May 3, 1979 • 2301 • State-Rome • 112438

[Editor’s note: This text was released at https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/1979STATE112438_e.html.]

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STATE 112438
ORIGIN CA-01
INFO OCT-01 ADS-00 /002 R
DRAFTED BY CA:HHORAN:REM
APPROVED BY CA:HHORAN
——————045412 040012Z /64

O 032301Z MAY 79
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO AMEMBASSY ROME IMMEDIATE
UNCLAS STATE 112438
FOR ASST. SECRETARY BARBARA WATSON FROM HUME HORAN

E.O. 12065: NA
TAGS: CGEN
SUBJECT: WASHINGTON STAR ARTICLE ON CRIMMINS/CARPENTER REPORT

1. FOLLOWING IS TEST OF FRONT PAGE ARTICLE IN MAY 3 WASHINGTON STAR:

“STATE DEPARTMENT ROLE IN JONESTOWN CRITICIZED BY JEREMIAH O’LEARY.

“THE STATE DEPARTMENT AND AMERICAN EMBASSY IN GUYANA WERE ‘INEFFECTUAL’ AND ‘HAPHAZARD’ IN HANDLING INFORMATION ABOUT CONDITIONS AT JONESTOWN, SCENE OF LAST YEAR’S MASS MURDER-SUICIDE, ACCORDING TO A STATE DEPARTMENT STUDY.

“BUT THE REPORT, COMPILED BY TWO RETIRED FOREIGN SERVICE OFFICERS, CONCLUDED THAT IT WOULD BE ‘PURE SPECULATION’ TO SAY THE DEATHS OF REP. LEO J. RYAN, D-CALIF., AND FOUR COMPANIONS — AS WELL AS THOSE OF 900 FOLLOWERS OF THE

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REV. JIM JONES — COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED.

“JOHN HUGH CRIMMINS AND STANLEY S. CARPENTER SAID IT WOULD BE SPECULATION TO SAY WHAT MIGHT HAVE HAPPENED IF THE DEPARTMENT AND EMBASSY HAD HAD GREATER FREEDOM OF ACTION OR HAD PERFORMED PERFECTLY — OR WHETHER THE TRAGEDY COULD HAVE BEEN PREVENTED IF GUYANA HAD BEEN ASKED TO IMPOSE MORE CONTROL OVER JONESTOWN.

“UNLESS THE CURRENT FBI INVESTIGATION AND POSSIBLE TRIALS FROM GRAND JURY PROCEEDINGS UNDER WAY PROVIDE MORE INFORMATION, THE REPORT SAID, THERE MAY NEVER BE ANSWERS THAT ARE TRULY SATISFACTORY.

“THE STUDY FOUND THAT THE CHOICE OF ACTIONS AVAILABLE TO U. S. OFFICIALS WAS SEVERELY LIMITED BY THEIR LACK OF POLICE OR INVESTIGATIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE PEOPLES TEMPLE COLONISTS AND THEIR ADVERSARIES — CONCERNED RELATIVES OF SOME OF JONES’ FOLLOWERS.

“THE INVESTIGATORS ALSO FOUND MANY INSTITUTIONAL WEAKNESSES AND HUMAN ERRORS IN THE RECORDS OF THE DEPARTMENT AND THE EMBASSY.

“THE REPORT SAID THAT RELATIVES CHARGING THAT COLONISTS WERE BEING SUBJECTED TO MISTREATMENT AND CULT FOLLOWERS DENYING SUCH CLAIMS WERE AMERICAN CITIZENS AND WERE ENTITLED TO IMPARTIAL TREATMENT BY U.S. OFFICIALS. BUT THE OFFICIALS WERE INHIBITED IN ASSESSING THE SITUATION BY THE PRIVACY ACT, THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT, THE REPORT SAID.

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“ALTHOUGH THERE HAD BEEN AMPLE WARNINGS THAT THERE MIGHT BE A MASS SUICIDE, THE REPORT SAID, THERE WAS AN IMPERFECT GRASP OF JONES’ EMOTIONAL IMBALANCE AND THE SIEGE MENTALITY OF HIS FOLLOWERS.

“AN AFFIDAVIT BY A JONESTOWN DEFECTOR REPORTING MASS SUICIDE REHEARSALS WAS MET WITH DISBELIEF AT THE STATE DEPARTMENT, THE REPORT SAID, CALLING THAT REACTION A ‘GRAVE ERROR.’

“ON THE BASIS OF OFFICIAL VISITS TO JONESTOWN, THE REPORT SAID, ‘THE DEPARTMENT AND EMBASSY DID NOT CONSIDER THE PEOPLES TEMPLE TO BE GIVEN OF VIOLENCE TOWARD OUTSIDERS. THE FEW OFFICERS WHO PAID ATTENTION TO MASS SUICIDE THREATS GAVE THEM NO CREDENCE.’

