The State Department Cables – The First Week

This is a listing of cables transmitted during the first week after the deaths in Jonestown – November 19 through November 25 – either by the State Department or by one of its embassies.

Sunday, November 19, 1978
Monday, November 20, 1978
Tuesday, November 21, 1978
Wednesday, November 22, 1978
Thursday, November 23, 1978
Friday, November 24, 1978
Saturday, November 25, 1978

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.

Sunday, November 19, 1978

Date Time Origin ID Content PDF Text
781119 0150 Georgetown 3775 8062 Passenger list of Codel flight PDF Text
781119 0315 Georgetown 3776 8063 Early reconstruction of Kaituma events Stoen State Text
781119 0330 Georgetown 3777 8064 Description of around Kaituma PDF Text
781119 0639 Kuwait 6154 2350 Codel in Kuwait wants updates PDF Text
781119 1105 Georgetown 3778 8065 Police units arrive at Kaituma PDF Text
781119 1200 London 19057 2097 Codel in London wants updates PDF Text
781119 1252 State 293746 State reports on deaths at Kaituma, medevac arrival PDF Text
781119 1450 Georgetown 3779 8066 Police report death of Patty Parks PDF Text
781119 1510 Georgetown 3780 8067 Georgetown police consider moving Concerned Relatives PDF Text
781119 1535 Georgetown 3781 8068 Kaituma wounded land at Georgetown airport PDF Text
781119 1659 State 293748 US offers necessary assistant to GOG PDF Text
781119 1700 Georgetown 3783 8070 GOG allows arrival of US military aircraft PDF Text
781119 1720 Georgetown 3782 8069 Concerned Relatives to stay pending further developments PDF Text
781119 1759 State 293763 Military aircraft en route from Panama PDF Text
781119 1819 State 293764 State reports Ryan assassination to committee staffer PDF Text
781119 1832 State 293765 Military authorized to evacuate US civilians PDF Text
781119 1839 State 293766 State reports on assassination, Kaituma deaths PDF Text
781119 1930 Georgetown 3784 8071 Burnham considers US offer of assistance PDF Text
781119 1950 Georgetown 3785 8072 Police request items from US PDF Text
781119 2010 Georgetown 3786 8073 Monica Bagby in Georgetown hospital PDF Text
781119 2035 Georgetown 3787 8074 Larry Layton arrested PDF Text
781119 2046 State 293771 Listing of personnel on military aircraft PDF Text
781119 2049 State 293776 Situation report III summarizes Kaituma shooting, reports GDF advance on Jonestown PDF Text
781119 2049 State 293777 Situation report forwarded to Calif. senator PDF Text
781119 2055 Georgetown 3788 8075 Embassy asks for State records on PT members PDF Text
781119 2110 Georgetown 3789 8076 Sharon Amos and children discovered in Lamaha Gardens PDF Text
781119 2218 State 293781 Rumors of mass suicide PDF Text

