Since its establishment in 1952, Scientology has attracted controversy over a wide range of issues - the rigid internal disciplinary system, the organization's commercial aspects, its recruiting tactics, the esoteric belief system, and so on.
Most of these criticisms have likewise been laid against other major and minor religious groups at one time or another.
The Church of England, for instance, until quite recently owned the largest shopping centre in Europe and was heavily involved in property speculation. Hinduism has a belief system which is even more "bizarre" to Western eyes than that of Scientology (think of Rama duplicating himself 1000 times so that he could give sexual satisfaction to all of his wives). Converts from Islam are, in many countries, treated harshly and occasionally even executed for apostaphy. Even in Europe, the Spanish Inquisition was still active less than 200 years ago.
But no other religion - not even the Roman Catholic Church, which is the world's largest and oldest organisation, with its own ambassadors and seat in the UN - compares with Scientology in one very important respect. Scientology operates a sophisticated international intelligence network to investigate and attack critics, and to carry out other long-term objectives, notably eradicating psychiatry and taking control of the media and politics.
If one can disregard every other criticism against Scientology, this is one which cannot be explained away or overlooked. How is the operation of an intelligence network compatible with religious status? Why are its intelligence activities described as "religious observances" which have been granted tax exemption by the US authorities?
These pages reveal the activities of Scientology's "Secret Service" through documents released into the public domain by the FBI, Greek public prosecutors and a couple of court cases. They cover a period of 36 years, from 1959-1995, and illustrate the development of Scientology's intelligence network from its first beginnings, through the vicious campaigns waged by the Guardian Office (GO), to today's Office of Special Affairs (OSA), the GO's successor.
The GO documents illustrate the cancerous paranoia at the heart of Scientology and detail the vindictive operations waged on the orders of Scientology's highest leaders - ranging from the attempted ruination of the career of a cartoonist who had the temerity to poke fun at Scientology, to the successful framing of a journalist for supposed terrorist activity against Scientology, to the infiltration and theft of documents from governments worldwide.
The OSA documents, some of which are only two years old, illustrate how little has changed since the GO was disbanded in 1983. Vicious smear campaigns and underhand methods continued in use against critics of Scientology in Greece, leading eventually to the organisation being closed down by the Athens courts in 1997.
It should be borne in mind, though, that the vast majority of Scientologists know little or nothing of the past and present activities of the GO and OSA; both have always operated under a shroud of strict secrecy, physically and organisationally separated from the rest of the local Scientology organisations in which they work.
The Scientologist reading these pages should ask: why do your leaders have such totalitarian goals - which, in fact, directly contradict the objectives which you have been led to believe were the goals of Scientology?
The non-Scientologist should ask: why should Scientology be granted the privileges normally accorded to religious groups when it continues to conduct such blatantly non-religious and frequently anti-social (possibly even illegal) activities?
The activities and policies documented on these pages were ordered and supported by those at the very top of Scientology, past and present. It is at them that the finger must point.