“The FBI and Jim Jones”

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[Editor’s note: Notations or requested corrections and changes are listed in an additional note here. The proposed changes from that document are noted in red type below.]

[Peoples Temple Agricultural Mission letterhead]

August 9, 1978

TO:

RE:  THE FBI AND JIM JONES

The following discussion of the intense interest of the Federal Bureau of investigation in the activities of one of the most progressive civil rights leaders in the United States (and a dedicated socialist) is by no means intended to be an indictment of the United States government or of the President, but rather another instance of the already well-known and highly-publicized excesses of the US intelligence community, which has practically set itself up as a national and international policing agency to crush progressive, civil rights, and socialist leaders and organizations, even going so far as the finance and otherwise equip personnel to destabilize and overthrow leftist governments, as in Chile.

Jim Jones is only one of many who have worked for peace, social justice, and civil rights in the United States who have been monitored, harassed, and even persecuted by agencies within the intelligence community. Perhaps the most notable figure who was doubtlessly destroyed by this most vicious aspect of the US intelligence establishment is Dr. Martin Luther King. The efforts against him have been exhaustively documented, as I am sure you are aware, and the revelations of the FBI’s: COINTELPRO operation, which also attempted to decimate the Socialist Workers Party in the USA. The US Attorney–General has recently refused, and this later situation, to turn over the files which are vital to litigation against the FBI and, in so acting, [1] has risked received a citation for contempt of court. [2: Whether it will be enforced or not, only time will tell.] We want to make it clear that the right wing excesses of the US intelligence community do not necessarily reflect upon

 

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the government in general. For example, Rev. Jones met with Mrs. Rosalynn Carter at a dinner engagement some months before coming to Guyana, and [1- she seemed was favorably inclined] to Rev. Jones’ suggestion that the US send medical supplies to Cuba, and wrote to him (letter enclosed) in a supportive vein. Our concern is about right-wing trends in the United States which can be detected within government agencies, and which have been [2- widely discussed and remarked upon substantiated even in the major] news media (i.e., Newsweek magazine). Not surprisingly, the FBI director himself, William Webster, recently admitted that he was a member of four racist organizations. Congress did not require him to drop his affiliations for confirmation of his post.

We wish to document here a few examples of evidence that the FBI has maintained an interest in Jim Jones for nearly thirty years, while at the same time officially denying that they have had any interest in him at all. When Jim Jones made application to see the contents of his FBI files in accordance with his privileges under the Freedom of Information Act, the FBI actually claimed that they kept no file on him. This astounding claim must be weighed against the evidence which follows.

During the 1950s, a current member of Peoples Temple, Mr. Charles Touchette [3- (now farm managermaintenance administrator at the) Agricultural Project) was hostile towards Jim Jones because his entire family had decided to join Peoples Temple, a militantly civil rights and fully integrated organization. At the time Mr. Touchette was anti-socialist and racist. He called the FBI to investigate us, speculating that Jim Jones was “in with the communists” (a catchphrase in those days, now being revived in the neo-McCarthyite atmosphere in the United States). Mr. Touchette’s report prompted investigators to interrogate members of Peoples Temple. One of these was an elderly woman who had been given a home by Jim Jones when she was unable to support herself, without even a Social Security check. She was queried extensively: ‘Did Jim Jones

 

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buy you clothes?’ ‘Did he buy you the hose you are wearing?’ ‘Is Jim Jones a member of the NAACP?’ ‘Is Jim Jones a communist?’ (We note that Mr. Touchette has for many years been a devoted member of Peoples Temple, and has renounced his former views, and is today a staunch integrationist. His total acceptance into People’s Temple even after he tried to get the FBI to destroy Jim Jones is a reflection on the kind of character that Jim Jones has. The woman in question who was interrogated, Mrs. Muller [Esther Mueller], was in her 60s at the time and is now approaching 80, residing here in Guyana.)

Later, after Jim Jones moved from the Midwest (where the above incidents took place) [1- to Ukiah, CaliforniaNorthern California in the mid-1960s,] the Chief of Police of that town informed Jim Jones that the FBI had compiled a long list of his activities, in conjunction with local police anti-subversive units (called ‘red squads’ in those days). [2- The Ukiah Police chief,] though holding right-wing views, admired Jim Jones and his church members for their good citizenship, and his efforts to rehabilitate young people and care for the elderly, [3- as well as his emphasis on his and his members’ excellent  law-abiding behavior.] The chief, in addition, did not feel that the FBI should have any control over local police departments. This, we speculate, is what prompted him to disclose the above information to Jim Jones, which is at total variance with the denial of the FBI that any files have been kept on him. It is also probably the case that, although this police chief had become friendly to People’s Temple, he would [4- not be so disposed today, not be disposed to document it today] in view of the resurgence of racist and right-wing attitudes in US society.

