(Editor’s note: This article was originally published by Covert Action Magazine on June 27, 2023, and is reprinted with permission.)
Evidence Suggests that the CIA Murdered One of Its Staunchest Critics in the mid-1970s and then Covered It Up by Blaming Jim Jones’s Peoples Temple Cult
[CAM has undertaken previous reporting on the infamous 1978 Jonestown massacre and explored CIA involvement—largely to cover up clandestine drug testing and other illicit operations that were being carried out in a commune that Peoples Temple leader Jim Jones had set up in Guyana. In this article Laurie Efrein Kahalas, a former Peoples Temple member, explores the death of Leo Ryan, a critic of the CIA who may have been lured to Jonestown to his death, which she argues was carried out by elements of the CIA and/or U.S. military, and not members of the People’s Temple—Editors, Covert Action Magazine].
Intel Turned On Its Head
I am Laurie Efrein Kahalas, survivor of the Peoples Temple. I never lived in Jonestown, but I held a key position in the States up through the time of the tragedy on November 18, 1978. I am also the author of the “In Plain Sight (IPS)” project, the documented deconstruction of the Port Kaituma airstrip massacre (where Leo Ryan was killed), which preceded the deaths at Jonestown. Hard to deconstruct what was accepted as “history” in just this single article, but the IPS project fills that out.
I realize that, from out of the deep dark jungle, headlines ablaze. From them all the public retains to this day is “drink the kool-aid.” For years following, it was even “a bizarre murder/suicide ritual.” Twin tragedies: Congressman Leo Ryan murdered—a foremost CIA critic and sponsor of the Ryan Hughes amendment requiring the president to report all covert operations to Congress sent to investigate the People’s Temple in Guyana—and then close to a thousand deaths at Jonestown. Not just that you can’t have one without the other, but that the same party must have been guilty of both.
That was never true; but there was never any investigation, just blaring headlines. I was in D.C. personally a year after, when congressional aides admitted that they had the on-site NBC film footage (NBC had accompanied the congressman). But when I demanded that they blow up the faces and bring in survivors to identify the so-called “Temple killers,” they adamantly refused. Even though that would have been Burden of Proof 101, especially in the face of massively contradictory so-called “eyewitness IDs”!
It took me 28 years to so much as be able to compare the on-site NBC film footage of a mature Black man as the tractor driver, when literally 13 so-called “eyewitnesses” had fingered a young blond white kid for same because that’s who they had seen on the airstrip earlier!
I will now tell you how this happened from the inside. I am not re-emerging to defend mass suicide, much less the preventable deaths of children. I wept for years. Even though the counter-wrenches to my heart included a smeared group trapped in a foreign jungle, in hostile political territory, and terrified of imminent military invasion—one of many factors which marked the Jonestown Tragedy as way more complex and multi-sided than the public was ever led to believe.
I am just here to clarify what happened as best I can and address who was behind Leo Ryan’s killing. So what was Peoples Temple in the first place? And who was Congressman Leo Ryan?
First, Peoples Temple had a remarkably pristine reputation when it was based in the Bay Area—as unfailingly progressive and community-minded. In the fall of 1976, it was honored by the Mayor of San Francisco, the Lieutenant Governor of California, the leader of the State Assembly, and many others. Why a foreign haven was sought to build an egalitarian community from out of substantially people who had been trapped in city ghettoes, was in no way nefarious; indeed, it was widely praised by visitors to the community, including Congressman Ryan.
The secret “down side” of that move (though utterly unbeknownst at the time!) was that the Guyana option had been located and facilitated by our then top attorney at the time, Timothy Stoen, who was a) considered implacably loyal, once even considered for “successorship”; yet b) it was later discovered (through a news article that he himself had saved) that he had run a secret spy mission into East Germany (where he claimed he had never been) and also his own handwritten fiercely anti-communist notes. (Jim Jones himself presented himself as implacably pro-communist.)
