96th Congress, 1st Session
House Document No. 96-223
THE ASSASSINATION OF REPRESENTATIVE LEO J. RYAN AND THE JONESTOWN, GUYANA TRAGEDY
REPORT OF A
STAFF INVESTIGATIVE GROUP
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
CLEMENT J. ZABLOCKI, Wisconsin, Chairman
L. H. FOUNTAIN, North Carolina
DANTE B. FASCELL, Florida
CHARLES C. DIGGS, Jr., Michigan
BENJAMIN S. ROSENTHAL, New York
LEE B. HAMILTON, Indiana
LESTER L. WOLFF, New York
JONATHAN B. BINGHAM, New York
GUS YATRON, Pennsylvania
CARDISS COLLINS, Illinois
STEPHEN J. SOLARZ, New York
DON BONKER, Washington
GERRY E. STUDDS, Massachusetts
ANDY IRELAND, Florida
DONALD J. PEASE, Ohio
DAN MICA, Florida
MICHAEL D. BARNES, Maryland
WILLIAM B. GRAY III, Pennsylvania
TONY P. HALL, Ohio
HOWARD WOLPE, Michigan
DAVID R. BOWEN, Mississippi
FLOYD J. FITHIAN, Indiana
WILLIAM S. BROOMFIELD, Michigan
EDWARD J. DERWINSKI, Illinois
PAUL FINDLAY, Illinois
JOHN B. BUCHANAN, Jr., Alabama
LARRY WINN, Jr., Kansas
BENJAMIN A. GILMAN, New York
TENNYSON GUYER, Ohio
ROBERT J. LAGOMARSINO, California
WILLIAM F. GOODLING, Pennsylvania
JOEL PRITCHARD, Washington
MILLICENT FENWICK, New Jersey
DAN QUAYLE, Indiana
JOHN J. BRADY, JR., Chief of Staff
ROBERT T. HUBER, Staff Consultant
ROXANNE PERUGINO, Staff Assistant
SHARON M. WILLCOX, Staff Assistant
Staff Investigative Group
GEORGE R. BERDES, Staff Consultant
IVO J. SPALATIN, Subcommittee Staff Director
THOMAS R. SMEETON, Minority Staff Consultant/Special Projects
House Of Representatives,
Committee On Foreign Affairs,
Washington, D.C., May 15, 1979.
This investigative factfinding report has been submitted to the Committee on Foreign Affairs by the Staff Investigative Group. Per my directives and pursuant to the committee’s investigative authority, the Staff Group conducted a comprehensive inquiry into the international relations aspects of the activities of the People’s Temple, the tragic events that led to the murder of Representative Leo J. Ryan and other members of his party, and the mass suicide/murder of the followers of People’s Temple that occurred in Jonestown, Guyana on November 18, 1978.
The findings and recommendations in this report are those of the Staff Investigative Group and do not necessarily reflect the views of the membership of the Committee on Foreign Affairs.
CLEMENT J. ZABLOCKI, Chairman.
H. Res. 349
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, U.S.,
November 7, 1979
Resolved, That there shall be printed as a House document the volume entitled “The Assassination of Representative Leo J. Ryan and the Jonestown, Guyana Tragedy”, a report submitted by the Staff Investigative Group to the Committee on Foreign Affairs. In addition to the usual number, there shall be printed for the use of the Committee on Foreign Affairs such number of copies of the report as does not exceed a cost of $1,200.
EDMUND L. HENSHAW, Jr.,
Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives.
LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL
House Of Representatives,
Committee On Foreign Affairs,
Washington, D.C., May 15, 1979.
Hon. CLEMENT J . ZABLOCKI,
Chairman, Committee On Foreign Affairs,
House of Representatives, Washington, D.C.
DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: Based on your directives, we are enclosing the results of the inquiry you ordered into the assassination of Representative Leo J. Ryan and related events. We believe we have accomplished your objective in conducting an initial but comprehensive factfinding investigation into this matter.
This report summarizes the highlights of the investigation and presents our findings and recommendations. All documents and material generated in the course of the investigation are available in the committee’s files for more complete examination and review by the members of this committee and others with appropriate security clearances.
In isolated cases, documentation provided to the Staff Investigative Group and contained in the appendixes to this report are of poor legibility as a result of several reproductions. Nonetheless, the documentation is important to various aspects of the investigation and is therefore included.
This has been one of the most challenging and difficult assignments any of us has ever undertaken in our work as congressional staff employees. Your consistent and enthusiastic support greatly facilitated the success of this effort. Equally generous encouragement and help has been provided by Representatives Dante B. Fascell, William Broomfield, Edward J. Derwinski, and John H. Buchanan, Jr., as well as the Committee on House Administration. All assistance we felt necessary to request of the Congress in the fulfillment of this undertaking has been provided.
This report is submitted to you and the committee with the hope it will provide a sound and adequate basis on which the committee’s collective judgment can now be made on whether any future action is warranted or necessary.
GEORGE R. BERDES,
Ivo J. SPALATIN.
Staff Director, Subcommittee on
International Security and Scientific Affairs,
THOMAS R. SMEETON,
Minority Staff Consultant.
A. Ryan Trip Background
The chain of events which led to Representative Leo J. Ryan’s death in Guyana on November 18,1978 began 1 year earlier almost exactly to the date. The spark that ignited. his interest was a San Francisco Examiner article of November 13, 1977, involving an old friend and constituent, Mr. Sam Houston of San Bruno, Calif. Headlined “Scared Too Long,” the story recounted the death of Sam Houston’s son, Bob, beneath the wheels of a train on October 5, 1976, 1 day after he had announced his decision to leave the People’s Temple. The article explained that Mr. Houston was “speaking out” because he was outraged by the way the Temple had treated his son, about whose “accidental” death he had lingering doubts. He was also speaking out because his two granddaughters, who were sent to New York on a “vacation,” ended up at the People’s Temple agricultural mission in Jonestown, Guyana – never to return. Sam Houston was also described as speaking out because he didn’t have much time left. Doctors would be removing his cancer-choked voice box within a few days. Finally, Sam Houston said he was speaking out because he was “tired of being scared.”
Representative Ryan read that story and soon thereafter took the initiative to contact the Houstons and visited their home. Reinforced by the fact that a relative had been involved in an unusual church group, Mr. Ryan decided at that time that the matter needed to be looked into.
Over the next 6 to 8 months several other developments took place which increased his interest in the activities of the People’s Temple. One was another San Francisco newspaper story recounting the defection from People’s Temple of Debbie Blakey, including excerpts from her sworn affidavit of June 15, 1978, noting mass suicide rehearsals at Jonestown. Further impetus came in letters he received from concerned relatives of People’s Temple members, some of whom were constituents, asking his assistance and alleging, among other things, social security irregularities, human rights violations, and that their loved ones were being held in Jonestown against their will. He subsequently met with a group of these concerned relatives in August 1978. As his interest in People’s Temple became more widely known, he also began receiving extensive mail and petitions favorable to People’s Temple. Throughout this period he directed his staff to begin compiling information on the People’s Temple. He also hired a young California attorney to interview former People’s Temple members and concerned relatives. His specific instruction was to look for possible violations of Federal and California State laws.
The cumulative effect of this effort undertaken by Representative Ryan led him to request a meeting on September 15, 1978, with Viron P.
Vilky, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Inter-American Affairs, U.S. Department of State, and other State Department officials. What he had earlier considered merely the “possibility” of going to Guyana appears to have become firm in his mind at that meeting. On October 4, 1978, he requested House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Clement J. Zablocki’s permission to go to Guyana. He explained his interest in part stemmed from his membership on this committee’s Subcommittee on International Operations, as a result of which he had become increasingly aware “of the problems related to protecting the lives and property of U.S. citizens abroad.” A key paragraph in his letter stated:
It has come to my attention that a community of some 1,400 Americans are presently living in Guyana under somewhat bizarre conditions. There is conflicting information regarding whether or not the U.S. citizens are being held there against their will. If you agree, I would like to travel to Guyana during the week of November 12-18 to review the situation first-hand.
In response to Chairman Zablocki’s request, and in compliance with committee travel guidelines, Mr. Ryan subsequently attempted to interest other committee members in accompanying him. (See Appendix I-A-l.) Although Hon. Edward J. Derwinski was originally scheduled to do so, he subsequently had to cancel those plans because of unavoidable conflicts in his schedule.
Prior to his departure for Guyana on November 14, Mr. Ryan and members of his staff and this committee’s staff received briefings and met with State Department officials on October 2, 25, and November 9 and 13. Chief among the topics discussed in those briefings was the Privacy Act because both the Embassy and the State Department were highly sensitized by legal actions taken under this statute by the People’s Temple and because some 1,000 Americans living in Jonestown were protected by the provisions of this act. Logistical problems in getting to Jonestown and other related matters were also reviewed.
During approximately this same period the media became aware of Mr. Ryan’s trip as did members of the Concerned Relatives of People’s Temple members in San Francisco. By the time he departed for Guyana on November 14, the group of newspaper and television media representatives accompanying him grew to 9 and the Concerned Relatives delegation numbered 18. In this connection, it is important to note that neither the media nor Concerned Relatives were a part of Mr. Ryan’s official Codel. [Codel is an abbreviation for an official Congressional Delegation traveling overseas.] Rather, the official party was made up of Mr. Ryan, Mr. James Schollaert, staff consultant for the House Foreign Affairs Committee; and Miss Jackie Speier, of Mr. Ryan’s personal staff and whose expenses were not paid for by the U.S. Government.
On November 1, Mr. Ryan sent a telegraph to Jim Jones outlining his plans and expressing his desire to visit Jonestown. On that same date, Mr. Ryan wrote to Hon. John Burke, U.S. Ambassador to Guyana, informing the Ambassador of his proposed date of arrival in Georgetown (November 14), and relaying to Ambassador Burke the text of his telegram to Jones. On November 5 the U.S. Embassy advised Mr. Ryan that the People’s Temple wanted Mr. Ryan to work with People’s Temple legal counsel. Mark Lane, on the appropriate arrangements for the Ryan Codel to visit Jonestown.
The Embassy also relayed to Mr. Ryan that the People’s Temple had informed an Embassy official that Mr. Ryan could visit Jonestown provided: (1) that the Codel was “balanced”; (2) that there would be no media coverage associated with the visit; and (3) that Mr. Lane be present during the visit. Attempts by Mr. Schollaert to negotiate these matters with Mr. Lane on Representative Ryan’s behalf were unproductive.
On November 6, Mr. Lane wrote a letter to Mr. Ryan outlining logistical difficulties if the Ryan Codel decided to visit Jonestown and informing Ryan that Lane would be unable to be in Jonestown at the time Ryan wished to visit the settlement. Lane also made inferences in the letter to a “witchhunt” against the People’s Temple by the U.S. Government. On November 10, Mr. Ryan responded to Lane’s letter, expressing regret at Lane’s remarks about the Codel’s motives and informing him that despite Lane’s scheduling conflicts, the Codel planned to leave for Guyana on November 14. Further negotiations between Representative Ryan and Messrs. Lane and Charles Garry, also legal counsel to the People’s Temple, resumed in Georgetown after the Codel’s arrival. (See Appendix I-A-2.)
B. SUMMARY OF EVENTS OF NOVEMBER 14-19, 1978
The Ryan Codel, together with its unofficial contingent of media and Concerned Relatives, arrived in Georgetown, Guyana at approximately midnight November 14. The official Codel group proceeded into Georgetown where Mr. Ryan was a house guest of U.S. Ambassador John Burke and Miss Speier and Mr. Schollaert registered at the Pegasus Hotel. Despite confirmed reservations, the Concerned Relatives group was unable to obtain rooms at the same hotel and spent the night in the lobby. With one exception, the media group cleared customs and took rooms at the Pegasus Hotel. The exception, Mr. Ron Javers of the San Francisco Chronicle, was detained overnight at the airport because he lacked an entry visa and for what was later described as on orders from “higher ups.”
