United States Department of Justice
Federal Bureau of Investigation
To: Mr. Herndon
From: R. T. Kelly
PURPOSE: To advise appropriate officials of the receipt of tape recordings of intercepted People’s Temple radio transmissions for cryptanalytic examination.
ACTION: For information.
The Technical Evaluation Unit of the Laboratory’s Document Section has received this date 45 five-inch reel-to-reel recording tapes in captioned investigation. These tapes are copies produced by the Engineering Section of the Technical Services Division from recordings made by amateur radio operator [name deleted] of Oak Ridge, Tennessee. [name deleted] provided these tapes to the Bureau on 11-20-78. These recordings reflect radio transmissions on amateur radio (ham) frequencies, allegedly between the People’s Temple in San Francisco, California and a contingent location at Jonestown, Guyana. We understand that additional recordings of transmissions which were intercepted by [name deleted] and by the FCC will also be forthcoming.
SA [name deleted] has been assigned responsibility for supervising the cryptanalytic examination of the case. He will be assisted in the task by cryptanalysts [name deleted] and [name deleted] and by aural analyst [name deleted]. The cryptanalytic examination will attempt to identify the presence of any encrypted messages or other form of secret communication which could
Memo Mr. Kelly to Mr. Herndon
shed light on possible illegal activities of members of the People’s Temple. Attorney Mark Lane has reported that a code system was in use by the group.
In addition to the cryptanalytic examination of the tapes we have also been requested by the RYMUR Command Post (SA [name deleted]) to carefully monitor all transmissions for the presence of any information involving possible violations of Federal laws such as a conspiracy to murder Congressman Ryan, or to violate kidnaping [kidnapping], extortion, mail fraud, firearms, ITSP, etc., statutes. In view of the large volume of material involved it is logical for us to perform this task concurrent with our cryptanalytic efforts.
It should be noted that review of the recordings in this case is going to be a time-consuming and difficult process because of the nature of the recordings. They are taken from very crowded and noisy radio frequencies. There is a great deal of background noise including static, and CW-code signals as well as other amateur operators transmitting on the same frequencies. Due to the changing atmospheric “skip” conditions only one side of some transmissions can be heard. Also, the nature of the cryptanalytic examination is tedious. The analysts must be alert not only for obvious transmission of ciphered material consisting of random-appearing numbers or letters, but also for innocuous-sounding words and phrases which could have a “double” meaning or which could be significant selectively (e.g., the third word of every other sentence).
You will be kept advised regarding significant findings or results of our examination.