1999-2000 FOIA Activities

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 current on developments as they occur.

U.S. Army: This request seeks information about the activities of the U.S. Graves Registration team which participated in the bodylift of the Jonestown dead. The information we requested may be similar to that released to us by the Air Force, but the Army records will complete the picture of military involvement in the humanitarian effort.

Status: Beyond a release of a short four-page memo, the Army has been unable to locate the office which has the substantial portion of the records. The request is still active.

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 decision to withhold much of the material. The new request notes the passage of time since the deaths, the deaths of numerous U.S. Embassy officials since that time, and President Clinton’s 1994 Executive Order pledging greater openness of government records.

Status: The CIA has acknowledged receipt and is processing the request.

Federal Communications Commission: This requests seeks the 29 released – and four previously unreleased – tapes of ham radio transmissions between Temple members, primarily between San Francisco and Jonestown.

Status: The FCC has pledged to release the 29 tapes initially released to requester Brian Csuk. The agency is currently exploring the cost of duplicating the remaining tapes.

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. While we are trying to get this information through Indiana’s state taxation agencies, we would certainly appreciate any assistance that any of you could provide us. The request is temporarily on hold.

Department of Justice (1): In response to the 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. Arguing that the trial of Larry Layton stemmed from the fact that there was no one else to charge – since everyone else, including those who planned the deaths, was dead in Jonestown – this request seeks all government records related to Layton’s trial.

Status: The request is currently before the Criminal Division and the Executive Office of the U.S. Attorneys within the Justice Department. Neither office has made a substantive decision on the request.

Department of Justice (2): According to the 1979 report of the congressional investigation of Congressman Ryan’s assassination, the NBC television network turned over all of its video of Jonestown which was taped during Ryan’s visit to Jonestown, as well as of the shootings at the Port Kaituma airstrip, to the Justice Department. We have asked for a copy of everything which NBC submitted to Justice.

Status: The Justice Department is searching for the tapes. There is no indication where the tapes might be, when they might be located, or whether they will be released upon their discovery. The request is pending.

Department of State: Microfiche records created by State and released to us may be incomplete, according to the caseworker on our original request. The original compilation is several years old and does not include anything processed for release since that time. In addition, it does not include classified records which State turned over to Congress in 1979. This supplemental request seeks all those records.

Status: State is processing the request.