Over the next 2½ days the following incidents took place:
– With the assistance of Embassy personnel, Mr. Javers was eventually allowed to enter, other members of the media group were summoned to the Ministry of Immigration, and attempts were made to shorten their visas from 5 to 1 day;
– Representative Ryan, Miss Speier, and Mr. Schollaert received briefings from members of the U.S. Embassy team;
– Mr. Ryan paid a courtesy call on Guyanese Foreign Minister Rashleigh Jackson to discuss United States-Guyanese bilateral relations;
– Mr. Ryan arranged a meeting between Ambassador Burke and the Concerned Relatives group at which they voiced their concerns and allegations regarding their relatives in Jonestown;
– Mr. Ryan made an unannounced visit to the People’s Temple Headquarters in Georgetown at 41 Lamaha Gardens; Mr. Charles Krause of the Washington Post accompanied Mr. Ryan but did not enter the headquarters;
– Some of the Concerned Relatives groups also attempted to talk with People’s Temple representatives at the Lamaha Gardens People’s Temple facility but were generally unsuccessful;
– Because negotiations between Representative Ryan and Messrs. Lane and Garry were still unresolved, the plane originally chartered to go to Jonestown on Thursday, November 16, was rescheduled for Friday, November 17;
– By late Friday morning Mr. Ryan advised Messrs. Lane and Garry that he was leaving for Jonestown at 2:30 p.m. regardless of Jones’ willingness to allow the Ryan party to visit Jonestown. He also assured Lane and Garry of two seats on the plane if they decided to accompany him;
– Mr. Ryan, Miss Speier, Deputy Chief of Mission Richard Dwyer, Messrs. Lane and Garry, all nine media representatives, four individuals representing the Concerned Relatives group, and Mr. Neville Annibourne, a Guyanese Information Officer, left for Jonestown at approximately 2:30 p.m, Friday, November 17, Guyana time (12:30 p.m., e.s.t., Washington, D.C.).
On the group’s arrival at the Port Kaituma airstrip the chronology of events which ensued was as follows:
– They were met initially by a Corporal Rudder, described as a Guyanese Regional Official assigned to the Northwest territory. He advised them that he had orders “from Jonestown” not to allow anyone off the plane except Messrs. Lane and Garry. Representatives of the Jonestown People’s Temple facility also at the airstrip met privately with Lane and Garry and it was eventually decided that only they together with Mr. Ryan, Miss Speier, Mr. Dwyer, and Mr. Annibourne could proceed into Jonestown;
– Mr. Ryan eventually obtained Mr. Jones’ approval for the media group and Concerned Relatives to enter Jonestown and the People’s Temple truck was sent back to Port Kaituma to transport them. They arrived in Jonestown after dark. Only Mr. Gordon Lindsay, a former free-lance reporter for the National Enquirer, and on this trip, working as a consultant to NBC, was denied entry. A previous unpublished story by Mr. Lindsay critical of People’s Temple had incurred Jim Jones’ wrath and accounted for the refusal to allow him into Jonestown. Mr. Lindsay thereupon immediately returned with the plane to Georgetown;
– Dinner was served to the entire delegation and they viewed a musical presentation by People’s Temple members. Throughout this period the reporters were casually interviewing Mr. Jones; Mr. Ryan and Miss Speier were contacting and talking to People’s Temple members whose names had been provided them by relatives in the United States. Although the evening was generally informal and casual, the emotional atmosphere was described as at a “fever pitch.” At one point, Mr. Ryan addressed the assembled People’s Temple audience of approximately 900 and received an extended, standing ovation in response to his comment that “for some of you, for a lot of you that I talked to, Jonestown is the best thing that ever happened to you in your lives”;
– Sometime during the evening, a People’s Temple member passed a note to NBC Reporter Don Harris indicating the individual’s desire to leave Jonestown. Harris hid the note and later showed it to Mr. Ryan. That same evening another People’s Temple member made a similar verbal request of DCM Dwyer to leave “immediately,” which he passed on to Mr. Ryan;
– At approximately 11 p.m. the media group, and Concerned Relatives were returned to Port Kaituma for makeshift accommodations after Jim Jones refused to allow them to spend the night in Jonestown. Only Ryan, Speier, Dwyer, Annibourne, Garry, and Lane stayed in Jonestown the night of Friday, November 17;
– Following their arrival in Port Kaituma, three members of the media were approached by local Guyanese, including one reported to be a local police official. The Guyanese related stories of alleged beatings at Jonestown, complained that local Guyanese officials were denied entry to and had no authority in Jonestown, and described a “torture hole” in the compound.
On Saturday, November 18, the following chronological order of events took place:
– Following breakfast, Ryan, Speier, and Dwyer continued their round of interviews with People’s Temple members in the process of which they were approached by a People’s Temple member who indicated to them secretly that she and her family wished to leave Jonestown;
– The media group and Concerned Relatives returned to Jonestown from Port Kaituma aboard the People’s Temple truck at approximately 11 a.m., several hours later than the schedule promised by Mr. Jones on Friday night. The media began to seek access to various Jonestown facilities. They also continued their interviews of Jim Jones, and People’s Temple individuals;
– At about 3 or 3:30 p.m. a total of some 15 People’s Temple members who had indicated their desire to leave boarded the truck for return to the Port Kaituma airstrip. (See Appendix I-B-l.) Only Mr. Ryan and People’s Temple lawyers Lane and Garry planned to remain in Jonestown 1 more night. It was at this point that an unsuccessful knife attack was made on Mr. Ryan’s life. The attacker, identified as Don Sly, was fended off by Mr. Lane and others but cut himself in the process and Mr. Ryan’s clothes were spattered with blood. After receiving Mr. Jones’ assurance that the incident would be reported to local police, Mr. Ryan assured Jones that the attack would not substantially influence his overall impression of People’s Temple. Despite the attack, Mr. Ryan reportedly planned to remain in Jonestown and eventually left only after virtually being ordered to do so by DCM Dwyer. In turn, Mr. Dwyer planned to return to Jonestown later in an effort to resolve a dispute between a family who was split on the question of leaving Jonestown;
– Because of the unanticipated large number of defectors, an unexpected request was made to the Embassy in Georgetown at about noon Saturday for a second plane. A considerable effort was required by Embassy personnel to obtain the aircraft on such short notice;
– The entire group, including the defectors, arrived at the Port Kaituma airstrip between 4:30 and 4:45 p.m. The planes, which were scheduled to be there on the group’s arrival, did not arrive until approximated 5:10 p.m. A six-passenger Cessna was loaded and had taxied to the far end of the airstrip when one of the passengers in that plane, Larry Layton, a self-declared “defector,” opened fire on its passengers. At approximately the same time, a
People’s Temple tractor and trailer which had arrived at the airstrip shortly before, was positioned near the twin-engine Otter aircraft onto which some had already boarded. The trailer occupants waved off local Guyanese who had gathered about and opened fire on the Ryan party. Mr. Ryan, three members of the media, and one of the defectors were killed; Miss Speier and nine others were wounded – five seriously. (See Appendix I-B-2.) According to information received by the Staff Investigative Group, the shooting started at 5:20 p.m. (3:20 p.m. Washington time) and lasted about 4 to 5 minutes. (See Appendix I-B-3.) The larger aircraft was disabled but the smaller Cessna took off in the ensuing confusion. The attackers left the airstrip and the survivors sought various cover and protection through the night under the direction of DCM Dwyer;
– The evidence the Staff Investigative Group has indicates that very shortly after the Ryan group left Jonestown, Jones was in a highly agitated state. In an apparent attempt to calm the situation his wife, Marceline, urged everyone to go to their cabins to rest. But shortly thereafter everyone was ordered back to the Pavilion. On the basis of the evidence we estimate that the mass suicide/murder ritual began at about 5 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, Guyana time. It ultimately claimed 909 lives, including that of Jim Jones. Word of the Jonestown deaths reached Port Kaituma about 2 a.m. Sunday morning with the arrival of two survivors, Stanley Clayton and Odell Rhodes. At approximately 7:40 p.m., Saturday, Sherwin Harris, a member of the Concerned Relatives Group, was informed by Guyanese police officials that his ex-wife Sharon Amos and three of her children were found dead at the People’s Temple headquarters in Georgetown;
– Shortly after takeoff the Cessna aircraft radioed the Georgetown tower with news of the attack and Guyanese officials were informed. At about 6 p.m. Saturday, Prime Minister Forbes Burnham telephoned Ambassador Burke to request that he come immediately to his residence where he received word of the shooting. Ambassador Burke returned to the Embassy at 7:55 p.m., dictated a cable to the State Department which was sent at 8:30 p.m. (6:30 p.m., e.s.t. Washington time). The text of that cable was subsequently read over the phone to a State Department official in Washington at approximately 8:40 p.m.;
– The first contingent of Guyanese Army rescue forces arrived in Port Kaituma shortly after dawn (approximately 6 a.m.) on Sunday, November 19. The complete contingent of about 120 soldiers were on the scene 1 hour later. The first Guyanese rescue aircraft landed at Port Kaituma without medical supplies or personnel at about 10 a.m. All of the wounded and most of the survivors were airlifted by Guyanese from Port Kaituma before the end of the day. On arrival in Georgetown. the wounded were transferred to waiting U.S. Air Force medical evacuation aircraft.
– Earlier reports of the mass suicide/murders at Jonestown were confirmed late Sunday morning when Guyanese Army contingents arrived there.
C. CHAIRMAN ZABLOCKI’S MANDATE FOR AN INVESTIGATION
On Tuesday, November 21,1978, Chairman Zablocki wrote the Department of State posing 13 specific questions regarding Mr. Ryan’s death and the resulting tragedy at Jonestown. Further, the chairman’s letter noted that “In determining what steps might be taken in the wake of this matter, the committee intends to look into all of the circumstances which might have a bearing on this tragic incident. It is therefore essential that the Department of State cooperate fully with the committee in the conduct of this inquiry.” Additional letters from the chairman specifying further detailed requests were sent to the State Department during the course of the investigation and eventually answered. (See Appendix I-G-l.)
As a complement to Chairman Zablocki’s November 21 letter to the State Department he ordered a Staff Investigative Group “to conduct a comprehensive inquiry into the international relations aspect of the activities of the People’s Temple and the tragic events that led to the murder of Congressman Leo Ryan and other members of his party and the mass suicide/murder of the followers of the People’s Temple that occurred in Jonestown on November 18,1978.” (See Appendix I-G-2.)
II. THE INVESTIGATION
Under the parameters set out in Chairman Zablocki’s mandate for a comprehensive inquiry, the Staff Investigative Group began meeting with appropriate State Department officials on December 5, 1978, to layout the specific dimensions of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s interests and objectives. As a result of those meetings and in response to the chairman’s request of November 21, the State Department subsequently provided the committee with 902 pertinent cables, correspondence, and related materials. The documents spanned the period of June 7, 1974, through November 29,1978, and dealt with various contacts which the Department had with People’s Temple since its establishment in Guyana. Organized chronologically by log number, the 902 documents were read, analyzed, and summarized. Throughout the course of the investigation they provided a repeated base of reference and resource for information. (See Appendix IIA-I for document summaries, in classified version only.)
On December 11, 1978, Chairman Zablocki wrote to 10 Federal departments and agencies requesting that the committee be supplied with “any and all information and documents” in their files relating to the People’s Temple and the murder of Representative Ryan. The requests were directed to the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Communications Commission, the Department of the Treasury, and the U.S. Customs Service, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and the Social Security Administration, and the National Security Agency. The responses provided by those departments and agencies ultimately generated countless phone calls, correspondence exchanges, and meetings between their representatives and the Staff Investigative Group. (See Appendix II-A-2.)
