Summary prepared by Fielding M. McGehee III. If you use this material, please credit The Jonestown Institute. Thank you.
FBI Catalogue: Radio Transmissions
FBI preliminary tape identification note: None
Date cues on tape: None; transmissions occur between San Francisco and Jonestown after migrations, so this likely occurred after Spring 1977
Sarah (probably Tropp)(speaks)
Dr. George L. Bedford, Pastor, Macedonia Avenue Baptist Church
Bible verses cited: None
(Note: This tape was one of the 53 tapes initially withheld from disclosure.)
This tape, which was was initially withheld from disclosure, includes some discussion of supplies which the Jonestown project needed, questions about concerns raised by relatives in the US, and a conversation about a play or skit to be performed in Jonestown.
The majority of this rather short tape is a conversation which is essentially incomprehensible. The exchanges between people on the radio mention names which are unfamiliar and which may be in code. Even with the names deciphered through the Peoples Temple phrase book — as presented in the FBI Summary below — the conversation is out of context and does not scan well.
As with other radio transmissions between Jonestown and the US, the speakers give the call letters of the shortwave on numerous occasions, yet they are interrupted by people who want to know who’s on the frequency and what they’re doing. Also as with other tapes with radio transmissions, the clearest voice is that of the person doing the recording, a person who was apparently not a member of Peoples Temple or the Jonestown community.
Date of transcription: 6/20/79
In connection with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s investigation into the assassination of U.S. Congressman LEO J. RYAN at Port Kaituma, Guyana, South America, on November 18, 1978, a tape recording was obtained. This tape recording was located in Jonestown, Guyana, South America, and was turned over to U.S. Officials in Guyana and subsequently transported to the United States.
On June 5, 1979, Special Agent (name deleted) reviewed the tape numbered 1B97. This tape was found to contain the following:
Phrases which appear to have been coded.
The transmissions were decoded by the Agent using the People’s Temple code book.
The word or phrases underlined indicate the coded word and the word or phrases in parenthesis indicate the decoded section.
This is something from ARLENE’s (VERA) or (CLEO) department that Dr. BRYANT (SUTTON) or DYMALLY [California Lt. Gov. and Temple supporter, Mervyn Dymally]) and FELIX’s (WILLIE BROWN [Califorina Assembly Speaker]) counter part in Dr. Bedford’s area and a number of other people, anyway its tomorrow in Dr. Bedford’s place and its a SCOTT (Synanon) will be there. No but he is related to Dr. SHOEMAKER (CECIL WILLIAMS [minister at Glide Methodist Church in San Francisco] ) main one will be Dr. BRYANT its all of San Francisco meeting together in unity.
We talked to Dr. RYAN today, so he has background regarding SALLY (Press), however this was another event where I just wanted to run it across and not make any assumptions of Dr. RYAN.
We have already given Dr. RYAN, Dr. HUDSON’s (possibly JIM JONES) opinion on the matter.)
Dr. MILLS (GRECO) who is he. He works for the same department as Dr. WHITWHITE (TOS [Tim Stoen]).
The remaining transmissions described the performances given by the people of Jonestown in Georgetown.
Differences with FBI Summary:
Considering the brevity of the tape, the partial transcription that the FBI did of it, and the importance the agency once attached to it — this was one of the 53 tapes initially withheld from disclosures — there are many significant factual errors in the summary.
The FBI partial transcription is incomprehensible, in part because several exchanges are lumped into single paragraphs, with many key words left out that would give it grammatical sense.
Secondly, some of the sentences which are in the FBI summary are wrong and, as a result of the error, give a completely different context to the remarks. “I work for the same department as Dr. White,” a sentence that comes through well on the tape, turns into “He works for the same department as Dr. Whitwhite” in the FBI summary.
Most importantly, though, are the errors in the names. As noted in the preceding paragraph, the FBI’s “Dr. Whitwhite” is clearly spoken of as “Dr. White.” In addition, the FBI’s “Dr. Hudson,” whom the agency says is the possible code-name for Jim Jones, is “Dr. Hutch,” and the FBI’s “Dr. Mills” is actually “Dr. Miles” on the tape.
The transcriber of the tape for this website believes that the FBI worked backwards on their transcription, from the Peoples Temple code book to the tape, instead of from the tape to the code book. If the FBI had made notes from the tape first, it would have emerged with a more accurate representation of what was on the tape. Instead, by trying to correlate the names with codes that are available — but which don’t apply — the agency does everyone a disservice, including itself.
Finally, many of the tapes of radio transmissions turned over to the FBI came from sources outside of Peoples Temple. The sources for those other tapes are acknowledged with the notation, “This tape recording of radio transmissions on amateur radio frequencies was furnished to the FBI by (name deleted).” A marginal note indicates the words were deleted under Freedom of Information Act exemption b7d, “investigatory records compiled for law enforcement purposes … [and which] disclose the identity of a confidential source…”
There was no such notation with this tape.
Nevertheless, the tape is similar to those furnished by other confidential sources. The clearest voice on the tape is that of the unknown recorder, the man who says midway through the tape, “F14-267.0.” The person doing the recording also engages in conversation with the Temple members; his voice is distorted, and only a few random words come through the distortion, but there is a clarity on such tell-tale signs as the intake of breath between sentences that doesn’t exist with other people being recorded off the air.
This creates a new major error with the summary, and a new problem emerges because of that error: it cloaks more than the identity, but the very existence, of a confidential source. Moreover, rather than simply “furnish[ing]” the tape to the FBI, i.e., acting solely as a passive conduit of information, in this instance, the person doing the recording was interacting with the Temple.
There is another possibility, of course, which is that the summary is accurate in this regard, and that the tape was, in fact, recovered from Jonestown. The implications of this would give ammunition to several conspiracy theories, though: Was the third party making the recording a member of Peoples Temple, and if so, why was he doing it? The recording is similar to those that were furnished to the FBI from a “confidential source”; does this mean the FBI’s “confidential source” was within Peoples Temple for the other recordings as well? Finally, given the interaction between the person doing the recording and the members of the Temple who answered him — and whose answers increased in frustration — does this mean the person was acting as an agent provocateur within the Temple?
Tape originally posted January 2002