[Editor’s note: The text for this document was released in 2014 by the now-defunct Wikileaks website at https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/1978GEORGE03816_d.html. This URL may be available through the Wayback Machine.]
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INFO OCT-01 ARA-11 ISO-00 JUSE-00 SSO-00 H-01 SCS-06
CA-01 SS-15 FBIE-00 NSCE-00 SY-05 CIAE-00 INR-10
NSAE-00 INRE-00 USSS-00 PA-01 CG-00 DOTE-00 CCO-00
AID-05 MCT-02 TRSE-00 ICAE-00 SYE-00 /061 W
——————101747 202229Z /66
Z O 202120Z NOV 78
FM AMEMBASSY GEORGETOWN
TO SECSTATE WASHDC FLASH 8105
INFO AMEMBASSY CARACAS IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L GEORGETOWN 3816
CARACAS FOR LEGATT
REF: STATE 293787
1. Embassy officer discussed para 4 reftel assistance offer with GOG [Government of Guyana] Commissioner of National Police (NP) Lloyd Barker, and made addititional [additional] points outline[d] in para 5 reftel. Barker was most appreciateive [appreciative] of SG [U.S. Government] offer and expressed willingness to receive Caracas Legatt. Barker’s main concern at this point is the narrow span of time available for removing bodies from Jonestown, identifying them, and conducting post-mortems on random samples of them. He was also greatly concerned about the Jonestown survivors still in the jungle who he classified into two groups: people on the run with only survival in mind; and hard core followers of Rev James Jones who intended to make a last stand against security forces pursuing them. Barker pointed out the obvious need to locate and assist the first group and the necessity for locating and confronting the second. He then outlined his plans and couched his needs in terms of the above requirements.
2. As to the evacuation of bodies, Barker stressed the urgency of a large-scale effort to quickly prepare these bodies for removal.
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He was not aware of the possibility of having in-country a U.S. Graves Registration team and the contribution they could make to orderly and speedy evacuation. Baker [Barker] sent several Jonestown escapees back to Jonestown with a six-man police team to help identify murder/suicide victims. Two photographers and two fingerprint technicians are present to assist in the identification process. Police plan to separate the bodies into two groups for investigative purposes: those who were poisoned and those who died of gunshot wounds. Police will take approximately three bodies from each group for post-mortem exams to be conducted onsite at the Jonetown [Jonestown] medical facility. Police will focus on conspiracy rather than try to develop separate murder cases for each victim. In this light, a curious Guyanese law of evidence prevails which has important implications: a candidate for postmorteum [postmortem] must be identified by a close relative or a person who has known the candidate for several years: later, the police investigator who is present at the post mortem must accompany the body to its final resting place and witness its burial. Barker said that police are willing to use Jonestown escapees to identify the bodies but may be obliged to insist on police investigatiors [investigators] accompanying the bodies to the US for burial once the post mortem is completed. Barker stated a willingness to deviate from the conspiracy approach to prosecution should witness statements give promise of dveloping [developing] a good individual murder case. Conspiracy to murder, by the way, carries a maximum of seven years imprisonment.
3. Barker suggested that the task force at Jonestown be broken down into two groups: one group to identify and exfil bodies, and a second group to concentrate on search and rescue. He recommedned [recommended] that 10 helicoptors [helicopters] be emplyed [employed] in evacuating bodies while two are being used in search and rescue operations. Once the exfil of bodies is completed, the remaining 10 helicoptors
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Can be utilized in search and rescue operations. Whil [While] being sympathetic to those Jonestown escapees who are merely trying to survive in the jungle, Barker is also convinced that the hard-core element responsible for Codel’s death will make a last stand and perhaps exact casualties among GOG forces.
4. The following are additional needs of the NP in investigative field as well as for search and rescue operations:
5- Polaroid instant cameras and film
200- flashlights with batteries
200- canteens, canteen cups, and canvas belt webbing
Available psychological studies on radical US religious groups which help to explain their behavior.
Assistance with packaging evidence for examintion [examination] in US laboratories if not the presence of US ballistics expert in Guyana.
Loan of a forensic expert to assist in the invesigtion [investigation]. The continue presence of a US pathologist until investigation is completed.
All equipment destined for National Police should be clearly marked to prevent acquisition of it by GDF [Guyana Defense Force].
5. During the interview, Barker emphasized that the magnitude of the investigation was not related to the number of people who had died. He welcomed the presence of Caracas legal attaches for consultation and advisory purposes but doubted that they would be needed for taking statements. He also welcomed the offer of investigatory help in the US on activities that are us-connected. Whereas he appreciated that this was a crime among US citizens commiteed [committed] on Guayanese [Guyanese] territory, he was also anxious to conduct the most objective and professional investigation possible under the circumstances.
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It is doubtful that Barker would favor extradition or expulsion of US persons responsible, although it might be possible to turn him around on the matter. However that may be, Barker would be the least of our worries when compared to the prime minister himself and those high-ranking ministers closest to the PM. We are not sanguine that GOG would entertain such a suggestion and, in fact, might make an issue of it when it suited their purpose.
Burke [John Burke, U.S. Ambassador to Guyana]