In cooperation with the American Law Division of the Library of Congress, Chairman Zablocki also wrote on December 21, 1978, and March 8, 1979, to 10 American constitutional experts, law scholars. and practicing attorneys. (See Appendix II-A-3.) Carefully selected for the varied and balanced perspectives they might hold on the issues involved, the legal community was invited to address two key questions articulated in the following pertinent paragraphs from Mr. Zablocki’s letter:
Because of pertinent jurisdictional and other important considerations, the Committee will be only tangentially concerned with the beliefs and dogmas of the People’s Temple. However, given the primacy of the First Amendment religion guarantees in our jurisprudence, we do feel the necessity of acquainting ourselves with the Constitutional principles limiting and shaping Congressional power to inquire into the workings of an organization that has been denominated a religious group. In addition, we are also interested in learning how you might distinguish between a bona fide religious group and what in the current context has been described as a cult.
I recognize that there is little blackletter law that can be cited on the issue. Rather, we are much more concerned with the best assessment you can give to guide us in making as complete an inquiry as possible without needlessly intruding into areas of religious principle marked off by our Constitution from government regulation.
B. WASHINGTON ACTIVITIES – I
Having assimilated the State Department’s 902 documents and a variety of other preliminary background materials, the Staff Investigative Group began to conduct on-the-record interviews classified “Confidential” with individuals related to the incident. Between December 4, 1978, and January 2, 1979, the Group interviewed:
Galen W. Holsinger, administrative assistant to Representative Ryan.
Mr. James Schollaert, staff consultant, Foreign Affairs Committee, who assisted Mr. Ryan before the trip and who accompanied him to Guyana.
Miss Jacqueline Speier, Mr. Ryan’s legislative assistant, who also staffed prior trip arrangements, performed much of the research, and accompanied Mr. Ryan to Jonestown where she was seriously wounded.
Mr. Richard McCoy, State Department Foreign Service officer who served in Guyana, had extensive contacts with People’s Temple as a Consular Officer during that time, and subsequently served as Guyanese Desk Officer in which capacity he contributed to briefings for Mr. Ryan and otherwise assisted in making arrangements for the Codel’s trip to Guyana. Mr. McCoy was interviewed by the Staff Investigative Group on three different occasions between December 4, 1978, and January 2, 1979.
This initial series of interviews established basic background information. (See Appendix II-B for transcript summaries, in classified version only.) Simultaneous to this effort, the Staff Investigative Group maintained repeated contacts with State Department and other Federal agency officials, culled through a variety of other sources of information including hundreds of newspaper articles, and listened to tapes of interviews conducted by Mr. Ryan’s staff prior to the tragedy. In addition, the Group laid the groundwork for the second phase of its investigation in California.
C. CALIFORNIA ACTIVITIES
Between January 3-19, 1979, the Staff Investigative Group conducted interviews in three different locations in California. A total of 29 individuals in San Francisco, Ukiah, and Los Angeles, Calif. provided on-the-record accounts of their involvement with the matter. (See Appendix II-C for transcript summaries, in classified version only.)
Those interviewed in California were:
In San Francisco
Rosalie Wright, Editor for New West magazine.
Will Holsinger (son of G. W. Holsinger), attorney hired by Mr. Ryan to conduct interviews with former People’s Temple members and Concerned Relatives.
Mr. Joseph Freitas, Jr., District Attorney for the County of San Francisco.
Mr. and Mrs. Howard Oliver, who had visited Guyana on two occasions, the final time with Mr. Ryan, in an unsuccessful attempt to urge their two sons to leave Jonestown. Mrs. Oliver also accompanied Mr. Ryan to Jonestown on November 17-18 and was wounded in the Port Kaituma shooting.
Ms. Clare Bouquet, whose son, Brian, was at Jonestown and who accompanied Mr. Ryan to Guyana.
Mr. Jim Hubert, U.S. Customs Service, San Francisco office.
Mr. and Mrs. Sam Houston, whose son, Bob, was a former People’s Temple member killed under questionable circumstances in a train accident and whose two granddaughters were at Jonestown. Mrs. Houston accompanied Mr. Ryan to Guyana.
Ms. Carol Boyd, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Houston, who accompanied Mr. Ryan on the trip to Jonestown.
Mr. Al Mills, former People’s Temple member, a member of the Concerned Relatives, and head of the Human Freedom Center in San Francisco.
Mr. Tim Stoen, former People’s Temple member and legal adviser to Jim Jones. He and his wife, Grace Stoen, took legal action to regain custody of their son, John Victor Stoen, from Jim Jones.
Mr. Dale Parks, a People’s Temple defector, who, together with four members of his family, left Jonestown with Mr. Ryan. Mr. Parks’ mother, Patricia, was subsequently killed in the shooting at Port Kaituma.
Mr. Marshall Kilduff, reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle and writer for New West magazine who coauthored the magazine’s article on Jones in August 1977, the anticipated publication of which apparently caused Jim Jones to leave the United States for Guyana on July 16, 1977.
Ms. Debbie Layton Blakey, who defected from People’s Temple in Guyana in May 1978 and subsequently filed an affidavit alleging among other things, the existence of guns in Jonestown, mass suicide rehearsals at Jonestown and staged scenarios for visits to Jonestown by U.S. Embassy officials and others. Ms. Blakey’s husband, Philip, her mother Lisa Layton, and her brother, Larry Layton, remained in Jonestown as members of the People’s Temple.
Mr. Ron Javers, reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle who accompanied Mr. Ryan to Jonestown and was wounded in the shooting at Port Kaituma.
Mr. Mark Lane, legal counsel for the People’s Temple who accompanied Mr. Ryan to Jonestown.
Ms. Terri Buford, self-described People’s Temple defector in October 1978, who was one of Jim Jones’ most trusted aides, responsible principally for People’s Temple financial matters.
Mr. Bob Flick, NBC producer who accompanied Mr. Ryan to Jonestown and was present at the Port Kaituma shooting.
Ms. Grace Stoen, former People’s Temple member, mother of John Victor Stoen and wife of Mr. Tim Stoen.
Mr. Jeffrey Haas, and Ms. Margaret Ryan, legal counsel to Ms. Grace Stoen in her child custody suit. Mr. Haas went to Guyana in September 1977 relative to this legal action and visited Jonestown twice.
Mr. Charles Garry, legal counsel for the People’s Temple, as well as several surviving People’s Temple members based in San Francisco, who accompanied Mr. Ryan to Jonestown.
Mr. Steven Katsaris, father of People’s Temple member Maria Katsaris and of Anthony Katsaris, who accompanied Mr. Ryan to Jonestown and was wounded at Port Kaituma. Mr. Steven Katsaris, as a leader of the Concerned Relatives, visited Guyana in September-October 1977 prior to accompanying Mr. Ryan there in November 1978.
Ms. Kathy Hunter, former reporter for the Ukiah Daily Journal, who had previously written People’s Temple stories while Jim Jones maintained his organization there and went to Guyana in May 1978 in an unsuccessful attempt to interview Mr. Jones.
Ms. Jan Kespohl, Deputy Sheriff for the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department who had investigated several incidents starting in 1972 relating to People’s Temple while the organization was located in Ukiah.
Ms. Pat Small, a Guyanese citizen, former self-described quasi-official receptionist for visiting VIP’s to Guyana, who, together with her six children and one grandchild, is currently in the United States seeking political asylum.
In Los Angeles
Mr. Steve Sung, NBC sound technician who accompanied Mr. Ryan to Jonestown and was wounded at the Port Kaituma shooting.
Mr. Gordon Lindsay, former free-lance reporter for the National Enquirer who attempted unsuccessfully to visit and report on the People’s Temple facility in Jonestown in June 1978. In November 1978 he accompanied Mr. Ryan to Guyana as a consultant to NBC but was denied entry to Jonestown by Jim Jones.
Mr. Phil Tracy, contributing editor for New West magazine who coauthored the magazine’s article on Jones in August 1977.
In addition to these various on-the-record interviews four individuals declined to be interviewed and two failed to appear for scheduled interviews. The Group also solicited statements for the record from individuals related to the matter in lesser degrees.
Finally, while in California the Staff Investigative Group met for background purposes with 25 officials and individuals representing the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the San Francisco office of the FBI, the San Francisco Police Department, the Mayor’s Office, and the California State Attorney General’s Office.
D. WASHINGTON ACTIVITIES – II
Following their return to Washington and between January 20 and March 17, 1979, the Staff Investigative Group’s interviews concentrated chiefly on State Department personnel but also included sessions with two journalists: Mr. Tim Reiterman, reporter for the San Francisco Examiner who accompanied Mr. Ryan to Jonestown, and Mr. Lester Kinsolving, a former religion journalist for the San Francisco Examiner who unsuccessfully attempted to expose Jim Jones and People’s Temple in 1972. The Investigative Group also interviewed Miss Jackie Speier for the second time and Mr. Richard McCoy for the fourth time. (See Appendix II-D for transcript summaries, in classified version only.)
Other State Department officials interviewed were:
Mr. Frank Tumminia, Romanian Desk Officer, Department of State, former Guyanese Desk Officer from July 1976 to July 1978. Visited Jonestown in February 1978.
Mr. Dan Weber, State Department Foreign Service officer assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown, Guyana as Vice Consul and Third Secretary from October 1976 through December 1978. Assisted U.S. Consul Richard McCoy in facilitating Ms. Debbie Blakey’s defection from People’s Temple in May 1978.
Ms. Barbara Watson, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs.
Mr. Robert Dalton, Assistant Legal Adviser, Bureau of Consular Affairs.
Mr. Alan Gise, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Consular Affairs and Director, Office of Special Consular Services.
Mr. Ashley Hewitt, Director, Office of Caribbean Countries, Bureau of Inter-American Affairs
Mr. Stephen Dobrenchuk, Director of Emergency Services, Office of Special Consular Services, Bureau of Consular Affairs.
Mr. Richard Belt, Chief of the Welfare and Whereabouts Division in the Office of Emergency Services, Bureau of Consular Affairs.
Ms. Eileen O’Kane, Consular Affairs Officer in the Special Consular Services Office, Bureau of Consular Affairs.
Mr. John Blacken, Chargé, U.S. Embassy, Georgetown from June 1976 to March 1978. Visited Jonestown in February 1978.
Ms. Joyce Gunn, Consular Affairs Officer, Office of Special Consular Services, Bureau of Consular Affairs.
Mr. Jack Komitor, Consular Affairs Officer, Office of Special Consular services, Bureau of Consular Affairs.
Mr. Rudolph Henderson, Deputy Assistant Legal Adviser, Bureau of Consular Affairs.
Mr. Rudolph Rivera, formerly assigned as Chief of Correspondence, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Special Consular Services.
Ms. Michele Bova, Foreign Service Officer currently assigned to the Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs.
Mr. John Griffith, Alternate Director in the Office of Caribbean Affairs, Bureau of Inter-American Affairs.
Mr. Fred Henneke, Foreign Service Officer on leave from Department of State. Assigned in September 1977 to Welfare and Whereabouts Division of Office of Special Consular Services, Bureau of Consular Affairs.
E. GUYANA ACTIVITIES
Given the fact that the tragedy occurred in Guyana, the need for the Staff Investigative Group to visit there was almost inevitable from the start. That need was reinforced by a progressively mounting array of evidence collected by the Group which required interviews, confirmation, and on-site inspection. In fact, shortly after the tragedy Guyanese Ambassador Laurence Mann met with Chairman Zablocki both to express his country’s sympathy and also to pledge Guyana’s full cooperation to what was seen as mutually desirable interests to investigate the matter fully. Thus, it was assumed that the Staff Investigative Group’s visit to Guyana would be greatly facilitated.
Accordingly, on March 2, 1979, Chairman Zablocki cabled Guyanese Prime Minister Forbes Burnham recounting the process of the committee’s inquiry. In a pertinent passage from his letter of March 2, Chairman Zablocki said:
The Committee staff inquiry has now reached the point at which the Committee believes it is necessary to talk with various officials of the Guyanese Government. I am therefore respectfully requesting your cooperation in agreeing to allow our staff group to interview certain Guyanese Government officials during the week of March 11, 1979.
