The Freedom of Information Act and Jonestown

Many of the documents on this website – from the Jonestown censuses which provided the data for the Who Died? list to the Edith Roller journals, but most especially the documents in this Primary Sources section – came from files released under the Freedom of Information Act. The largest collections – some 48,000 pages – came from the FBI.

Access to government records has not been easily obtained. Beginning in December 1978, the managers of this website have filed scores of FOIA requests and three lawsuits under the law, the most significant of which is McGehee and Moore v. Justice.  Filed in 2000, this lawsuit seeks all documents and photographs in the FBI’s possession.

There are two sets of records at issue in the litigation. The larger collection of documents – some 38,000 pages – is of records which were generated by Peoples Temple itself and recovered by the FBI in Jonestown in 1978. These records were released in their entirety in 2009.

The second, smaller collection – about 10,000 pages – is of the FBI’s investigation into the assassination of Leo Ryan and the deaths of November 18, 1978. Code-named RYMUR – for Ryan Murder – this collection is still the subject of ongoing litigation.

  1. RYMUR Investigation
  2. Peoples Temple records collected by the FBI during RYMUR

Inventories of Peoples Temple records, prepared by this website, may be found here for Sections A-1 through C-2; here for sections C-2 (continued) through FF-3; and here Sections FF-4 through SS-1. The section numbers refer to the Guyana Index, which the FBI prepared in 1979 as part of its investigation into the Temple.

This section will also include coverage of McGehee and Moore v. Justice in the jonestown report and other publications, as well as documents from the litigation itself.

  1. News coverage of McGehee and Moore v. Justice
  2. Court filings in McGehee and Moore v. Justice

Scores of other FOIA requests for Temple records have been made over the years, and some will be included below.

  1. Other FOIA requests
Last modified on March 21st, 2014.
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