Serial 2365

United States Department of Justice
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Memorandum

Date: 11/14/79

To: Mr. Stames
From: C.S. Banner

Subject: ARTICLE CAPTIONED “AFTER GUYANA: THE FORGOTTEN CHILDREN,” WHICH APPEARED IN THE WASHINGTON POST NEWSPAPER OF NOVEMBER 11, 1979

Purpose: To comment on captioned article and to advise that a midnight candlelight service is to be held outside of the J. Edgar Hoover (JEH) Building next weekend, 11/17-18/79.

Synopsis: Article relates that, a year after the Jonestown mass suicide-murder, many of the children involved have not been identified. Efforts by Kenneth Wooden, an author, to have the children identified are set forth and he is quoted as saying, “The FBI told me they didn’t have the time or money to identify all the victims, and it wasn’t a priority.” Article also indicates that Wooden is planning a midnight candlelight service outside the JEH Building next weekend (11/17-18/79) and that “(c}elebrities such as Ed Asner, Otto Preminger and Julian Bond have lent their names to the memorial service.”

Wooden had contacted the Identification Division on 3/30/79 to inquire on the progress of identifying the children. He was told that very few had been identified by fingerprints because of the lack of available fingerprint records, and that the best sources for identifying them would be dental records and footprints from hospitals where they were born. He asked why the FBI was not out contacting dentists and hospitals to obtain such records. He was advised that the FBI has a policy of confirming its efforts to identifying victims through available fingerprint records, leaving it to the agency which requests the FBI’s assistance (in this case the State Department) to obtain dental and other records. It was explained that this policy was adopted because the FBI is not funded to search for such records. It was also pointed out that budget cuts in recent years had forced the FBI to direct its manpower resources to its highest priorities.

Recommendation: None, for information.

[Page 2]

Memorandum from C.S. Banner to Mr. Stames
RE: ARTICLE CAPTIONED “AFTER GUYANA: THE FORGOTTEN CHILDREN,” WHICH APPEARED IN THE WASHINGTON POST NEWSPAPER OF NOVEMBER 11, 1979

Details: The enclosed article captioned “After Guyana: The Forgotten Children,” appeared on page 5 of “The Washington Post Magazine” section of the Sunday, 11/11/79, issue of The Washington Post newspaper. The article states that, “Nearly a year after the horror of the Jonestown, Guyana, mass suicide-murder, 210 of the 276 children who died there are still unidentified.” Mr. Kenneth Wooden, who is described as an author, is quoted as saying, “The FBI told me they didn’t have the time or money to identify all of the victims, and it wasn’t a priority.”

The article further relates that, after months of “Washington lobbying” to speed up the identification of the young victims, Wooden is planning a midnight candlelight service outside the JEH Building next weekend (11/17-18/79), which is the first anniversary of the incident, and that “(c}elebrities such as Ed Asner, Otto Preminger and Julian Bond have lent their names to the memorial service.” Mr. Wooden is further quoted as saying that it is crucial that the children be identified “because there are some people in California who share some heavy responsibility for not monitoring those kids” and because the families should be able to get the children a “decent, human burial.” The article states that, “Most were buried by bulldozer in a mass grave in Guyana.”

After the Jonestown mass suicide-murder took place on 11/18/78, the bodies of all of the victims were flown to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, where the FBI’s Disaster Squad and the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) processed them for identification purposes. Of the 913 bunnies involved, 654 were identified – 594 by fingerprints or footprints and 60 by other means. Disaster Squad records reflect that there appeared to be 170 children under the age of 16 among the victims. Of that total, 58 were infants from whom only footprints were obtained, 105 were juveniles from whom fingerprints or footprints were obtained, and seven bodies are so decomposed that neither fingerprints nor footprints were obtainable from them. Thirteen of the children were identified by the Disaster Squad – one infant by footprints and 12 juveniles by fingerprints. Additional children were identified by the AFIP using other identification procedures.

On 3/30/79 Mr. Wooden telephoned me and identified himself as being with “NBC News.” He asked me about the progress in identifying the children.

[Page 3]

Memorandum from C.S. Banner to Mr. Stames
RE: ARTICLE CAPTIONED “AFTER GUYANA: THE FORGOTTEN CHILDREN,” WHICH APPEARED IN THE WASHINGTON POST NEWSPAPER OF NOVEMBER 11, 1979

I responded that very few of the children had been identified by fingerprints to date because of the lack of available fingerprint records relating to them, pointing out that the usual sources of fingerprints are criminal, employment, and licensing records. I explained to Mr. Wooden that, consequently, the best sources for identifying children would be from dental records and hospital records or the children were footprinted at birth.

Mr. Wooden stated that insufficient efforts were being made to identify the children and he asked why the FBI was not contacting dentists and hospitals to obtain the needed records. I replied that it is FBI policy (established by SAC Letter 69-76 dated 12/23/69) to confine its efforts in disaster situations to conducting fingerprint comparisons using available fingerprint records and that it is left up to the authorities requesting the FBI’s assistance to obtain dental and other records. I explained that the requesting agency in this case was the State Department and that they have advised me that they were asking surviving relatives to acquire the needed dental and footprint records. I added that the FBI would perform comparisons on any footprints furnished to it. Mr. Wooden asked what the basis was for the FBI’s policy. I replied that the basis is budgetary in that the FBI is not funded to expend manpower to search for dental and footprint records, and that considerable manpower effort would be involved if the FBI undertook this responsibility in this instance. I pointed out that, because of budgetary cutbacks in recent years, the FBI had been forced to direct its manpower resources toward its highest investigative priorities.

Mr. Wooden advised that, if the Government would not mount the effort which was needed, he was prepared to do so. He said that another employee of NBC had already obtained a set of footprints. He suggested that he bring them to the Identification Division and personally assist in making the comparisons since he had acquired knowledge of fingerprint matters while previously affiliated with New Jersey law enforcement authorities. I advised him that the FBI would be pleased to conduct comparisons on any fingerprints or footprints submitted by him or others, but that the FBI would not need his assistance in conducting the comparisons.

Subsequently, on 4/6/79, I received a copy of a set of footprints from Ms. Catherine Porter of NBC. It was quickly determined that the submitted footprints did not contain sufficient ridge detail to make an identification and telephonically advised her of that fact the same day. No further footprints have been received from either Mr. Wooden or persons acting on his behalf.

[Page 4 – photocopy of manila envelope]

[Page 5 – photocopy of newspaper article, “After Guyana: The Forgotten Children”]

Originally posted on November 10th, 2020.

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