Upon receipt of your hopefully positive reply to this request it is my urgent desire that this investigation can be completed in the near future. If you agree, I will contact Ambassador Mann to inform him of the people we would like to see and to work out mutually satisfactory procedures for carrying out the interviews.
In their response of March 13, 1979. the Guyanese Government reiterated and confirmed Ambassador Mann’s earlier pledge of “full cooperation” to make a full investigation of the tragedy. It further noted the cooperation which the Guyanese Government had already extended to the FBI and other U.S. agencies. The reply also cited the fact that Guyanese law enforcement authorities had initiated court action seeking the application of Guyanese laws to several aspects of Jonestown, including the death of Representative Ryan. Finally, the Guyanese reply stated that the Government was undertaking its own judicial inquiry [The Guyanese Inquiry is expected to begin on or about May 15, 1979. Indications are that it may not be completed for several months.], before which some of the Guyanese officials which the Staff Investigative Group hoped to interview would be required to testify. As an alternative, an exchange of investigative reports was suggested.
A response to the Guyanese Government’s letter was made by Chairman Zablocki on March 16, 1979, pertinent portions of which were as follows:
I deeply appreciate government’s reaffirmed pledge of full cooperation with the Committee on Foreign Affairs investigation into the death of Representative Leo J. Ryan and the resulting events at Jonestown on November 18, 1978. Also to be commended is your government’s decision to begin a judicial inquiry of this tragedy. As you know, however, our own investigation has been underway since November 21, 1978 and the investigative group’s visit to Guyana is the last phase of that effort.
Given the enormity of the events of November 18, 1978, which you so aptly describe as “the greatest single tragedy which has ever occurred in the history of Guyana,” it is urgent that the investigation be concluded in a timely and complete fashion. Surely, the prospect of delay or incompleteness is one which the U.S. Congress and the American people would find difficult to understand.
The suggestion to exchange our respective investigative reports is certainly acceptable. At the same time, I am compelled to respectfully reiterate my firm belief that a thorough investigation still requires that our investigators talk with officials in Guyana who can help the Committee complete its investigation. While I understand the legal import of the fact that those officials may be required to testify before your own inquiry I am deeply concerned that the lack of information that they should be able to provide to this Committee would leave a conspicuous void in the report of the Committee’s investigation.
Accordingly, I have directed the Staff Investigative Group of this Committee to visit Guyana the week of March 18 for the purpose of interviewing U.S. Embassy personnel and others. Your kind cooperation in making it possible for the group to come to Guyana is deeply appreciated.
Ultimately, in a response dated March 28, 1979, the Guyanese Government cited protocol reasons for their inability to comply with Chairman Zablocki’s request to allow the Staff Investigative Group to talk with Guyanese officials. (See Appendix II-E-l.)
The Staff Investigative Group arrived in Guyana at 11:30 p.m. on March 17, 1979. Prior to its departure on March 23, the Group interviewed the following officials of the U.S. Embassy (see Appendix lI-E-2 for transcript summaries, in classified version only):
Hon. John Burke, U.S. Ambassador to Guyana.
Mr. Richard Dwyer, Deputy Chief of Mission who first visited Jonestown on May 10, 1978 together with Richard McCoy. Mr. Dwyer also accompanied Mr. Ryan to Jonestown on November 17-18, 1978 and was wounded at the Port Kaituma shooting.
Mr. Douglas V. Ellice, Jr., Consular Officer who had visited Jonestown on November 7, 1978.
Mr. T. Dennis Reece. Third Secretary/Vice Consul who had visited Jonestown on November 7, 1978.
Mr. Stepney C. Kibble, Public Affairs Officer.
Mr. Joseph W. Hartman, Vice Consul.
Ms. Nancy M. Mason. Vice Consul.
Mr. Leonard K. Barrett, Political Officer.
The Staff Investigative Group’s desire to interview private Guyanese citizens was unfulfilled in view or [of] the fact that the permission of the Guyanese Government would have been required to do so. The Government of Guyana’s position was that such interviews would be contrary to “questions of protocol” and their “own judicial inquiry of senior government officials.” Consequently, Ambassador Burke’s judgment was that it was highly unlikely the Guyanese Government would agree to such a request, and therefore permission was not sought.
On Tuesday, March 20, 1979, the Staff Investigative Group went to Port Kaituma and Jonestown on a visit that was facilitated by the Guyanese Government. They were accompanied by DCM Dwyer and a Mr. Simon, the Government-appointed Conservator of Jonestown. The visit included extensive and detailed explanations from Mr.
Dwyer regarding the shooting at the Port Kaituma airstrip and a comprehensive tour of Jonestown in the company of Mr. Simon and Guyanese police and army representatives.
While the Staff Investigative Group’s extensive interviews with Embassy personnel were productive, the Group’s inability to talk with Guyanese officials and private citizens was regrettable. That fact has resulted in a conspicuous void in the committee investigation and, on that one count, precluded the Staff Group from fulfilling Chairman Zablocki’s mandate for a “comprehensive inquiry.” A memorandum to Chairman Zablocki from the Group dated March 28, 1978, details those and other related matters. (See Appendix II-E-3 in classified version only.)
WASHINGTON ACTIVITIES – III
Following its return from Guyana on March 23, the Staff Investigative Group conducted two more on-the-record interviews. These interviews were with former People’s Temple members Stanley Clayton and Odell Rhodes, both of whom escaped Jonestown on the night of the mass suicide/murder ritual. In addition, the Staff Investigative Group began the process of reviewing and analyzing the evidence it had accumulated in preparation for the writing of this report. (See Appendix II-F-l in classified version only.)
G. INFORMATION MANAGEMENT
Over the course of the committee’s investigation, the amount of documentation, transcripts, letters, and other pertinent material massed considerably. Literally thousands of names, dates, and places important to the inquiry had accumulated in the Group’s files. In order to conduct a thorough and effective investigation it soon became apparent that this extensive and varied material had to be carefully managed if it was to remain a solid resource and ultimately be preserved meaningfully in the National Archives.
Accordingly, in early February 1979, all of the documents and other materials relating to the investigation were carefully cataloged and computerized. Work on that project continues.
H. MISCELLANEOUS ACTIVITIES
In the course of conducting this investigation the Staff Investigative Group came into possession of a variety of materials relating to the inquiry. Some of these items were sought out; other were voluntarily provided to the committee by interested and concerned individuals. What follows is merely a representative sampling of the items involved:
– Taped radio and television interviews, the transcripts of which were typed by the committee’s minority staff assistant;
– A detailed 200-page memo log of short wave radio conversations between the People’s Temple facilities in Jonestown, Guyana and San Francisco monitored by a private citizen ham operator;
– Taped portions of similar conversations monitored by the Federal Communications Commission;
– The tape and transcript of the mass suicide/murder ritual at Jonestown;
– Portions of the film footage shot by the NBC crew that visited Jonestown with Representative Ryan;
– A variety of letters and statements from interested individuals and members of the Concerned Relatives group;
Under the rules of the Committee on Foreign Affairs all of these materials remain classified “Confidential.” They have been duly cataloged and remain in the files of the committee’s investigation. In this connection, it should be noted that NBC, in response to a committee request for all of the footage relevant to Jonestown, furnished only the televised portion. NBC refused to provide the committee with the balance of the footage and advised that it had been turned over to the Justice Department through which it could be acquired. The committee therefore, formally requested the untelevised footage which the Justice Department refused to supply on the grounds that “the secrecy provisions of Rule 6 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure limit the extent of information and evidence that may be disclosed at this time.”
I. STATISTICAL SUMMARY OF INTERVIEWS
In an attempt to carry out Chairman Zablocki’s mandate for a comprehensive inquiry, the Staff Investigative Group conducted a total of 165 hours of on-the-record interviews with a total of 62 persons resulting in a total of 5,038 pages of transcript.
Every attempt possible was made to interview individuals on all sides of the issue. In this regard, the Staff Investigative Group also drew on a number of newspaper and magazine articles, affidavits, and by documents which were relevant to various aspects of the Jonestown incident. (See Appendix II-F-2.)
On the basis of the factual evidence obtained by the Staff Investigative Group, we render the following findings. In doing so we recognize that we are the beneficiaries of retrospect on the events which preceded November 18, 1978. In this respect, we have striven to utilize these advantages without falling victim to the pitfalls accompanying them. We have sought to be objective and balanced but not frozen from judgment. In attempting to be fair and understanding, we have not been timid. (Appendix references confirm and/or elaborate on the findings made and are to be found in the interview transcripts in the classified version only.)
A. Jim Jones and People’s Temple
Whatever Jim Jones ultimately became and whatever can be said of him now, there is little clear insight into what motivated him to begin his ministry in Indianapolis in the mid 1950’s. Some contend he was always a committed Socialist who used religion as a vehicle to further his political beliefs and objectives. Others hold that Jones began as a genuine believer in Christianity but eventually became a nonbeliever or an agnostic. His own often-expressed claim that he was the dual reincarnation of Christ and Marx reflects the dichotomy. Wherever the truth may lie on his religious beliefs, at the outset, he was seemingly genuine in his ardent support for such social causes as the welfare of older people, racial integration, and rehabilitation of alcoholics and drug addicts. His advocacy of such causes singled him out, and partially in response to the resistance he encountered in established churches where he had accepted pastorates, he began his own church, the People’s Temple. By 1965 he had generated enough notoriety and displeasure in Indiana to cause him to decide to move his activities to California accompanied by a small band of Indiana followers. One reason he chose Ukiah, Calif. and its Redwood Valley area was because he had once read that its unique geographical assets made it one of three locations in the world thought to be safe from a possible nuclear holocaust.
By 1972 he decided to once again relocate People’s Temple to the richer and more active political pastures of San Francisco and bought an old church building on the edge of the black ghetto area. A second People’s Temple church was established in Los Angeles. In 1974 he
began creating in the jungles of Guyana the agricultural community known as Jonestown. What finally drove him there together with the majority of his flock in mid-1977 was the publication of a New West magazine article which exposed many of his operations, a fact which he saw as part of the alleged mounting conspiracy against him.
TACTICS OF JIM JONES
The mental deviations and distortions and the psychological tactics which culminated and were most manifest in the holocaust of Jonestown on November 18 were rooted in Indiana and perfected in California. Who and what was Jim Jones? We believe it is accurate to say he was charismatic in some respects; in fact, he was especially adroit in the area of human psychology.
As we have studied him and interviewed those who knew him well and had come under his influence, we have concluded that he was first and foremost a master of mind control. Among the tactics he practiced with engineered precision are the following recognized strategies of brainwashing (for further elaboration, See Appendix III-A-1 in classified version only):
– Isolation from all vestiges of former life, including and especially all sources of information, and substituting himself as the single source of all knowledge, wisdom, and information;
– An exacting daily regimen requiring absolute obedience and humility extracted by deception, intimidation, threats, and harassment;
– Physical pressure, ranging from deprivation of food and sleep to the possibility and reality of severe beatings. As a complement to the physical pressures, he exerted mental pressures on his followers which he subsequently relieved in an effort to demonstrate and establish his omnipotent “powers.” For example, he inculcated fictional fears which he would eventually counterpoint and dispel and thereby establish himself as a “savior.” One of his favorite tactics was to generate and then exploit a sense of guilt for clinging to life’s luxuries, for wanting special privileges, and for seeking recognition and reward;
– So-called “struggle meetings” or catharsis sessions in which recalcitrant members were interrogated, required to confess their “wrongdoing,” and then punished with alternate harshness and leniency. Interrogation could be gentle and polite, but more often it involved harassment, humiliation, revilement, and degradation. Vital to this strategy were two of Jones’ favorite techniques. The first involved an exhaustive and detailed record for each member kept on file cards and generated by his vast intelligence network. A member would suddenly be confronted by Jones with knowledge of some action he was unaware had been observed. Jones would stage his “mystic” awareness of that action and then direct the outcome to his desired end. The second technique was to establish in each of his followers a mistrust of everyone else. Consequently, no one dared voice a negative view – even to the closest family member or friend – for fear of being turned in. Often, as not, trusted aides were directed to test individuals by expressing
some comment critical of Jones or the lifestyle in Jonestown to see if that person would report the incident. The end result was that no one person could trust another. As a result everyone feared expressing even the slightest negative comment. The system was so effective that children turned in their own parents, brothers informed on sisters, and husbands and wives reported on spouses.
