[Editor’s note: This document was released both as a State Department cable as part of its 1981 FOIA release, and as Serial 1073 of the FBI’s RYMUR release. The text was released at https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/1978GEORGE04114_d.html.]
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O 052010Z DEC 78
FM AMEMBASSY GEORGETOWN
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8344
UNCLAS SECTION 1 OF 2 GEORGETOWN 4114
TAGS: OREP, GY
SUBJ: STATEMENT ON PREPARATIONS FOR CONGRESMAN RYAN’S VISIT TO GUYANA AND EVENTS BEFORE DEPARTURE FOR JONESTOWN ON NOVEMBER 17
REF: GEORGETOWN 4041
1. Embassy preparations for the visit of Congressman Ryan to Guyana initially centered on insuring that the department had up to date and sufficient information for transmission to the congressman on the physical, political and legal aspects of the proposed visit. The department’s first report to Georgetown regarding the visit (State 241892) had stated that Congressman Ryan intended to bring with him “a clinical psychologist, medical doctor, a member of the press, and possibly some relatives of Temple members.” Georgetown 3130 and 3600, among other messages outlined the embassy’s main concerns, the latter cable stating that “must point out once more that it is quite possible for fricitins [frictions] to occur between Codel and Jonestown community unless agreement to the visit has been obtained prior to the arrival of the Codel.”
2. With State 277716 of November 1 giving the composition of the Codel and dates of its visit and State 281974 of November 4 containing the text of Congressman Ryan’s cable to the People’ Temple, actual preparations could begin. DCM [Deputy Chief of Mission] [Richard] Dwyer
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telephoned the People’ Temple Georgetown office to Ms. Sharon Amos and offered to make available to her the text of the congressman’s message if the People’s Temple had not already received it, which it had not. In this and subsequent conversations between DCM Dwyer and Consul [Doug] Ellice with Ms. Amos and occasionally other members of the People’s Temple it was stressed that while the embassy could not commit the congressman to any of the conditions which the Temple might wish to impose (i.e., no press, no relatives, etc.). The embassy would be pleased to transmit the Temple’s message to the congressman and the congressman’s communications to the Temple to facilitate the dialog. Eventually, the Temple informed the embassy that it’s reply to Congressman Ryan would be sent through lawyer Mark Lane. (Georgetown 3714) The ambassador [John Burke] also discussed with visit with Foreign Minister [Rashleigh] Jackson, who confirmed his willingness to meet with Congressman Ryan during his visit to Georgetown. The embassy therfore [therefore] reserved the Guyana Sugar Corporation Cessna 402 aircraft for Thursday, November 16, in the hope that the Temple would agree to the congressman’s visit on that date. Congressman Ryan was invited to stay with the ambassador, while Ms. Speires [Jackie Speier] and Mr. Scholleart [James Schollaert] had rooms reserved for them at the Pegasus hotel.
3. Informal word of the possible inclusion in the Ryan party of an NBC television crew had by this time been recieved [received] by the embassy from local hotel and airline personnel and the embassy informed the GOG [Government of Guyana] of its understanding that the NBC crew was traveling completely independently of the congressman. The embassy reminded the department that the television crew would need permission from the People’s Temple and the GOG to visit Jonestown and Guyana (Georgetown 3619). Shortly before the congressman was due to arrive, the embassy heard
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rumors that other journalists would also be traveling to Georgetown on the same aircraft as the congressman, together with a group of Concerned Relatives about whom the embassy had been alerted by the department. The embassy was increasingly concerned that in its relationships with the congressional delegation, the visiting journalists and television crew, and the People’s Temple and other private American citizens visitng [visiting] in or residing in Guyana, that it have an absoutely [absolutely] clear understanding of its duties and responsibilities under the privacy act. The embassy therefore suggested to the department (Georgetown 3714) a statement outlining these matters which was revised and approved by the department (State 289798).
