Lee Boyd Malvo, the teenager known as the D.C. sniper is now on trial for murder.

At 17 he and his mentor/father figure John Muhammad went on a killing spree that left ten dead in its wake and terrified a nation.

Now 18 Malvo is literally fighting for his own life in a Virginia courtroom. His attorney’s hope that an “insanity” defense based upon a “brainwashing” claim will explain the boy killer’s behavior and somehow ameliorate the outcome of the trial.

John Allen Muhammad the man that allegedly “brainwashed” Malvo has already been convicted and is almost certain to receive the death penalty. If his surrogate son and accomplice is found guilty, it is likely that he will receive the same sentence.

Opinions in the press vary, but some are calling the “insanity defense” in this case “crazy” reports Slate.

And the Washington Post points out those witnesses, who observed Muhammad and Malvo together, differ in their assessment of the relationship.

Some see Muhammad as a controlling and dominant figure that molded the boy into a “killing machine.”

Others say the two appeared more like friends, without readily seen evidence of a dominant/submissive relationship.

Malvo’s taped confession is chilling. The teenager admits, “I intended to kill them all.” And when asked if he personally pulled the trigger in the shootings the boy answers, “In all of them” reports Associated Press.

With such testimony, not to mention the physical evidence piled up by the prosecution, Malvo really has no other meaningful option than to plead insanity.

But was the boy “brainwashed” by John Muhammad or is this some clever lawyer’s contrived defense?

The “brainwashing” defense did not work for Patty Hearst, who was kidnapped by a political cult in the 1970s.

Hearst an heir to a newspaper fortune was coerced into becoming the pawn of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), but was nevertheless ultimately convicted of bank robbery and sentenced to prison.

President Jimmy Carter later commuted her sentence and Bill Clinton pardoned Hearst before leaving the White House.

Public awareness regarding “brainwashing” has evolved considerably since the Manson murders in 1969 and Patty Hearst’s conviction during 1976.

The Jonestown mass suicide/murder of 1978, which claimed the lives of almost 1,000 followers of cult leader Jim Jones in the jungles of South America, shocked the public and created an acute awareness of the power of coercive persuasion.

The image of parents giving their children cyanide was certainly compelling proof of the power of Jim Jones’ brainwashing.

After Jonestown Americans suddenly seemed to see the destructive cults that existed throughout the country and began to more readily recognize their methods of gaining undue influence. In repeated news stories cult “brainwashing” was discussed during the 1980s and 1990s.

Then came Waco in 1993, the second longest standoff in US history, between the cult known as the Branch Davidians and federal law enforcement. The end would once again be tragedy, when David Koresh and his followers chose death for themselves and their children.

In a succession of similar tragedies one cult after another would demonstrate the effectiveness of its own brand of brainwashing.

1994 the Solar Temple suicide in Switzerland.

1995 — the Aum gas attack of Tokyo subways that killed 12.

1997 — 39 members of “Heaven’s Gate” commit suicide near San Diego.

2000 — the horrific mass murder/suicide of the doomsday group known as the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments in Uganda, which may have claimed more lives than Jonestown.

9-11-2001 — the senseless murder of 3,000 people in the World Trade Center attack, once again perpetrated by the seemingly “brainwashed” followers of a madman, Osama bin Laden.

Self-proclaimed “prophet” Brian Mitchell was able to brainwash Elizabeth Smart from a dutiful family member into his seemingly willing follower in approximately 60 days. Smart subsequently denied her identity to police and did not attempt to escape the lunatic that abducted her at knifepoint.

Muhammad apparently controlled Malvo’s associations, environment and dominated his thinking in a nomadic lifestyle similar to the one Mitchell constructed around Elizabeth Smart.

How have madmen from Manson to Mitchell persuaded normal people to act insane?

The process of thought reform, commonly called “brainwashing” has probably been used in various forms throughout human history. Its mechanics have been explained in detail by psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton in his seminal book Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism.

Lifton, who once taught at Harvard Medical School, identified the features of “brainwashing” through eight specific criteria; Milieu Control, Mystical Manipulation, the Demand for Purity, the Cult of Confession, the Sacred Science, Loading the Language, Doctrine over Person and the Dispensing of Existence (see Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism).