We also had no knowledge at the time that the CIA (as revealed in recent years in the State Department’s own records) had been fixing elections in Guyana since 1964 to keep that nation out of Fidel Castro’s orbit during the Cold War. By the time of the tragedy, there were imminent plans to send a scouting party to the then-USSR to look into re-relocation, as confirmed in a post-tragedy book authored by the Russians. (I had personally been told as well.) The trip had been set for December 1978, a mere month after the tragedy happened instead.
In other words, Jim Jones and his flock had been unknowingly planted into a hotbed of anti-communist plots; and to boot, in an isolated jungle setting. Set up by our own attorney, who then “defected” at a moment of his choice and spearheaded the rabid drive to “investigate Jonestown.” As perilous, he was legal father of Jim Jones’s own biological child, John; and drove escalating pressures to “release the child” whom he and the child’s mother had already legally signed away.
Meanwhile, in the state-side absence of Jim Jones and a bulk of the membership, bad press was successively raised to fever pitch, starting with an early Murdoch publication, New West, and escalating to an ongoing hysteria to “investigate.”
Then it got a step worse. Both Jim Jones and Congressman Leo Ryan were targeted by the CIA: Jim Jones as a popular but pro-communist icon in the U.S., now nurturing ties with the then-USSR; and Leo Ryan for the likes of the Hughes-Ryan Amendment to the 1974 Foreign Relations Act, requiring the CIA to report all their “black ops” to several congressional committees.
But there was yet another deadly catch: Neither Jones nor Ryan knew who the other was! Jim Jones thought that Ryan was “a fascist congressman calling the shots” due to a single bad vote on South Africa. Ryan thought that Jones was just a cult leader holding another man’s child hostage! Ryan was vulnerable in that one of his daughters, Shannon, was with Bagwan Rajneesh in Oregon at the time, and had already marked himself as anti-cult in Congress. So Ryan was not fed one word about politics—just that he was to be the crusader who could stop a deadly cult!
That the congressman might be headed into a political assassination was the last thing on his mind that November day. Much less that he and Jim Jones might be headed for an inextricably intertwined fate. A proverbial “kill two birds with one stone”: Use false flag to kill one and frame it on the other. Jim Jones himself, though consummately political (hard line on the left), did not see political assassination coming either that day. His primary concern was that his people (all of them, not just John) would not somehow wind up being dragged away under the guise of rescuing a little boy.
In a way, this was just a classic intelligence op. Use people’s personal vulnerabilities to mask the true goal: to kill Leo Ryan and frame it on Jim Jones. When really, it was at its root all about politics (The CIA wanted Ryan dead because of his anti-CIA bill, the Hughes Ryan amendment).
But how to entrap the anti-CIA congressman into targeting his anti-cult bent against Jonestown?
Congressman Ryan was from San Mateo County, just south of San Francisco, the location of Peoples Temple in the States. His personal tie, to be exploited, was that he had been befriended by Sammy Houston, an AP photographer who was father of one Bob Houston, a Temple member who was pretty much on the way out to join his then-fiancée, Joyce Shaw. Ryan early in his career had taught school, and Bob had been one of his students.
Bob worked on the railway system down the Coast. Then one night, his dead body was found at a railway yard. (Never investigated.) An hysterical fiancée was ready to assert that “Jim Jones [who was already in Guyana] must have done this!” Tim Stoen (the only one with anything to gain by Houston’s death!) swooped right in to secure Ryan’s support.
Ryan, now emerging as an anti-Jonestown icon, coincided nearly exactly with the courts suddenly nullifying both Stoen’s legal relinquishment of little John, and his finally emerging publicly full force as a Temple opponent. To boot, Sammy Houston’s small granddaughters were now living at Jonestown and Bob’s sister was included in the investigative trip which then turned deadly.
There was precious little missing from this drama about how people are set up. Again, not defending the ultimate drastic final act, but just, finally, laying the predicates down in terms that humans can understand. So that we do not have to jump right to “crazy cult”; but can at least grasp an isolated community set up in politically hostile territory and under extreme, escalating pressures, including being kept in the dark regarding what they may have needed to know the most.
