Jonestown, the CIA and the Mystery Tape

A mysterious tape (labeled as Q 875) was allegedly found at Jonestown by the FBI. What makes this tape so very mysterious is that it was made after the deaths, as proven by the radio broadcasts playing in the background. For several years, folks have thrown out lots of ideas in an attempt to explain this tape. I believe that for some, my explanation of the tape will answer lots of questions.

I believe the mystery tape is important physical evidence left by a medical team under the control of the CIA, whose role was to inject all of the bodies between the shoulder blades, a location preselected because it is the only place on the body that humans cannot inject themselves. A leader on the CIA medical team was likely charged with monitoring the media as events unfolded. He attempted to record the press coverage off of a radio at Jonestown. Then, due to a hurried operation, the tape was left behind. This was not a big blunder, in a way, because there is nothing much on the tape. The only real oversight in leaving the tape is that the tape was made in Jonestown after the mass deaths, thus begging the question “by whom?”

There is adequate evidence that the CIA had been monitoring Jonestown before the mass suicides. Members of Green Berets who were there confirm that the plan was to go in and kill any survivors. This was necessary in order to execute a bigger plan, which was to inject all the bodies in a way that would make it look like mass murder. This plan did not fit into reality very well, however, since survivors popped up who had watched the suicides from the jungle and reported how people hugged and kissed before voluntarily killing themselves. This forced the CIA to backtrack quickly.

Whether or not there was a real necessity for the population of Jonestown to have it put upon them to commit suicide to show their commitment to Liberation Theology is really not the question. For the CIA the question was, “How do we stop Jim Jones from making a social statement on behalf of Liberation Theology and the Left?” After the bodies were all injected, they had a new problem. Reports from eyewitnesses (such as Stanley Clayton, who had watched from the jungle) and reports of a “death tape” recorded at the time of the mass suicide threatened to blow their cover.

The CIA now had to keep their first plan from backfiring on them. Guyana Coroner Leslie Mootoo’s first official report on the Jonestown deaths said there were needle marks between the shoulder blades on virtually all of the bodies found there. According one Jonestown survivor who assisted the coroner in early identifications, “Mootoo did not seem like the kind of man who would be easily intimidated, but something really scared him. He said that someone made him change his story.” It was obviously the CIA that pressured Dr. Mootoo into changing his report. He altered the report to say that only a few people were injected, thus making the information fit the death tape, witnesses’ accounts, etc. This later report is what became the “Official Report” for the press and for history.

According to Charles Huff, one of the Green Berets in charge of the operation at Jonestown, sixteen highly trained soldiers who participated in and witnessed the operation all died, and all their deaths were called suicide. This too shows there was a major cover-up involved. For some reason, these sixteen people knew too much. But they did not commit suicide. Leading psychologists say that it is not a normal response for rescue workers who have gone in to save drowning victims to feel like drowning themselves too. In addition, it is against everything they have been trained to do.

In my unique search for the truth regarding what really happened at Jonestown for my upcoming book The Jonestown Legacy, I was fortunate to interview one of the Green Berets who landed there shortly after the Jonestown suicides. For the purposes of the book he asked me to call him Scott Hooker, explaining that this name will identify him to the other soldiers who were there. He told me how he pulled Jones’ dead body out of his chair and how haunting his hazel-colored eyes were, as they seemed to stare into space. Most shocking of all, he told me in detail how the Green Berets were under instructions to kill the survivors. This was the same story told by Lt. Col. James “Bo” Gritz, the commander in charge of all the Green Berets in Latin and South America at that time. Gritz said openly that he did not know too much beyond the fact that it was the Green Berets’ mission to go in and kill survivors. He said this is because it was a compartmentalized CIA operation.

Gritz also reported afterward that the man in charge of the operation returned and said, “The niggers are all dead.” In ways Gritz is a press-hungry and egotistical character. The most decorated soldier in Vietnam, he now makes it as a celebrity of sorts. He was on the news while negotiating a peaceful settlement between the police and white separatist Randy Weaver. Gritz was also caught on TV giving the Nazi salute to skinheads as he left a building where negotiations were going on in a standoff between right-wing extremists and the police.