Another important clue that we have come upon revealing FBI monitoring and activity to discredit and destroy Jim Jones, concerns a report from a Midwestern journalist, Mrs. Caroline Pickering, to the effect that the FBI and San Francisco police conspired to instigate a series of smear-type stories about Jim Jones in 1972, using a racist journalist [5- who has since been exposed as working who has since been expelled from the Washington Press Corps for accepting bribes for US corporate interests] in South Africa. [6- [added sentence] Lester Kinsolving, the reporter in question, has slandered any number of black leaders, organizations, and even Third-World nations.] The action against Jim Jones was prompted by the church

 

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donating a large sum to the defense of Angela Davis and other civil rights and black activists who were in no way socialists or Marxists-Leninists. (Note: Mrs. Pickering is currently married to a right-wing judge, and would probably not repeat this information to anyone representing us: the comment was made when she was talking with a person whom she thought shared her views. We have not been able, unfortunately, to locate the names of the FBI agent and police officials in our files, though a complaint was filed at the time.)

Another indication that the FBI has had an interest in Jim Jones happened in the mid-1960s when he applied for a visa to visit the Soviet Union as part of a projected trip to several European countries. Several weeks [1- after making the visa application (and subsequently canceling the trip),] Jim Jones was contacted by the FBI and searchingly interrogated as to why he wanted to visit the Soviet Union. (Jim Jones replied that he thought he had the right to travel as an American citizen). Even though this was long after the McCarthy Era, and many people were visiting the Soviet Union, the FBI insisted on questioning him. [2- (Note: Jim Jones was unable to carry out his travel plans because of arrangements concerning moving with his family to California). Eliminate the note]

On yet another occasion, famous Washington columnist Drew Pearson, who had revealed much corruption in US foreign affairs, was planning to visit Jim Jones because of support and encouragement that he and members of Peoples Temple had consistently given to Pearson when he stuck his neck out to reveal various unsavory practices in the US government both at home and abroad. Pearson, who was to pass away soon after, had lost a major network radio broadcast and even was close to losing his nationally-syndicated column. Pearson was also at one time brutally attacked in a restaurant by none other than Senator Joe McCarthy. Pearson never got to visit Jim Jones, but he wanted him to know that “the FBI was after him” (Jones).

In the early 1950s, during the McCarthy period, Jim Jones went to see Paul Robeson, in Chicago. The FBI learned of this (and could have only learned of it through a telephone wire-tap)

 

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and subsequently interrogated Rev. Jones’ mother for seven hours. Mrs. Jones knew that her son was a good person, but [1- she was not at all aware she was not at all understanding of his] socialist ideology and [2- she thought that her son was ‘crazy’ risking his life to be involved] with it – a typical attitude of many people, even with progressive ideas, in that period of intense anti-communist propaganda and the climate of fear and intimidation that went along with it. Mrs. Jones absolutely refused to tell her interrogators anything. [3- She was questioned in front of her fellow employees at her place of employment] where she was a shop steward is in her union, and lost her position as a result. Later, [4- due to Jim’s constant example] Mrs. Jones became a devoted socialist and died here in Guyana, where she enjoyed the happiest months of her life.

The very recent series of concerted efforts that have been directed against the work of Jim Jones was perhaps touched off by an incident in late 1976, when a high-ranking military intelligence surveillance team was discovered spying on a People’s Temple meeting in San Francisco, where the black mayor of Mayersville, Mississippi, Mrs. Unita Wright, [5- was speaking about places she had visited. Our personnel checked the license plate of the car was speaking positively about socialist countries she had visited. Some of our parishioners follow them after they noticed they have been discovered and took down the license plate of the car] that the men had arrived in, and traced it [6- through the District Attorney and a U-Rental Car agency] (after much probing and difficulty) to an Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi. Further investigation confirmed that they were receiving their instructions from a racist, reactionary US Senator, John Stennis. The Air Force denied that these individuals were in our area at all. Congressmen who we asked to help in exploring this matter further could get nowhere. And a prominent editor, [7- Mr. Steve Gavin] in one of the major establishment newspapers in San Francisco told us [8- that “Jim, this time you have gone too far.”] Nobody would touch the story, except for the president of the black press, [9- a close friend] of Jim Jones [10- who should will be visiting here soon.] It was only two days after this story was released to the press that (we later learned) a group of people who were conspiring to discredit Jim Jones began to coordinate their activities with the aid of a prominent public relations outfit. We would discover later that one of their tactics would be to use people who had left our organization to ‘bait’ the media with ridiculous stories about People’s Temple. The people involved had both ultra-right backgrounds along with some