But there was yet one more deadly deception preceding the catastrophic events at both the Port Kaituma airstrip and community of Jonestown that terrible day:
The cast of anti-Temple characters was partly open, partly hidden, partly sincere, partly duped. And since no one anywhere was saying a word about politics, the true plans for the Jonestown excursion were left not just unexposed, but undiscovered until the time of the tragedy and past.
Which brings us to the final critical link, now directly transitioning to the assassination of Congressman Leo Ryan:
Joseph Mazor. A name hardly broadcast to the world, but about whom Peoples Temple was acutely aware going back to a September 1977 Berkeley Barb article, “A Conspiracy Behind Peoples Temple Expose?” A conman with a long criminal record, now mysteriously granted a PI license by the State, hired by a pricey PR firm to smear Peoples Temple, and allegedly in play to “retrieve kidnapped children.” (Of whom there were none.)
I remember watching San Francisco TV stations in the wake of the tragedy. And there was Joseph Mazor, right there! And what I heard him say, literally word for word, was “It was considered that Jim Jones would become a major political force in the Caribbean within five years.” Which was, of course, an intelligence assessment.
And why was this mostly unknown person central to the assassination of Congressman Ryan? First, why was he even invited in, as he was in September 1978, just two months prior to the tragedy? Well, Mark Lane brokered that. (Anyone who thinks that Mark Lane was a good guy—no, he was never that. Indeed, he wound up representing Willis Carto and the notoriously anti-semitic Liberty Lobby!) Mazor had claimed to have led a sniper raid against Jonestown in September 1977. That they left when the community looked peaceful, but that the plan had been to “knock out the electrical generators, kidnap the children, and kill all the adults.” Lane told that to a small group in San Francisco mid-October 1978, including me.
But Mazor now claimed to be fabulously impressed by Jonestown! Ready to become a friend.
We already knew that Mazor was a bad guy, a dangerous guy, a skilled conman, with a long prison record for fraud, impersonation and the like. I even had Terri Buford, a top aide to Jim Jones, tell me that “we have Mazor’s Interpol number.” I myself wrote State authorities asking why they had given a PI license to someone with multiple imprisonments for fraud. He obviously had secret government ties somehow.
But Jim Jones (already gravely ill personally—a deadly fungus that no one else had appeared to contract) was under the gun with press attacks and Stoen’s incessant drives to invade Jonestown, so he was desperate for help. Mazor claimed he was implacably against Tim Stoen; and it was that that was “calling card material.” Stoen had “vowed to destroy Jonestown,” and that “we’re counting on Jim to overreact [to the congresssman’s visit].”
We needed intel on Stoen’s moves, and Mazor, feigning intense dislike of Stoen, apparently stood ready, willing and able to track his moves, or so he said. Sort of like “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
But what of the real reason for Mazor’s visit? Well, you can’t do a duplication for false flag without photographs of what you are going to duplicate! And Mazor, personally into Jonestown just two months prior to the congressman’s visit, came of course with a camera! He was working as a PI at the time: “Have camera, will travel.” As for Jonestown, they loved having their beautiful home-grown community photographed!
Some aspects of this were complex, twisty. This one wasn’t. It was one step.
And now, with that last essential piece fastened in, the scene was set to orchestrate the kill:
Congressman and cult leader had both been targeted politically, unbeknownst to either one. Jim Jones, red-hot paranoid and persistently distracted by threats against the community over the child custody suit, lets in a deadly dangerous opponent (Joseph Mazor) to (allegedly) praise the community, and to (allegedly) help in tracking/stopping arch-enemy Timothy Stoen, but he is really there to “case the joint.”
On November 17, 1978, Congressman Leo Ryan arrived at Jonestown. Where the stage had been set—by misdirection, disinformation, deception, smears, public threats, dirty tricks, all of it.