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Monday, November 20, 1978

Date Time Origin ID Content PDF Text
781120 0054 State 293787 State says arrested Americans should be prosecuted by US PDF Text
781120 0105 Georgetown 3790 8077 GDF requests items from US PDF Text
781120 0200 State 293788 Confusion on ID of Parks woman killed at Kaituma PDF Text
781120 0200 State 293789 State tries for positive ID on Sharon Amos PDF Text
781120 0214 State 293790 Situation Report IV PDF Text
781120 0222 State 293791 Arrival of C-141 in Georgetown PDF Text
781120 0330 Georgetown 3791 8078 Concerned Relatives decide to leave PDF Text
781120 0355 Georgetown 3792 8079 GDF reports 200 – 300 bodies PDF Text
781120 0535 Georgetown 3793 8080 Update on status of Codel PDF Text
781120 0550 Georgetown 3794 8081 Plans for military aircraft to evacuate Concerned Relatives PDF Text
781120 0805 State 293797 State questions how Lane and Garry escaped PDF Text
781120 0836 State 293798 HAM operator reports two more Jonestown farms, possible survivors PDF Text
781120 0940 State 293799 Names and address of PT relatives Text
781120 1043 Stockholm 4642 5259 US Ambassador expresses shock at Ryan assassination PDF Text
781120 1142 State 293800 GDF reports 400 bodies PDF Text
781120 1403 State 293801 State asks if Bagby well enough to travel PDF Text
781120 1404 State 293803 Situation Report VI: GOG establishes crisis team PDF Text
781120 1405 Georgetown 3799 8084 Death of Patricia Parks confirmed PDF Text
781120 1500 Georgetown 3807 8090 Interview with Mark Lane PDF Text
781120 1505 State 293821 Personal message passed along to State Dept PDF Text
781120 1605 Caracas 10950 4684 State liaison en route PDF Text
781120 1640 Caracas 10952 4685 State liaison en route PDF Text
781120 1730 Georgetown 3811 8094 GOG discusses disposition of Jonestown remains PDF Text
781120 1755 Georgetown 3812 8095 Kaituma airstrip cannot handle military aircraft PDF Text
781120 1837 State 293999 Situation Report VII: Military graves team en route to Guyana; autopsy done on Ryan PDF Text
781120 1923 Port of Spain 3322 3247 Trinidad newspaper to send reporter PDF Text
781120 1925 Georgetown 3813 8096 Number of relatives calls surprisingly low PDF Text
781120 1930 Georgetown 3815 8097 Bagby not well enough to travel PDF Text
781120 2058 State 294162 State worries that Jim Jones may attempt escape PDF Text
781120 2120 Georgetown 3816 8105 Guyana police seek large-scale effort for body removal PDF Text
781120 2155 Georgetown 3817 8106 Jones, 13 others ID at Jonestown PDF Text
781120 2300 Georgetown 3818 8107 Information on Sharon Amos and children PDF Text
781120 2301 Georgetown 3819 8108 Expenses to be covered for US pathologist Text
781120 2301 FBI FBI agents en route to Guyana PDF Text

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Tuesday, November 21, 1978

Date Time Origin ID Content PDF Text
781121 0052 State 294466 Jonestown survivors praise Richard Dwyer PDF Text
781121 0052 State 294467 State praises American Embassy PDF Text
781121 0141 FBI Description of shooting at airstrip PDF Text
781121 0203 State 294495 Embassy believes some Jonestown residents fled into jungle PDF Text
781121 0341 FBI Description of shooting at airstrip PDF Text
781121 0541 FBI Description of shooting at airstrip (Pt. 2) PDF Text
781121 0611 State 294528 Question of disposal of remains on Jonestown site PDF Text
781121 0620 State 294529 Request for personnel from US military PDF Text
781121 0645 Georgetown 3820 8109 State takes responsibility in notifying next-of-kin PDF Text
781121 0730 Georgetown 3821 8110 Embassy releases list of next-of-kin PDF Text
781121 0848 FBI FBI interviews Temple members in California PDF Text
781121 0850 Bamako 5609 1322 Embassy seeks next-of-kin for Jonestown victim PDF Text
781121 0856 State 294531 State reports on climbing death toll, decomposition PDF Text
781121 0913 USICA Daily news bulletin from the International Communication Agency includes Guyana PDF Text
781121 1231 Amman 8872 8708 Embassy seeks names and address of Ryan family Text
781121 1235 Georgetown 3826 8112 US/Guyana discuss burial on site PDF Text
781121 1235 State 294533 State has no information on w/w Carolyn Looman PDF Text
781121 1343 State 294561 US/Guyana discuss burial on site PDF Text
781121 1430 USICA Daily news bulletin from the International Communication Agency includes Guyana PDF Text
781121 1443 State 294619 US/Guyana discuss burial on site PDF Text
781121 1500 Georgetown 3832 8117 GDF requests assistance in search for underground bunkers PDF Text
781121 1553 State 294637 All costs in Guyana operations will be covered PDF Text
781121 1645 Georgetown 3837 8119 Guyana aviation requests planes, parts PDF Text
781121 1705 Georgetown 3838 8120 Guyana makes small request for medical equipment PDF Text
781121 1743 Port of Spain 3256 3339 Report on Trinidad coverage of Jonestown tragedy PDF Text
781121 1755 Georgetown 3841 State Dept liaison arrives in Georgetown PDF Text
781121 1959 Georgetown 3843 8123 US/Guyana discuss burial on site PDF Text
781121 2016 State 294822 State takes responsibility in notifying next-of-kin PDF Text
781121 2016 State 294823 State asks that DOD provide specified equipment PDF Text
781121 2016 State 294824 State asks prioritization in equipment requests PDF Text
781121 2018 Port of Spain 3343 3260 Embassy reports on PT members in Trinidad PDF Text
781121 2030 Georgetown 3844 8124 PT members deny existence of underground bunkers PDF Text
781121 2105 State 294872 Report of Jones death; others may have fled and attempting to leave Guyana PDF Text
781121 2120 Georgetown 3845 8125 GOG requests repatriation of bodies to US PDF Text
781121 2125 State 294880 US Capitol physician requests copy of Ryan autopsy PDF Text
781121 2140 State 294898 Family of Chris O’Neal asks for contact PDF Text
781121 2200 Georgetown 3846 8126 List of identified dead PDF Text
781121 2200 Georgetown 3847 8128 Report on Temple survivors in Georgetown Text

