True to form, the military has become a hindrance in another investigation regarding Jonestown.
On September 26, 2010, I submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 552) to the U.S. Army’s Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act Office and – as is typical – nothing happened. Lost in the depths of a government bureaucracy, it has floundered unattended.
My request seeks military records that would identify any ground forces deployed to Jonestown so that their history can be told. The Green Berets are often cited by conspiracy theorists as members of the ground forces, whose mission, although classified, is known to them. According to other conspiracy theories, the Green Beret mission was known to Jim Jones as well.
Was the Army present at Jonestown before or during the murder suicides? The question remains unanswered, although the evidence thus far points to a resounding “no.”
The problem then is, what should a researcher make of the silence from such an innocuous request? The answer may be found in a quote attributed to Napoleon, “Never ascribe to malice that which can be attributed to incompetence.” It is more likely that the Army’s lack of attention is due to a lax clerk than it is a part of a vast conspiracy designed to hide any military involvement in the deaths at Jonestown.
In the months prior to this request, the Air Force – the other military service involved in the post-tragedy clean-up – graciously provided a unit history of the involvement of the Joint Task Force during the same period, which I outlined in The U.S. Military in Guyana: The Untold Story.
It is worth noting that Air Force Special Operations members were not only identified, but also named in the released materials received. Clearly, there is a lack of accountability in the Army’s processing of FOIA requests, at least in this one instance.
The request has been resubmitted, and pending the outcome, the role of the men and women who served in Guyana many years ago may finally be open for investigation and historical review.