A Very False-Flag Frame
For a whole year following the tragedy, I was NOT looking for false-flag frame at all. We knew that the leaders of the anti-Temple defectors were all far-right wing: anti-communist Tim Stoen, of course; and Elmer and Denna Mertle and Al and Jeannie Mills, who had been members of the John Birch Society. Nor did any of those leaders have any relatives at Jonestown.
And yeah, we knew that they didn’t like us politically. We even exposed that one of the Mills acolytes, one David Conn, had tried to bribe/blackmail Native American movement leader Dennis Banks to turn against Jim Jones over the child custody suit or face harsh retribution in South Dakota. We just weren’t thinking false-flag frame. Not even in the ballpark. Maybe because (at the least) it was never on our radar that any of our opponents would want to kill the Congressman!
Thus most ironically, although at Jonestown, they did believe that they could be targeted for a political frame-up, they were entirely blind-sided by this.
I even believed (not having any default position to believe in yet) that our guys had killed Leo Ryan, because everyone said so and no one was going in another direction. But then came the first anniversary of the tragedy on November 18, 1979. I was glued to the television screen in New York on a lesser channel—I mean not ABC, NBC or CBS. It was either channel 9 (WOR) or channel 11 (WPIX). And to my astonishment, this one network (only one ever) showed the entire snuff film at the airstrip. Where they obtained it, what happened to it—that I never learned.
I was shocked, of course! But transfixed. What emerged was what looked to my untrained eye like the assassins first fanning out and then forward charge. With the lead assassin (my impression of him being exceptionally tall!) coming right up to the NBC photographer, Bob Brown, and sending his camera into snow.
But, beside me on both sides, were people who were far more specific. One was Chris Kice, visiting from California, whose husband Tom was one of the accused assassins. She peered at the screen and said, “I don’t see Tom. None of those men are Tom.”
On my other side was my dear friend, Al Morrison (now gone), who had been in the military in World War II. He looked carefully at the screen and his comment was, “I know what that is. It’s a squad diamond formation. You learn that in basic training.”
Jonestown, of course, never had “basic training” (or any military training) in the slightest! But he was clear and then I was clear, that this was in no way a half-cocked cult crazy operation in the slightest. It was professional military.
I was quite upset, just didn’t know where to go. But Al had a lawyer client in D.C. at the time who was acquainted with a Florida congressman who happened to be on the wrap-up committee for Jonestown. And, although I never got to meet that Congressman personally, he was able to arrange a meeting for me in D.C. with two aides, which took place on January 4, 1980.
Talk about non-cooperation! They admitted that they had the complete film in their possession, but when I suggested o.k., let’s blow up the film and bring in survivors from Jonestown (who obviously knew the people there) and let them give positive IDs… (which obviously would have been none), I got no further than a blank stare with that one “Why would we do that? All of the principals are dead.” (Really?)
Moreover, when I asked them point-blank “Who was the government eyewitness [that they deleted from the transcript—no surprise]?” they responded, “Jim Cobb.” But Jim Cobb said in your own report that he was 50 yards away running for his life in the other direction! (Actually worse. When I finally located the schematic of that airstrip, Cobb would have had to see through the body of a plane!)
It remained pointless. I got nowhere. I did locate quotes from a broadcast of David Brinkley, then lead anchor on NBC, the network that had lost the newsmen, from the first anniversary, when he said that the killing of the congressman was never investigated because “all of the principals are dead.” Moreover, he added, “Besides, nobody liked that particular congressman.”
Really? Well, aside from the abject callousness of the remark, they had certainly “liked” Congressman Ryan enough to pass his Hughes-Ryan Amendment to the Foreign Relations Act of 1974! Trying to force the CIA to report all “black ops” to several congressional committees.
But wasn’t this all just supposed to be about crazy cultists?
Then when I returned from D.C. to New York, I and everyone helping me was harassed to hell and gone. Rummaging through garbage, wake-up calls at 3 a.m., trailing in the streets, peering over my shoulder in the Post Office, spraying a psychedelic drug in the face of someone helping me, trying to assault another friend in his own apartment. They even harassed…my mother when she was entering her apartment to install colored wires all over the place to “re-wire the phone system.”
