The State Department Cables (1978 Jan-Nov)

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.

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
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

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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.

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.

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