A request made to the Central Intelligence Agency under the Freedom of Information Act for all records related to Peoples Temple, Jim Jones and Jonestown, recently celebrated its fifth birthday without receiving a substantive response.
The FOIA requires an agency to reply to a request within 20 working days.
Filed in July 2000, the request by the editors of the jonestown report seeks the same information which they asked for in December 1978, less than a month after the deaths in Jonestown. Following a 1981 lawsuit resulting in a court ordering consideration of the request, the agency identified fewer than 100 pages, and deleted almost all the information on them, citing the national security exemption.
The second request pointed out that the passage of time since the original request would have reduced the sensitivity of the information. “The world – including the threats to U.S. security interests – has changed dramatically in [22 years],” the request said, “and the considerations which led to withholding the material then almost certainly have undergone similar changes.”
The CIA has acknowledged receipt of the request, and made assurances that it was being processed in accordance with agency regulations.
A recent letter seeking a status report on the request noted that we were aware the CIA has processed relevant documents – because the case of McGehee & Moore v. Justice (see related story here) had forced the agency to turn over those documents to the FBI – yet the agency has still failed to abide by its statutory obligations to respond to the separate request.