Washington Post reporter Richard Leiby has covered the war in Iraq and served as a gossip columnist, but his toughest assignment may have been the 20-plus years he spent writing about Scientology. At least Iraqi insurgents never sent private investigators to dig through his trash.
Marty Rathbun, the former high-ranking Scientology official who last brought us news that a Vanity Fair writer spent 20 years as a secret Scientology spy, has dug into his archives again to find a memo offering a rare glimpse into the cult's campaign against Leiby, whom it regarded as an enemy and "suppressive person" for his reporting. The 2006 memo, printed in full below, details the cult's efforts to gather information on Leiby's separation from his wife, including searching her garbage for "any specific data as to why she kicked him out, what he is planning on doing, etc." The spying campaign was apparently sparked by a reporting call Leiby put in to the church.
It's common knowledge that the church harasses and surveils reporters. In 2004, a former Scientology official penned an open letter apologizing for participating in staff meetings where private eyes were sent out to find 'mud' about Richard Leiby to 'discredit him' [and] get dirt on his girlfriend or wife, or whatever it took to silence him."
Rathbun described the memo as Part I of a series; more is to come. Here's the full text:
ATTORNEY CLIENT PRIVILEGED
March 27, 2006
In approximately March of 2005 Leiby was living with Arnie Lerma as he was having marriage trouble and was kicked out of the house by his wife. He had planned to stay there for a month or two while he got things together.
At the end of January we found the new apartment that Leiby moved to in Rockville, Maryland, about 2 miles away from his wife (Theresa) and their three children.
Although they have been separated for a year no divorce papers have been filed as yet, as he and his wife are fighting over the equity in the home and are working out property settlements with their attorneys before filing anything in court.
The wife, Theresa Defino, is the Executive Editor of the Physician's Practice magazine – a magazine for doctors that covers the business side of the medical field such as insurance contracts, billing etc. She has been a medical writer her entire career. She works from home and the children are with her – a 16 year old girl and 12-year-old twins, a boy and a girl.
Special collections [Ed note: euphemism for stealing the garbage] could not be done at Leiby's apartment but this was checked regularly at the wife's home [her garbage WAS collected]. Thus far nothing of interest has turned up.
Leiby has been very stressed out about the divorce and per a source, he gave up his gossip column "Reliable Source" with the Post, as he could not handle it. He also has a situation with his personal finances as he has to pay for the divorce and the attorney fees, plus the house and his apartment.
Leiby made two calls to CST on March 24th each time leaving just his name and his Washington phone number. DSA DC made a call on the 27th Leiby's senior at the Washington Post, Deborah Heard. She was informed that as Leiby was so completely biased, we were not going to be calling him back but we would talk to anyone else at the Post. Deborah responded that she hoped that someone would call him back as she had 65 juniors and she did not know what they were all working on. It was reiterated that Leiby was extremely biased and had recently been a roommate with someone who is a major attacker of the Church, who has threatened the Church and has been involved with extremist right wing groups. Deborah was taken aback but was still repeating that we should call Leiby back. She was told that this was not going to happen, as while we have had other reporters that were biased, at least they gave us an opportunity to respond and quoted what was said. However with Leiby it was felt that he would not fairly represent what was said.
Deborah responded that she was sorry we felt that way, but in her 15 years of working with Leiby at the Post, she has found him to be a "serious, dedicated, meticulous reporter." She said that with any complaint, there are three avenues – Legal and go to the Legal Dept (she was informed that it was not a Legal issue), that the ombudsman, Deborah Howell is the readers advocate and we could write to her. Lastly, the Department Head can hear complaints and she wants to hear complaints about her staff. She was informed this was a complaint and she then suggested that a letter be sent to her with the complaint.
A letter will be sent to Deborah Heard that details the past relationship with Leiby and what the upsets are that make us feel he is not qualified to report on the Church.
We are currently workout out a new meeting with Leiby with the resource to get more information to find out what the current scene is with his wife, any specific data as to why she kicked him out, what he is planning on doing, etc.
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