Office of Special Affairs
We sat down in an open-air Tampa, Florida, restaurant featuring linen napkins and dark wooden tables. My dining companion was Kennan Dandar, the attorney who’d taken over my son’s case.
I wasn’t hungry. I was still shaken up by the things I’d heard in the meeting we’d just had with retired Clearwater police detective Ray Emmons. Ray had torn the police report of my son’s death to shreds, pointing out all of the lies and inconsistencies.
A neatly dressed waitress took Ken’s order. Soon, a large plate of kettle chips sprinkled with blue cheese appeared. He said he shouldn’t be eating this stuff, then helped himself to a heaping portion. That’s when I remembered something I’d been told about Ken. He’d dealt with the Lisa McPherson case against Scientology for seven years. It had been so stressful, evidently, that he’d had to undergo triple bypass surgery. The Scientology attorneys—relentless, and like their clients, demonstrating no empathy—demanded that he make a court appearance while still in recovery. Frail and unsteady, Ken had to lean on the plaintiff’s table; he could barely hold himself upright during the proceedings.
While he was representing the estate of Lisa McPherson, agents of the Church of Scientology cased his house, searched through his trash for anything that might incriminate him, and followed him around town, filming him all the while. They also slandered his name where and whenever possible. These despicable deeds had a dual purpose—they were meant to wear him down, but they were also designed to deter other lawyers from representing others harmed by Scientology.
They were carried out by Scientologists from OSA, the Church’s Office of Special Affairs.
OSA was formed in the mid-1980s from the ashes of the GO (the Guardian’s Office), after its leaders were jailed for infiltrating government offices where they’d altered files that cast Scientology in a bad light. OSA is a department of the Church of Scientology International. Critics say it’s a malignant agency, the Church’s own KGB. OSA handles litigation against the Church, public and media relations, and oversees and publicizes the organization’s “social betterment works.”
It also conducts overt and covert data collection, maintaining files on every Scientologist and, more importantly, on anyone perceived as an enemy. Because the Church is paranoid—much like its founder, L. Ron Hubbard—this latter category is rather broad. Anyone who speaks out against Scientology is considered an opponent, an “SP” or “Suppressive Person” in the organization’s lingo. The information in these “enemy” files, according to a policy entitled Re: Intelligence, can be gathered by any means necessary, including infiltration, bribery, robbery, and blackmail.
But OSA does much more than merely collect information on Suppressive Persons. It also targets them with a wide range of tactics. This bag of dirty tricks is facilitated by what’s called the “Fair Game” policy. (Hubbard claimed this program was abolished decades ago, but experts say that many of its practices remain.) Writing about Fair Game in 1967, Hubbard stated that opponents may be “deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. [They] may be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.” Because Scientologists believe that their Church is an elite entity (peerless among every other earthly organization), and that it’s the best hope for mankind, they are therefore superior to any “wog” (or non-Scientology) law. Lying, stealing, burglary, as well as other illegal activities, are fully justified in their war for the salvation of humanity.
Ken’s description of what he’d experienced during the McPherson case made me realize that OSA’s tactics were much darker than what I’d heard. There were times when I questioned if I’d have made such a sacrifice. Probably not—and this made me all the more grateful for his assistance.
During a telephone conversation, just before my first trip to Clearwater, he’d warned me about what I could expect. He said OSA operatives used to follow Lisa McPherson’s aunts (the family members who’d filed the suit against the Church). “Every time the old ladies flew into Tampa International,” he said, “the parasites would be waiting, trailing us through the terminal. They have ways of finding out information—what flight you’re on, what hotel you’re staying in. They’ll turn up where you’d least expect.”
“You’re going to have to assume that they’re on to us about the pending lawsuit,” he continued, “and they’re not happy about it. Last week Ray Emmons was followed and run off the road after leaving my office.”
“This is all new to you,” he said. “It’ll be difficult to understand how ruthlessly OSA operates. You became an enemy the day you started asking questions about Kyle’s death. You’re about to become an even bigger one.”
Now, here I was at an outdoor Tampa restaurant with the attorney who’d been through so much at the hands of Scientology, its KGB-like agents, and its no-holds-barred legal team. It was time to make an important decision. He wanted to know if I was strong enough to proceed with our case.
“They’ll come after Kyle, Victoria,” Ken said, “and he’s not here to tell his side of the story. That’s where you’re going to need strength. You’ll have to relive the worst day of your life over and over again. You need to ask yourself if you can do it.”
“I’ve made up my mind. I decided within the first half-hour of our meeting this morning [with detective Emmons]. Let’s do it! . . . . Maybe we can get some answers. I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t do this.”
“Alright,” he said, “we’ll have to move fast.”
Little did I know about the difficulties that lay ahead.
While representing Kyle’s estate, and even years afterwards, Ken was embroiled in an unprecedented legal battle with the Church of Scientology. They put him through a monstrous amount of harassment: they garnished his bank accounts for over one million dollars.
In 2010, during one of many courtroom proceedings presided over by Judge Robert Beach, the Scientology lawyers demanded a private hearing. To block the view of reporters and curious onlookers, paper was carefully taped over the windows of the courtroom doors.
Eager for an update, I called Ken when I thought the session was over. He picked up after the first ring.
“Hello, Ken, is everything okay? How did it go in court today?” He took a moment to respond. Muffled voices could be heard in the background.
“I’m just leaving now,” he finally said. “Let me get down the steps and away from these people. I’d rather not have them hear our conversation.”
Then he opened up. Ken’s voice cracked with emotion as he described the slander-slinging assault he’d just experienced. Apparently, the Scientology lawyers had abandoned all civility and courtroom decorum in their attack.
“You can’t imagine the horrible things they said,” he uttered, seemingly on the verge of breaking down. “They attacked you, Victoria, and they attacked my brother.”
I wanted to tell him that it didn’t matter. Their behavior spoke volumes about their lack of character, and the ungodly practices of the Church of Scientology. The Church’s longstanding harassment of Ken Dandar proves that Hubbard’s Fair Game policy is not only still in use, but applied with zeal against its perceived enemies.
While enduring years of such treatment, Ken never complained. Not to me anyway. And it didn’t go unnoticed that the only time he wobbled emotionally had nothing to do with him, but the unethical and immoral treatment of his brother and his client—a mother simply seeking answers for her dead child.