CIA Denies Access to Jonestown Records

The passage of a quarter century apparently hasn’t made much impact on the Central Intelligence Agency.

Records recently released by the CIA contain little in the way of substantive information, or any additional records to those released in 1983. Instead, the agency continues to claim a national security exemption for the vast majority of the material in its files.

The CIA released the material following a Freedom of Information Act request made by Fielding M. McGehee III, one of the editors of the jonestown report. The request was seven years old when the agency granted the limited release.

The request from June 2000 asked for much of the same information requested on December 6, 1978, about two weeks after the deaths in Jonestown, Guyana. The latter request noted that 22 years had passed since the original request, and that numerous figures with the U.S. Embassy in Guyana who were rumored to have CIA connections –  including former U.S. Ambassador to Guyana John Burke; former Deputy Chief of Mission Richard Dwyer; and Robert Ode – had since died. The additional factors seem to have no effect upon the CIA’s declassification review processes.

In an administrative appeal of the decision to withhold the materials, McGehee cited the new regulation which provides for automatic declassification of most national security documents which are more than 25 years old (see related story, here). All of the documents in this request meet that criterion. The agency has yet to respond to the appeal.