State Cable: 771223 GT-State (Griffith)

[Editor’s note: This text was released at https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/1977GEORGE03322_c.html. The State Department FOIA release of 1981 withheld all names associated with Peoples Temple members and their relatives from this cable. They are denoted below in red type.]

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GEORGE 03322 231536Z
ACTION SCS-06
INFO OCT-01 ARA-14 ISO-00 CA-01 L-03 H-02 /027 W
——————003691 232313Z /41

R 231446Z DEC 77
FM AMEMBASSY GEORGETOWN
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 5908
UNCLAS GEORGETOWN 3322

E.O. 11652: N/A
TAGS: CASC (GRIFFITH, DANA)
SUBJECT: W/W DANA GRIFFITH, JUNE 8, 1970, CALIFORNIA
REF: A. STATE 303126 B. STATE 303147 C. GEORGETOWN 3098

1. EMBASSY CAREFULLY REVIEWED REFTELS A AND B PERTAINING TO GRIFFITH FAMILY IN GUYANA. IN OUR JUDGMENT THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN REFTEL A DOES NOT GIVE CONSULAR OFFICER LEGAL AUTHORITY TO SEEK REMOVAL OF A 7 YEAR OLD GIRL FROM THE CUSTODY OF HER GRANDMOTHER. QUITE FRANKLY, WE WERE SURPRISED THAT DEPARTMENT WOULD INSTRUCT EMBASSY TO INTERVENE IN A CHILD CUSTODY MATTER AND SEEK GOG OFFICIAL ACTION IN HAVING CHILD TAKEN FROM HER GRANDMOTHER AND RETURNED TO US SOLELY ON BASIS OF A TELEPHONE REQUEST.

2. EMBASSY INFORMED APPROPRIATE GUYANESE AUTHORITIES OF MRS. CARNELLA GRIFFITH’S DESIRE TO REMOVE HER DAUGHTER DANA FROM CUSTODY OF GRANDMOTHER. HOWEVER AS EMBASSY AND DEPARTMENT ARE ALREADY AWARE FROM EXPERIENCE WITH THE STOEN CASE DURING AUGUST THIS YEAR, UNDER GUYANESE LAW, ONLY THE GUYANESE COURTS HAVE AUTHORITY TO MAKE

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LEGALLY BINDING DECISIONS CONCERNING CUSTODY OF CHILDREN RESIDENT IN GUYANA. EVEN A US COURT ORDER WOULD NOT BE LEGALLY BINDING, BUT WOULD BE CONSIDERED AS IMPORTANT MATERIAL EVIDENCE IN JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS HERE.

3. GUYANESE AUTHORITIES WILL NOT REMOVE DANA FROM HER GRANDMOTHER WITHOUT A GUYANESE COURT ORDER EMPOWERING THEM TO DO SO. THEREFORE, UNLESS THE GRANDMOTHER CAN BE PERSUADED TO VOLUNTARILY RELINQUISH CUSTODY OF DANA, THE ONLY LEGAL REMEDY WOULD BE FOR ONE OF DANA’S PARENTS TO COME TO GUYANA, ENGAGE A LOCAL LAWYER AND OBTAIN A RULING IN A GUYANESE COURT.

4. WE ASSUME THAT MRS. CARNELLA GRIFFITH HAS MADE KNOWN TO THE GRANDMOTHER HER DESIRE TO HAVE DANA RETURNED. CONSUL WILL INFORM GRANDMOTHER OF DANA’S MOTHER’S WISHES DURING VISIT TO JONESTOWN IN NEAR FUTURE. ASSUMING THAT THE GRANDMOTHER WERE TO BRING DANA TO GEORGETOWN FOR RETURN TO THE US WHO WILL PAY FOR AIR FARE AND ASSUME RESPONSIBILITY FOR CHILD DURING TRANSIT?