4. Congressman Ryan, Ms. Speiers, and Mr. Scholleart arrived at Timehri airport at about 0015 hours November 15 (and were scheduled to depart Sunday, November 18 , at 1300 hours). They were met by the ambassador, DCM Dwyer, and embassy Gereral [General] Services Officer Mason. The Codel was given prepared orientation folders, the congressman and Mr. Scholleart were given envelopes with official funds and Ms. Spiers (who was traveling at her own expense) was offered accommodation foreign currency exchange facilities. The congressman traveled to the residence with the ambassador, DCM Dwyer accompanied Ms. Speires and Mr. Scholleart in a second car, while gso mason followed with the group’s luggage. The NBC TV team, jouralists [jouralists], and Concerned Relatives had arrived on the same flight.
5. During the approximately one hour drive from the airport to the hotel, DCM Dwyer expressed concern to Mr. Scholleart (whom he had known previously as a fellow language student at the foreign service institute in 1969-70) his view that additional staff work would have facilitated the congressman’s visit, and, specifically, a visit by a member of the congressman’s staff to Georgetown preceding the
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Visit of the congressman himself might have helped in getting approval from the People’s Temple to visit Jonestown and to decide upon the requisite logistics. Mr. Dwyer further stated that such a preliminary visit would have cleared up confusion such as that the press and Concerned Relatives were “not accompanying Codel Ryan” (State 289798) although they had obviously traveled with him. Mr. Scholleart noted that he had only recently been assigned to accompany the congressman, but with Ms. Speiers explained at some length the very considerable preparations the congressman and his staff had made for their visit to the People’s Temple. At another point in the conversation there was a discussion of what material the embassy could make available to the Codel and how the embassy might assist in obtaining the agreement of the Temple to the visit without violating the precepts of the privacy act. Ms. Speiers’ interpretation as to the extent the emassy [embassy] might proceed without finding itself in violation of the Privacy Act appeared to be more liberal thatn the instructions with which the embassy had been provided by the department (State 285461). Looking back at the conversation, DCM Dwyer concludes, somewhat regretfully, that his first concerns regarding the visit were with the immediate, practical physical and legal aspects of the visit, whereas Ms. Speiers and Mr. Scholleart were quite naturally preoccupied with investigatory aspects of the congressional delegations’s [delegation’s] visit.
6. At 0900 on November 15 Codel Ryan met with the ambassador, DCM Dwyer, Consul Ellice and Political Officer-Vice Consul Reece. (Ellice and Reece had visited Jonestown on November 7 on a regular consular visit.) The Codel was shown slides of
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Jonestown taken by Mr. Dwyer during his visit to Jonestown on May 10 with then-Consul [Richard] McCoy. Following the briefing, a general discussion was held of the objectives of the congressman’s visit and the best methods to achieve them. It was agreed that Mr. Scholleart on behalf of the congressman shold [should] discuss the proposed visit to Jonestown directly with the People’s Temple personnel in Georgetown. The congressman lunched with the ambassador and at 1599 hours the ambassador and Congressman Ryan paid a courtesy call on Foreign Minister Jackson. (Georgetown ).
7. Congressman Ryan and DCM and Mrs. Dwyer dined with Ambassador Burke that evening while Ms. Speiers and Mr. Scholleart attended a dinner given by another senior staff member. Following dinner, Congressman Ryan explained at some length how he had become interested in the People’s Temple and similar groups. It was apparent that he and his staff had devoted significant time and effort to the subject over a period of some time, and that he had a familiarity with the People’ Temple, particularly the California-based end of the organizations, which far exceeded the embassy’s and probably even the department’s. At approximately 2130 hours the congressman left to go to the Pegasus hotel to meet with his staff and the others who had traveled with him to Georgetown. (It is known that he went to the Georgetown headquarters of the People’s Temple by himself later that evening. There he
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met with Sharon Amos.)
8. On November 16 Congressman Ryan breakfasted alone at the residence (the ambassador had left for the chancery which opens at 0730) and then apparently joined his staff at the hotel. At 1130 the congressman gave an informal press conference at the Pegasus hotel, which was attended by the Mission Public Affairs Officer. Prior to a scheduled meeting between the ambassador, the “Concerned Relatives” group and the Codel set for 2:00 p.m., DCM Dwyer met with Ms. Speier and Mr. Scholleart. Ms. Speiers said that while she had accepted the department’s interpretation of the Privacy Act at the time of the department’s briefing arranged for her and Mr. Scholleart (State 285461), she had since been able to study the law itself and had reached the conclusion that the department’s and embassy’s interpretations were too narrow. Mr. Dwyer noted that while he was not a lawyer himself and therfore [therefore] could not undertake to argue the legalities concerned, he would be pleased to transmit any presentation Ms. Speiers wished to make back to the department immediately for consideration by the appropriate legal officers. The Codel, Mr. Dwyer and Consul Ellice attended the 1400 hours meeting of the ambassador with the Concerned Relatives (Georgetown 3761).