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Wednesday, November 22, 1978

Date Time Origin ID Content PDF Text
781122 0040 Georgetown 3849 Georgetown to provide info on status of two Jonestown families PDF Text
781122 0045 Georgetown 3848 Joint Task Force arrives in Georgetown PDF Text
781122 0100 Georgetown 3850 8131 GOG asks about presence of FBI Text
781122 0105 Georgetown 3851 8132 Ryan autopsy to be sent to US PDF Text
781122 0157 State 295234 Mickey Touchette arrives in San Juan from Georgetown PDF Text
781122 0220 FBI Description of Lamaha Gardens house PDF Text
781122 0223 State 295248 List of PT relatives in US PDF Text
781122 0301 State 295259 Guyana officially asks for removal of bodies PDF Text
781122 0333 State 295260 Stephan Jones provides names of Georgetown survivors PDF Text
781122 0416 State 295263 FBI concerned over lack of permission to enter Guyana PDF Text
781122 0509 State 295317 State provides update from beginning PDF Text
781122 0524 State 295410 Military aircraft may be needed to evacuate survivors PDF Text
781122 0545 Georgetown 3853 8133 More survivors arrive in Georgetown from Kaituma Text
781122 0837 State 295682 Situation report 12: Few survivors located; NOK notified for 174 dead PDF Text
781122 1122 USICA Daily news bulletin from the International Communication Agency includes Guyana PDF Text
781122 1200 Caracas 11013 4723 Venezuela believes hundreds on Jonestown survivors en route PDF Text
781122 1205 Georgetown 3855 8134 GOG Ministry of Health asks for medical equipment PDF Text
781122 1415 Georgetown 3861 8135 GOG, US negotiate over FBI presence Text
781122 1445 Georgetown 3866 8138 Embassy asks GOG for US passports PDF Text
781122 1450 Georgetown 3867 8139 GOG, US negotiate over FBI presence PDF Text
781122 1500 State 295786 Situation report 13: Military prepares to evacuate bodies; Layton to be charged PDF Text
781122 1540 State 295840 TV networks interview Richard McCoy PDF Text
781122 1549 Bogota 11251 1324 Embassy offers assistance PDF Text
781122 1625 Port of Spain 3354 3263 Embassy reports on Trinidad media coverage PDF Text
781122 1750 Georgetown 3868 8140 US medical personnel report on condition of bodies in Jonestown PDF Text
781122 1800 Georgetown 3869 8141 Efforts to rescue people in jungle still underway PDF Text
781122 1827 State 295932 FBI announces intention in investigate Ryan assassination, Jonestown deaths PDF Text
781122 1834 State 295945 State asks Venezuela for use of small aircraft PDF Text
781122 1835 Georgetown 3870 8142 Confirmation of death of Patricia Parks PDF Text
781122 1848 FBI First contingent of 81 bodies en route to Dover PDF Text
781122 1915 Georgetown 3875 8144 Autopsies on Amos family complete, evacuation requested PDF Text
781122 1918 Georgetown 3876 8145 Death of Lisa Layton in October reported PDF Text
781122 1935 Georgetown 3877 8146 List of PT members from GOG immigration PDF Text
781122 1954 Brussels 22217 0118 US Ambassador to Belgium sends condolences Text
781122 2005 Georgetown 3878 8158 Embassy reports error in death list PDF Text
781122 2050 Georgetown 3879 8159 Embassy reports on Sharon Amos parents (information is incorrect) PDF Text
781122 2054 State 295988 Military aircraft will fly bodies to Dover AFB PDF Text
781122 2101 State 295989 FBI seeks interview with PT survivors in Trinidad PDF Text
781122 2104 State 295993 State seeks identity of PT members fleeing to Venezuela PDF Text
781122 2106 State 295999 New York Times reports on FBI investigation PDF Text
781122 2109 Port of Spain 3359 3264 Trinidad has no small aircraft to assist PDF Text
781122 2111 Port of Spain 3360 3265 Trinidad decides to let news media upload video PDF Text
781122 2117 State 296009 House committee announces investigation of State Department PDF Text
781122 2149 Kingston 9380 4547 W/W of Essie Mae Townes PDF Text
781122 2209 Panama 8581 9895 Small Panamanian planes not operational Text
781122 2215 State 296099 Bodies of Sharon Amos and children to be transported to Dover PDF Text
781122 2222 State 296106 Discussion of military attire in clean-up operation PDF Text
781122 2224 State 296115 State appreciates FBI offer to assist in body ID PDF Text
781122 2229 Port of Spain 3371 3273 Question of whether PT members still in Trinidad PDF Text
781122 2243 State 296119 State asks FBI for info on previous investigations of PT PDF Text
781122 2350 Caracas 11070 4739 Venezuela maintains lookout PDF Text

