Internal documents from the Church of Scientology, the parent organisation of the Citizens' Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), indicate that behind the church's public battle to expose abuses of psychiatric patients lies a hidden agenda of retribution.
The documents contain evidence that some Australian Scientologists apparently have remained committed to a 30-year-old doctrine of revenge and intimidation against people whom the church describes as "enemies".
And while church members in Australia have been speaking out against psychiatric abuse, courts in the United States have condemned Scientology for itself using damaging psychiatric techniques.
CCHR was a leading protagonist for the royal commission into the use of deep sleep therapy (DST) at Chelmsford Private Hospital in Sydney, which later reported 24 deaths as a result of the discredited treatment, and another 24 suicides by patients after they had left the hospital.
CCHR, a Scientology group founded by the church in Australia in 1972, has also been credited for helping to start the Health Commissioner's probe into DST in Victoria.
In pushing for the Victorian probe, CCHR targeted a leading psychiatrist and deep-sleep advocate, the late Dr Alex Sinclair. In 1989, a coroner's court concluded Dr Sinclair had contributed to the death of a patient in 1987.
Dr Sinclair has been investigated by the church's so called "intelligence" arm because he was - according to a 1987 report by a former CCHR member - "an enemy witness ... involved in the suppression of [Scientology] in Victoria".
In March 1987, a report to an arm of the church called the Office of Special Affairs (OSA), said Dr Sinclair had been an active player behind the scenes in a 1965 Victorian inquiry into the cult. That inquiry reported to Parliament: "Scientology is evil; its techniques evil; its practice a serious threat to the community medically, morally and socially; and its adherents sadly deluded and often mentally ill."
The national president of CCHR, Ms Jan Eastgate, said last week she had no knowledge of the report and that the group was interested in Dr Sinclair because it believed he had introduced DST to Australia, and because he had given evidence to a NSW court in support of the method at a time when people were dying from its use.
"There's no hidden agenda or motive behind that," she said.
"When I first came into CCHR there wasn't any discussion about mental health or mental illness or violations. People were just languishing away in psychiatric hospitals ..."
"The state of reform in this country at the moment is indicative of the work we have done."
Some ex-Scientologists in Australia and overseas have told reporters that the intelligence operations are conducted through the church's Office of Special Affairs.
"Simon", who left the church after more than 30 years' involvement, said that the last time he spoke publicly about the church, he had been followed for days at a time.
He said a young man claiming to be a salesman came to his door and recited intimate details of his life, which he says would be available only by consulting confidential personal files kept by the church of "auditing" sessions - confessional-style counselling where an individual is attached to a primitive lie detector, or E-meter.
Mr Cyril Vosper, an ex-Scientologist turned cult "de-programmer", who had studied in London under the church's late founder, L. Ron Hubbard, is regarded as one of Scientology's greatest enemies.
Now living in Melbourne, he said that at various times, he had been under long-term surveillance - his movements apparently filmed and photographed - by people making no attempt to hide their interest in him.
Rumours about him were widely circulated to friends and associates, together with material he said would have been found in his personal "auditing" files.
Mr Vosper and "Simon" were given letters by the church branding them as "suppressive persons" and "degraded beings", and are subject to the vicious Hubbard "fair game" policy which has been central to legal action in the United States. Under the "fair game" policy, they can be "tricked, sued, lied to or destroyed".
This "fair game" policy has been under close scrutiny in the United States, where another declared "suppressive", Mr Larry Wollersheim, has been fighting a court battle against the Church of Scientology of California. He has won a separate case against the church for intentional infliction of emotional distress, although the amount of damages is still under appeal.
The court established Scientology as an organisation with near paranoid attitudes; that the church sanctions "unquestionably constituted reckless disregard for the likelihood of causing emotional distress"; that the church engaged in a prectice of retribution and threatened retribution - "fair game" - against members who left or otherwise posed a threat to the organisation.
In a 1984 case where the Church of Scientology California sued an ex-Scientologist, a Superior Court Judge finding against the church wrote that former Scientologists were "still bound by the knowledge that the church has in its possession his or her most inner thoughts and confessions ... and that the church or its minions is fully capable of intimidation or other physical or psychological abuse if it suits their ends."
"The record is replete with evidence of such abuse," the judge found.
"The organisation clearly is schizophrenic and paranoid, and this bizarre combination seems to be a reflection of its founder [L. Ron Hubbard]."
In the church's Manual of Justice, first issued by Hubbard in 1959 and re-issued in Australia in 1981, is this advice from the founder: "People attack Scientology; I never forget it, always even the score."
A CCHR official in Melbourne, Mr Chris Campbell, said the findings of a variety of official inquiries demonstrated that abuse of psychiatric patients was not a figment of Scientologists' imaginations.
He said there had been numerous anomalies in United States court cases against the church.
[photo] "Even the score" ... Hubbard.
A telex sent to the Melbourne Office of Special Affairs (OSA) from Scientology's Australia/New Zealand headquarters in April 1987 tracks the church's defensive strategy in response to an investigation by the former television program Willesee.
The program was investigating a woman's claim that her trip inside the Scientologists' Russell Street headquarters in Melbourne had almost cost her $43,000.
The telex spelt out a seven-step program for defusing the story.
One suggestion was to loudly brand the investigation a "set-up".
"Go on about the fantastic effectiveness of Scientology and the spiritual gains," it advised. "Have somebody in ministerial garb."
It then suggested courses of action in the church's Manual of Justice. "Investigate the reporter, not the show," it said.
On dealing with the media, the manual uses the example of a bad magazine article, and advises first a request for a retraction. Second, "hire a private detective of a national-type firm to investigate the writer".
"Get any criminal or communist background the man has. (Because all subversive activities foolishly use criminals ...)."
It advises to threaten litigation, then "use the data you got from the detective ... to write the author of the article a very tantalising letter ... Just tell him we know something very interesting about him and wouldn't he like to come in and talk about it ... He'll sure shudder into silence."
While the manual is more than 30 years old, the telex issued in 1987 indicated that the formula it prescribed was still, at least four years ago, being recommended to deal with media in Melbourne.
Last July, the British Sunday Times newspaper revealed a Scientology "dirty tricks campaign" which also smacks of the Hubbard formula for dealing with media inquiries.
The paper reported that the church had paid private detectives more than $100,000 to organise a world-wide "dirty tricks campaign" against one of its reporters, Russell Miller, who wrote Bare Faced Messiah, an unauthorised biography of L. Ron Hubbard.
JO CHANDLER and