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State Surveillance & Responses

Vic Atiyeh was Oregon's Governor throughout the Rajneesh crisis. He and others in his administration were deeply concerned about what they saw as religious fanaticism and disrespect for government authority at Rajneeshpuram. A suicidal meltdown of the sect or a violent fight between the Rajneesh and local residents of Wasco County seemed like real possibilities.

In this volatile environment, Governor Atiyeh believed he needed to "keep it cool" in public while quietly working against the Rajneesh with state and federal agencies. His oral history of the crisis describes what was going on behind the scenes in the government. The Oregon State Police kept the Rajneesh under surveillance and reported back to the Governor regularly on their activities. For years, Atiyeh carried an unsigned order to declare martial law in Wasco and Jefferson counties with him in case violence suddenly erupted. (See his description of the unsigned order.) In the end, his quiet but persistent strategy paid off. A State Police task force helped to charge Rajneeshpuram's second-in-command, Ma Anand Sheela, with arson, wiretapping, immigration fraud and attempted murder. Their guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh was deported in a plea bargain deal, and the community peacefully dissolved at the end of 1985.

See a timeline of the crisis