Stanley Clayton and both of the Temple attorneys who fled Jonestown all reported hearing bursts of automatic machine-gun fire – and even three cheers by the soldiers – after their mission was accomplished and the survivors who remained were killed. Since there had been no automatic weapons in Jonestown, the bodies of those who were shot by the Green Berets had to be removed via helicopter and dropped into the jungle.

Scott Hooker told me that as their helicopter was landing, survivors were waving to be rescued. However the Green Berets were ordered to shoot them dead. Scott described the blood misting into a red cloud around the first man he shot – with his automatic weapon – upon exiting the helicopter. He emphasized that the Green Berets were under orders to turn over the dead bodies in search of explosives before the CIA medical team took over. This is further proof that the CIA has been monitoring Jonestown, because as one survivor remembers, Jones publicly announced the idea or threat of putting explosives on their bodies before committing suicide as a sort of booby trap for the enemy.

In 1978 it was the CIA’s job to represent the Radical Right in the destruction of the Radical Left. The Cold War was at its height. Bo Gritz was quoted as saying that Jones had become “very politically connected.” After leaving the United States, Jones was attempting to transform his followers from the peace and love of Jesus to the by-any-means-necessary and change-only-comes-out-of-the-barrel-of-a-gun philosophies of more violent leaders such as Mao Tse-Tung and Malcolm X. Ironically, Peoples Temple had been founded as a passivist and humanitarian group that denounced violence, dictatorship and totalitarian government. But over the years, Jones’ drug-induced psychosis mounted. He became very passive-aggressive and was dreaming and scheming in his war against the Right Wing, capitalism and the CIA – just as the CIA schemed to demonize both him and Liberation Theology.

We know this: On that day the Radical Right enjoyed the destruction of the Radical Left. In his megalomaniacal desire to go down in history, Jim Jones did the work for them. He did not realize he was doing the Radical Right a favor. He actually believed that this ridiculous plan would be seen internationally as a meaningful and virtuous protest. In Buddhist societies, both individual and group suicides have been seen as effective protests, but it simply did not work in American society.

My friend Tim Carter has told me that a sound on the tape which is very similar to the slamming of a screen door leads him to believe the Q875 tape could have been made in Port Kaituma. However, he also admitted to me that this sound could be any number of other things, such as a cabinet door or the sound of closing a piece of portable gear, and that, indeed, the tape could have been made other places, including Jonestown. Loud jungle birds are clearly audible in the background on the tape. Trees for such jungle birds did not exist near the Temple’s Georgetown headquarters at Lamaha Gardens. At Port Kaituma there were trees but nothing else much more than a bar. Finally, the FBI had reason to be in Jonestown, because the suicides there made it a crime scene. The Temple headquarters in Georgetown was also a crime scene because Sharon Amos and her children died there.

The protocol used by the FBI in categorizing evidence and using evidence bags is very scientific. The FBI is made up of extensively trained people with college educations. Considering the evidence, I believe the tape was made in Jonestown, found in Jonestown by the FBI, properly labeled and entered into evidence.

I hired an international transcriber for a major Maharaja to listen to the mystery tape over and over with her professional transcription equipment and to transcribe it. Because of the broad difference in what people have been hearing on the tape, it was very important to me to get an experienced and objective transcriptionist with high-dollar equipment. This transcriptionist has been doing tape transcription on the average of five days a week for most of the past thirty years. She has transcribed not only for a spiritual teacher with a decided Hindi accent, but various and sundry recordings with different dialects, accents and background noises for top institutions, including the University of California San Diego. When given this tape to transcribe, she was not told what to listen for.

Her objectivity was very important to me, because other people were reading things into the tape that were not there. Sometimes the mind, especially in a state of paranoia or fear – such as surrounds the entire Jonestown phenomena – can project what it wants to hear (or thinks it will hear). The right-wingers or the Jones demonizers for instance were sure that they heard Jones’ voice on the tape – implying that he was alive after all the other people were dead. This is not true. The voice of Jones is absolutely nowhere to be found on the tape.