9. The congressman was hopeful that it might be possible to visit Jonestown the following day, November 17, particularly as People’s Temple lawyers Charles Garry and Mark Lane were scheduled to arrive in Georgetown from the United States late November 16. DCM Dwyer spent most of remainder of the afternoon with the assistance of the administrative section in finding an aircraft suitable for the congressman’s visit. Major McPherson of the Guyana Defense Force regretted that
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He could not make a GDF [Guyana Defense Force] twin islander available as important troop movements were scheduled and as the GDF was already short of aircraft due to fact that a GDF islander had broken a nose wheel some days previously and was stranded at Port Kiatuma [Kaituma]. The Guyana sugar corporation Cessna which had been reserved for November 16 was not available for November 17 as it had long before been scheduled to take important foreign sugar buyers on a tour of the sugear [suger] estates. The second twin engine aircraft in Georgetown afvailable [available] for commercial charter unfortunately was leaving that day on a week’s charter abroad. Finally, after considerable persuasion, the Guyana commercial airline agreed to interrupt its domestic schedule for November 17 and make a twin Otter available to the congressman. The Otter could seat ninetteen [nineteen] persons. Guyana Airways Corporation had to have a firm commitment that day, however, and, after consulting with Ms. Speiers, Mr. Scholleart and the congressman, Mr. Dwyer made that commitment.
10. At 2000 November 16 Congressman Ryan returned to the resident for a nightcap with the ambassador, saying that he had given a dinner for the journalists and Concerned Relatives at the hotel Pegasus. Later he met separately with the press representatives who were anxious to discuss the details of the proposed trip to Jonestown.
11. The congressman breakfasted with the ambassador at about 0730 and then proceeeded [proceeded] to the Pegasus hotel for discusssions [discussions] with his staff, the media and Concerned Relatives, and with representatives of the People’s Temple, including lawyers Land [Mark Lane] and [Charles] Garry. At about 1115 hours Ambassador Burke telephoned Congressman Ryan at the hotel to say that aircraft was ready for him and his party at the airport. The congressman stated that the negotiations with the representatives of the Georgetown office of the People’s Temple and lawyers Garry and Lane were still in progress regarding the arrangements
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for the visit to Jonestown. He nonetheless expected to leave for the airport at about noon. The ambassador replied that DCM Dwyer would be at the hotel shortly before noon to accompany him to the airport and to Port Kaituma.
12. Upon arrival at the hotel at noon, DCM Dwyer found that the People’s Temple group and their lawyers were departing for the Georgetown People’s Temple headquarters for discussions by short-wave radio with the group at Jonestown and had agreed to return at 1400 hours to the htoel [hotel]. Mr. Dwyer observed to the Codel that a 1400 hour departure from the hotel would get them to the airport at about 1500 hours, departure arrangements would take fifteen minutes to a half hour, and the aircraft could not be expected to arrive in Port Kaituma before 1630 or 1700 hours. If the People’s Temple were to approve the visit to Jonestown and provide the necessary transport from Port Kaituma, there would be no way in which the group could return to Port Kaituma in time for the aircraft’s manadatory [mandatory] (because of darkness) departure at 1800 hours. The congressman then decided to leave for the airport after informing the Georgetown headquarters of the People’s Temple of his intended departure and suggesting that the Temple representatives might meet the Codel at the airport. Ms. Amos, other members of the Temple, and Temple lawyers Lane and Garry did meet the Codel at the airport. Immediately prior to the departure Congressman Ryan explained to the assembled group that while he was pleased that they could accompany him to Port Kaituma, he could not promise access to Jonestown to all nor could he assure the return transportation of private members of the group.
Burke [John Burke, U.S. Ambassador to Guyana]