Wikileaks Fragility Affects Jonestown FOIA Releases

Wikileaks, a website that released millions of government documents from the late 2000’s up to 2021 – including hundreds of State Department documents related to the Peoples Temple years in Guyana –  has periodically gone offline, beginning in late 2022. While the State Department itself had declassified most of the Jonestown documents  in 2014, it had not made them available – or at least readily accessible – to the general public.

There is no question of the authenticity of all of the Wikileaks releases. The texts of documents that the Jonestown Institute already had obtained in full from State under the Freedom of Information Act were identical to those provided by Wikileaks. The value in the Wikileaks documents was both clerical (the ability to downloads the texts saved weeks of typing them out) and substantive (they provided the complete text for those records – all of which were forty years old or older – that had not yet been processed by individual requesters such as the Jonestown Institute).

The periodic inability to access Wikileaks seems to be tied to the federal government’s efforts to extradite and prosecute Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on espionage and hacking charges for the release of documents that exposed war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Coverage of the Biden administration’s efforts to prosecute Assange may be found on the Democracy Now website. An article on how the impacts of that decision seems to be affecting Wikileaks was published in November 2022 on Gizmodo.

The ultimate fate of Wikileaks’ online releases is now unknown, although there is speculation that they may return without additional interruption following resolution of Assange’s legal difficulties. In the meantime, many of the individual cables may be recovered through the Internet Archive at by putting the cable’s Wikileaks URL into the Wayback Machine’s search box.