After many years of filing requests under the Freedom of Information Act for documents which federal government agencies have on Peoples Temple and Jonestown, the editors of the jonestown report have uncovered five major collections of records. Those records include:
- Over 48,000 pages of documents which the Federal Bureau of Investigation has gathered on three compact disks. The records, which are unindexed, include Peoples Temple documents which the FBI collected at Jonestown following the mass deaths of November 1978, and the records of its investigation into Ryan’s assassination. You can request your own set of CD’s from the FBI through the following address: Freedom of Information/Privacy Act Section, Office of Public and Congressional Affairs, FBI, Washington, DC 20535-0001. You may get a faster response if your letter notes that the CD’s have already been released in response to FOIA Request #902718, filed by Rebecca Moore and Fielding M. McGehee III. The cost of the set of CD’s is approximately $30.
- Approximately 5000 pages of State Department records which the agency has released on microfiche. As with the FBI’s records, the microfiche pages are unindexed, although there are four broad catalogue areas. The largest collection, representing 50 of the 62 microfiche pages, includes raw agency records such as cables between the U.S. and the American Embassy in Guyana and Peoples Temple records gathered by State Department personnel. You can request any or all of the microfiche records through the following address: Office of IRM Programs and Services, Department of State, Room 1512, 2201 C St., N.W., Washington, DC 20520-1512. You may get a faster response if your letter notes that the records have already been released in response to FOIA Request #199804155, filed by Fielding M. McGehee III.
- Four rolls of microfilm which the U.S. Air Force released related to the military’s participation in the airlift of bodies from Jonestown in 1978. As with the material from the FBI and State Department, there is no index or guide to the materials, although most of it seems to be related to military activities following the deaths — such as the body identification processes and airlifting — rather than any military interest in Peoples Temple prior to November 18, 1978. The microfilm may be obtained directly from the Air Force Historical Research Agency/ISR, 600 Chennault Circle, Maxwell AFB, AL 36112-6424. You may refer to FOIA request #00-0472 filed by Rebecca Moore for faster service. The cost of the microfilm is $30 per roll, or $120 for the entire set. However, the Air Force responded favorably to our request for a fee waiver under the public interest provision of the FOIA.
More than 900 audiotapes recorded by Peoples Temple and FBI recovered by the FBI from Jonestown. All are currently available under FOIA. However, the editors of the jonestown report have more than 400 on hand, and will receive the balance of the collection in coming years. You can review the FBI’s summaries of the tapes here. The pages opening from this link will also indicate which tapes we have available for duplication, which we have transcribed and summarized, and which were initially withheld from release, pending the trials of Larry Layton.
While the FBI will respond to FOIA requests for individual tapes, you will receive faster service if you order the tapes we have in our possession directly from us. The tapes are $2 each, including shipping. Contact us about the rates for bulk orders.
Approximately 25 audiotapes which the Federal Communications Commission released to the editors of the jonestown report. The tapes include ham radio transmissions between Temple members, primarily the radio traffic between California and Guyana. This represents all the tapes in the FCC’s possession, except for four long tapes recorded at various speeds, and for which the cost of duplication is prohibitive. Most were recorded off air by FCC engineers, and the quality of the audio is sometimes poor. As with the tapes in the FBI’s possession, you will receive faster service if you order the FCC’s tapes directly from us.
Other federal agencies have had smaller amounts of materials related to Jonestown, and some of those collections have been expunged or mothballed over the years. We suggest that you review this and past editions of the jonestown report before filing FOIA requests to learn of other requestors’ experiences with different federal agencies.