This is a listing of cables sent either by the State Department or its embassy in Georgetown in 1978 prior to the deaths in Jonestown. They exclude the cables relating to Leo Ryan’s trip to Guyana and his departure for the Peoples Temple agricultural project in Jonestown. The Ryan cables are located here.
It should be noted that there is some overlap in time between this section and the Ryan cables, in that State and the Embassy were navigating other issues relating to Jonestown separate and apart from the Ryan visit in the fall of 1978, even as the congressman and his staff were making their plans.
It should also 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 May 25, 1978 cable from Georgetown to State, or which were heavily redacted, such as the May 11, 1978 cable from Georgetown to State. For more discussion of Wikileaks’ collapse, click here.
|780104||1655||Georgetown||0034 5957||W/W Griffith Family||Stoen||Text|
|780105||2210||State||002640||Members of Congress express interest in Stoen custody||Stoen||Text|
|780106||1300||Georgetown||0057 5968||Hearing set on nullification of Jones arrest warrant||Stoen||Text|
|780106||2306||State||004065||Haas criticizes State over assistance in Stoen case||Stoen||Text|
|780109||1840||Georgetown||0092 5991||Judge hears Stoen custody case||Stoen||Text|
|780110||2034||State||06813||Woman claims relative held in Jonestown||State||Text|
|780111||1940||Georgetown||0147 6005||Judge hears motion on voiding Jones arrest order||Stoen||Text|
|780112||1825||Georgetown||0162 6011||W/W: Marshall Farris||State||Text|
|780112||1828||Georgetown||0165 6013||W/W Jann Elizabeth Gurvich||State||Text|
|780112||1920||Georgetown||0168 6015||W/W: Gregory Watkins Lewis||State||Text|
|780113||1030||Georgetown||0170 6016||W/W: James Edwards||State||Text|
|780113||1031||Georgetown||0171 6017||W/W Eugene Chaikin||State||Text|
|780113||1422||Georgetown||0180 6024||W/W Berda Johnson||State||Text|
|780113||1423||Georgetown||0181 6025||W/W: Doris Howard, Garnett Johnson, Vennie Thompson||State||Text|
|780113||1424||Georgetown||0182 6026||W/W: Darrell Devers||State||Text|
|780114||1345||Georgetown||0201 6039||Embassy note to foreign ministry on Stoen case||Stoen||Text|
|780114||1415||Georgetown||0202 6040||Stoens told to leave Guyana||Stoen||Text|
|780118||1400||Georgetown||0232 6059||W/W: Dana Griffith||State||Text|
|780118||1400||Georgetown||0233 6060||Woman’s claim of relative held in Jonestown is erroneous||State||Text|
|780118||2015||Georgetown||0252 6065||Consul reports on Jonestown visit||Stoen||Text|
|780119||1914||Georgetown||0270 6074||Jones claims paternity of JVS to Embassy||Stoen||Text|
|780120||2304||State||016766||State thanks Embassy for Jonestown reports||Stoen||Text|
|780127||2246||State||022642||Embassy meets with Stoen and Katsaris||Stoen||Text|
|780130||1200||Georgetown||0372 6128||State chastises Embassy on cable precedence||Stoen||Text|
|780201||1031||Georgetown||0406 6148||GOG aware of interest in Stoen case||State||Text|
|780203||1856||Georgetown||0447 6171||W/W Rhonda Fortson||State||Text|
|780204||0233||State||029903||State urges neutrality in Stoen case||Stoen||Text|
|780206||1830||Georgetown||0462 6180||John Victor Stoen believed to be in Jonestown||Stoen||Text|
|780207||2151||State||032341||Tim Stoen contacts State for meeting||State||Text|
|780209||1722||State||034403||State responds to public query on Stoen||Stoen||Text|
|780210||2314||State||036362||Senators express interest in Stoen case||Stoen||Text|
|780214||2227||State||039014||Embassy asked to approach GOG on Stoen case||Stoen||Text|
|780215||1355||Georgetown||0549 6231||Consul discusses Stoen case with lawyer||Stoen||Text|
|780216||1330||Georgetown||0562 6240||Embassy reports on its activities||State||Text|
|780216||1845||Georgetown||0572 6253||Guyana Chronicle reports on PT||Stoen||Text|
|780216||2244||State||041710||State urges caution in depending on Stoen attorney||Stoen||Text|
|780217||1805||Georgetown||0581 6261||GOG, Embassy discuss Stoen case||Stoen||Text|
|780224||1745||Georgetown||6283 0631||GOG, Embassy discuss Stoen case||State||Text|
|780309||2301||State||061228||W/W: Loretta Chavis||State||Text|
