Serial 844

[Editor’s note: This document was released both as a State Department cable as part of its 1981 FOIA release, and as Serial 844 of the FBI’s RYMUR release. The text was released at https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/1978STATE306421_d.html.]

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STATE 306421
ORIGIN ARA-15
INFO OCT-01 ISO-00 HA-05 FBIE-00 SCS-06 CA-01 H-01 L-03 PA-01 ICAE-00 AS-02 /035 R
DRAFTED BY ARA/CAR:AHEWITT:AB
APPROVED BY ARA/CAR:AHEWITT
——————012506 042155Z /70

O 042112Z DEC 78
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO AMEMBASSY GEORGETOWN IMMEDIATE
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E.O. 12065: N/A
TAGS: GY, OREP
SUBJECT: N.Y. TIMES ARTICLE – INTERVIEW OF JACQUELINE SPIER [SPEIER]

1. The New York Times today carried following story based on telephone interview with Jacqueline Spier [Speier] alleging that the department and embassy were negligent in their briefings of Congressman Ryan and in making preparations for their visit to Jonestown. Embassy comments requested by immediate cable. We also need Dwyer’s report of preparations for the visit and their briefings prior to departure for Jonestown, and the report of Elliz’s [Doug Ellice] November 7 trip to Jonestown.

2. Begin text.

Quote: Washington, December 3. Representative Leo J. Ryan’s legislative counsel, who was critically wounded in the Guyana shooting that cost the congressman his

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life, said today that the State Department had never warned the Ryan party of any danger of violence in its mission to Guyana.

Jacqueline Speier, a 28-year-old lawyer and an aide to the Democratic congressman from California for nine years, spoke by telephone from her bed in a Washington area hospital, where she is recovering from wounds inflicted by the Peoples Temple gunmen who allegedly killed Mr. Ryan and four others in Guyana on Novemeber 18.

Miss Speier accused the State Department and the United States embassy in Georgetown of indifference and hostility toward Mr. Ryan’s ill-fated trip to investigate allegations by San Frnacisco [Francisco] constituents that their relatives were being abused and forcibly detained in the Peoples Temple settlement of Jonestown.

A Lot Of Inaccuracies

She said she had decided to speak to a reporter because she had become aware during her hospitalization of a lot of inaccuracies in some press accounts of the Ryan mission and the role of the State Department and the embassy in the mass deaths in Guyana.

The State Department at no time made it even remotely clear to the congressman or to myself that there would be danger encountered of the nature that we found, Miss Speier said.

There was reluctance by state to have the trip come off

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For a lot of reasons, she said, adding that in her opinon [opinion], one of the reasons was that they just hadn’t done enough investigating into the Peoples Temple community.

She also believed, she said that the State Department and the embassy were afraid Mr. Ryan’s investigation and his determination to bring out People Tmeple [Temple] members who wished to leave would damage United States relations with Guyana.

When the congressman and his party arrived in Guyana on Nov. 14, they encountered a blasé attitude and deep resentment among some embassy officers about the Ryan mission, she said.

Miss Speier recalled that she and other members of the party had hardly seated themselves in an auto for the ride from the airport into Georgetown when Richard Dwyer, the Deputy Chief of the embassy, started reading us the Riot Act.

He said we hadn’t done half enough staff work for this Codel, said Miss Speier, using the acronym for a congressional delegation carrying out an investigation abroad.

He was also very upset that the press had come down with us, she said, although the State Department was well aware that we would have press representatives along.

Attitude Party Had Encountered

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Miss Speier said she was reluctant to speak of Mr. Dwyer’s evident resentment of the Ryan mission because he had later played a commendable role – though slightly wounded himself – in caring for the wounded and in getting them evacuated from the airstrip near Jonestown.

She said, however, that Mr. Dwyer’s remarks in the automobile symbolized an attitude that Mr. Ryan’s party had encountered at the State Department.

She made it clear that she resented Mr. Dwyer’s allegation that the Ryan mission was ill prepared. She said she and Mr. Ryan had had extensive conversations with many people at the State Department when the trip was being planned.

Miss Speier said Ambassador John Burke changed his attitude toward the Ryan mission and the Peoples Temple after he met on Nov. 16 with the congressman’s party, including about 14 realtives [relatives] of Jonestown residents.

Had A Blasé Attitude

I thank that until he met with us, the ambassador also had a blasé attitude toward Jonestown, she said. But at the meeting, she said Mr. Burke said he had no recollection of having seen affidavits sent to the State Department or to the embassy by some of those present, including Peoples Temple defectors.

One of those affidavits, Miss Speier recalled, carried the warning that the Rev. Jim Jones had not only

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planned but had held rehearsals for a mass suicide by members of the Peoples Temple.

In another case that came up at the meeting, Miss Speier said, the ambassador had been sent a notarized affidavit from San Francisco asking that he inquire into some allegations about abuses in Jonestown.

The ambassador’s reply was that he had never seen it, Miss Speier said, and no acknowledgement of the document had ever been received by the sender. Emphasizing that she spoke as a lawyer, Miss Speier said: On the face of it, that is a violation of the treaty the United States has with Guyana concerning consular services. On the basis of that treaty alone, it was incumbent on the ambassador to investigate.

Brushoff At Georgetown Office

She said one factor in changing the ambassador’s attitude to one of concern was the report furnished by some of the relatives at the meeting. In the report, she said, they cited the brushoff they had received at the Georgetown office of the Peoples [Temple] community, where they had gone to inquire about some children.

The relatives had been told only to go to the U.S. embassy, Miss Speier said. When he heard that, I believe that for the first time the ambassador realized the gravity of the situation and, to his credit, he got on the phone to the Peoples Temple office and began to demand answers to some of our questions.

But all that came hours, days, months too late, Miss Speier said.

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Miss Speier called inadequate the periodic visits to Jonestown by consular officers from the embassy in Georgetown in part to investigate allegations of relatives that members of the Peoples Temple were being held against their will.

It was show time

Whenever the U.S. consular officer went to Jonestown, it was show time she said. She noted that the Jonestown community was always notified in advance of a consular officer’s visit and was given at least a partial list of people whom he wished to interview.

The State Department has said that names of some of the people to be interviewed were always left off the list sent to Jonestown and that consular officers often conducted their conversations with individuals in an open field, far form other community members.

Miss Speier said she had been told, however, that the consular officer usually conducted his interviews in the Jonestown radio room that could be bugged and probably was bugged.

She was especially bitter about what she regarded as the failure of the United States authorities to investigate adequately the allegations by Peoples Temple defectors that guns and ammunition were shipped in falsely marked crates from the United States to Guyana.

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Miss Speier has been warned by federal security officers not to disclose the hospital in which she is a patient for fear of reprisals by surviving members of the Peoples Temple in this country.

The two long telephone conversations with Miss Speier were arranged by a close friend of Miss Speier, who transmitted the reporter’s request that Miss Speier telephone him.

Miss Speier said she had a foreboding about the trip to Guyana and had made out her will hours before she left. And filed it in her office along with the will that representative Ryan had drawn two years ago. End of text. Unquote.

Vance [Cyrus Vance, Secretary of State]

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Originally posted on May 3rd, 2019.

Last modified on July 2nd, 2022.
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