Inherent in these principles which Mr. Jones masterfully and regularly employed was his central strategy of “divide and conquer” through which he consolidated his power over people. In addition to these tactics, however, Mr. Jones regularly used other devices and methods to achieve his ends:
– Requiring People’s Temple members to contribute as much as 25 percent of their income and sign over to the People’s Temple their properties and other assets;
– At times dictating marriage between unwilling partners and at other times not allowing cohabitation between married couples;
– Undermining and breaking a child’s ties with parents. In progressive degrees the child was led to mistrust the parents and become more and more secretive in his actions and evasive to his parent’s questions;
– As a symbol of their trust in him, followers were required to sign statements admitting homosexuality, theft, and other self-incriminating acts; often as not People’s Temple members would also sign blank pages which could be filled in later. Depending on Jones’ need or objective, such documents were frequently used in attempts to defame defectors;
– Rumor spreading in an attempt to ruin reputations or generally implant disinformation, thereby making the true facts difficult if, not impossible to establish;
– Infiltration of groups opposed to People’s Temple and surveilance [surveillance] of suspected People’s Temple enemies;
– Intense public relations efforts ranging from letter-writing campaigns to attempted control of news media in an effort to influence public opinion with a favorable image of People’s Temple; likewise, an aggressive program of seeking out political leaders and other influential members of a community in order to cull their favor and establish identification with them.
In the process of manipulating the control board of this extraordinary system Jones suffered extreme paranoia. One can speculate that while it may have been initially staged, his paranoia ultimately became a self-created Frankenstein that led not only to his fall but the tragic death of more than 900 others, including Representative Leo J. Ryan. His paranoia ranged from “dark unnamed forces,” to individuals such as Tim Stoen and other defectors from the People’s Temple, to organizations such as the Concerned Relatives group, and ultimately to the U.S. Government in the form of the CIA and the FBI – all of which he ultimately believed were out to destroy him.
Further, in establishing this analysis of Jim Jones it is worth noting that he apparently had several bisexual perversions. Finally there is some irony in the fact that although he controlled considerable wealth (estimated at $12 million) he sought out special privileges but none
of the usual trappings of wealth such as fancy cars or expensive houses. In short, Mr. Jones was more interested in ideas than in things. He was not driven by greed for money but for power and control over others. That control continues to be exerted even after his death on the minds of some of his followers. It is graphically illustrated by the suicide of Michael Prokes, one of Jones’ closest associates, during a March 13, 1979, press conference in California in which he defended Jones and cited the achievements of People’s Temple and Jonestown.
MOTIVATION OF PEOPLE’S TEMPLE MEMBERS
The tactics and techniques of Jim Jones outlined above found fertile ground and were greatly facilitated because of the background and motivation of those who joined People’s Temple (for further elaboration, see Appendix III-A-2 in classified version only). Generalities, of course, are always difficult if not dangerous. However, on the basis of the information which has come to us in the course of this investigation one can draw the following general profile of many who became People’s Temple members and followers of Jim Jones:
– Some of the young adults were college graduates out of upper=middle-class backgrounds which provided privilege and even luxury. Their parents were often college-educated professionals or executives. Frequently, their families were active in demonstrations against the Vietnam war, campaigns for racial equality, and other social causes. In some cases, the young People’s Temple member had been alienated by the “emptiness” of his family’s wealth.
– A larger number, especially young blacks, had their roots in the other end of the American social and economic spectrum. The products of poor ghetto neighborhoods and limited education, some had been drug addicts, prostitutes, and street hustlers.
– An even greater percentage were elderly, again predominately black, who had come out of the San Francisco ghetto. They found in Jim Jones an abiding and protective concern. Despite the harshness of life in Jonestown, they regarded it as preferable to the poor housing they had left behind. They also found a warm sense of family and acceptance within the People’s Temple community that they did not have before joining.
– A goodly number of middle-class blacks and whites, came out of strong fundamentalist religious family backgrounds and were attracted by what they saw as the evangelical nature of People’s Temple.
– By contrast, many of the younger people had little if any religious motivation in joining People’s Temple. Rather, they tended to be compelled by humanitarian interests. Altruistic and idealistic, they were impressed by Jones’ involvement in social causes and what they saw as the “political sophistication” of People’s Temple. To the extent that a religious motivation was involved, it was seen chiefly in terms of Jones’ seeming concrete application of Judeo-Christian principles. Over time, the dimension of their motivation was not only nonsectarian but eventually became embodied in the Socialist-Marxist-agnostic philosophy which Jones espoused.
PEOPLE’S TEMPLE AS A “CHURCH”
Out of the findings outlined above regarding Jim Jones and members of his People’s Temple, emerges one additional finding. It relates to the question of whether or not People’s Temple was a “church” in the generally accepted sense of that word. Again, on the basis of testimony and compelling evidence collected in the course of this investigation we offer the following conclusion on that question:
– Although People’s Temple may have been a bona fide church in its Indiana and early California origins, it progressively lost that characterization in almost every respect. Rather, by 1972 and following in progressive degrees, it evolved into what could be described as a sociopolitical movement. Under the direction and inspiration of its founder and director and the Marxist-Leninist-Communist philosophy he embraced, People’s Temple was in the end a Socialist structure devoted to socialism. Despite that fact, People’s Temple continued to enjoy the tax-exempt status it received in 1962 under Internal Revenue Service rules and regulations. (See Appendix III-A-3.) The issue of People’s Temple’s status as a “church” is also significant in connection with First Amendment protections it sought and received. Obviously, the latter issue is a difficult and complex matter beyond the purview of this committee and its investigation.
Also outside the parameters of this committee’s inquiry is whether in fact People’s Temple was a “cult.” Once again, recognizing that the problem is complex and laced with emotions and strong connotative overtones, the committee’s investigation went only to the extent of seeking the opinions of respected legal scholars. (See Appendix II-A-3.)
B. Conspiracy Against Jim Jones and People’s Temple?
Was there a conspiracy against Jim Jones perpetrated by the U.S. Government or some other organization? That was one of the questions on which the Staff Investigative Group attempted to obtain evidence during the course of this inquiry (for further elaboration see Appendix III-B-1 in classified version only). On the basis of the information received, the following findings are offered:
– Jones’ idea that there were elements opposed to his views and objectives dates back to his early days in Indiana. In fact, it was the adverse reaction he encountered relative to his racial integration and other policies that led him to establish his own church, the People’s Temple.
– When the People’s Temple relocated in Ukiah, Calif. in 1965 Jones’ complaints of opposition increased. They ranged in progressive degree from alleged vandalism against People’s Temple property, poisoning of his pets, and various threats against Jones, to a shooting attack on Jones’ life (from which he “miraculously” recovered by his own power). No substantiation was ever found on any of these complaints reported to and investigated by Ukiah police..
– The mood of Jones’ allegations of anti-People’s Temple conspiracy grew darker when the group moved to San Francisco in 1972. At that time its chief target was the media as well as unspecified
“forces.” Reported attempts to dissuade Jones from the notion were apparently unsuccessful.
– Jones’ idea of a U.S. Government plot against him, embodied mainly in the CIA and FBI, took full bloom after he and the vast bulk of People’s Temple members moved to Guyana in 1977. Opposition of the Concerned Relatives group was eventually attributed to CIA backing as were periodic “alerts” he called to protect the People’s Temple Jonestown community from mercenaries in the jungle around Jonestown.
– Jones’ two lawyers offer contradictory opinions on the question of a possible conspiracy against People’s Temple and Jones. For example, Mark Lane told the committee’s investigators: “…there is no doubt in my mind that various people sought to destroy Jonestown and that people in various government agencies manipulated Jones. Jones, himself, saw the efforts to manipulate him into an overreaction but somehow he was unable to control his own responses.… I believe that a responsible investigation by the Congress would seek to determine why various elements within the United States Government including those in the State Department withheld from Congressman Ryan and the rest of us who accompanied him to Jonestown the fact that they knew the place was an armed camp and that Jones was capable of killing the Congressman and many others.” On the other hand, Charles Garry said: “…I want to unequivocally tell you in the year and a half since July 1977, with the years of experience I have had with governmental conspiracy and government wrongdoing, particularly the FBI, I found no evidence to support any of the charges that were made by People’s Temple. I found no evidence to support any of that.”
– Granting the strong likelihood of Jones’ paranoia, compounded by his manipulative abilities, Jones staged and exploited the idea of a conspiracy as a means of generating fear in his adherents and thereby gaining further control over them. The tactic also served to keep any opponents on the defensive and even had the apparent effect of sensitizing the U.S. Embassy in Guyana.
– No conclusive evidence is available to indicate that the CIA was acquiring information on Mr. Jones or People’s Temple. In this same connection it should be noted that under Executive Orders 11905 of February 18, 1976 and 12036 of January 24, 1978 (see Appendix III-B-2), which prohibit intelligence gathering on U.S. citizens, the CIA was legally proscribed from engaging in any activities vis-à-vis People’s Temple.
– The Department of Justice, on the other hand, has indicated to the Staff Investigative Group that the FBI did look into an allegation from a constituent of Senator S. I. Hayakawa that “Jim Jones was coaxing individuals into traveling to Georgetown, Guyana, where they were being held against their will for unknown reasons.” The FBI interviewed the constituent, but found that “relatives of the constituent had traveled to Guyana voluntarily, and no evidence of forced confinement was developed.” The Investigation was thereupon terminated “because no violation of the Federal kidnaping [kidnapping] statute had occurred.”
The Staff Investigative Group was also informed by the Criminal Division of the Justice Department that it received a “citizen com-
plaint” in December 1977, claiming “that a relative was being held in bondage in Georgetown, Guyana by Pastor Jim Jones.” The facts spelled out in the complaint indicated no criminal violations within the Justice Department’s jurisdiction. Accordingly, Justice’s information on the complaint was sent to the State Department. (See Appendix II-A-2.)
C. Opponents and Media Intimidated; Public Officials Used
As part of Jones’ constant and pervasive effort to control people and events, the evidence obtained by the Staff Investigative Group established that he persistently intimidated and harassed those who left People’s Temple and anyone else, especially the media, who he felt were opposed to his interests. This clear pattern of intimidation and harassment was reinforced and compounded into success by the widely held belief by People’s Temple defectors and opponents, that government officials were friendly toward People’s Temple or had in some way been compromised. Consequently, attempts at early efforts to alert the public to the nature of People’s Temple’s activities were largely ignored and/or rejected. (See Appendix III-C in classified version only.) .
Typical of some of Jones’ tactics to intimidate and harass People’s Temple defectors who were actively opposed to him were the following:
– Undermining of their credibility as witnesses by spreading falsehoods and releasing the so-called “confessions” they had signed while members of People’s Temple.
– Fear campaigns generated through break-ins, late night phone calls, and unsigned letters threatening beatings and even death. One such break-in carried out against a couple who had left People’s Temple was done with the help of their daughter who remained in the organization.
As a result of such tactics People’s Temple defectors were frequently frozen in fear and severely hampered in their efforts to counteract Jones. The problem is illustrated in the following example which points up the desperate lengths to which opponents of People’s Temple were driven as well as the degree to which officials in San Francisco appear to have been involved: Afraid to contact any public officials for fear that they were tied-in or friendly to Jones, one individual went to the length of writing consumer advocate Ralph Nader because he could not think of anyone else he could trust. The letter to Nader outlined many of the allegations against People’s Temple which were later proven true. It also indicated that the letter writer feared for his life. It closed as follows:
If you want to help us, please write in the personal column of the Chronicle to “Angelo” and sign it Ralph and then we will respond and talk to you.