5. REFTEL A RAISES SEVERAL QUESTIONS ABOUT DANA’S STATUS WHICH MRS. CARNELLA GRIFFITH WILL UNDOUBTEDLY BE ASKED IF CASE IS TAKEN TO GUYANESE COURT. FOR EXAMPLE, WHY WAS DANA RESIDING WITH GRANDMOTHER PRIOR TO HER DEPARTURE FROM THE US AND FOR HOW LONG HAD SHE BEEN IN THE GRANDMOTHER’S CUSTODY? HOW WAS SHE BROUGHT TO GUYANA AGAINST PARENTAL WISHES? WAS OBJECTION RAISED AT THE TIME WITH US AUTHORITIES? WHY DID MOTHER DELAY OVER SIX MONTHS TO REQUEST HER RETURN?

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6. MRS. MARY GRIFFITH HAS BEEN TO THE EMBASSY ON TWO OCCASIONS. ON ONE OF THESE VISITS, SHE REPORTED THE DEATH OF HER HUSBAND, EMMITT GRIFFITH, AND MADE APPLICATION FOR SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS FOR HER SURVIVING CHILDREN AND GRAND CHILDREN OF WHOM DANA GRIFFITH IS ONE. ALTHOUGH QUESTION OF DANA’S CUSTODY WAS NOT AT ISSUE THEN, THE IMPRESSION THAT MRS. GRIFFITH GAVE REGARDING THE GRAND CHILDREN WAS THAT ALL THESE CHILDREN HAD BEEN RESIDING WITH HER AND MR. GRIFFITH AND HAD BEEN SUPPORTED BY THEM FOR SOME TIME BEFORE THEIR ARRIVAL IN GUYANA.

7. EMBASSY BY LETTER DATED DECEMBER 12, 1977 AND REFTEL C INFORMED REVEREND WESBY GRIFFITH OF THE DEATH OF HIS RELATIVE. OUR LETTER ALSO RESPONDED TO ALLEGATIONS OF ILL TREATMENT OF AMERICAN CITIZENS AT JONESTOWN. INCOMING LETTER FROM WESBY GRIFFITH WAS CO-SIGNED BY 21 INDIVIDUALS ALL PRESUMABLY RELATIVES OF THE GRIFFITH FAMILY. REFTEL C GAVE DETAILS PERTAINING TO EMMITT GRIFFITH’S DEATH. CONSUL INFORMED MRS. GRIFFITH OF RELATIVES CONCERN FOR HER WELL BEING. SHE INFORMED CONSUL SHE INTENDS TO REMAIN IN GUYANA FOR AN INDEFINITE PERIOD.

8. CONSUL IS PLANNING TO VISIT JONESTOWN WITHIN NEXT TWO WEEKS. AT THAT TIME HE WILL ARRANGE PERSONAL, PRIVATE CONTACT WITH A NUMBER OF INDIVIDUALS WHO HAVE BEEN THE SUBJECT OF WELFARE/ WHEREABOUTS INQUIRIES, INCLUDING DANA GRIFFITH.

9. ACTION REQUESTED: DEPARTMENT SHOULD INFORM GRIFFITH FAMILY OF CONTENTS OF PARAGRAPHS SIX AND SEVEN ABOVE AND MAY WISH TO INFORM CARNELLA GRIFFITH THAT HER DESIRE FOR THE RETURN OF DANA

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HAS BEEN TRANSMITTED TO THE GOG WHICH IN TURN HAS INDICATED THAT IT IS POWERLESS TO ACT IN FAMILY DISPUTES WITHOUT A GUYANESE COURT ORDER. IF PRIVATE VOLUNTARY ARRANGEMENTS FOR THE RETURN OF DANA TO THE US, CANNOT BE AGREED UPON BETWEEN DANA’S MOTHER AND HER GRANDMOTHER THEN DANA’S MOTHER WOULD HAVE TO CONSIDER BRINGING SUIT IN A GUYANESE COURT. TO DO THIS SHE, OR DANA’S FATHER, WOULD HAVE TO COME TO GUYANA AND ENGAGE A GUYANESE LAWYER.

BLACKEN

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Originally posted on February 5th, 2020.

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