DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION
COMMUNICATION MESSAGE FORM
FM DIRECTOR, FBI
TO ALL FBI FIELD OFFICES
ALL LEGAL ATTACHES (INFO)
UNCLAS SECTION 1 OF 2
The purpose of this teletype is to advise you of the scope of the FBI’s investigation into the murder of Congressman Leo J. Ryan in Jonestown, Guyana on November 18, 1978, and to provide specific direction to the field concerning investigation which is to be conducted.
In brief summary, as you are undoubtedly aware from news media accounts, Congressman Ryan and his party, consisting of his staff, news media, and interested persons such as relatives of members of the People’s Temple (PT) who reside in Jonestown, Guyana, traveled to Jonestown to investigate allegations the Congressman’s office had received that certain church members were being held against their will in Jonestown. News media
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accounts indicate that the Congressman and his party met with the Reverend Jim Jones and other church leaders/members in Jonestown. The meeting was arranged through attorneys for the PT. It is unclear what discussions took place between the Congressman and church members. Apparently, through negotiations, several church members desire to come to the United States with the Congressman and the Congressman agreed to transport them on one of two airplanes which transported the Congressman and his party to Jonestown. According to news accounts, one of those who agreed was Larry Layton, who entered one of the planes chartered by the Congressman. Some of those persons desiring to leave with the Congressman expressed apprehension that Layton was perhaps not truthful about his desire to leave because he was a close confidant of the Reverend Jim Jones. After several people were loaded aboard one plane, Layton apparently opened fire with a weapon he had concealed on his person. This apparently was the signal for unknown persons to commence firing on the Congressman and his party resulting in the death of the Congressman, certain news media personnel and others.
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After the incident, the widely reported mass suicide of church members took place.
It has been reported that church members had a fanatic attachment to the Reverend Jim Jones and signed written oaths agreeing to kill a Congressman, government official and a former president of the United States should Congressional and/or government action result in bringing disgrace upon the PT. There is additional information that weapons secured in California were transported by ship to church members in Guyana possibly for the purpose mentioned above. The bodies of the Congressman and the deceased members of his party as well as wounded victims of the initial attack have been transported to the United States. Those victims who were not killed have been interviewed. The large number of church members who committed mass suicide are to be transported to the United States for burial. Ongoing negotiations with the Government of Guyana to allow FBI agents to assist in their inquiry into this matter in Guyana indicate the possibility that a team of FBI agents will be sent to that country. Legat Caracas is on the scene and coordinating information as required by the situation.
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The FBI is conducting a Bureau special predicated on the Congressional Assassination Statute (18 USC Section 351) which includes the conspiracy aspect of that statute which is set forth separately from Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 371, and contained in the Congressional Assassination Statute.
The purpose of the investigation is to identify those persons who murdered the Congressman and/or who conspired either in Guyana or in the United States to kill Congressman Ryan. The statute provides for extraterritorial prosecutive jurisdiction which allows the United States government to prosecute persons identified as the assassins are co-conspirators were located outside the United States should they be extradited to this country.
In that regard, the United States Attorney in San Francisco, California, has advised that a grand jury will be convened for prosecution purposes.
To develop the full facts regarding the death of Congressman Ryan it will be incumbent upon the FBI to interview all persons who have information relating to his death and/or any conspiracy which can be identified which is linked to that
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death. This initially will include interviews of witnesses at the scene, members of the congressman’s staff, and interviews of church members who survived the mass suicide.
Any person identified in news accounts as providing information on the incident in Guyana or who has been identified as having information about the incident and circumstances surrounding the same, should be interviewed. In this regard, FBI HQ is reviewing all press clippings and setting forth leads for interviews as necessary. All offices should institute identical procedure.
Numerous persons have contacted various FBI offices with information relating to this matter. These persons should be immediately interviewed.
U.S. State Department has received numerous inquiries and complaints regarding the PT church and this incident. WFO is reviewing these complaints and leads regarding interviews of complaintants [complainants] will be forthcoming.
Current church members are to be identified and interviewed to determine if they have information relative to this incident.
The magnitude of this investigation is realized and
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the fact that a large number of interviews will be required is noted. The Bureau is not investigating the PT church and we do not intend to infringe upon the constitutional rights of persons to exercise a religious belief.
All leads developed through investigation are to be telephonically dispatched to the appropriate office with follow-up teletypes confirming the telephone call and advising FBI HQ and San Francisco.
All offices are to immediately conduct thorough file reviews on James Warren Jones, DOB May 13, 1931 or 1933, aka Jim Jones, the People’s Temple of Christian Disciples of God, and Congressman Leo J. Ryan of California. The results of this file review, whether negative or positive, should be furnished by immediate teletype to FBI HQ. Within the guidelines set forth above, you are to conduct self initiated investigation should be required by the circumstances existing in your
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