Rather than do that, Nader sent the letter to the District Attorney’s Office in San Francisco. By some means, the letter filtered back to People’s Temple and the writer soon thereafter received a threatening phone call that said “We know all about your letter to Angelo.”
In another instance People’s Temple defectors hired a private detective to surreptitiously observe their meeting with Jones’ representa-
tives in a public subway station. Their objective was to have an eyewitness in the event of violence.
With respect to Jim Jones’ and People’s Temple efforts to stifle the San Francisco media some of the following methods were employed:
– The threat of law suits. In almost all instances in which this tactic was used it was based on the People’s Temple possession of copies of stories in draft form prior to publication obtained through break-ins or provided to People’s Temple by infiltrators within the media’s office.
– Threatening phone calls to reporters and their families, accepted by one as serious enough to warrant relocating children, moving into hotels, and obtaining guns for self-protection.
– Extensive letter-writing campaigns intended to dissuade publishers and editors from printing stories being prepared by aggressive reporters. The soft-sell nature of this tactic was aimed at creating diversionary arguments contending that the story in question would reflect badly on San Francisco or prevent People’s Temple “from continuing its good work with the ‘disaffected and disaffiliated’ in society.” One such campaign produced letters supportive of People’s Temple from San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, Lieutenant Governor Mervyn Dymally, the head of the San Francisco school system, and members of the California State Assembly. It would appear that such campaigns were particularly effective with the San Francisco Chronicle and the National Enquirer.
– Encouraging San Francisco merchants and businesses to remove their advertising from “offending” publications. The chief target of such an effort was the New West magazine immediately prior to its publication in August 1977, of an article critical of Jones. The editors of the magazine persisted and the article is generally credited with breaking Jones’ stronghold on San Francisco and led him to go to Guyana immediately before it appeared.
– The picketing of newspaper offices which had run stories on Jones regarded as anti-People’s Temple. One such effort, combined with the threat of a law suit, led to the cancellation in 1972 by the San Francisco Examiner of an eight-part series of articles, only half of which had already appeared. The end result was to make most editors and publishers highly sensitive and cautious regarding any critical stories involving Jones and the People’s Temple.
Finally, as to the question of whether or not certain officials had in fact been compromised by Jones, the Staff Investigative Group believes the evidence is mixed. What is indisputably clear and solidly based on evidence is that many such officials were perceived of by Jones’ opponents as extremely friendly to or enthusiastically supportive of Jones, thereby precluding them or their offices from pursuing actions against Jones in an impartial manner. In this regard, it should be kept in mind that Jones had endowed himself with the cloak of official legitimacy through his appointment by Mayor Moscone as Director of the San Francisco Housing Authority. In addition, political figures in San Francisco appear to have been enticed by Jones’ ability to turn out hundreds of his followers to attend rallys [rallies], conduct mailings, man phone-banks, and otherwise provide support to political election campaigns, including direct contributions.
Similarly, the media were not immune from Jones’ wiles and attemped [attempted] flatteries. For example, Jones made contributions of various sums totaling $4,400 to the San Francisco Examiner, the San Francisco Chronicle, and 10 other newspapers to be used as they saw fit in the “defense of a free press.” Although the Examiner returned the money to the People’s Temple, the management of the Chronicle sent the check to Sigma Delta Chi, the national journalism society, which in turn rejected suggestions that it be returned to People’s Temple.
D. Awareness of Danger; Predicting the Degree of Violence
One area on which this inquiry concentrated under Chairman Zablocki’s mandate dealt with the questions of whether (a) Representative Ryan had been adequately advised of the potential for danger, and (b) how accurately anyone could have predicted the degree of violence employed (for further elaboration, see Appendix III-D in classified version only). On the basis of evidence gathered we have reached conclusions on both counts:
– Representative Ryan was advised on more than one occasion of the possibility of violence inherent in his trip to Jonestown. However, he tended to discount such warnings with the thought that his office as a Congressman would protect him. Moreover, he was apparently willing to face whatever danger might be present, citing as a reason his own previous investigative experiences and his determination not to be influenced by fear.
– The warnings Mr. Ryan did receive regarding the prospect for violence came chiefly from his own staff and the Concerned Relatives group. When the issue was raised in the State Department briefings prior to the trip, Mr. Ryan did not challenge State’s assessment that potential danger was “unlikely.” In fact, State’s briefings for the Ryan Codel dwelled almost exclusively on the legal problems relative to the trip as well as the logistical difficulties involved in reaching the remote and isolated jungle compound.
– No one interviewed by the Staff Investigative Group ever anticipated the degree of violence actually encountered. Many expected that there might be adversarial encounters, arguments, or shouting; the worst anticipated was that someone might “get punched in the mouth.”
– From a variety of sources, Representative Ryan and some representatives of the media were cautioned that they were regarded as adversaries of People’s Temple and Jones. They were further informed that Jones was paranoid. It is appropriate to note here that Mr. Ryan apparently did not advise anyone in the State Department or the U.S. Embassy in Guyana that one of the purposes of his trip was to help possible defectors leave Jonestown with him on November 18.
– Some members of Mr. Ryan’s staff as well as the media group had gut feelings on the possibility for violence. They ranged from advising Mr. Ryan that Jones had a “capacity” for violence, to a general concern based on allegations of guns in Jonestown, and finally to the thought that a bomb might be placed on the plane on which the entire party flew to Guyana. At the most extreme end of such intuitive hunches and feelings was Miss Jackie Speier’s premonition of fear that led her to write her own will.
– To the extent that violence was considered a possibility by the Ryan Codel, there is evidence to suggest that Mr. Ryan may have looked on the accompanying media group as a “shield”; conversely, to the extent there was any apprehension in their ranks, the media regarded Mr. Ryan’s status as a Congressman as their best protection. For other members of the media, the principal potential danger considered was the jungle against which they protected themselves by taking special supplies.
E. U.S. Customs Service Investigation
One key element relating to the question of whether the Ryan Codel had adequate awareness of the potential for danger as well as the degree of violence which ultimately ensued involves a 1977 U.S. Customs Service investigation of reported illegal gun shipments and other contraband to Jonestown (see Appendix III-E, in classified version only). In the course of this inquiry, therefore, the Staff Investigative Group obtained evidence which warrants the following findings on the subject:
– Working on allegations interspersed amid many “bizarre” tales about People’s Temple, the investigation was begun in February 1977. One of the allegations contended that more than 170 weapons once stored in Ukiah had been transferred to People’s Temple San Francisco headquarters and then possibly on to Jonestown.
– The investigation was compromised 1 month after it began, not through any inadvertence on the part of the Customs Service, but when an individual conveyed some information on the matter to Dennis Banks, head of the American Indian Movement, in an effort to dissuade Banks from any further contact with Jones. That conversation was apparently taped and word was passed to Jones. Complete details of the investigation’s report were further compromised when a copy of the report was sent to Interpol. From Interpol it was, by normal procedure, shared with the Guyanese police. According to information provided us, Guyanese Police Commissioner C. A. “Skip” Roberts reported showed a copy to either Paula Adams or Carolyn Layton, two of Mr. Jones’ trusted aides, one of whom passed the information to Mr. Jones.
– Although the Customs Service investigation was not diluted or diminished in any way, it is clear that it was carried out in an unusually sensitive mode because of what was perceived to be Jim Jones’ considerable political influence in San Francisco. Surveillance relating to the investigation was virtually impossible to carry out because of the tight security screen Jones placed around the Geary Street headquarters of People’s Temple in San Francisco. The investigation was concluded in August-September 1977 after a shipment of crates destined for Jonestown was opened and inspected by the Customs Service in Miami in August 1977. Shortly thereafter a report on the investigation was filed with negative results. Nonetheless, investigators apparently felt enough residual suspicion to send copies of the report to Interpol and the U.S. Department of State of “because (the) investigation disclosed al=
legations that Jones intends to establish a political power base in Guyana, and that he may currently have several hundred firearms in that country.”
– The copy of the Customs Service report was received in the State Department’s Office of Munitions Control on September 1, 1977 and on September 6, 1977 a copy was forwarded to the Department’s Bureau of Inter-American Affairs. Although standard routing procedures provided that a copy should have been sent to the U.S. Embassy in Guyana there is no indication a copy ever was sent. In addition, only the Guyana desk officer saw the report; none of the more than 26 State Department officials we interviewed saw the report until after November 18, 1978, although one professed “awareness” of it earlier.
F. Conspiracy To Kill Representative Ryan?
Relative to the likelihood of a People’s Temple-Jim Jones conspiracy to kill Representative Ryan, the Staff Investigative Group has reached the following conclusions based on evidence available to us (for further elaboration, see Appendix III-F in classified version only):
– The possibility of any prior conspiracy tends to be diminished by the fact that Gordon Lindsay, a reporter whom Mr. Jones regarded as an arch enemy of People’s Temple, was not allowed to enter Jonestown with the Ryan party.
– Still not to be discounted entirely, however, is the possible existence of a contingency conspiracy. In this connection, there are reports of an ‘‘understanding’’ in Jonestown that if efforts to delude Ryan as to the true conditions at Jonestown failed he would have to be killed, supposedly by arranging for his plane to crash in the jungle after leaving Jonestown. While circumstantial evidence is available on this theory we have not found any hard evidence.
– Providing some moderate credence to the idea of a contingency conspiracy is the fact that the Jonestown mass suicide/murder ritual started before the Port Kaituma assailants returned to confirm the shootings of Representative Ryan and others.
– Also lending some substance to the contingency conspiracy theory are unconfirmed reports that a large shipment of cyanide, used in the mass suicide/murder, arrived in Jonestown 2 days before Ryan’s visit. Also related is the reported statement of a Jonestown survivor that several days before Mr. Ryan arrived in Jonestown he heard Jones say that the Congressman’s plane “might fall from the sky.”
– In an effort to obtain detailed information on Mr. Ryan’s upcoming trip, Jones placed a phony defector within the ranks of the Concerned Relatives group in San Francisco 1 month before the Codel’s departure for Guyana. The “defector” was seen back in Jonestown when the Ryan party arrived. The late awareness that the defector was false produced a heightened sense of danger in the minds of some making the trip.
G. The Privacy Act and the Freedom of Information Act
Throughout this investigation there were repeated references made as to the pervasive role of the Privacy Act and, to a lesser degree, the Freedom of Information Act in the tragedy at Jonestown. The Staff Investigative Group made a careful and thorough review of the issue which resulted in the following findings (for further elaboration, see Appendix III-G-l in classified version only):
– The Privacy Act figured prominently in several important aspects of the State Department’s and U.S. Embassy’s briefings and relations with the Ryan Codel and their handling of all matters relating to People’s Temple.
– Officials within both the State Department and the Embassy clearly tended to confuse the Privacy Act with the Freedom of Information Act, thereby inhibiting the comprehensiveness of written reports and exchanges of information. [Much of the confusion over these two acts results from the sometimes conflicting principal purposes for which each was enacted. The Privacy Act guarantees the privacy of public records maintained on an individual and limits access, except for the concerned party, to these records by other individuals and government agencies. The Freedom of Information Act guarantees an individual access to records pertinent to the operations of the federal government but safeguards the privacy of individuals cited in those records.] One key Embassy official, for instance, was operating under the mistaken assumption that People’s Temple was seeking cables reporting on consular visits to Jonestown under provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.
– Representative Ryan’s legal advisers contended that the State Department’s interpretation of the Privacy Act was unreasonably narrow and restrictive, and further felt that fact had ramifications on what the Codel wished to accomplish. Those differences, which began in Washington and continued in Guyana, resulted in somewhat strained relations between the State Department and the Codel.