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Thursday, November 23, 1978

Date Time Origin ID Content PDF Text
781123 0002 State 296138 Laurence Mann expresses GOG sorrow PDF Text
781123 0025 State 296145 DOD needs more info on helicopter models PDF Text
781123 0055 State 296179 State asks DID to transport survivors to Charleston PDF Text
781123 0057 State 296180 List of Peoples Temple members in Guyana PDF Text
781123 0057 State 296181 Provision to be made for Jonestown survivors PDF Text
781123 0203 FBI Inner workings of PT, as described by former members PDF Text
781123 0215 Georgetown 3882 8160 Guyana police need additional materials PDF Text
781123 0256 State 296315 Situation report 14: Bodylift underway; Layton charged PDF Text
781123 0330 Georgetown 3883 8165 Survivors remain in Guyana, pending investigation PDF Text
781123 0331 Georgetown 3884 8166 Layton formally arrested PDF Text
781123 0332 Georgetown 3885 8167 Details on Layton State Stoen Text
781123 0340 Georgetown 3886 8161 Details on survivors PDF Text
781123 0436 Panama 8591 9905 Travel details for military assistant PDF Text
781123 0505 Georgetown 3887 8168 Military aircraft leaves Guyana for Dover PDF Text
781123 0203 FBI Interview with former Temple member Daniel Phillips PDF Text
781123 0605 Georgetown 3888 8169 Military aircraft en route with human remains PDF Text
781123 0615 Georgetown 3889 8170 [Administrative memo] PDF Text
781123 0632 State 296504 State press conference transcript, 11/22 PDF Text
781123 0655 State 296505 Aunt of Danny Casanova to accept remains PDF Text
781123 0656 State 296506 Some equipment would arrive too late PDF Text
781123 0826 State 296523 State asks for verification of survivor names PDF Text
781123 0836 State 296525 Situation report 15: Survivors should be released soon; problems in body recovery PDF Text
781123 1052 Kuwait 6286 2403 [Administrative memo] PDF Text
781123 1148 Georgetown 3890 8171 Bio data on Sharon Amos PDF Text
781123 1245 Georgetown 3891 8172 Military personnel may operate in civilian clothes PDF Text
781123 1641 State 296714 Situation report 16: Bodies arrive in Dover; more bodies removed; no more ID’s in Guyana PDF Text
781123 1658 Port of Spain 3372 3274 Trinidad survivors learn of deaths of relatives PDF Text
781123 1715 Port of Spain 3373 3276 Embassy awaits words on approval of FBI agents PDF Text
781123 1736 State 296840 List of Peoples Temple members in Guyana PDF Text
781123 1900 Georgetown 3895 8174 Guyana police to allow survivors to start to return home PDF Text
781123 1910 Georgetown 3896 8175 PT survivors complain about release of private info PDF Text
781123 1941 State 296852 Embassy urged to take protective measures for survivors PDF Text
781123 2015 Georgetown 3897 8176 Mootoo reports on partial autopsy of Jones PDF Text
781123 2043 State 296856 State offers guidance for press queries PDF Text
781123 2045 State 296858 List of Peoples Temple members in Guyana PDF Text
781123 2051 State 296859 List of Peoples Temple members in Guyana PDF Text
781123 2100 Georgetown 3898 8177 Updated list of survivors PDF Text
781123 2113 State 296862 State releases additional names of people in Guyana PDF Text
781123 2212 State 296908 FBI declines to pay for Trinidad survivors’ travel; still seeks permission to interview PDF Text
781123 2212 State 296909 Embassy authorized to hire legal counsel for survivors PDF Text
781123 2300 Georgetown 3899 Strategy to resolve conspiracy issues include weapon ID, Temple records PDF Text