 

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who were part of an anarchist/Trotskyite group that advocated irresponsible activities and courses of violence in total contradiction with our beliefs. We now have good reason to believe that their insane, ‘revolutionary’ schemes were advanced as a provocative ruse, [1- as US courts proved has been done with other] groups advocating social change.

There are other incidents. But the above highlights, we feel, amply illustrate that there has been a continuing effort on the part of the FBI to undermine, thwart, discredit, and ultimately destroy Jim Jones and Peoples Temple, and effort that is not at all inconsistent with the shameful activities that have been catalogued with respect to many groups and principled leaders who have been attempting to work for constructive social change in the United States. We also note that the CIA has similarly denied that any files are maintained on Jim Jones – a curious statement in view of the fact that it has released material [2- it has kept on several members of Peoples Temple it has kept on several ordinary parishioners who were never directly involved with national movements for social change.]

At this point, we would like to bring up some related considerations that will help put the foregoing into a wider perspective.

As we have noted, the intense campaign to impugn the reputation of Jim Jones, smear his character, and sow discord about his work, is nothing new to the progressive community in the United States. Many leaders and organizations working for social change have been similarly victimized.

Community and civil rights activists who know of the work of Jim Jones and Peoples Temple intimately, have remained staunch supporters. These are people of all races and varying political persuasions. We cite just a few of the more notable examples:

– Mr. Robert Gnaizda, Director of Public Advocates, Inc., an important legal collective that has exposed much corruption in government, is a strong supporter. Mr. Gnaizda, incidentally, was a key aid to California Governor Edmund Brown, Jr.

 

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– California’s Lieutenant Governor and former Congressman Mervyn Dymally  has been a close friend. Mr. Dymally, a native West Indian, has visited the Agricultural Project, and has published a book through Peoples Temple documenting a national conspiracy [1- to harass and ruin hundreds of all black elected officials,] himself included;

[–2- Progressive Democratic California State Assemblyman Willie Brown, who has never been more supportive;]

– Dr. Carlton Goodlett, MD and PhD, President of the in NNPA (which is the major black press Association in the US), who has publicly and repeatedly denounced the efforts against Jim Jones;

– Mr. Thomas Fleming, editor of the largest Afro-American newspaper in the San Francisco Bay Area;

– Jane Fonda, internationally-acclaimed actress;

– Angela Davis, rights activist; (Note: Ms. Davis has been very supportive of our position here and she is very much aware of our support of the government)

– John Maher, nationally-known for his rehabilitation work with ex-convicts, and who currently has his own ABC-TV program. Maher has offered his assistance to Peoples Temple in locating a doctor to help get a local Guyanese child here in the North West Region a corneal transplant operation that will save his vision. Incidentally, Mr. Maher, in order to ‘survive’ in a climate prejudicial to the collective lifestyle of his prison-rehabilitation foundation, has had to moderate his views in public, something that Jim Jones refused to do, and which helps explain the kinds of attacks to which he has been subjected [3- In fact, Maher just spoke with Jim Jones via amateur radio the other evening, assuring him of his and numerous other Californians’ love and support];

– Other local supporters, which include long-term civil rights activists Enola Maxwell and Yvonne Golden (Ms. Golden is President of the San Francisco Black Teachers Caucus); author Albert Kahn (whose works are among the most translated of any American writer); organizations such as the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), the World Peace Council, the NAACP; the head of the San Francisco Council of Churches; members of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, and many progressive clergymen.

All of these people, [and many, many more,] I have been outraged by the despicable use of false witnesses to air monstrous lies about Peoples Temple. The entire catalog of media-sponsored stratagems and bogus investigations are already well-known and have shocked many people. Those who have followed the campaign against our movement have concurrent with our profound dissatisfaction that the US Embassy here was unable to prevent a

 

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young woman from walking out of Guyana with several thousands of dollars she stole [1- from elderly people here in our community, including her own mother] and who subsequently proceeded to cover her crime by shamelessly lying to the press about the nature of our community. There was nothing we could do about it. Our refutations were only marginally covered [2- in a prejudiced media, in spite of producing polygraph tests to prove the validity of our charges – a typical pattern.] We cannot afford, in addition, to become encumbered any further with libel actions which would require that we send witnesses back to the United States to testify.