– The State Department’s interpretation of the Privacy Act led them to deny Ryan access to certain information and documents relative to People’s Temple. That problem could have been avoided or at least alleviated if Mr. Ryan had followed the Department’s advice to obtain a letter from the chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs authorizing him such access under an exemption clause in the act. That exemption provision permits disclosure to any committee of Congress “to the extent of matter within its jurisdiction.” Reflecting the State Department’s lack of knowledge of the law and its application, it is pertinent to note that on February 28, 1979, the State Department was unaware of the exemption provision in denying to Chairman Zablocki requested information germane to the investigation. (See Appendix III-G-2.)
– Prior to the Codel’s departure, the U.S. Embassy in Guyana reflected its own acute sensitivity regarding the Privacy Act by urging that Mr. Ryan be fully informed of the act’s limitations. That sensitivity was reinforced by the Embassy’s request that a Department legal expert accompany the Codel, a request denied by State because of travel freeze restrictions and the heavy press of other work. Among the Embassy officials interviewed there is almost unanimous agreement that the Privacy Act is complex, difficult to understand, and confusing. Accordingly, they believe that regular guidance is required to guarantee proper implementation.
– Initial State Department guidance on the Privacy Act provided to the U.S. Embassy in Guyana was so highly technical and legalistic that it had little if any practical value, a problem compounded by subsequent communications. It was not until November 18, 1977, almost 3 years after the Privacy Act became law, that the Embassy was provided with what could be regarded as practical guidance. (For further elaboration see Appendix III-G-3.) However, even that communication contained the following prefatory comment: “Due to its rapid passage by Congress in December 1974 without hearings, less than the usual legislative history exists to guide executive departments in interpreting it …” Available at that time was a 1,500-page volume, “Legislative History of the Privacy Act of 1974,” which incorporated committee reports, markup sessions, excerpts from floor debate and other pertinent source materials.
– In day-to-day operations and application, the Privacy Act impacts more on the State Department’s consular section than on its diplomatic officers.
– Given the confusion surrounding the Privacy Act and the lack of practical and understandable guidance, it appears that Embassy consular officers in Guyana found the act difficult to implement properly. In contrast, most of their Washington counterparts, in both the political and consular sections of the Department, did not perceive the Embassy’s problems and felt the guidance provided was adequate.
– Also contributing to those officials’ ability to effectively implement the Privacy Act vis-à-vis the People’s Temple was the understanding they held that as a religious organization People’s Temple merited added protection under the act. Disregarding for now the question of whether or not People’s Temple was a religion, few of the officials knew that the act’s prohibition on maintaining records describing the exercise of the first amendment rights also provides an exception for matters pertinent to law enforcement activities. Further, there appeared to be little general awareness among State Department personnel of other exemptions provided in both the Privacy Act and the Freedom of Information Act from mandatory agency disclosure of information.
– The legal recourse Jones and People’s Temple had under the Privacy Act and Freedom of Information Act to obtain Embassy cables had the chilling effect on Embassy personnel of making their communications to the State Department on People’s Temple less candid than they might have otherwise been. That effect was reinforced when the Embassy learned on December 2, 1977, that People’s Temple had in fact filed a total of 26 actions under the Privacy Act for documents relating to specified People’s Temple members. As a byproduct of these restraints it is reasonable to conclude that the Embassy’s inhibitions to more candidly and accurately report their impressions of the true situation in Jonestown ultimately influenced the State Department’s ability to more effectively brief the Ryan Codel. Also not to be discounted is the strong possibility that, knowing the law and the effect it could produce, Jones used the legal claim actions as a tactic in order to achieve the very effect it did.
– Overall, many State Department officials appeared to be highly aware of the civil and/or criminal penalty provisions of both acts. That fact reinforced their perceived image of both acts as threatening and troublesome in that failure to comply could present them with serious personal legal problems. In turn, that thought made them doubly cautious in their dealings with People’s Temple.
H. Role and Performance of the U.S. Department of State
The role and performance of the State Department in this matter was the central issue earmarked for investigation in Chairman Zablocki’s mandate to the Staff Investigative Group. The points of reference surrounding that issue span 4 years and are complex and many. (For further elaboration, see Appendix III-H-1 in classified version only.) Given this reality, a major part of the investigation was devoted this aspect of the issue. The following conclusions and findings based on evidence gathered are:
– The U.S. Embassy in Guyana did not demonstrate adequate initiative, sensitive reaction to, and appreciation of progressively mounting indications of highly irregular and illegal activities in Jonestown. The Embassy’s one attempt to confront the situation and affect a solution did not occur until June 1978. Essentially embodying what could at best be described as the Embassy’s heightened suspicion of problems with People’s Temple, the effort was made in the form of a cable (Log 126) to the State Department requesting permission to approach the Guyanese Government and “request that the government exercise normal administrative jurisdiction over the community, particularly to insure that all of its residents are informed and understand that they are subject to the laws and authority of the Government of Guyana…” The State Department, failing to detect any linkage between Log 126 and the then recent defection of Temple member Debbie Blakey and other incidents, rejected the request in a terse cable (Log 130) because such an overture “could be construed by some as U.S. Government interference.” (Debbie Blakey defected from the People’s Temple in Georgetown, Guyana on May 12, 1978, with the assistance of U.S. Embassy officers Richard McCoy and Daniel Weber. Prior to her departure to the United States, she submitted a written statement to the Embassy warning, among other things, of the possibility of a mass suicide in Jonestown.)
– The Department’s negative response to Log 126 had the net effect of reinforcing the Embassy’s already cautious attitude in all dealing with the People’s Temple. Despite the fact that an affirmative response was anticipated, the Embassy surprisingly made no effort to challenge the Department’s negative decision. Equally surprising was the Department’s failure to contact the Ambassador and determine what specifically triggered his request. Testimony from Department witnesses indicates that the lack of specificity in Log 126 was the primary reason for the negative response in Log 130. Such specificity (e.g., Blakey defection) was
deliberately avoided, according to the Ambassador, because of Privacy Act considerations. The upshot of this exchange was a lamentable breakdown in communication with neither side making any further efforts to discuss or follow up on the matter.
– Mitigating factors were present which require acknowledgment. For example, it is understandable that the Embassy did not have an investigative or judicial function. It also felt compelled to abide by U.S. laws as well as strict State Department rules and regulations while simultaneously respecting the hospitality of Guyana. Embassy personnel were also faced with the challenge of trying to remain objective in the face of two opposing groups of Americans often presenting contradictory stories; a factor reinforced by numerous letters, articles, and documents reflecting equally pro and con dimensions on Jones and the People’s Temple. Out of that balance the Embassy concluded only that People’s Temple prior to November 18, 1978, was a “controversial” or “unusual” group.
– Nevertheless, absent in the Embassy’s dealing with People’s Temple were the vital elements of common sense and an honest and healthy skepticism. Despite the acknowledged handicaps under which it worked the Embassy could have exerted sounder overall judgment and a more aggressive posture. One important result of such an effort would have been more accurate and straightforward reporting on the People’s Temple situation which, in turn, could have given the State Department a stronger and wider base on which to draw in briefing Representative Ryan and his staff. In this connection, the Privacy Act and the Freedom of Information Act, each of which was discussed in a previous section, played important roles.
– It is proven beyond doubt that Jones staged a show for selective visitors to Jonestown which made it difficult to get a realistic and accurate picture of what was actually happening there. The ability of the Embassy to break through this facade was severely hampered by several factors. First, the Embassy provided in advance to People’s Temple, the names of most but not all of the individuals who were to be interviewed by visiting consular officers. That practice allowed Jones to rehearse those people on what to say and how to act. Second, such “staging” practices were greatly facilitated by the limited time spent in Jonestown by visiting U.S. Embassy officials – an average of 5-6 hours on four different occasions between August 30, 1977, and November 7, 1978.
– In conducting normal consular activities in Jonestown and in other interactions with People’s Temple, Embassy officials were restricted by constitutionally mandated safeguards prohibiting interference with free exercise of religious beliefs and with legally sanctioned religious organizations. Recognizing that, this issue is not within the direct purview of the committee’s investigation, we nevertheless note (as observed earlier) that many People’s Temple members were originally motivated less by religious considerations than by a general social idealism. In addition, it is clear that People’s Temple had little specific dimension or few surface trappings which would have made it a “church.”
– There was a laxness in State Department procedures for distributing certain important documents relative to People’s Temple, thereby inhibiting the opportunity for taking appropriate action. Chief among these was the U.S. Customs Service report on possible gun shipments to Jonestown. Others include the April 10, 1978, affidavit by Yolanda D. A. Crawford, a People’s Temple defector, describing beatings and abuses in Jonestown; the affidavit signed in May 1978 by Debbie Blakey, another People’s Temple defector, describing suicide rehearsals and other serious charges; and finally the New West magazine article of August 1, 1977, which exposed Jones. A wider awareness of these and similar materials would have significantly enhanced the State Department’s ability to evaluate the situation. As a reflection of the problem it is interesting to note that a number of State Department officials interviewed readily volunteered the observation that prior to his trip to Guyana “Mr. Ryan knew more about People’s Temple and Jonestown than we did.”
– State Department organization and day-to-day operations created a distinction between its consular activities and its diplomatic responsibilities. Inadequate coordination between those two functions led to a situation in which matters involving People’s Temple were regarded almost exclusively as consular. Despite mounting indications that the People’s Temple issue was spilling over into the United States-Guyana diplomatic area, the mentality persisted of relegating it to the consular side.
– In the area of crisis management following the tragedy of November 18 the State Department and Embassy performed with distinction. Particularly praiseworthy in this regard were the brave and dedicated efforts of Richard Dwyer in aiding and providing leadership under trying circumstances to survivors of the Port Kaituma shooting. Equally admirable were the Department’s and Embassy’s efforts in evacuating the wounded, providing assistance to others, and keeping Washington officials adequately informed of developments. Also commendable was the competent and efficient work of Department of Defense personnel in assisting the wounded and others and returning them to the United States.
– As to allegations that a female member of People’s Temple in Guyana had engaged in a. sexual liaison with former U.S. Consul Richard McCoy and had made tape recordings of their sexual activities in an attempt to compromise McCoy, it is our firm judgment, based on our findings, that such allegations are false. The woman in question has in, fact testified and signed an affidavit categorically denying all such charges. She further stated that, “To the best of my knowledge, no member of People’s Temple engaged in any sexual activity with Richard A. McCoy” and that the People’s Temple relationship with McCoy was one of “mistrust and strained discussion though not openly hostile.” Nor is there any evidence to indicate that any other person affiliated with the U.S. Embassy in Guyana had at any time been compromised by the People’s Temple.
I. Involvement of the Government of Guyana
On the issue of People’s Temple involvement with the Government of Guyana, the Staff Investigative Group renders the following incomplete findings (for further elaboration, see Appendix III-I in classified version only):
– There is evidence of a strong working relationship between the People’s Temple and some officials of the Government of Guyana, especially in the areas of customs and immigration. It is obvious that a special privileged status allowed People’s Temple to bring items into Guyana outside of the usual customs procedures, often with cursory inspection at best. Many shipments were inspected perfunctorily or not at all. It is likely that People’s Temple brought large sums of money and guns into Guyana in suitcases and false-bottom crates as a result of such customs inspections. As a matter of fact, some of these concerns were expressed by Guyanese officials.
– Guyanese immigration procedures were also compromised to the advantage of People’s Temple on several occasions, chiefly in two key areas. First, People’s Temple members were able to facilitate entry of their own members or inhibit the exit of defectors by having access to customs area at Timehri Airport in Georgetown closed to all other citizens. Second, clearly arbitrary decisions were made to curtail the visas and expedite the exit of individuals regarded as opponents of People’s Temple. Only upon the strenuous efforts of the U.S. Embassy were some of these decisions ultimately reversed and then at the last minute.