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Friday, November 24, 1978

Date Time Origin ID Content PDF Text
781124 0141 FBI NBC has 13 hours of videotape PDF Text
781124 0216 State 297102 Get well message to Richard Dwyer PDF Text
781124 0300 Georgetown 3900 8178 Search and rescue operations continue PDF Text
781124 0330 Georgetown 3902 1768 Report on body removal, search and rescue, review of passports PDF Text
781124 0632 State 297276 Transcript of State briefing of 11/21 PDF Text
781124 0755 State 297277 Situation report 17: 202 bodies at Dover; no new survivors; 3 members arrested PDF Text
781124 0835 State 297279 Arranges for transport of survivors PDF Text
781124 0846 Jakarta 16194 3067 Report on media coverage in Indonesia PDF Text
781124 0851 State 297280 Name of Pat Grunnett corrected PDF Text
781124 0911 State 297281 Inquiries about surviving PT members Text
781124 0929 State 297282 PT survivors from Albatross en route to Georgetown PDF Text
781124 1130 USICA Summary of worldwide media includes Guyana coverage PDF Text
781124 1147 State 297342 Transcript of State briefing of 11/20 PDF Text
781124 1420 SSA Social Security seeks guidance on December checks to beneficiaries PDF Text
781124 1420 Georgetown 3906 Sherwin Harris to return to US PDF Text
781124 1426 State 297373 Names of Jonestown victims PDF Text
781124 1427 State 297374 Names of Jonestown victims PDF Text
781124 1434 State 297396 Situation report 18: Body count at 600; Remains of 270 in Dover; recovery continues PDF Text
781124 1705 FBI Sherwin Harris provided list of dangerous PT members PDF Text
781124 1705 El Salv. 6123 420 El Salvador president extends sympathy PDF Text
781124 1714 FBI Guyana Embassy in Washington reports bomb threat PDF Text
781124 1720 State 297520 State suggests involving Amerindians in search efforts PDF Text
781124 1745 Georgetown 3907 8181 Verification of identities of bodies impossible PDF Text
781124 1851 State 297586 State requests all Embassy correspondence with PT PDF Text
781124 1900 Georgetown 3914 8184 Ambassador assigned 24-hour protection PDF Text
781124 1927 Caracas 11104 4757 Venezuela on lookout for PT survivors PDF Text
781124 1944 Port of Spain 3380 3279 FBI may interview survivors; PT members want to sail to Georgetown PDF Text
781124 1957 Caracas 11112 4759 Venezuela discusses lease of plane to Guyana PDF Text
781124 2020 Georgetown 3919 8188 GOG issues official statement on assassination PDF Text
781124 2030 USSS 1061 Secret Service considers assassination threat against US officials PDF Text
781124 2044 Port of Spain 3381 3280 Listing of Albatross crew in Trinidad PDF Text
781124 2050 Georgetown 3921 8189 Beikman to be charged with Amos murder; legal status of others examined PDF Text
781124 2051 Georgetown 3922 8190 Identification of Temple vessels PDF Text
781124 2115 Georgetown 3924 8192 Embassy replies to House committee questions PDF Text
781124 2122 State 297692 American author to arrive in Guyana for book research PDF Text
781124 2151 Bogota 11336 1376 Colombia has no aircraft for Guyana’s use PDF Text
781124 2156 State 297818 Sherwin Harris lists dangerous PT members PDF Text
781124 2200 Georgetown 3925 8195 Embassy reports on Joe Mazor contacts PDF Text
781124 2211 State 297847 State asks for locations of numerous children from Jonestown PDF Text
781124 2221 FBI FBI sets up phone number for RYMUR PDF Text
781124 2221 State 297856 Embassy asks to review equipment requests PDF Text
781124 2221 State 297857 State ships office equipment to Dover 781124 2221 state-gt 297857PDF Text
781124 2359 FBI FBI had not investigated Peoples Temple before November 18 781124 2359 fbi-state cableCable 781124 2359 fbi-state telegramTelegram Text