“JONES ORDERED HIS FOLLOWERS TO COMMIT SUICIDE NOV. 18 AFTER RYAN AND FOUR PERSONS — THREE MEMBERS OF THE PRESS ENTOURAGE ACCOMPANYING HIS INVESTIGATIVE GROUP AND A WOMAN WHO APPARENTLY WAS A RESIDENT OF THE PEOPLES TEMPLE WERE SHOT TO DEATH AT THE PORT KAITUMA AIRSTRIP BY SOME OF JONES’ MEN. MOST OF THE MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN AT JONESTOWN TOOK OR WERE INJECTED WITH CYANIDE POISON, WHILE JONES DIED OF A GUNSHOT WOUND.

“THE REPORT NOTED THAT JURISDICTION OVER THE AMERICANS AT JONESTOWN WAS IN THE HANDS OF GUYANESE OFFICIALS WHO INSISTED THAT THEY COULD NOT ACT WITHOUT HARD EVIDENCE OF WRONGDOING.

“UNTIL MAY 1978, THE PERFORMANCE OF THE EMBASSY AND THE DEPARTMENT WAS GENERALLY GOOD, BUT AFTER THAT THE QUALITY DECLINED, THE REPORT SAID.

“THERE WERE ERRORS AND LAPSES, INCLUDING FAILURES IN THE

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HAPHAZARD INFORMATION-HANDLING SYSTEM, THAT HINDERED AN ACCURATE APPRECIATION, PARTICULARLY IN THE DEPARTMENT, OF WHAT IN RETROSPECT WAS A CHANGING SITUATION,’ IT SAID.

“THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT FAILURE CITED WAS THE ABORTED EFFORT BY THE EMBASSY TO OBTAIN AUTHORIZATION FROM THE STATE DEPARTMENT FOR AN APPROACH TO THE GUYANESE GOVERNMENT TO ASSUME MORE NORMAL ADMINISTRATIVE CONTROL OVER THE COMMUNITY.

“AMBASSADOR JOHN BURKE SENT A TELEGRAM TO THE DEPARTMENT JUNE 6, 1978, REQUESTING AUTHORITY TO APPROACH GUYANA WITH A REQUEST TO EXTEND GREATER OVERSIGHT TO THE VIRTUALLY AUTONOMOUS COLONY.

“BUT THE STATE DEPARTMENT, APPARENTLY FAILING TO UNDERSTAND THAT BURKE ALMOST DESPERATELY WANTED AN AFFIRMATIVE RESPONSE, REPLIED THAT SUCH AN APPROACH MIGHT BE CONSTRUED AS INTERFERENCE IN GUYANESE AFFAIRS, THE REPORT SAID.

“‘ALTHOUGH THE JUNE EXCHANGE OF TELEGRAMS WAS MISHANDLED AT BOTH ENDS,’ THE REPORT SAID, ‘THE DECISION OF THE AMBASSADOR NOT TO PURSUE THE ISSUE WAS ULTIMATELY CRITICAL.’

“BURKE WANTED PERMISSION TO SUGGEST THAT GUYANA ESTABLISH A SYSTEM OF REGULAR, UNANNOUNCED VISITS BY GUYANESE POLICE, HEALTH AND EDUCATION OFFICERS. BUT HE ACCEPTED WASHINGTON’S ANSWER WITH PHILOSOPHICAL RESIGNATION AND DID NOT PRESS THE MATTER, THE REPORT SAID.

“THE INVESTIGATORS FOUND THAT THE REPLY TO THE TELEGRAM

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WAS DRAFTED AT A LOW LEVEL OF THE SPECIAL CONSULAR SERVICES UNIT AND WAS NOT CLEARED WITH THE BUREAU OF INTER-AMERICAN AFFAIRS.

“THEY FOUND THAT OFFICIALS HERE HAD NOT THE SLIGHTEST NOTION OF WHAT LAY BEHIND BURKE’S REQUEST.

“BURKE CAME TO WASHINGTON IN JULY FOR CONSULTATION BUT DID NOT DISCUSS THE EXCHANGE OF TELEGRAMS. IN SEPTEMBER, WHEN BURKE KNEW RYAN WAS PLANNING TO VISIT GUYANA, HE ASKED THE DIRECTOR OF THE CARIBBEAN DESK TO REVIEW THE JUNE EXCHANGE CAREFULLY, BUT THAT OFFICIAL DID NOT LOOK AT THE TELEGRAMS. BURKE WAS NEVER AUTHORIZED TO ASK GUYANA TO IMPOSE STRICTER SUPERVISION ON THE COLONY.”

2. AMBASSADOR CRIMMINS WILL BE PROVIDING BACKGROUND FOR PRESS BRIEFING AT 10;00 A.M. ON FRIDAY, MAY 4.

3. PLEASE PASS TO ASSISTANT SECRETARY BARBARA WATSON AT BEGINNING OF DAY, FRIDAY, MAY 4.

VANCE

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Originally posted on October 23rd, 2020.

Last modified on December 26th, 2020.
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