Pretty soon I got the idea: If I were wrong, no one would be doing this to me. This was a trademark of being right. But I also was thinking: “This may take twenty years to prove.” Well, I was a bit off on that. I could not even begin until 28 years later. But the time did come, upon release of at least the first six seconds of the assassins’ disembark. Then that part of the script began writing itself and the rest of the story folded in and made perfect (if disturbing!) sense.
I just made sure that I had included the “squad diamond” seen at the first anniversary in my book Snake Dance (at the 20th anniversary mark). Not because I expected the film to re-emerge, even abridged, but I just wanted to be sure that, should it ever, I had clearly marked in advance what I had seen so many years ago.
Now we can get right into the anatomy of the false-flag frame:
A tractor-trailer was the vehicle of choice for the assassins. First the tractor:
Okay. The tractor used for the hit was a different tractor than the real one from Jonestown. It was structurally modified. Namely, a HUGE difference: No driver’s inset!! Tc3 The Vehicle Used in the Attack: THE TRACTOR VISUAL PROOFS – Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple (sdsu.edu) Every Massey Ferguson tractor of the day (and nearly any tractor period) had a wide open space where the tractor driver stepped in, to then be quite visible, his body literally sticking up into the air as he drove the vehicle.
But this tractor, with the driver’s inset entirely sealed off, was modified to look more like a tank. Which was not new, incidentally. Turning tractors into tanks was a decades’ old technology. Turns out that, as far back as 1941, with Germans attacking Russians during the Siege of Odessa, a whole factory was converting to “tractor-tanks” for defense. Jonestown was hardly the first time such modifications had been done.
But why? First, the driver of the assassins’ vehicle (which I believe would have been the gunman way out front firing a diversionary shot into the air) could not be allowed to be sticking up into the air where any onlooker might say, “Who is that guy? He’s not from Jonestown!” Second, we have no idea what tech was concealed in that sealed off driver’s inset. This tractor was way speedier than any ordinary tractor! And that awful clanging sound accompanying the assassins’ disembark (to disorient the victims and paralyze any communications) had to have come from the tractor. The engines of the plane had just revved down.
Next, the trailer:
This posed different issues for duplication: It was done from photos taken two months prior to the event itself. It just did not guarantee what that vehicle would look like two months later on (only the NBC camera on site during the congressman’s visit could confirm that). This was a flexible vehicle. So the wooden slats on the real Jonestown trailer were green-on-top, pink-on-bottom as filmed on site on November 17, 1978, at the Port Kaituma airstrip. But the wooden slats on the trailer used by the assassins was pink-on-top green-on-bottom on November 18, 1978. Tr1 The Vehicle Used in the Attack: THE TRAILER VISUAL PROOFS – Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple (sdsu.edu) i.e., not the same vehicle.
The other notable difference was that the hitch connecting trailer to tractor was visually quite different from the real Jonestown trailer on November 17, 1978 (as filmed by NBC on site at the airstrip); and the assassins’ trailer November 18. Tr4 The Vehicle Used in the Attack: THE TRAILER VISUAL PROOFS – Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple (sdsu.edu) As you will note, on the 17th, there is a large rotating under-wheel, covered by what looks like corrugated rubber, then extending into a long metal bar underneath the trailer. But on the 18th, there is just a single metal hitch connecting trailer to tractor. There is ZERO possibility that these two vehicles were the same. Even though the duplicated trailer on the 18th may, indeed, have looked like Mazor’s original photos from two months earlier.
There were two different vehicles: different tractor, different trailer. First-hand from NBC film footage.
As for the Temple truck (the three finally accused “assassins” were on the Temple truck, never any tractor-trailer!), I doubt that it even crossed Mazor’s mind that that truck would wind up on the airfield at all. When he arrived with Mark Lane, it was just a two-person visit and the tractor-trailer transport was quite sufficient. So that’s what was photographed and duplicated.