– There are in the investigative record repeated charges of a sexual liaison between People’s Temple member Paula Adams and Laurence Mann, Guyana’s Ambassador to the United States. It has been reported that Ms. Adams made tape recordings of her sexual encounters with Mann. Transcripts of some of those tapes were apparently made for Mr. Jones and periodically turned over to high officials in the Guyanese Government.
– There is also evidence, incomplete and inconclusive, that unknown officials of the Guyanese Government may have taken action to influence the outcome of the Stoen custody case proceedings in the Guyanese court system.
– Testimony from some witnesses suggest that support extended to the People’s Temple by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development Ptolemy Reid was born of an ideological compatibility with and endorsement of the Temple’s Socialist philosophy. While such support was exploited in the sense that it had the ultimate effect of furthering People’s Temple objectives, it did not appear to be generated for illegal reasons.
NOTE. – In reference to these findings regarding the relationship of the Government of Guyana to the People’s Temple, the Staff Investigative Group was precluded from confirming or dispelling various allegations by the refusal of the Guyanese Government to meet and talk with the Group, per Chairman Zablocki’s requests of March 2 and 16, 1979. (See Appendix II-E-l.) Consequently, to our regret, some of the findings noted above must remain partial and incomplete. There is no doubt in our mind, however, that
our inability to interview Guyanese Government officials leaves this report with a conspicuous void.
J. Social Security; Foster Children
Although this inquiry’s scope did not require investigating allegations that the People’s Temple stole or fraudulently used its members social security benefits, some information regarding these charges did surface during the course of the probe that is worth noting. (For further elaboration, see Appendix III-J-1 in classified version only.)
At the time of the tragedy of November 18, 1978, a total of 199 social security annuitants reportedly lived in Jonestown. Altogether their annuities amounted to approximately $37,000 per month. It is readily apparent that this income contributed substantially to the maintenance of the Jonestown operations. The Social Security Administration (SSA) is presently conducting a review of its responsibilities and performances in paying benefits to Temple members. In this regard, the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare has submitted an interim report to the committee. In essence the report indicates that to date no wrongdoing on the part of the Temple has been discovered. It does cite, however, four cases that are being investigated because the beneficiaries’ checks were being forwarded to Guyana, from the United States without Social Security Administration’s records revealing their correct addresses. The Social Security Administration review is continuing and upon its completion the committee is to receive a copy of the final report.
The interim report indicates, inter alia, that the Social Security Administration is responsible for administering Section 207 of the Social Security Act (43 U.S.C. 407) which provides, “the right of any person to any future payment under this title shall not be transferable or assignable, at law or in equity.…” Consequently, whenever a social security annuitant requests that his or her checks be mailed to someone else’s address the Social Security Administration looks into the possibility of assignment. Such an inquiry was launched after Temple members moved to Guyana and asked that their monthly payments be mailed in care of the Jonestown settlement’s post office box address.
The U.S. Embassy in Georgetown, Guyana was asked by the Social Security Administration to query Jonestown residents as to why they wanted their checks sent to the settlement’s post office address and whether any of the beneficiaries had assigned the right to future payments to the People’s Temple.
In response to the Social Security Administration’s request, U.S. Consul Richard McCoy, during January and May 1978 visits to Jonestown, determined that the post office box address was being used for the convenience of the beneficiaries, that each annuitant interviewed was receiving and controlling the use of his monthly payment, and that none had assigned their checks to the Temple. McCoy’s successor, Douglas Ellice, accompanied by Vice Consul Dennis Reece, also checked into social security matters during a November 7, 1978, visit to Jonestown.
McCoy did find Jonestown social security beneficiaries who were heavily influenced to turn over their monthly benefits to the Temple. Nevertheless, in his estimation, these individuals voluntarily gave their money to the Temple. In addition, he reported that all of the beneficiaries he saw in Jonestown appeared to be adequately housed, fed, and in relatively good health. Given these findings, the Social Security Administration decided to continue the procedure of mailing the monthly checks to the Jonestown post office box address.
Section 1611 (f) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1811 (f) ) stipulates that:
…no individual shall be considered an eligible individual for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, for any month during all of which such individual is outside the United States…
According to the Social Security Administration interim report:
… as soon as it was learned that members of the People’s Temple were moving to Guyana, the Social Security Administration district office in San Francisco, working with postal officials and officials of the People’s Temple, went to extraordinary lengths to ensure Social Security Administration was notified when a member who was entitled to social security benefits moved abroad. This action proved very effective. When members who had been entitled to SSI benefits left the United States, action was taken to stop the SSI payments.
To date, the Social Security Administration has discovered only one instance of a Temple beneficiary going to Guyana without notifying Social Security Administration authorities. This individual’s checks were received and cashed by her husband who continued to live in the United States. The Social Security Administration has found nothing to indicate that the failure to report the wife’s move to Guyana involved People’s Temple officials. The Staff Investigative Group has been informed by the Social Security Administration that its ongoing review of payments to Temple members is focusing on the following:
(a) Did any of the Retirement Survivors Disability Insurance (RSDI) beneficiaries living in Jonestown die there before November 18, 1978, without the knowledge of the Social Security Administration?
(b) Were any SSI payments made to a beneficiary for months after the month that individual left the United States? (As mentioned earlier, such payments are illegal.)
Some 656 social security checks were found uncashed and undeposited in Jonestown after the November 18 tragedy. According to one State Department official, the vast majority of the approximately $160,000 in checks recovered in Jonestown were August, September, and October 1978 social security checks.
The Social Security Administration claims it will be several months before the process of identifying the remains of the Jonestown dead is finished. At last report, 173 social security beneficiaries have been positively identified as dead. Eight others are known to have survived. The balance of 18 are still unaccounted for but the presumption is that they are among the unidentified deceased. (See Appendix III-J-2.)
Possibly as many as 150 foster children have been alleged to have died in Jonestown during the mass suicide/murder ritual of last No-
vember. Senator Alan Cranston’s Subcommittee on Child and Human Development is conducting an investigation of these charges with the assistance of the GAO. Preliminary indications are that 12 California foster children may be identified as having died. Greatly complicating the identification process is the fact that neither dental nor fingerprint records exist on most of the children. At this writing, it is hoped that the GAO investigators may be able to provide at least a preliminary report of their findings to Senator Cranston’s subcommittee by the end of May 1979 for a hearing that will be held in Los Angeles.
The Staff Investigative Group was informed by State Department witnesses that the U.S. Embassy in Guyana was never asked by California welfare officials to check on the welfare and whereabouts of California foster children reportedly living in Jonestown. The U.S. Embassy, however, was aware that some foster children may have been living there and asked the Department of State to determine whether it was legal for such wards of the State to leave the United States. One Department witness stated that he queried appropriate California authorities and was told that court permission was required to take them out of the State. This same official also discerned some reluctance on the part of these authorities to talk about the subject. (For further elaboration, see Appendix III-J-3, in classified version only.)
K. Future Status of People’s Temple
Although it was beyond the purview of the inquiry as mandated by Chairman Zablocki, the Staff Investigative Group obtained evidence and impressions relative to the possible future status of People’s Temple and some related matters which the Group believes are useful to establish for this record. (For further elaboration, see Appendix III-H-K in classified version only.)
Accordingly, it is our judgment at this time that the possibility of People’s Temple being reconstituted cannot be discounted. This belief is based in large measure on the distinction seemingly held by surviving People’s Temple members between Jim Jones as an individual and what People’s Temple represented as an organization. Thus, while some remaining People’s Temple members express varying degrees of regret, dismay, and disapproval over what Jim Jones did, they still seem to embrace the principles and objectives which they believe People’s Temple sought to achieve. There is also some evidence to suggest that a power struggle may be underway within the ranks of surviving People’s Temple members in an attempt to establish a new leader. Only time will determine whether in fact such a development may take place.
While the existence of a reported “hit squad” whose purported purpose is to eliminate Jones’ staunchest opponents cannot be concretely documented it should not be totally discounted. This group has been described as including some of Jones’ most zealous adherents. There is evidence to suggest Jones and some of his key lieutenants discussed and had “understandings” to eliminate various individuals, including national political leaders. Time may diminish the possible threat of this factor in any and all future activities and investigations aimed at People’s Temple.
On the basis of the findings presented above, as reinforced by other elements of the investigation, we respectfully submit for consideration the following recommendations:
(1) Review of Exemption Provisions Under the Privacy Act and -Freedom of Information Act
Without disrupting the basic objectives and purposes of both the Privacy Act and the Freedom of Information Act, we urge appropriate congressional committee review of both statutes in an effort to eliminate or minimize some of the shortcomings and problems cited. Such a review should be carried out in coordination with State Department legal experts and representatives of the Department’s Consular Services Section.
In particular, the State Department and the appropriate congressional committees should explore the feasibility of more clearly defining the scope of the exemptions from agency disclosure of records provided under both the Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act to determine what, if any, legislative changes may be required with respect to the exemption provisions under both acts or whether some interpretive understandings may be reached as to their scope.
(2) Review of Internal Revenue Service Rules and Regulations Regarding Churches
With respect to the advantages and privileges People’s Temple enjoyed as a tax-exempt “church,” appropriate congressional committees should consider reviewing pertinent Internal Revenue Service rules and regulations. In particular, it appears desirable to provide for periodic IRS review of qualifying status in order to assure that originally stated purposes and objectives are still being fulfilled and that the nature and general activities of an organization deemed to be a “church” under IRS guidelines have not changed over time. Also possibly worthy of specific review is the procedure whereby exemptions are authorized under a “group ruling” to an association of churches when the members of an association may have little resemblance to each other in terms of doctrine or method of operation.
(3) State Department Organization and Procedures
In terms of State Department organization and procedures, we offer the following recommendations. We do so with the understanding that they are premised on our review of State Department/Embassy performance regarding the People’s Temple in Guyana and therefore may not necessarily have the same applicability to all State Department/Embassy operations worldwide.
Accordingly, it is recommended that:
– The present system governing dissemination of documents and information should be revised to insure that relevant information be provided to appropriate State Department and Embassy personnel. Such revisions should contribute to a more candid exchange of ideas and information, thereby enhancing the prospects for a more informed and effective decision-making process.
– Contrary to assurances of Department of State witnesses, the Staff Investigative Group found clear deficiencies in the interaction and coordination between the Department’s consular and political sections. Given the significant increase in American citizens living and traveling abroad and the resultant consular services they require, it is imperative that this shortcoming be corrected. Especially important in this regard, consular officers should be accorded increased respect and stature vis-à-vis their diplomatic colleagues.
– Every consideration should be given to increasing the availability of legal assistance to Embassy staffs. The increasing complexity of new laws placing added responsibilities on such staffs makes it urgent that legal expertise be more readily available. The implementation of this recommendation should help to minimize confusion, enhance the implementation of new laws, and provide better and more effective service to Americans abroad.
(4) Concentrated Program of Research and Training on Cults Needed
As noted in the body of this report, the subject of cults is complex and laced with strong emotions. Regrettably, too little is known about the phenomenon of cults or the dynamics and methods of such groups and their leaders. Within the mental health community, research and focus on the issue have been minimal and literature is almost nonexistent. It is not unreasonable to conclude, in fact, that cult groups in the United States tend to thrive because of this lack of understanding and information.
We therefore recommend, on an urgent basis, that the professional scientific community undertake a concentrated program of research and training aimed at understanding fundamental questions in this area. Such a program, under the auspices of the National Institute of Mental Health, must be adequately funded and staffed and should be carried out by whatever mechanism will produce practical results as soon as possible.
(5) Inclusion of the Subject of Cults on the Agenda of the White House Conference on the Family
Finally, we believe it would be appropriate to include on the agenda of an upcoming White House Conference on the Family a comprehensive and balanced discussion on the subject of cults with special reference to their mode of operation, the style and tactics of their leaders, and means and methods by which parents and their children can avoid becoming involved with such organizations.