Essentially what Lifton observed is that if an environment displays at least six of these characteristics simultaneously, it doesn’t matter what you call it, it is thought reform or “brainwashing.”

But can this work when only two people are involved?

The phenomenon of an abused spouse, often caught within what has been called a “cultic relationship,” also displays many of the same features described by Lifton. Experts have frequently labeled this the “battered woman’s syndrome.”

Was Malvo caught within the web of a “cultic relationship”?

Based upon some of the accounts that have surfaced from his family and witnesses he may have been.

But unlike Patty Hearst, who was eventually pardoned for her brainwashed behavior, Malvo’s deeds under the influence of his leader have included murder.

Perhaps the teenager was a victim of John Muhammad, but what about the victims of their rampage?

Ten people died as a direct result of Malvo’s “insanity,” and even though Muhammad may have been the master-planner of this killing spree, his puppet still pulled the trigger.

Society seems willing to forgive the misdeeds of “brainwashing” victims, but such forgiveness is far less likely if they have committed violent crimes.

The followers of Charles Manson murdered for him. Manson was later convicted like Muhammad, through a prosecution largely based upon undue influence. However, his followers were also convicted and sentenced to death.

Later the death sentences of the Manson Family were changed to life in prison. But despite their impassioned pleas that they were essentially “brainwashed,” Manson’s former followers such as Susan Atkins and Leslie Van Houten have repeatedly been denied parole.

As the Virginia jury weighs its verdict they are more likely to consider those caught within the sniper’s sights than the boy captured within the web of a madman’s undue influence.

Malvo’s only hope may come after his conviction, when his alleged “insanity” might mitigate sentencing.

At that point the claim of “brainwashing” might provide the basis for a sentence of life in prison, rather than the death penalty.

Apparently “cult apologists” are concerned about the Elizabeth Smart case. They seem to feel a need to dismiss any claims that the kidnap victim was “brainwashed.”

Veteran cult defenders James Richardson, H. Newton Malony and Nancy Ammerman, have all been quoted concerning the case.

Dick Anthony, another “cult apologist,” more recently weighed in.

The mainstream media apparently overlooked Anthony, who describes himself as a “forensic psychologist,” so he found another outlet for his opinions.

His commentary about Elizabeth Smart is now posted on the website CESNUR (“Center for Studies on New Religons”), run by Massimo Introvigne.

Introvigne is an interesting character and reportedly connected to a group that has been called a “cult.” The organization is named “Tradition, Family and Property” (TFP). Not surprisingly, Introvigne seems to be personally offended by the “C” word (“cult”) and the “B” word (“brainwashing”).

Within his treatise Anthony laments how the “proponents of brainwashing theory” are misleading the public by “asserting that Elizabeth Smart was brainwashed.”

According to Anthony that “theory” was “formulated by the American CIA as a propaganda device.”

Hmmm, was Elizabeth then somehow the most recent victim of a CIA conspiracy?

No.

Anthony speculates that due to Elizabeth’s “strict Mormon upbringing…[she] may actually have been predisposed to accepting the stern religious authority of the self-appointed prophet Brian David Mitchell.”

Does this mean the Mormon Church and/or her family not only somehow predisposed Elizabeth to embrace the bizarre beliefs of others without question, but also to not seek help or identify herself to authorities when kidnapped?

Anthony seems to think so.

He says, “Such offbeat theological worldviews allegedly primarily attract conversions from rebellious young persons from Mormon backgrounds.”

Despite his self-proclaimed title of “forensic psychologist,” Anthony doesn’t offer any factual “forensic” evidence. And he doesn’t really explain Elizabeth’s strange behavior. Instead, everything is attributed to her “totalistic personality,” which was apparently just waiting to be Mitchell’s next “conversion.”

The good doctor is less kind to 70s cult kidnap victim Patricia Hearst.

Anthony says, “There is good reason to think that her involvement in SLA [Symbionese Liberation Army] crimes was based upon a real conversion.”

He does admit Hearst was exposed to “indoctrination.”

But just like Elizabeth, Anthony claims the then 19-year-old Patty Hearst’s capitulation to her captors, was all about “the interaction of her pre-existing totalistic personality.”

