Serial 1807

United States Department of Justice
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Memorandum

Date: 1/29/79

To: Mr. Herndon
From: [name deleted]

Subject: RYMUR
LEAD ARTICLE IN WASHINGTON POST
JANUARY 29, 1979

PURPOSE: To provide information regarding the Washington Post article, January 29, 1979, captioned “FBI Has Copy of Cult’s Radio Order to Kill,” by Charles A. Krause, Washington Post Foreign Service.

DETAILS: The lead article in the January 29, 1979, Washington Post, dateline Georgetown, Guyana, January 28, by Charles A. Krause, reports that the FBI has transcripts of coded radio messages between Jonestown and the Peoples Temple headquarters in Georgetown during the hours immediately preceding the mass suicide-murder. The transcripts were reportedly turned over to the FBI by an unknown American who “copied down the messages.” The article also states that the FBI has been able to decode the messages by use of a Peoples Temple code book in possession of the FBI (a copy of the article is attached).

The Laboratory Division is unaware of any transcripts of coded messages in possession of the FBI meeting the description of those discussed in the article. The Laboratory’s Technical Evaluation Unit (TEU), which includes the Cryptanalysis Subunit, is in possession of photocopies of four “code books” which were recovered from Jonestown. Our staff is currently analyzing these code books, along with other materials involved in the investigation, and will be preparing a Laboratory Report regarding the results of the examination. TEU also has two sets of tape recordings (a total of 68 tapes) of intercepted messages which have been made available to the Bureau by amateur radio operators (Hams). These recordings were apparently made prior to the visit of Congressman Ryan to Guyana and have not, to date, disclosed information of the type discussed in the article. The recordings in our possession cover a period from about February 13 to November 13, 1978, five days before the murder of Ryan. As of this time, no transcripts have been made

[Page 2]

Memorandum to Mr. Herndon
RYMUR
LEAD ARTICLE IN WASHINGTON POST
JANUARY 29, 1979

from these recordings and recordings reviewed to date have failed to disclose any information regarding the killing of Congressman Ryan or Peoples Temple members.

The four “code books” in our possession contain a fairly sophisticated system for secret communication. It would have been extremely difficult to decrypt coded portions of Peoples Temple messages without access to the codes. The code system is a type of “double-meaning” code wherein innocuous-sounding words and phrases are transmitted in lieu of the intended message. Without access to the key, i.e., the code book, or without being able to correlate code words with observed events it would be virtually impossible to break this type of code through analysis. The code books employ an extensive “vocabulary” including code words for many prominent people, organizations, agencies, places, things, events, et cetera.

The Criminal Investigative Division has advised that they have been informed by Legat, Robert Oglesby, who was in Guyana, that Guyanese Officials state they have no knowledge regarding the source of the article.

You will be kept advised of any pertinent information revealed by our continuing analysis of code material in this investigation.

RECOMMENDATION: For information.

[Balance of the serial consists of Charles Krause article in Washington Post]

Originally posted on August 3rd, 2020.

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