The Freedom of Information Act and Jonestown

Many of the documents on this website – from the Jonestown censuses which provided the data for the Who Died? list to the Edith Roller journals, but most especially the documents in this Primary Sources section – came from files released under the Freedom of Information Act. The largest collections – some 48,000 pages – came from the FBI.

There are two sets of records in the possession of the FBI. The first, smaller collection of about 10,000 pages – code-named RYMUR for Ryan Murder – is of the FBI’s investigation into the assassination of Leo Ryan and the deaths of November 18, 1978. The second, larger collection of documents – some 38,000 pages – is of records which were generated by Peoples Temple itself and recovered by the FBI in Jonestown in 1978.

  1. RYMUR Investigation
    1. Complete sections NEW
    2. Sections divided into individual serials NEW
  2. Peoples Temple records collected by the FBI during RYMUR NEW

Access to government records has not been easily obtained. Beginning in December 1978, the managers of this website have filed scores of FOIA requests and three lawsuits under the law, the most significant of which is McGehee and Moore v. Justice.  Filed in 2000, this lawsuit seeks all documents and photographs in the FBI’s possession. The litigation has resulted in the release of unredacted Temple records. The FBI still claims FOIA exemptions for many of the RYMUR records – especially privacy exemptions, but also national security and grand jury exemptions – and the litigation continues.

This section will also include coverage of McGehee and Moore v. Justice in the jonestown report and other publications, as well as documents from the litigation itself.

  1. News coverage of McGehee and Moore v. Justice
  2. Court filings in McGehee and Moore v. Justice
    1. Decision of District Judge Gladys Kessler, DC Circuit (August 5, 2011)

Scores of other FOIA requests for Temple records have been made over the years, and some will be included below.

  1. Other FOIA requests
Originally posted on February 17th, 2013.

Last modified on September 20th, 2019.
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