Anthony gets a bit nasty bashing Hearst as a “rebellious” teenager who “…took psychedelic drugs” and was “dualistically divided between corrupt mainstream people and good counter-culture people and down-trodden minorities.”

Uh huh.

He concludes, “Hearst fit the profile of an ‘individual totalist’ prone to seeking for a totalitarian counter-cultural worldview.”

Huh?

Apparently, the SLA really didn’t need to violently abduct Hearst at gunpoint from her college campus or imprison the girl for months in a closet and brutally beat her. She was ready to accept their beliefs willingly, and all they needed to do was proselytize a bit to produce a “real conversion.”

Likewise, Elizabeth Smart’s kidnapping, months of confinement and her assault, did not contribute to her “brainwashing”—it’s that old “totalistic personality” ready for a “real conversion” once again.

In his latest foray in the realm of “forensic psychology” Anthony cites the “research” of a relatively small group of academics that share his views about “cults.”

He mentions the work of Stuart Wright, “Jim” James Richardson, Eileen Barker, H. Newton Maloney, Anson Shupe, David Bromley and Gordon Melton and of course his sponsor Massimo Introvigne.

However, all these “academics” are within the world of “cult apologists.”

In fact, Bromley, Melton, Maloney, Richardson and Wright have all been recommended as “religious resources” by the Church of Scientology.

Melton and Barker were funded by “cults” to produce books.

Anson Shupe was paid hefty fees by Scientology lawyers to become their “expert witness” about the “anti-cult movement.”

Benjamin Zablocki, Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University put it succinctly when he said, “The sociology of religion can no longer avoid the unpleasant ethical question of how to deal with the large sums of money being pumped into the field by the religious groups being studied… This is an issue that is slowly but surely building toward a public scandal. I do think there needs to be some more public accounting of where the money is coming from and what safeguards have been taken to assure that this money is not interfering with scientific objectivity.”

This brings us back to Dick Anthony.

Last year Anthony made $21,000.00 consulting on one civil case alone, without even appearing in court.

That case involved a wrongful death claim filed against Jehovah’s Witnesses and a “Bethelite” (full-time ministry worker) named Jordon Johnson in Connecticut, by John J. Coughlin, Jr., Administrator of the Estate of his mother Frances S. Coughlin .

Johnson killed Francis Coughlin in an automobile accident and was criminally convicted for manslaughter.

The Coughlin family sued both Johnson and the organization that controlled him, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, commonly called Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Dick Anthony was hired by the Watchtower Society as an “expert,” to assist them in their defense. And in the process was deposed under oath on October 11, 2002.

The man, who prides himself as a “scholar” and “academic” actually admitted that he hasn’t worked within an institution of higher learning (i.e. a university or college) for more than twenty years.

So how does Dick Anthony support himself?

He is “self-employed.” The name of his business is simply, “Dick Anthony, Ph.D.”

What does Dick Anthony Ph.D. do?

Dr. Anthony explains, “Probably two-thirds of my time to three-quarters of my time is spent writing for publication, and probably a quarter of my time to a third of my time is involved with participating in legal cases.”

Anthony’s writings are most often connected to defending “cults,” attacking the so-called “anti-cult movement” and/or the “proponents of the brainwashing theory.”

His work on “legal cases,” is as an “expert” hired by “cults,” or somehow as a “expert witness” in a related area of interest.

What this admission by Anthony means, is that he can easily be seen as a full-time professional “cult apologist,” who has no other means of meaningful income.

How much does he get paid?

Anthony stated for the record, “My fee for reviewing materials in my office is $350 an hour. And my fee for work outside my office is a flat fee of $3,500 a day plus expenses.”

Anthony admitted that he collected “$21,000″ on the Coughlin/Watchtower Society case alone. And that was without even appearing in court.

For his deposition of only a few hours, he was paid “$3,500.”

Who else besides Jehovah’s Witnesses is willing to pay such substantial fees?

Anthony listed some of his clients for the record. That list included the “Unification Church, the Hare Krishna movement…The Way International [and] Church of Scientology.”

All of these groups have been called “cults.”

But Dr. Anthony doesn’t like the “C” word, he prefers “nontraditional religions.”

