The State Department Cables (1974-1977)

This is a listing of cables sent either by the State Department or by one of its embassies – on this particular chart, almost exclusively from Georgetown, Guyana – between June 1974, when the American government first learned about the Peoples Temple agricultural project in Jonestown, and the end of 1977.

It should be noted that many of the texts for the cables below were provided by the Wikileaks site, which was discovered to be defunct in late 2022. This is especially true for cables for which there is no corresponding pdf, such as the August 25, 1977 cable from Georgetown to State, or which were heavily redacted, such as the December 23, 1977 cable from Georgetown to State. For more discussion of Wikileaks’ collapse, click here.

A key to the notations in the columns appears below the chart. A note on sources used in the compilation of this chart also appears below.

Date Time Origin ID Content PDF Text
740607 1510 Georgetown 9811 0930 Query on crew members of Cudjoe State Text
740607 2044 State 120784 Query on crew members of Cudjoe State Text
740613 1935 Georgetown 0977 9849 American citizens in Guyana settle near Venezuelan border State Text
740702 1516 Caracas 06033 4444 American citizens near Venezuelan border cause concern State Text
740718 1430 Georgetown 01236 0015 American citizens in Guyana settle near Venezuelan border State State Text
761221 1625 Georgetown 2588 3913 Local press coverage of Dymally press conference State Text
761229 1940 Georgetown 2637 3949 Dymally visit to Guyana State Text
770103 1750 Georgetown 00010 3365 Dymally wrap-up State Text
770822 2037 Georgetown 1981 5163 Joseph Mazor wants to remove seven children from Guyana State Text
770825 1100 Georgetown 2010 5184 GOG advises US parents on child custody issues None Text
770826 State 202932 W/W Caroline Sue Looman State Text
770826 1710 Georgetown 2022 5190 W/W Caroline Sue Looman State Stoen Text
770829 2354 State 206551 W/W Caroline Sue Looman State Stoen Text
770830 0025 State 206679 Jeffrey Haas to travel to Guyana on Stoen custody matter Stoen Text
770901 1310 Georgetown 2079 5228 W/W Caroline Sue Looman State Text
770901 1600 Georgetown 2087 5232 US Consul visits Jonestown State Text
770903 0236 Georgetown 211832 W/W Caroline Sue Looman State Text
770906 1820 Georgetown 2132 5260 Conversation with Joe Mazor State Text
770906 1844 State 212644 W/W Caroline Sue Looman State Stoen Text
770909 1700 Georgetown 2175 5273 Haas fails in attempt to serve process on Jones State Stoen Text
770909 2135 State 216553 Embassy declines to accompany Haas to Jonestown Stoen Text
770912 1110 Georgetown 2206 5288 Attempts to serve Jim Jones are unsuccessful Stoen Text
770913 2154 State 219301 Calif needs names of children to assist in custody Stoen Text
770913 2159 State 219323 W/W: Berda Johnson State Text
770914 1428 Georgetown 2236 Haas has authority to obtain passport for John Victor Stoen State Text
770919 1335 Georgetown 2265 5325 W/W Berda Johnson State Text
770919 1545? Georgetown 2269 5329 Stoen custody battle “now entered political arena” State Text
770919 2034 Georgetown None Looman complains about lack of neutrality in JVS case Stoen Text
770922 1030 Georgetown 2316 5349 Jones to challenge in Stoen custody case Stoen Text
770923 1700 Georgetown 2334 5363 Court hearing on Stoen custody case Stoen Text
770927 1900 Georgetown 2363 5381 Court hearing on Stoen custody case State Stoen Text
770929 2231 State 234710 W/W Jann Gurvich State Text
771003 1920 Georgetown 2425 5415 W/W Jann Gurvich & Maria Katsaris State Text
771004 1544 Georgetown 2435 5418 Court ruling on Stoen custody expected State Stoen Text
771012 1500 Georgetown 2528 5477 Court denies motion to produce JVS Stoen Text
771105 0324 State 264830 W/W Marshall Farris State Text
771109 1530 Georgetown 2846 5642 W/W Marshall Farris State Text
771114 1930 Georgetown 2890 5667 Maria Katsaris meets with father in Georgetown State Text
771122 2008 State 279720 Stoens present custody order to Guyana court Stoen Text
771125 1340 Georgetown 3033 5732 JVS cannot leave Guyana until case resolved Stoen Text
771128 1245 Georgetown 3048 5743 W/W Eugene Chaikin State Text
771202 1420 Georgetown 3098 5778 Death of Emmitt Griffith State Text
771202 1712 State 287946 Request for personal info on Jim Jones State Text
771209 2058 State 294454 W/W James Edwards State Text
771215 1030 Georgetown 3221 5855 Request for personal info on Jim Jones State Stoen Text
771215 1115 Georgetown 3223 5858 W/W James Edwards State Text
771220 2233 State 303126 W/W Dana Griffith State Text
771220 2245 State 303147 W/W Griffith Family State Text
771223 1250 Georgetown 3316 5905 W/W custody case of John Stoen State Stoen Text
771223 1446 Georgetown 3322 5908 W/W Dana Griffith State Text
771228 1937 State 308414 W/W Gregory Watkins State Text
771229 2257 State 309694 W/W Dana Griffith, report of death of Emmitt Griffith State Text
771229 2259 State 309704 W/W Darrell Devers State Text
771230 1033 Georgetown 3356 5929 W/W Bruce and William Oliver State Text