But not only Jim Jones, but no one at Jonestown had a clue that they were being set up for a false-flag frame. The webs of deception, camouflage and misdirection had well set the stage. And as for the so-called “defector” group from the Temple: They hadn’t a clue either! They were as misled and used as anyone else.
Next, no one from Jonestown returning from the airstrip following the assassination actually saw the attack. (Heard it? Undoubtedly. Just did not see it.) Those three guys (the official “accused”) were spotted on the airstrip on foot walking toward the congressman’s plane just prior to the attack, by Washington Post reporter Charles Krause and that “They did not look threatening.”
My own best surmisal (well, it’s just logic) is that those three guys rushed over after the extremely violent yet also quick attack, with the attack vehicle speeding up-runway, saw the dead bodies, and presumed (utterly tragically!) that it had been done by guys from Jonestown. (A la deep dark jungle—“Who else could it have been?”) Hence the reported explosion upon their return to Jonestown of “We got the Congressman!” But…who “got” the Congressman? (I confirmed that no one confessed.)
Then at Jonestown, they were expecting an imminent military invasion in retaliation for what they had not even done! But did it even matter? Their “guilt” was already being broadcast all over the world.
Plus, for anyone who thinks, “They should have known this; they should have known that…”: Jonestown was so remote that there was not even a phone! Just a ham radio lined up for a limited time each evening.
And, of course, anyone who wants to peruse the mass of conflicting so-called “eyewitness reports” in the 400-page FBI report is welcome to do so, though I would call that pointless. Besides, I did that all myself for the “In Plain Sight” project.
Let’s make something clear: Remember first, that in determining what is true and what is speculation and/or disinformation, the name of the game is (in so far as possible) sourcing. Not second-hand stories or third-hand smears. Even for presumed first-hand accounts: Accounts of what? Where were you standing, Mr. or Mrs. “Eyewitness”? Did you have to see through the body of a plane? Did you stand there for even a second to just look? Were you running in the opposite direction? Did you just arbitrarily name guys you had seen on the airstrip earlier? Were you on the second plane that was already taxi-ing for lift-off?
Me, I was lucky. I had retained the schematic of that airstrip, drawn up less than 24 hours after the event by Tim Reiterman (premier reporter on site). And the lines of vision and/or lack thereof, are clear. I analyzed how a couple of dozen so-called “eyewitnesses” somehow came up with not just multiple conflicting “suspects” (well, that they did) although NONE of them was actually guilty of this crime.
And that’s the essence of research versus rumor mills. So I’ll not sop up space discounting rumors and lies which NEVER had any sourcing: Brazil, Angola, ex-military guys claiming they were right into Jonestown but with zero paperwork, alleged right-wing ties for Jim Jones anywhere, and the like. That was all—all of it—just garbage for a runaway rumor mill. Not worth anyone’s time. However, there is a wealth of documented sources and that’s the only place I go. I was not in Jonestown personally, but I was in a catbird’s seat insofar as document retention was concerned; plus much work done in tragedy’s wake.
So far as the assassins’ identities are concerned, there was not even the slightest attempt to make them look like anyone from Jonestown. Like the lead assassin was freakishly tall and dressed in solid green military camouflage. IN PLAIN SIGHT: Proof that it was NOT Peoples Temple Who Killed the Congressman – Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple (sdsu.edu) (See “Were ANY of These Assassins from Jonestown?” Also note: In the entire 400-page FBI report, no one was spotted dressed that way!) And these guys were highly trained into rapid, perfect step-by-step formation, when there was no military training at Jonestown at all. These guys were rapid, professional, brutally violent and quick!
Next: The clumsy classical after-action attempt to plant the murder weapon on the accused (touted a month later on in The New York Times) just resulted in a young woman both poisoned and then (allegedly) self-shot! Moreover, by a long-barreled rifle from the wrong side of her head (the left—she was right-handed). All confirmed at autopsy. To allegedly “prove” that a rifle with a dum-dum bullet (Jonestown did not know squat from dum-dum bullets) used to shoot the congressman came from… Jonestown?? How much cover-up gets to be “enough”?