On his list of “nontraditional religions” are the Branch Davidians, Unification Church and he says, “In the United States, the Catholic Church, well it’s definitely the largest nontraditional religion.”

Dr. Anthony belongs to a “nontraditional religion” himself.

Explaining his own background Anthony stated, “I’m a follower of Meher Baba” and a member of the “Meher Baba Lovers of Northern California.”

According to Jeffrey Hadden, a fellow “cult apologist” who is now deceased, Meher Baba and his followers believe that he was the “God incarnate” and the Avatar of the ‘dark or iron’ age, also called the Kali Yuga.”

Baba died in 1969. Gordon Melton says, “By loving Baba, Baba lovers can learn to love others. In the highest, most intense, state of love, Divine Love, the distinction between the lover and the beloved ceases and one attains union with God.”

Sound like a personality-driven group that would be perceived by many as a “cult”? Anthony would of course prefer the description “nontraditional religion.”

The good doctor calls himself a “forensic psychologist,” which supposedly means the application of medical facts to legal problems.

So what facts does Dick Anthony apply to resolve the legal cases he is paid to testify and/or consult about?

When asked what specific research he relied upon regarding the Coughlin case against Jehovah’s Witnesses Anthony replied that he would largely rely upon “a range of materials provided me by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

Did Dick Anthony have any experience as a psychologist helping Witnesses, “None as far as I know,” he said.

Anthony also openly admitted he had done no formal research or published any paper about Jehovah’s Witnesses.

So what facts or direct working experience would be applied or used as the basis for rendering his expert opinion?

Anthony said he would base his opinion largely on a “general knowledge of the sociology and psychology of religion.”

When pressed repeatedly during the deposition for something more specific and scientific Anthony cited, “The research of Rodney Stark…generally considered to be probably the leading expert on sects and cults.”

Stark like Anthony has received money from “cults” and has often been called an “apologist.” He is not “generally considered” a “leading expert” on the subject cited either.

Anthony later said he would rely on an article by his old friend “James Richardson [though he couldn't remember the title]…and…several articles by Catherine Wah [correct name actually Carolyn Wah].”

Carolyn Wah was the in-house attorney assigned to defend Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Coughlin case and a long-time “Bethelite” herself, working full-time at Watchtower headquarters.

Interestingly, it was Richardson who Anthony later admitted had referred him to the Witnesses for the job.

During his deposition Dick Anthony cited other legal cases he was working on at the time.

He claimed to be “a witness for the prosecution” in the criminal case against Winnfred Wright. Anthony said some of Wright’s followers were “claiming that they are innocent because they were brainwashed.”

This criminal case involved the starvation death of a 19-month-old boy.

Described as a “cult” by Associated Press, Anthony called the criminally destructive group a “little family.”

Apparently the judge didn’t agree with Anthony’s expert opinion. He ordered one of Wright’s followers released for “cult deprogramming” so she could “enter a treatment clinic for former cult members,” reported the Marin News.

Wright received the maximum sentence allowed.

Anthony also said he was advising “the Church of Scientology in Ireland…in Dublin.”

This is clearly a reference to a lawsuit filed against Scientology by Mary Johnson, a former Irish member who alleged “psychological and psychiatric injuries.” Anthony said, “I’ve had a number of conversations with [Scientology] about that.”

But despite those “conversations” Scientology decided pay off Johnson. And costs alone ran them more than a million.

And what about the Coughlin case?

After paying Anthony $21,000 in fees and on the first day of trial, the Jehovah’s Witnesses opted to settle too. They cut a check to the plaintiff for more than $1.5 million dollars. This was historically the largest settlement ever paid by the organization, which has been around for more than a century.

It seems Dr. Anthony doesn’t have a very good track record in the recent legal cases he has consulted on.

Perhaps Anthony himself explained this best during his deposition when he said, “It is the nature of pseudo-science…to pretend to certainty in interpreting situations where such certainty cannot possibly be based upon scientific knowledge. Such false claims of certain knowledge in the absence of a clear factual foundation for that knowledge are more characteristic of totalistic ideology than of genuine science.”

Indeed. So who really has a “totalistic personality” after all?

Dick Anthony seems not only a “pretend[er],” but as can be seen through the Coughlin case, he actually offers no directly applicable “scientific knowledge” or “clear factual foundation” to form his opinions.

