FOI News Briefs

In addition to the government documents which the editors of the jonestown report have obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, we have numerous requests that are still pending. While we will report on those releases in future editions, we also invite readers who are interested in particular requests to contact us directly so we may keep you informed of developments as they occur.

Central Intelligence Agency: In the early 1980’s, in compliance with a court ruling on a lawsuit filed by the editors of the jonestown report, the CIA released a small number of heavily-redacted documents on Jonestown. We have now asked for reconsideration of the earlier decisions to withhold much of the material. The new request notes the passage of time since November 1978, the deaths of numerous U.S. Embassy officials in the intervening years, and then-President Clinton’s 1994 Executive Order pledging greater openness of government records.

Status: The CIA denied a request for a public interest fee waiver on this request. We have amended the request to meet CIA criteria for a fee waiver. A decision on that request is currently pending.

Internal Revenue Service: The IRS decision of February 1978 to investigate the tax-exempt status of Peoples Temple did more than add fuel to the Jonestown community’s belief in a government conspiracy against it; the decision represented a tangible threat to its financial stability. Our request seeks all IRS records related to the initial approval of the tax-exempt status, and the subsequent investigation reviewing that approval.

Status: The IRS has asked for identifying information, such as the Temple’s Employer Identification Number, which we have been unable to furnish. Efforts to get this number from the states of Indiana and California have proven unsuccessful, and we would certainly appreciate any assistance that any of our readers could provide. In the meantime, the request is temporarily on hold.

Department of Justice: In response to public outrage over the death of Leo Ryan at the Port Kaituma airstrip, the Justice Department prosecuted and convicted one man of conspiracy to kill a Congressman. This request seeks all government records related to the trials of Larry Layton.

Status: The request is currently before the Criminal Division of the Justice Department. The division’s FOI office has asked for the records from other divisions as well — including the Office of International Affairs, and Violent Crime and Terrorism — before it begins to process the request. It is still pending.

National Archives: Realizing that many federal government agencies may have turned over old records to the National Archives for storage, we recently asked the archives for a copy of any documents related to Peoples Temple and Peoples Temple which may be warehoused there.

Status: The request is pending.

Department of State (1): Because the State Department issued passports for members of Peoples Temple who emigrated to Guyana, and because those passport records were instrumental in the identification of the Jonestown dead, we have asked the agency for a copy of all passports recovered in Guyana following the deaths in Jonestown.

Status: The request is still pending.

Department of State (2): While the FBI was responsible for the removal of most records from Jonestown following the mass deaths, one published source claims that an unnamed representative of the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown also removed papers from the encampment during the evacuation of the bodies. We have filed a request for copies of those documents.

Status: The request is still pending.