June 5, 1991
Reverend Heber Jentzsch
Church of Scientology International
6331 Hollywood Boulevard, Suite 1200
Los Angeles, California 90028-6329
Dear Reverend Jentzsch:
This is in response to your letter addressed to Director William S. Sessions dated July 12, 1990. Because your letter principally concerns the maintenance and dissemination of information by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), as well as the fact that there is pending litigation involving the FBI and Church of Scientology, it has been referred to my office for response. Initially, I would like to advise you that as your letter raised numerous concerns involving FBI operations and policy, a thorough examination requiring a significant amount of time and effort by agency personnel was required. Such a review by the FBI necessitated a delay in responding until now. I am sure you appreciate the FBI’s desire to be as responsive to your inquiry as possible. You can be assured that the concerns addressed in your letter were thoroughly evaluated prior to this response.
As correctly stated in your letter, the FBI is tasked by Federal law and regulation to investigate violations of Federal law. In carrying out this responsibility, the FBI has a broad mandate, yet is also governed in certain areas by specific law and regulations. In the area of record collection, maintenance and dissemination, which seems to be a significant concern of the Church of Scientology, the FBI is required by statute and regulations to document agency operations, policy, activities and transactions, and to maintain records acquired or created in the course of conducting agency operations/business.
Mr. Baker (Attn: [xxx] Room [xxx]
Attention: Mr. O’Brien
Attention: Mr. Lewis
Attention: Mr. Thornton, (Room 4282)
Attention: [xxx] FOIPA Section, Room [xxx]
1 – [xxx]
1 – [xxx]
1 – [xxx]
1 – IPALU
SEE NOTE PAGE FOUR AND FIVE
Reverend Heber Jentzsch
This includes maintenance of correspondence which can often encompass a complaint of criminal activity, substantiated or unsubstantiated by facts, borne out or not borne out by subsequent investigation. Unsolicited correspondence received by the FBI often contains the personal opinion, impressions or interpretations of the facts by the writer. Nevertheless, the character or origin of such correspondence does not relieve the FBI of its statutory obligation to maintain such documentation or conduct the appropriate investigation. Moreover, the FBI, as a Federal agency which performs as its principal function the enforcement of Federal law, is authorized, and has elected, to exempt itself from the statutory obligation to maintain in its investigative records system only such information about an individual as is relevant and necessary to accomplish its mandated functions and to collect information to the greatest extent possible directly from the subject individual himself. The Privacy Act (PA) (Title 5, United States Code (U.S.C), Section 552], excuses the FBI through a specific statutory exemption from these as well as certain other record collection and maintenance requirements.
A review of records concerning the Church of Scientology and its founder, Lafayette Ronald Hubbard, in the Central Records System at FBI Headquarters, has determined that these documents have been compiled and maintained for legitimate criminal investigative and/or administrative purposes. This determination has been the subject of civil litigation and Federal Courts have affirmed the FBI’s position. We believe that the dissemination of such information in response to official requests by law enforcement agencies, and in accordance with the disclosure requirements of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), [Title 5, U.S.C., Section 552), has been in accordance with all applicable laws and Department of Justice (DOJ) regulations.
The FOIA requires the FBI to disclose record information not specifically exempt from disclosure pursuant to certain statutory exceptions. Because of Mr. Hubbard’s prominent position within the organization, the loss of privacy (under the FOIA) following his death, and the lack of privacy rights accorded to organizations, much of the information concerning Mr. Hubbard and the Church of Scientology is subject to public disclosure. The records released pursuant to the FOIA, as well as the summaries produced in response to official inquiries (which would also be subject to FOIA requests), record the FBI’s interactions with Mr. Hubbard, his organizations, inquiries and complaints by individuals, as well as the investigations of certain persons suspected or accused of criminal activities.
When the FBI releases record information subject to the PA, such disseminations are made in accordance with all
Reverend Heber Jentzsch
applicable statutory requirements. Also, when disseminations of information are made to other agencies or foreign governments, the FBI advises the authorized recipient in writing that the information conveyed does not constitute the conclusions or commendations of the FBI. Compliance with statutory and Regulatory obligations does not and should not be interpreted as placing the imprimatur of the United States Government or the FBI on the content of investigative record information when disclosed to the public through the FOIA, or to other Federal agencies or agencies of foreign governments for law enforcement purposes.