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Saturday, November 25, 1978

Date Time Origin ID Content PDF Text
781125 0125 Georgetown 3926 8196 3 survivors identified as Eugene Smith, Tim Jones, and John Cobb PDF Text
781125 unk (0127) Georgetown 3927 32 guns listed; Guyana police reluctant to surrender guns PDF Text
781125 0130 Georgetown 3928 8197 Embassy reports on effects of media interest in Jonestown story PDF Text
781125 0132 State 298062 Situation report 18: Body count at 800; search efforts may be futile; survivors still in Georgetown PDF Text
781125 0230 Georgetown 3929 8198 Reclaiming possessions in Jonestown complicated by body removal; death tape found PDF Text
781125 0327 State 298102 State warned of danger posed by Richard Janaro PDF Text
781125 0356 State 298103 Transcript of State briefing of 11/24 PDF Text
781125 0400 Georgetown 3931 8201 Aunt of Danny Casanova to accept remains PDF Text
781125 0405 Georgetown 3932 8200 Report on Larry Layton PDF Text
781125 0451 State 298105 Report on partial autopsy of Jim Jones PDF Text
781125 0441 State 298104 State receives queries from Temple relatives PDF Text
781125 1003 State 298754 State receives queries from Temple relatives PDF Text
781125 1624 State 298761 Situation report 18: Body count at 794; Jonestown cemetery located; 532 bodies in Dover PDF Text
781125 1718 State 298802 State offers answer to queries about non-US children’s bodies transported to US PDF Text
781125 1718 Port of Spain 3394 3283 Report on the Trinidad contingent PDF Text
781125 1723 Port of Spain 3395 3284 Trinidad survivors authorize release on info about themselves PDF Text
781125 1804 State 298836 FBI agents will have sidearms PDF Text
781125 1936 State 299036 Embassy should recover and store tapes Text
781125 1940 Georgetown 3933 8203 Embassy recovers passports for four infants PDF Text
781125 1945 Georgetown 3934 8204 Embassy drafts promissory note for survivors to sign before return PDF Text
781125 1947 Georgetown 3935 8205 Embassy reports on six deaths before 11/18 PDF Text
781125 2045 Georgetown 3936 8206 Guyana newspaper blames US for tragedy PDF Text
781125 2050 Georgetown 3937 8207 Countries request clearances for aircraft to land PDF Text
781125 2050 State 299092 State issues list of JT dead for whom queries have been made PDF Text
781125 2117 State 299097 Embassy asked to store evidence for future trials Text
781125 2134 State 299101 State offers guidance in answering media questions PDF Text
781125 2240 Georgetown 3938 8208 Embassy to hire counsel to identify Temple assets Text
781125 2242 State 299104 DOD reports on equipment sent to aid in recovery efforts PDF Text
781125 2324 State 299110 Guidance on processing personal effects, Jonestown equipment, assets PDF Text
781125 2345 Georgetown 3939 8209 Ambassador upset with conspiracy allegations Text
781125 2347 State 299112 Treasury checks may be returned to survivors PDF 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 comprises the government agencies and embassies sending the cables. Abbreviations include:

State = State Department
Georgetown = U.S. Embassy in Georgetown, Guyana
POS = U.S. Embassy in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad
CAR = U.S. Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela
PAN = U.S. Embassy in Panama City, Panama

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 PDFs which were provided through the second FOIA request for Stoen documents are noted.

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Originally posted on February 27th, 2020.

Last modified on June 24th, 2022.
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