We recommend, to put all of the foregoing into perspective, that you see [3- the a recent issue of Ebony] magazine were extensive, magazine quasi-genocidal efforts are exposed that seek to destroy all black elected officials. A similar exposé aslo appreared [also appeared] in Sepia magazine a few months ago in an article by Mary Warner, excerpted from a volume printed through Peoples Temple. The extensive list of targeted individuals includes Rep. Charles Diggs (founder of the Congressional Black Caucus), Senator Edward Brooke (the only black US Senator since the Reconstruction Era), in moderate civil rights leader Jesse Jackson of Operation PUSH [4- (who at one time, it has been stated by the press and the FBI, collaborated with the FBI, along with Roy Wilkins, to help destroy suggested, even gave information to the FBI, along with Roy Wilkins, about Dr. Martin Luther King).]

All of this is nightmarish, and is producing a neo-McCarthyite climate of fear in the United States that is stifling dissent and decimating any vestiges of forthright black leadership in the wake of successful right-wing efforts to cut back important programs for minority and poor people, and other key civil rights gains in many areas of US society.

We are also alarmed and disturbed – as is a large segment of the American public – at the actions of President Carter in backing down from what had promised to be a progressive administration. [5- We don’t find it hard to believe that Mr. Carter] is a hypocrite. We can only speculate there have been some enormous pressure is brought to bear upon him, and that these are perhaps related to the selective assassinations of the 1960s of several progressive leaders (the

 

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conspiratorial nature of which is now being investigated and exposed, revealing high-level complicity).

The effect of this is quickly clarifying who rules America – and who in effect dictates the policies of government: a super-rich military/industrial complex, run by a corporate oligarchy. This kind of pressure has extended into all areas of government, especially the U.S. Congress, which has recommended courses of action (such as breaking relations with Cuba) that have even shocked State Department officials. Another disturbing sign was the frustration experienced by former Watergate Chief Prosecutor Leon Jaworski, who was assigned to investigate U.S. Congress payoff-taking from KCIA go-betweens. Jaworski concluded that the investigation he was to carry out was really only designed to make it appear that the government was policing corruption in its ranks, because when he seriously began to get at the roots of the situation, he was rebuffed, and [1- was himself investigated, and had to curtail his efforts harassed and investigated, and had to resign in good conscience.] Similar things happened during the Church Committee investigations of the US intelligence community.

We could cite much more evidence that points to the resurgence of a right-wing, fascist -like mentality so frightening that hundreds of people – many of whom we do not even know – who have heard of our work here our expressing a desire to join us. [2- Many of these are people of all races who express] a sense of alienation and lack of personal fulfillment, bred by an advanced technological state that looks up in human beings, increasingly, as mere commodities, and which is losing touch with the needs of millions of people.

A final note in this vein that is particularly chilling: we know [3- a young man who is an officer in the U.S. Air Force] whose mother is residing here in our community. He tells her that people in the military have a joke about the neutron bomb. They call it the ‘nigger bomb,’ referring to is projected, special tactical use on black ghettos

 

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to wipe out the population while saving the property, adding that it will be sent to South Africa for the same purpose.

Our purpose in providing you with this information has not been, again, to cast aspersions on the United States, but to illustrate the kind of activity which has worked to undermine progressive movements. The reactionary and right-wing currents within US society can work to undermine, additionally, our quest for international cooperation and peace. These issues have troubled millions of people of conscience in the United States, including many people in all areas of government.

[1- [insert paragraph] Obviously by now you have been made aware of our consistent practice of cooperative living and elimination of racism, elitism, sexism, and ‘age-ism’ in an atmosphere of total peace, where families never even employ corporal punishment in rearing their children. We have no violence or coercion of any kind, and total freedom of movement and the best of food, housing, recreation and excellent medical care. One of the prominent Guyana government officials recently said that we were the only US group that really has licked the racial problem totally and we indeed have done so.]

Should you have any questions or reflections on the foregoing material, please do not hesitate to contact us.

 

Originally posted on March 22nd, 2022.

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