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THE Church of Scientology, a religious cult accused of brainwashing its devotees, has paid private detectives more than £100,000 to organise a worldwide "dirty tricks" campaign against a Sunday Times journalist.
Documents seen by The Sunday Times detail how Russell Miller, journalist and author of a book on scientology's founder, L. Ron Hubbard, has been secretly pursued around the world by investigators and members of the sect for the past three years.
A former employee of the church, who has agreed to open his files to the newspaper, has described how the cult has spied on Miller, harassed his friends and tried to discredit him by giving false information to the police.
"He is kept under constant watch. Every time he goes abroad a two-man mission will be waiting for him at the airport when he arrives," said the informant, who we have agreed not to name for fear of reprisals. "They will monitor where he goes, who he sees, where he stays. This information will be added to his file, which is already more than 100 pages thick."
The informant, who severed all connections with scientology earlier this year, has a detailed knowledge of documents, including a copy of the file held on Miller at the church's headquarters in Los Angeles. He has also described how two scientology investigators, Doug Jacobson, a Los Angeles-based executive of the church, and Lynn Cox, an Australian private detective, were sent to Britain in 1987 to co-ordinate an undercover operation to smear Miller.
Miller, who has spent three years fighting legal challenges by the cult, is still trying to get his book published in the United States.
His American publisher, Henry Holt. has decided to abandon the project because the cost of litigation hat run into several hundred thousand dollars. Miller is searching for another publisher to take the book.
The biography, Bare-Faced Messiah: The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard, challenges the church's authorised version of Hubbard's life and implies he was a liar and a cheat. It was published in Britain in 1987 and serialised in The Sunday Times, after the church unsuccessfully tried to prevent publication in a legal action described by a High Court judge as "mischievous and misconceived".
The church, which claims 6m members worldwide, recruits devotees by offering personality tests and then persuading them to pay money for psychological courses which use the E-meter, a primitive lie detector.
In the High Court in 1984, Mr Justice Latey described the cult as "corrupt, immoral, sinister and dangerous" and said Hubbard and his helpers took part in brainwashing and activities "grimly reminiscent of the ranting and bullying of Hitler and his henchmen".
Yesterday the church denied any attempt to smear Miller. Kirk Weiland, its spokesman in Los Angeles, said: "The allegations are unfounded. Anyone giving you this sort of information must be crazy, or on drugs."
Miller said the new evidence came as no surprise. "What they have done to me is absolutely par for the course for the Church of Scientology, I think it's a tragedy that they have been allowed to cause so much damage," he said.
The church's internal files confirm Miller's suspicions that scientologists have been behind attempts to discredit him with a campaign of intimidation and harassment.
There have even been attempts by some investigators, who refused to say for whom they were working, to get him arrested for the murder of Dean Reed, an American pop singer who died in mysterious circumstances in East Berlin in June 1986, the day before Miller was to interview him.
The former employee of the church has confirmed that a team of investigators in Britain in 1987 used contacts with the police to check on whether Miller had a criminal record, and tried to implicate him in unsolved crimes.
"People were brought in from abroad posing as journalists to arrange interviews with Scotland Yard where they would drop innuendoes about Miller," said the informant.
"Other investigators were used to smear his name with colleagues, friends and neighbours. They worked hard on the line that he was an undercover British intelligence man."
At the height of the operation, scientologists arranged for as many as three investigators to park cars outside Miller's home for 16 hours a day. Jacobson and Cox were flown into Britain and were set up in a flat at Abingdon Mews in Kensington, west London, from where they directed the operations.
The new evidence supports a confession given to The Sunday Times three years ago by Jarl Grieve Einar Cynewulf, a private detective from Bristol, who later threatened to kill a reporter and photographer and fired blanks from a replica pistol at them.
The files also detail how John Ingram, a London private detective employed by the cult, was paid to pick up rubbish sacks from the offices of Michael Joseph, Miller's British publisher, in the hope that he could find proof pages.
The source said Ingram passed the job of searching through the sacks to Charlie Earle, a scientologist from Los Angeles who each night rummaged through the contents which were tipped into a bathtub at the Kensington flat. Last week Ingram refused to confirm or deny the allegations.
The files name several other investigators employed in the operation to discredit Miller. One, who identified himself as Doug Reynolds, hired a yellow Rolls-Royce and posed as a wealthy benefactor willing to publish critical books about scientology in an attempt to extract information from Jon Atack, a former member of the cult and adviser to Miller.
Atack was unsure about Reynolds but gave him a draft of a book he was preparing about scientology. He has spent the last year fighting legal battles with the cult over the book, which he expects to be published in she United States next month.