Instead of applying medical facts and/or “genuine science” to resolve legal problems, this “forensic psychologist” seems to offer only “pseudo-science,” in an effort to please the “nontraditional religions,” who are paying clients and represent his predominant source of income.

Despite Anthony’s repeated failures he is still being paid $3,500 per day, which is not bad, or is it?

Note: Copies of the Dick Anthony deposition are available for an $18.00 tax-deductible donation to The Ross Institute

Another “cult apologist” has surfaced through the news coverage of Elizabeth Smart.

Nancy Ammerman of the Hartford Institute for Religious Research previously has spoken about the Branch Davidians.

In 1993 Ammerman claimed within a published report that the FBI was negligent because they didn’t listen to her fellow apologists James Tabor and Phillip Arnold. Both men have been recommended as “religious resources” by the Church of Scientology, which has often been called a “cult.”

Ammerman’s work regarding the Davidian standoff was lauded by Scientology through a full-page article within its own “Freedom Magazine.” And she has admitted that “various political and lobbying groups” influenced her view of that cult tragedy.

The professor’s report about the FBI was later included in a book titled “Armageddon in Waco,” which also contains the work of scholars historically associated with and/or supported by groups called “cults.”

Ammerman observed that “If [Elizabeth Smart] was a devout religious person, and [her captor] wanted to play on those religious sentiments, it’s plausible, just plausible, that she could have understood this to be some sort of religious experience,” reports the Palm Beach Post.

Is a violent kidnapping, rape and imprisonment now somehow to be categorized within the realm of “religious experience”?

Here it seems Ammerman is avoiding the “B” word (“brainwashing“), in an attempt to offer some sort of alternative “religious” explanation.

But isn’t there a more obvious and plausible understanding, which is more consistent with the established facts?

Elizabeth was initially isolated for months. This began when the 14-year-old girl was first held in a boarded up hole at a relatively remote campsite. This is not unlike what happened to cult kidnap victim Patty Hearst in 1974, when she was first confined within a closet by the Symbionese Liberation Army.

Elizabeth like Hearst was brutally raped, terrorized and effectively cut off from the outside world. This made Mitchell’s process of coercive persuasion not only possible, but also enabled its eventual success. Mitchell then simply solidified his undue influence.

Elizabeth became “Augustine.” And though she had numerous opportunities to escape and/or identify herself to authorities, she did not do so. Instead, for months “Augustine” passively followed her captors, Mitchell and/or Barzee.

Her actions cannot simply be explained away by her “religious experience,” or written off as just the effects of trauma and the “Stockholm Syndrome.”

Ammerman also said, “I suppose he also could have played off of a child’s desire to be obedient to an adult.”

This is a common sense observation almost anyone might make about adult authority.

But attempting to explain Mitchell’s undue influence over the child by linking it to her religious background sounds a bit like “victim bashing.”

Such a conclusion seemingly supposes that if Elizabeth and/or her family were not Mormons, Mitchell an excommunicated Mormon, might not have been so successful.

However, Mitchell’s bizarre religious “Manifesto,” an odd hodge-podge of beliefs taken from many sources, has little meaningful similarity to the Mormon Church Elizabeth attended.

Mitchell may have claimed to be a “prophet,” but Elizabeth must have known through her religious training, that the only prophets accepted by Mormons are those that are acknowledged by their church.

Accordingly, despite Mitchell’s claims, only the current church president could be seen by Elizabeth as a living prophet today.

In actuality Elizabeth’s “religious experience” can be seen more readily as an obstacle for Mitchell to overcome, rather than a common premise or bond that empowered him.

Again, Patty Hearst like Elizabeth Smart had no apparent common bond with her captors. Hearst was not a campus radical and/or left wing political activist. And the Hearst family were conservative and Republican.

But Patricia Hearst nevertheless, due to the process she was subjected to through her confinement, isolation and treatment, succumbed to her captors and became “Tania,” a revolutionary Marxist.

A cursory review of other cult victims in groups like Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple, Solar Temple, Aum of Japan and “Heaven’s Gate,” demonstrates a diversity of backgrounds and frequently that personal histories are not in harmony with the cult’s beliefs.

