American Embassy/State Department Cables on Jonestown, June 1978

By the late spring of 1978, most of the events which culminated in Jonestown on November 18 had already been set in motion. The Concerned Relatives were actively pursuing ways to repatriate their family members; Jonestown had suffered several significant defections, including that of Debbie Blakey; and several government agencies in the U.S. – some in response to lobbying efforts by Temple critics – were conducting investigations of the Jonestown community.

The American presence on the ground in Guyana was the Embassy in Georgetown. Its officials had provided consular services for the American immigrants to the country, it was aware of – if not directly involved in – contacts between Jonestown residents and officials from the Guyana government, and it had been informed of some of the problems which were alleged to be emerging from the isolated community.

In early June 1978, likely in response to a query from Washington, the Embassy gave a  straightforward description of Jonestown to the State Department in Log 126. The State Department replied with Log 130, which is written in similarly neutral language.

Following the deaths in Jonestown, critics of the government’s relationship with the Temple pointed to these two logs as indicative of the Embassy’s refusal to seriously consider – much less act upon – the charges which had been lodged from a multitude of sources against the Temple. State responded that it had carried out its statutory obligations, and that both the Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act precluded further or more aggressive actions.

The Embassy’s response was the subject of much of the Crimmins Report on the State Department’s handling of Peoples Temple in Guyana. The two logs were the only documents appended as a supplement to the 782-document which the Staff Investigative Group submitted to the House Foreign Affairs Committee in May 1979. Finally, these logs – as part of the Embassy and State Department’s handling of Jonestown – was the subject of a two-day congressional hearing in 1980. A discussion of the various congressional hearings may be found here.

Logs No. 126 & 130, The Death Of Representative Leo J. Ryan, People’s Temple, And Jonestown: Understanding A Tragedy, Appendix 1 & 2, pp. 60-62.
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Text of Log No. 126
Text of Log No. 130

Last modified on October 22nd, 2013.
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