concrete requirements for successful intelligence, and that you can then translate that intelligence into successful actions that propel a successful strategy:

  • Planning: Yes, some of Scientology’s dirty tricks campaigns have been elaborately staged, but I’m talking about the planning process itself; not only in the field, but also for the whole lifecycle of a project, ensuring it actually forwards the organization’s goals.
  • Identify, recruit and train covert sources (agents): universities, one’s opposition, or other source well-positioned, based on need. Then decide who to position and where; for instance an embassy, or a covert resource in a defense contractor.
  • Tasking of covert and overt sources (i.e., what to collect): imagery (covert photography, satellite imagery); culling commercial trade journals, mass-media sources, etc. Use of wiretaps or covert surveillance.
  • Deployment and/or positioning of TECHINT and SATINT sources: While Scientology doesn’t have its own satellite networks, (even if OSA operatives think that they can simply “go exterior”), Scientology has, in some cases, been able to successfully deploy TECHINT. For instance, they intercepted Pat Broeker’s cordless phone conversations years ago.
  • Collection of information: A rational plan for organizing sources, including overt, covert, commercial and open source information.
  • The feedback/reporting process: this defines how raw data is assessed as to its accuracy and validity, then how it’s effectively routed, and how it’s finally exploited by an end-user.
  • Interpretation: what the data says, and where it can be most usefully exploited.
  • Disseminating the intelligence product: who needs to see what, then where, and in what time frame.
  • Relevancy: this step ensures collection of all the data relevant to the intelligence· requirement, but only that data. And you must apply consistent, rational principles to determine relevancy; not whim, caprice, or vengeance.

Even when you have tons of free slave labor and unlimited budgets, you need to use your resources efficiently. You can’t just collect everything that might be conceivably useful, because that wastes money, time, and effort, and adversely impacting morale, because the staff knows they are pouring their hearts into creating product that will either never be used or that will lead to inconsequential results.

The problem is that collecting and analyzing too much irrelevant data, leads to a logjam at the management level, as decision-makers are either paralyzed with too much information, (paralysis by analysis), or are distracted with too much irrelevancy, resulting in poor decision making.

Control/Access: you have to control the collection effort. This means making sure that you don’t inadvertently manipulate raw data, as well as preventing duplication of effort, and also to ensure that your sources aren’t compromised, through enemy action, poor organizational tradecraft or simple individual incompetence. If your sources are caught, as they increasingly frequently are in the case of Scientology’s dirty tricksters, it causes damage far beyond that of a poorly executed intelligence operation. Without access, there can be no collection. Access needs to be well-planned in advance with backup access points in position in case sources are compromised. Controlling access involves administrative measures such as security clearances, physical access restraints such as Secure Compartmentalized Facilities and organizational structures such as the famous “need to know basis.”

Flexibility: adaptability in the collection process is vitally important as circumstances warrant; a nimble decision loop for choosing among potential targets ensures a higher probability of success. That doesn’t mean that you devolve your collection program into ad hoc-driven chaos; rather, that you’re planning doesn’t become ironclad, biased, or incomplete, when opportunities to evolve or adapt present themselves.

For instance, Scientology’s default “go-to” strategy is the “noisy operation,” wherein its operatives ensure a target is well aware of their attentions, along with the target’s neighbors or fellow employees. However, given the vast amount of personal video and sound recording technology available to a potential target, as a means to document Scientology harassment, church operatives persist in using aggressive surveillance tactics that inevitably result in embarrassing and compromising evidence of the church’s excesses being viewed all across cyberspace.

The same occurs with the tired tactic of “dead agent” packs, wherein the church assembles supposedly compromising data on a target, and delivers it to an organization or individual that somehow is expected to take action detrimental to the target. Given that the data enclosed is bias towards the church’s agenda, and is usually flimsy with the truth, it’s veracity is easily debunked by a simple web search. Yet dead agenting continues to be an ongoing “intelligence principle.”

The Goon Squad Proves Hubbard Was Never a Real Intelligence Operative

In closing, people running intelligence operations need to be mindful of many things: the grand strategy of the organization (what they are trying to accomplish over the long-term), the tactical strategy at the street level, where the general approach that the intelligence organization uses to support the goals of the particular intelligence program and ultimately, the grand strategy of the organization must be defined to encompass both levels of execution.

Hubbard’s ramblings show he never had a clue about how a real intelligence organization operated. These principles were certainly laid down by the time of the second world war, when the modern CIA sprung out of the wartime Office of Special Services. Hubbard’s cluelessness about the intelligence process shows that he was never remotely close to being a senior intelligence official as Scientology insisted, and has attempted to prove with bizarre, concocted letters from conspiracy theorists pretending to be mainstream experts. (I’m referring to the letter from Fletcher Prouty, claiming that Hubbard’s military record was “sheep dipped” with false details to throw people off from realizing just how important an intelligence asset he was).


Had Hubbard actually built a competent intelligence· organization, instead of an increasingly inept gang of thugs and dirty tricksters as the OSA is today, one can only wonder how it would have helped advance Scientology’s goals of world conquest.

Megalomania is fatal in the intelligence business. Analysts, assets, and operatives must be able to objectively and rationally apply their craft unlabored by hidden agendas. They need to be· efficient, accurate, and well-led, all things that Scientology is not.

Eeben Barlow’s MILSEC blog was used as a source in preparing this post.