Any attempt to simplistically categorize cult victims seems more like denial than serious examination.

Such claims as, their common “religious” background and/or religious devotion, made the victim vulnerable, appears to surmise that this somehow can’t be done effectively or as easily to secular or less devout people.

And let’s not forget that Elizabeth was abducted not recruited.

Research indicates that almost anyone may succumb to the extreme environmental control and pressures imposed by someone like Mitchell, and almost certainly a 14-year-old child held prisoner.

Perhaps rather than engaging in specious and/or simplistic explanations, Ammerman should have explored the unique circumstances, but common characteristics that define destructive cult indoctrination, often described as “thought reform.”

The family of Elizabeth Smart has spoken with another cult kidnap victim Patricia Hearst in an effort to better understand how to handle certain issues with the fragile girl, reports the New York Times.

Elizabeth’s grandfather told reporters that her father has spoken with Hearst who advised not to press the 15-year-old about the details of the nine months she spent with self-proclaimed “prophet” Brian Mitchell.

Speaking for the family the grandfather said, “I’m going to let her tell me those stories at her own pace. We won’t try to rush it.”

It seems that Elizabeth is doing well back at home. 14 years as a member of the loving and tightly knit Salt Lake City family by far outweighs the 9 months she spent with Mitchell.

But the family has noticed that at times Elizabeth appears distracted, with something on her mind.

The Smarts say they still don’t know “the evil things that were done to her.”

Immediately after her abduction Elizabeth was kept isolated from the outside world. She spent two months alone with Mitchell and Barzee at a canyon campsite. Subsequently, the girl was moved to another isolated spot and lived with her captors in a “teepee.”

This largely parallels Patty Hearst’s early months of confinement after her abduction. Then a 19-year-old college student, Hearst was broken down and “brainwashed” by a political cult called the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA).

It took Hearst time to heal after more than a year spent within a cult. She was found and arrested along with SLA members after a bank robbery. Fortunately, Elizabeth doesn’t face the legal complications Hearst endured.

Perhaps Patricia Hearst, more than anyone else, can empathize and clearly understand how Elizabeth feels right now.

Hopefully, the Smart family will continue to consult Hearst and seek her insights. And it might help Elizabeth better understand her own experience and the recovery process, if some day she actually met with Hearst.

Elizabeth Smart was not simply a victim of the “Stockholm syndrome,” which draws its name from a 1973 hostage situation related to a bank robbery in Sweden. At that time robbers held hostages for several days and their prisoners developed a seemingly strange affinity for their captors.

Instead, Smart who was abducted by force, controlled and isolated by her captor Brian Mitchell, also known as “David Emmanuel Isaiah,” was apparently “brainwashed.” And her father recently used that word to explain his daughter’s behavior.

More information emerged yesterday during news conferences and through various reports, which support that conclusion.

Brainwashing” is the word often used to describe a process more precisely called “thought reform.”

When initially questioned by police Elizabeth Smart identified herself as “Augustine” and seemingly attempted to frustrate the efforts of officers to help her.

Eventually Elizabeth broke down and admitted her real identity. But why did she not do so immediately? Police also said she spoke in a prosaic biblical language.

Other witnesses supposedly saw Smart at a “party” with her captor Mitchell and his wife Wanda Barzee. Elizabeth stood silently behind her captor submissively, robed in what some have called a “berka.”

Asked why the women wore these garments and were veiled Micthell reportedly said, “To protect them from the sins of the world.”

However, it appears the kidnapper actually wanted to hold Elizabeth within a “world” of his own creation.

Another witness said, “She didn’t seem like she was kidnapped. She acted like she was part of the family,” reports Associated Press.

One Salt Lake City resident told reporters he provided shelter for Mitchell, Barzee and Elizabeth for several days and that the girl never expressed fear, tried to escape, call police or sought his help.

How did Mitchell, a self-proclaimed “prophet” and supposed messenger of God change the 14-year-old Salt Lake City teenager into his willing follower?

Thought Reform, often called “brainwashing,” depends upon control of the environment. And certainly Mitchell controlled Elizabeth’s completely. He also isolated the teenager from her familiar support system of family, friends, school and church.

