In an effort to keep viewers and those visiting KESQ.com informed of the progress of our News Channel 3 Investigation: “Scientology vs. Anonymous,” we’re posting online updates.
Our first update will focus on the process of securing the interviews that we have to date. I have received many emails from viewers wanting to know the way that this investigation came to be.
It started in early December, 2008.
News Photographer Brian Kiley and I were covering another story at the Riverside County Board of Supervisors when we overhead an agenda item about a protesting ordinance. We heard “Anonymous” protestor Francois Choquette give a speech to Supervisors defending his rights to protest. Our camera also recorded Supervisor Jeff Stone’s presentation to his fellow Supervisors. This exchange was later shown in our third investigative story.
After these presentations, it raised our curiosity as to what was going on both outside and inside the gates at Golden Era Productions. In the hallway, just outside the Supervisor’s chamber, we interviewed Choquette who’s computer was not working well enough to show us a video he said showed himself being violently confronted by Scientology guards. He gave me a copy of the video which I watched later that night.
Catherine Fraser, Public Relations person for Golden Era Productions, the audio/visual team for the Church of Scientology, was also in the hallway talking to me and a print reporter for The Californian newspaper.
I told Catherine Fraser I remembered another station got an inside of Golden Era and we would like to do the same. She said she would set that up and would be proud to show Golden Era in action. Upon leaving, I told her we wished to do it before the end of December.
After watching Choquette’s video and collecting more information, I called Fraser once every week until she stated that because Golden Era had so many end of year projects going on, she could not line up the production crews for a tour before January. We both tentatively agreed to January 27th for the date our cameras would be allowed inside.
One week before January 27th, I called Fraser and she told me once again that she was having difficulty setting the tour up. Because Golden Era was putting all attention to events surrounding Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday, she stated that the soonest we could do the story was late March. We ended the phone call amicably, but because of my deadlines to air any story on the subject, such a delay was unacceptable.
I received word “Anonymous” protestors planned to picket outside Hemet’s “IntBase” the next day. I decided we needed to come and get video of the incident. Instead of taking a regular news vehicle, I decided we needed to bring our KESQ Live Truck. This van, called “Eagle Eye,” has a telescopic mast for microwave TV signal transmission. Though we had no intention of doing a live shot in front of the Hemet location that day, I knew we could use the high-powered camera on top of the 50 foot mast to give ourselves a tour of the headquarters complex.
The news photographer and I arrived around noon. While he videotaped protestors on the ground, I operated the camera in the truck. This was how we spotted the camouflaged observation post in the hills above the IntBase. The reflection of the sun glinting off the lens revealed its position. I received a cell phone call from Catherine Fraser and an unrecognized Los Angeles area number at this time. Because I was operating the mast camera, I did not answer the phone.
While interviewing attorney and protestor Graham Berry, I was tapped on the shoulder by Muriel, an employee of IntBase. She gave me a card with Tommy Davis’s number, which matched the unrecognized number in the Los Angeles area. This part was covered in our third investigative story.
Davis, Scientology’s head of Public Relations, wanted to do an interview within days at the Hollywood Celebrity Center. We agreed to Wednesday. He told me the interview would be at 11:00 AM and that he wanted “a few minutes to show me some things about Scientology” before the interview. In studied previous interviews with Davis in the days prior.
We arrived at 10:40 AM. A guard told us to wait in the parking lot within the Celebrity Center complex. At 11:10 AM, we were joined by a woman who told us Davis was on his way. The woman was wearing a badge identifying herself a member of “SeaOrg,” the administrative arm of the Church of Scientology.
At 11:40 AM, we walked into the lobby of the Celebrity Center, a renovated hotel with the Hollywood sign in close sight. Davis greeted us and walked us to one of the hotel rooms to set up our camera and tripod. I brought in a cardboard box of materiel that I intended to use during the interview.
While my news photographer set up the camera gear, I was walked into another hotel room with Davis and a member of SeaOrg. The hotel room had a large screen TV. Davis invited me to sit down on a couch and began to play some DVD’s he said would educate me about the purpose and history of the church. We watched nearly every chapter of a DVD that introduced the Church of Scientology. We also watched several video taped interviews with people stating how the Church improved their lives. We also watched a DVD titled “Anonymous” which had various claims of the crimes committed by the protestors we were covering. After a while, my photographer was asked to join us to watch more videos showing computer rendered flybys of churches under construction. Davis told us many things about the Church in between each DVD. This lasted until 1:00 PM.
At that time, I stood up and told Tommy Davis that we needed to get some of the statements he was making on tape for our interview. It was then that he asked me to sit down. He asked to know what this story was going to be about. I told him it was focusing on the controversy surrounding the ordinance. After a further 15 minutes of discussion, he said he was ready for the interview.
We were walked back to the hotel room with our camera gear. The Church provided and set up a light kit to better light the room for the interview. Mr. Davis did not follow us in. We waited for him the room with two members of SeaOrg who offered us lunch. After sitting down in the room for another half hour, I made the decision that if it reached 2:15, we would gather our equipment and leave.
Minutes before, Davis walked in and we began the interview. The cardboard box I brought in contained the booklet Supervisor Stone gave me after his December presentation titled, “Anonymous: Who They Are and What They Do.” It also contained a laptop to play the video Choquette gave me as well as the video we shot of the “eagle” post above IntBase. A large binder containing Hubbard’s handwritten “Technical Notes on Operating Thetans” was also in this box.
The rest you can see for yourself in the full interview posted on KESQ.com.