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A Note on Sources

The cables at the basis of this research come from a variety of sources.

• The bulk of them came from the State Department itself, in response to a Freedom of Information request for documents on Jonestown and Peoples Temple. The request was made by Rebecca Moore and Fielding McGehee, who eventually became the managers of this website. Of the 5700 pages that State released in 1981, fully 3000 were cables dating from 1974 until 1981, most of them from November and December of 1978 and early 1979.

• A smaller collection from the State Department came in response to another FOIA request, this one for what the agency had on the custody battle over John Victor Stoen, a battle waged by Timothy and Grace Stoen, primarily against Jim Jones.

• The second most productive official source was the FBI, which released many State Department cables collected during the FBI’s investigation of the Leo Ryan assassination (RYMUR).

• In 2014, the State Department released thousands of agency files as part of a general declassification review. Hundreds of those related to Peoples Temple. They didn’t become widely available to the public, however, until 2015 and 2016, when Wikileaks put them online. While the resulting record was neither official nor complete – there are scores of cables that the State Department continues to withhold and that Wikileaks didn’t access – the texts that Wikileaks posted are accurate.

It should be noted that many cables contain information which was deleted under an exemption in the Freedom of Information Act. The majority of those cables were eventually re-released with the exemptions lifted. The more-recently declassified passages appear in red type of the text version of the cables.

The most commonly-used exemptions by State are:

b(1) = information the release of which would jeopardize national security
b(6) = information the release of which would violate an individual’s privacy

How to read this chart

This is a key to the meaning of the columns and the notations within them:

Columns 1 and 2 comprise the dates and times that the cables were sent. The dates are in the format of the last two digits of the year (74-79), the month (01-12) and the day. As an example, November 18, 1978 would be designated as 781118. The times are in Greenwich Mean Time, used internationally on all cables. They are included because – especially in the first few days after the tragedy – scores of cables were flashing back and forth between offices on a single day.

Column 3 comprises the government agencies and embassies sending the cables. On this listing, the only two originating entities are the State Department and the American Embassy in Georgetown, Guyana.

Column 4 provides the cable identification number, unique to each document.

Column 5 presents a brief description of the cable’s contents. (The abbreviation “W/W” which appears on numerous cables means “Whereabouts and Welfare,” the State Department’s notation of the checks it makes on American citizens in foreign countries.)

Columns 6 and 7 provide links to the PDF and Text versions of the cables. The PDF indicates whether the cable came pursuant to the general FOIA request of State or to the second request for Stoen documents.

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