One of the most interesting things that this professional transcriptionist heard was a man’s voice saying, “I’ll meet you on the way out.” Among other interesting things did hear was the word “triage” amongst an array of professional-sounding voices going about a busy job. Someone said “Sue,” after which someone else says, “Shut up.”

I was so intrigued by her results that I borrowed one of her professional transcription machines, which allowed me to toy with the pitch on the tape to experiment with both speed and tone. After this I gave the tape to a professional soundman. He recorded it onto the computer as a waveform and phase-shifted it and messed with various sound effects from hiss removal to vocal removal. We took waveform photos of each interesting section with numbers referencing each increment. This means that anyone can listen to the same pieces and email them back and forth.

Both the CIA and FBI must have found Peoples Temple interesting. In histories of Peoples Temple told to date, little mention is made that this church was one of history’s best examples of Liberation Theology. Peoples Temple must have been the only church in America where the members raised their collective fists and sang the Russian National Anthem during church services.

Was Jim Jones a CIA agent? No, he was not. In The Jonestown Legacy, I reveal information about Jones’ high IQ as a copyist (or copycat). I explain in detail about how he copied cult tactics used in the larger society that folk normally think is okay. Jim Jones excelled in politics and believed in being a double agent in general. He believed in playing the CIA for a fool. He believed in playing the FBI for a fool. He believed in playing the President of the United States for a fool. Etcetera. He studied the beliefs and tactics of individual politicians, told them what they wanted to hear and worked his way into their confidence. He told Democrats he was a Democrat; he told Republicans he was a Republican. Behind their backs he made fun of them all. Boy, did he make fun of them. Letters were written to politicians just to get back letters of approval. Jones knew how to court the enemy. He also seemed to specialize in blackmailing the enemy. I can assure you that women were sent to compromise local politicians, including CIA agent and embassy chief Richard Dwyer there in Guyana.

Jones courted both the Left and the Right, because they were both powerful groups. He loved to play them for fools in front of the whole church. I remember once when a political guest speaker was addressing the crowd from the pulpit in LA, and Jones came up behind him and gave him devil horns with his two fingers behind the man’s head. The crowd roared with laughter, and the poor speaker could not figure out what he had said that was so funny. It is not that the crowd was mean-spirited. Jones had created an “us versus them” mentality and openly mocked the enemy.

In those end days, when Jones thought he was playing the CIA for a fool, he tried to keep tight control over Dwyer, but he did not have a deal with the CIA to kill all the people as some right-wing slander has suggested. He simply tried to go down in history with a mass protest suicide. When the Special Forces went in to look for explosives on the bodies, it was because the CIA did not know what to expect next. In true Jonesian fashion, Jones had given them a variety of scenarios and they were not clued in.

Since the first call made out of Jonestown on the day of those tragic deaths was on a CIA channel, we know the CIA was standing close by. How close? Was there a CIA agent living at Jonestown? Certainly Dwyer was an agent of the CIA. He was identified in the 1968 edition of Who’s Who in the CIA, he was the representative in charge of the embassy – the CIA station agent in the area – and he was there. Did Dwyer have a way of notifying the CIA that the suicide was occurring at that time? Were there bugging devices in the surrounding jungle? A month after the suicides, the San Mateo Times, a Bay Area newspaper, reported that State Department officials acknowledged that a CIA agent was dispatched to Jonestown within minutes of the airstrip assault. It is immaterial whether Dwyer was at the airstrip, just leaving Jonestown, or if he made his way back. We know that on the “death tape” Jones is heard saying, “Get Dwyer out of here.” What matters is that we understand that Jones had a deal with Dwyer for Dwyer to get out alive. This was typical of Jones’ politics. He got some blackmail on Dwyer, got Dwyer to play along and assured him that he would get him out so that Dwyer would not be involved.

This does not mean that Jones worked for the CIA. It speaks to the fact that Jones had a huge ego and thought that he could control everyone in the situation. In the end, he actually did. He even forced the Green Berets to come into the camp. Because Peoples Temple was so politically connected, they would not have come into the camp had there not been the initiation of violence against a U.S. Congressman.

The true story of what happened at Jonestown is a unique game of double agents where the Right pretend to be on the Left and the Left pretend to be on the Right – and the CIA attempts to control both.