|780313||1718||State||063670||Passport to be made for John Stoen||State||Text|
|780314||1321||Georgetown||0807||Embassy asks for clarification on issuing passport||State||Text|
|780321||1933||State||072407||Passport issue becomes complicated||State||Text|
|780329||1740||Georgetown||6454 0936||W/W: Loretta Chavis||State||Text|
|780401||0312||State||084025||Tim Stoen provides requested documents to Embassy||State||Text|
|780406||1847||Georgetown||6512 1056||Tim Stoen provides requested documents to Embassy||Stoen||Text|
|780411||1934||State||092661||W/W Hyacinth Thrash||State||Text|
|780418||1816||Georgetown||1190 6590||W/W Hyacinth Thrash||State||Text|
|780419||2240||State||100748||W/W Burger Lee Dean||State||Text|
|780426||1220||Georgetown||1318 6651||W/W Burger Lee Dean||State||Text|
|780503||1855||Georgetown||6705 1411||Members of PT apply for Guyanese citizenship||Stoen||Text|
|780510||1501||State||118668||State concern over PT naturalization plan||Stoen||Text|
|780511||1510||Georgetown||1508 6757||W/W Charlotte King||State||Text|
|780511||1511||Georgetown||1509 6758||W/W Burger Lee Dean||State||Text|
|780511||1512||Georgetown||1510 6759||W/W Loretta Chavis||State||Text|
|780511||1513||Georgetown||1511 6760||W/W Hyacinth Thrash||State||Text|
|780515||1215||Georgetown||6785 1544||Members of PT apply for Guyanese citizenship||State||Text|
|780515||1355||Georgetown||6786 1545||Defection of Debbie Blakey||State||Text|
|780521||0312||State||128347||W/W Fields Family||State||Text|
|780525||1825||Georgetown||6860 1670||Kathy Hunter receives money to leave Guyana||Text|
|780526||1810||Georgetown||6869 1682||W/W Fields Family||State||Text|
|780530||1445||Georgetown||6886 1718||Kathy Hunter departs Guyana||State||Text|
|780601||1702||Georgetown||6913 1767||Press interest in PT||Stoen||Text|
|780606||1431||Georgetown||6946 1815||Embassy to establish better contacts with JT||Stoen||Text|
|780607||2204||State||144548||W/W Artee Harper||State||Text|
|780620||1835||Georgetown||7059 2027||Death of Chlotile Butler||Stoen||Text|
|780620||1855||Georgetown||7060 2028||Cyril Maitland overstays visa||Stoen||Text|
|780626||1849||State||161993||Embassy to establish better contacts with JT||Stoen||Text|
|780703||1628||State||168133||W/W Marshall Farris||State||Text|
|780710||1530||Georgetown||2219||W/W Marshall Farris||State||Text|
|780713||1702||State||176731||Death of Chlotile Butler||Text|
|780726||2149||State||189063||W/W Lisa Layton||State||Text|
|780810||1835||Georgetown||7389 2570||Consular visit to JT postponed||Stoen||Text|
|780816||1040||Georgetown||7419 2629||Guyana justice recuses self from Stoen case||Stoen||Text|
|780908||2151||State||228391||State urges quick resolution in Stoen case||Stoen||Text|
|780911||1633||State||229400||Report of deaths of two JT residents||State||Text|
|780912||1613||State||230547||Report of deaths of two JT residents (same text as 229400)||State||Text|
|780912||1840||Georgetown||7599 2924||False report of deaths of two JT residents||State||Text|
|780918||1702||Georgetown||7636 3016||Embassy meets with Guyana Supreme Court on Stoen||Stoen||Text|
|780923||1030||Georgetown||7679 3098||Mark Lane to file suits||Stoen||Text|
|780929||1030||Georgetown||7724 3174||Mark Lane holds press conference||Stoen||Text|
|780929||1820||Georgetown||7737 3196||Death of Vivian I. Anderson||Stoen||Text|
|781006||2228||State||255332||Tim Stoen declares intention to take John||Stoen||Text|
|781010||1940||Georgetown||7821 3338||Stoen case assigned to Supreme Court||Stoen||Text|
|781012||1710||Georgetown||7834 3372||Death of Vivian I. Anderson||State||Text|
|781013||2041||State||295819||Death of Vivian I. Anderson||State||Text|
|781019||2144||State||265413||W/W Doris Lewis and Children||State||Text|
|781025||1102||Georgetown||7907 3504||W/W Doris Lewis and Children||State||Text|
|781025||1103||Georgetown||7908 3505||W/W Doris Lewis and Children||State||Text|
|781025||1741||Georgetown||7919 3522||FOI Request from Ross E. Case||Text|
|781103||1752||Georgetown||7978 3613||FOI Request from Ross E. Case||Text|
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
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.
Columns 3 lists 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.