After gaining environmental control Mitchell then effectively could filter all information flowing to Elizabeth. She became dependent upon him to interpret everything, from her daily surroundings and situation to the bible and perhaps even the meaning of life.

The teenager then had no outside frame of reference or accurate feedback from others to oppose Mitchell’s growing influence.

Step-by-step this control led to the undue influence witnessed by those recently interviewed. Elizabeth gradually seemed to assume a cult identity, which may have included the new name “Augustine.”

What can the family do now?

Elizabeth Smart’s happy reunion with her family is proof that her authentic personality, developed through 14 years of nurturing within her home and community, is by far more powerful than whatever cult identity Mitchell may have imposed upon the girl.

Now the family instinctually seems to understand what Elizabeth needs immediately, which is unconditional love, acceptance and sense a safety.

Elizabeth’s father Ed Smart is now carefully avoiding any painful confrontation with his daughter about what happened during her nine months with Mitchell. He said, “What is going to come out is going to come out, I don’t have it in me to try and make this harder for her than it is.”

He acknowledged though that Elizabeth seems changed by her experience and sees her now as “a young woman.”

The Smarts will no doubt soon seek professional help to assist them in their daughter’s recovery process. This may include mental health professionals, their church and others familiar with the cult phenomenon.

Polygamists in Utah have made many Mormons in that state increasingly familiar with the kind of control and undue influence young girls suffer from in cult-like groups. Some teenagers in recent years have fled polygamy and their abusers were arrested and sent to prison.

Intense indoctrination, control and resulting unreasonable fears are apparent amongst the victims of polygamists, much like the “brainwashing” that may have overcome Elizabeth Smart.

Patricia Hearst spoke about her own kidnapping ordeal in 1974 on CNN News. She was abducted and later “brainwashed” by a political cult called the Symbionese Liberation Army.

Hearst said, “You’ve, in a way, given up, you’ve absorbed the new identity they’ve given you. You’re surviving — you’re not even doing that – you’re just living while everything else is going on around you.”

Steven Stayner was abducted at the age 7 by a sexual predator and held for several years. He explained, “When I disappeared, Steve Stayner died and Dennis Parnell was born — the name I went by — and then it’s kind of like going back again to switch from Dennis Parnell back to Steve Stayner again.”

Has “Augustine” switched back to Elizabeth Smart?

It seems so, but the girl who is now a “young woman” may take years to fully sort through and recover from her ordeal and it is unlikely that her life will ever really be the same again.

The members of a political “cult” called the “Symbionese Liberation Army” once posed as “revolutionaries” in the 70s, but now most seem to prefer the American middle-class.

A remnant of the group gathered in a California courtroom to confess their past crimes as part of a deal for lighter sentencing. They were charged for the murder of a bank customer during a robbery.

Once anti-establishment they now looked prim, proper and “coifed,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

One former SLA member Kathleen Soliah lived for many years as a suburban soccer Mom before being caught. Certainly nothing revolutionary about that.

Once upon a time all these middle-aged and middle-class folk were followers of an escaped convict named Donald DeFreeze, who liked to call himself “Field Marshall Cinque.” And they taunted authorities while committing a series of violent crimes.

Their goal was supposedly “revolution” and a rejection of middle-class American values. But “revolution” under the guidance of felon DeFreeze, turned out to be bank robbery, kidnapping and murder.

The SLA reached its height of media attention by kidnapping and then “brainwashing” heiress Patty Hearst. She was converted into an SLA adherent largely through confinement and torture.

Hearst would have been the prosecution’s star witness, if her former captors had not chosen to make a deal rather than stand trial.

Until the SLA members cut that deal they mocked Hearst and ridiculed her version of events. But in the end through a required public matriculation, the former radicals essentially confirmed the accuracy of her recollections, which she later said gave her a sense of closure.

Some SLA members may serve as little as three years for murder due to the terms of their plea agreement.

Perhaps the final piece of the SLA saga fell into place yesterday when its last remaining fugitive James Kilgore 55 was apprehended in South Africa, reports Reuters.

And so it ends, not with another pipe bomb explosion, once the favored signature of these 70s radicals, but rather with a public confession and an apology in a courtroom.

Ironically, in the end all the surviving SLA members appeared to want was to somehow be part of the same society they once rejected.