The issue of so-called “eyewitness identifications” (even though many people were on/airfield or down/airfield or departing from the airfield) gets torn apart even from the Reiterman Schematic of the airstrip—the exact layout of equipment, victims and assassins drawn up within 24 hours of the event, showing multiple blockages of lines of vision. And the Feds literally wound up with the so-called “government eyewitness” admitting he was running for his life 50 yards in the opposite direction and would have had to see through the body of a plane!
It was even a false assumption (well, reported in the media but entirely uninvestigated) that there was NO government military on that airstrip when the hit happened, or that there was no post-tragedy direction right on site. There were both:
There were three soldiers down-runway with M-16s for no reason that made any sense, and who refused to intervene when Bob Flick, NBC producer on site, hysterically appealed to them to intervene.
There was also Richard Dwyer, attached to the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown. On-site filming revealed him sashaying himself out of the line of fire (the only one to do so) less than a minute prior to the attack; and Jackie Speier (on post-tragedy television coverage, where I had heard it) noting that, when the shots rang out, Dwyer fell face up rather than protectively face down. She speculated that it might have been so that he could be recognized by the assassins, hence spared. Dwyer himself claimed to have been “slightly grazed in the buttocks” (sort of impossible had he fallen face up!) and, of course, no one was asking him to lower his drawers to check.
Moreover, even Tim Reiterman on his schematic marked that the assassination was radioed in from the plane. So why did it take 20 hours (as per the Embassy’s own log) to get medical help in, which nearly cost Jackie Speier, Ryan’s aide, her arm from gangrene?
Still on tap: I’m working on securing exact, visually clear (for an old degraded film) visual tracking of the assassins, even for that short six-second stretch that was finally released to the public. (“In Plain Sight,” section 6, 2, Part 2.) A so-called “squad diamond formation”: first identified for me by an ex-military friend at the first anniversary, then I claimed it in my book Snake Dance—not because I thought it would re-emerge, but because if I did, I wanted the credibility of having known all the way back what it was before the on-site filming was re-released. In other words, I saw what I said I saw at the first anniversary of the tragedy in the first place.
Even when I did finally land the first six seconds of the assassins’ disembarkation, I ran it repeatedly, again and again and again, to be sure of what I was looking at. Then meticulously freeze-framed the assassins’ successive steps. I never would have gone public with it shy of being sure.
But anyone seriously looking at this should also look at the squad diamond dissembling in the “In Plain Sight” project. It’s not that complicated. Two triangles back-to-back. Front triangle spreads out three assassins. Back triangle protects the perimeters.
I want to close with an overriding question: If this were just a crazy cult, then why did all the copious disinformation on the heels of the tragedy have to do with…politics? It sort of makes “I think thou dost protest too much” look like child’s play! That alone should get people thinking outside the box.
Me, it took me a whole year to start thinking outside that box. Until then, I thought that our guys must have done it because everyone seemed to say so and I wasn’t there. And I was angry at “whoever did it” because it endangered everyone. If there was no assassination, then no suicides. Then it took 28 years after the tragedy, to finally land the damning on-site NBC film footage, then to complete the “In Plain Sight” project. Though that so cut against “accepted” media coverage, that it has been daunting to gain a voice.
And yes, it’s fair to say that the date of the tragedy, November 18, 1978, changed my life forever. But that same date a year later, November 18, 1979, changed it all over again. And then, I guess I would have to say that late 2006 again whiplashed my life into finally completing what I had so long ago set out to do. Though now, 44 years later, I might finally be entering into a more receptive public arena.
Life can be pretty strange that way….Though I thank whatever Powers That Be to have come this far. It’s hardly the whole of my own life by far—I was blessed with an immensely happy marriage, and wise souls who eased my way ahead. But this has always been worth the effort. God bless my doomed friends.
(Laurie Efrein Kahalas, a long-time Temple member and author of Snake Dance, created the website www.jonestown.com which now appears on this site here. Her collection of articles for this site appears here. She can be reached through email@example.com.)