In response to your proposal that the FBI correct or expunge its records concerning the church of Scientology, I must point out that the FOIA contains no provisions for the amendment, correction or expunction of material considered by the requester to be false, inaccurate, incomplete, untimely or irrelevant for agency purposes. The PA does contain provisions for the amendment and correction of records. Such corrective action, however, is only available to an individual as defined by the PA and the organization you represent is not an individual as defined under the PA. There are no provisions in the PA that prevent the maintenance of information concerning an organization.
Additionally, you should be aware that the disposal of agency records is also governed by specific laws and regulations. Prior to any expunction or destruction of records, the FBI must consult and receive the approval of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in accordance with Title 44, U.S.C., Section 3106, 3301 et seg. Agency records deemed to have sufficient administrative, legal, research or other value generally are not authorized for destruction are transferred to NARA for retention and preservation. This is so even when the originating agency no longer has a need for such records. The Archivist of the United States has issued regulations for the disposition of Federal records, and federal agencies are required to develop and implement record destruction plans in conformance with the Archivist’s published regulations. Accordingly, the FBI is governed by and must strictly adhere to regulations and plans for the disposal of all agency records.
The FBI makes every effort to collect and maintain records in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. Such laws and regulations strike a balance between the rights of individuals and the investigatory responsibilities of Federal law enforcement agencies. As you have correctly recounted in your letter, members of the Church of Scientology have been the subjects of Federal criminal investigation and prosecution.
Consequently, information pertaining to certain members of the Church, as well as the Church of Scientology itself, has been
Reverend Heber Jentzsch
legally maintained and has been the subject of appropriate and permissible inter-agency disseminations and disclosure in accordance with the FOIA.
Finally, it should be noted that in response to FOIA requests concerning the Church of Scientology, the FBI discloses, in addition to other responsive records, a compilation of materials provided by the Church concerning its activities. The FBI considers this course of action reasonable and in conformance with the FOIA.
It is hoped that this response satisfies your inquiry.
In view pf the FBI’s stated operational and legal positions in this matter, particularly as regards the issue of expunction, we do not believe that a meeting between agency and Church representatives to discuss the latter would be useful.
Joseph R. Davis
Assistant Director – Legal Counsel
Note: This correspondence responds to the 7/12/90 letter from the Reverend Heber Jentzsch, President, Church of Scientology International, wherein the Reverend Jentzsch alleges numerous improprieties by the FBI in the collection, use, maintenance and dissemination of information relating to the Church, much of which is derogatory in nature. The FBI’s response was coordinated with Information Management Division and the Congressional Affairs Office, Delays in responding were incurred due to the nature of the records in issue, the required review of such records and review of past civil litigation involving the Church of Scientology, as well as the review of prior correspondence and agency memoranda on the subject of records pertaining to the Church of Scientology.
This response is in accord with eairlier FBI correspondence regarding this matter and the legal opinions expressed and positions taken by the FBI and DOJ in civil litigation regarding the same or similar matters.
There are two pending FBI FOIA lawsuits involving the Church of Scientology [Church of Scientology of California v. FBI, U.S.D.C., CD. Calif., Civil Action Number 90-204BR; Church pf Scientology International v. FBI, U.S.D.C, D. Mass., Civil Action Number 91-10850C].
Reverend Heber Jentzsch
In two recent civil actions involving the Church of Scientology and the United States Central Bureau – Interpol [Church of ScientologyIinternational. Inc.. v. USNCB-lnterpol, U.S.D.C., CD. Calif., Civil Action Number C-89-070 (RJK); Reverend Heber Jentzsch v. USNCB-lnterpol. et al,. U.S.D.C., CD. Calif., Civil Action Number CV89-1968 CMB (Bx)], the Church has initiated litigation in an effort to obtain law enforcement records pursuant to the FOIA (in the former civil action), and compel expunction of offensive records based on alleged constitutional violations (in the latter civil action which was dismissed without prejudice to allow the plaintiff to pursue the required administrative remedies). The Church’s legal challenges to Interpol’s record practices are similar to those raised against the FBI in Jentzsch’s 7/12/90 letter.
On 5/23/91, Messrs [xxx] (Civil RICO Unit], Settle [Economic Crimes Unit], and [xxx] [Public Corruption Unit], White-Collar Crimes Section, CID advised they are aware of no ongoing investigations involving the Church of Scientology. On 5/24/91, Mr. Moody, Section Chief, Organized Crime Section, CID, and SA [xxx] PLA, Los Angeles Division, advised they are aware of no ongoing investigations involving the Church of Scientology.
File/Ref. No.: 62-117658
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