To tell you the truth, you cannot train someone to control others the way Jim Jones did. The CIA must have been very curious as to what they could learn from him in the way of mind control. Because Jones was so good at manipulating and controlling people, we must also believe that the CIA were intensely interested in observing what he would do next. The fact that Jones did not work for the CIA does not mean that the agency was not interested in learning from this eccentric but very effective leader. The average CIA agent does not have great abilities, and many CIA ventures have been followed by failings or blow-back that has been very embarrassing to the agency. Truly, Jones must have been keenly studied as an individual who could control others psychologically. It is certain that the CIA saw him as a great curiosity. However, he was also their enemy.

Though he perceived himself as the world’s greatest strategist, Jones had several flaws that left him wide open to the CIA. He suppressed people in his own group, insomuch as no one else was allowed to be “great.” Everyone was put down so that only he could be great. This explains why even while Peoples Temple members were sometimes taught to cut the legs out from under one another and not to trust people outside their group, Jones would publicly uplift celebrities whom he had befriended – to make himself look great. He wanted to look like a celebrity, and rubbing elbows with celebrities was part of how he attempted to achieve this goal.

The Left and the Right are always tricking each other. In the end that is why Republicans wind up being conservatives who do not conserve anything and Democrats wind up being liberals who don’t liberate anything (which is why I like to call them Remocrats and Depublicans), because it is a very deceptive game.

A lawyer working for Jones in Jonestown named Mark Lane postured himself as a left-winger and someone who believed in Jones’ version of Apostolic Socialism. He also wrote a book about Jonestown called The Strongest Poison. Was Mark Lane an opportunist lawyer whose book stretched the truth and omitted important information? That is what the reviewers say. I am not saying that. Could he be an actual tool of the CIA as he makes his living appearing to attack them? I am not saying that Mark Lane is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. However I will tell you this: Mark Lane walked out of Jonestown that fateful day and later became the lawyer for the very same people in charge of killing the Jonestown survivors – Bo Gritz and the Liberty Lobby and Company. Gritz is an avowed right-winger who postures himself to be against big government, military profiteering, CIA involvement with drugs and other left-wing issues. Gritz and the Liberty Lobby are both anti-Jew pro-Hitler advocates of revisionist attempts to rewrite history and say that the Holocaust was not so bad or maybe did not really occur at all. It is a great irony that Mark Lane himself is Jewish. This subject matter is not short on ironies. Gritz, possibly envious of the Jonestown he was partly in charge of destroying, later started a community of right-wing survivalists he named “Almost Heaven.”

It would be ridiculous to not assume that the CIA is behind certain celebrities, just as it is behind some best-selling books and Hollywood movies to spread disinformation and misinformation in with the truth. For instance, right-wing celebrities began spreading lies about Jonestown being a CIA mind control experiment while telling easily-disprovable lies, such as claims that “the citizens of Jonestown were originally taken there bound and gagged.” This kind of disinformation muddied the water and helped to create a fanfare of conspiracy theories that has helped cloak the real story of the CIA involvement.

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For people who do not know me and have never read my articles 25 Years Hiding from a Dead Man or Sex in Peoples Temple on this website, it may be important to speak to the issue of credibility. I was the original pastor of the Los Angeles Peoples Temple under Jim Jones for about five years. I was the only associate whom Jones allowed to appoint other pastors, as I did when I picked Hue Fortson. Jones placed a lot of trust for me. He and I even went down together to get our shots to go to Guyana.

However, as it turned out, I chose not go. I saw that Jones was losing his mind due to his abuse of amphetamines. After publicly announcing to a number of members of Peoples Temple that Jones had gotten into power trips and humiliation tactics, I was hunted down and told that he had taken out a contract on my life.

Over the years I paid a steep price for having gone up against Jim Jones, but Peoples Temple was only one experience in a very colorful life for me. It is all an education. I recommend that everyone realize that no one is all bad and no one is all good. We must go through life picking and choosing, keeping the good in life and pushing away the bad …. and learning from it all.

(David Parker Wise is a former member of Peoples Temple. His complete collection of writings for the jonestown report may be found here. His website is Mr. Wise can be reached at