Nov 25, 78 • 0230 • Georgetown-State • 3929

[Editor’s note: This text was released at https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/1978GEORGE03929_d.html. The State Department FOIA release of 1981 withheld the bulk  of this cable under the national security and inter-agency exemptions. The deleted type is denoted below in red type.]

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GEORGE 03929 250332Z
ACTION NODS-00
INFO OCT-01 ISO-00 /001 W
——————064772 250356Z /61

O 250230Z NOV 78
FM AMEMBASSY GEORGETOWN
TO SECSTATE WASHDC NIACT IMMEDIATE 8198
C O N F I D E N T I A L GEORGETOWN 3929
NODIS
FOR ARA DEPT ASST SEC BUSHNELL

E.O. 11652: GDS
TAGS: CASC OREP (RYAN) GY
SUBJECT: ATTEMPT TO TAKE CHARGE OF PERSONAL EFFECTS AT GEORGETOWN

1. FOR THE LAST THREE DAYS WE HAVE HAD CONSULAR OFFICERS IN JONESTOWN IN AN EFFORT TO DISCHARGE OUR CONSULAR RESPONSIBLITIES [RESPONSIBILITIES] BY TAKING CHARGE OF THE EFFECTS OF THE DECEASED AMERICANS IN THAT COMMUNITY. THE WORK HAS BEEN VIRTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE GIVEN THE MIASMA OF DECOMPOSING BODIES AND THE CONFUSION ASSOCIATED WITH THE TASK OF MARKING AND BAGGING CADAVERS FOR SHIPMENT. FURTHERMORE, JONESTOWN HAS BEEN OVERRUN BY THE GDF AND OTHER GUYANESE SECURITY PERSONNEL, AND THE RISKS OF PILFERAGE AND SMALL SCALE LOOTING HAVE BEEN PRESENT AND INCREASING SINCE SUNDAY.

2. DURING TODAY’S TRIP (NOV 24) A CONSULAR OFFICER BROUGHT BACK TO GEORGETOWN SOME DOCUMENTS AND TAPES. AMONG THESE TAPES IS WHAT APPEARS TO BE A RECORDING OF THE LAST HOUR AND -A-HALF OF THE JONESTOWN COMMUNITY. CLEARLY AUDIBLE ON THE TAPE IS THE VOICE OF THE LATE JIM JONES AND SEVERAL OF HIS ADHERENTS AS THEY DISCUSS THE EVENTS AT THE AIRSTRIP AT PORT KAITUMA AND THE CONSEQUENCES WHICH THE ASSAULT ON CONGRESSMAN RYAN POSED FOR THEM.

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IT APPEARS TO ESTABLISH CLEARLY THE SEQUENCE OF EVENTS OF THAT EVENING AND THE RELATIONSHIP OF THE CONGRESSMAN’S MURDER TO THE MASS SUICIDE DECISION.

3. THIS TAPE IS UNDOUBTEDLY UNIQUE IN AMERICAN CONSULAR EXPERIENCE AND ITS CUSTODY BY THE EMBASSY OBVIOULY POSES SEVERAL IMPORTANT LEGAL QUESTIONS WHICH THIS EMBASSY IS UNABLE TO EVALUATE PROFESSIONALLY:

(A) THIS TAPE WOULD APPEAR TO BE IMPORTANT EVIDENCE TO THE GOG IN ITS EFFORT TO CONSTRUCT A CRIMINAL CASE AROUND THE ASSASSINATION OF CONGRESSMAN RYAN, AND FURTHERMORE, IT HAS OBVIOUS VALUE TO THE GOG IN ITS EFFORTS TO EVALUTE LEGALLY THE INCIDENT AT JONESTOWN.

(B) THE TAPE ITSELF IS ALSO OF OBVIOUS INTEREST TO AMERICAN LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES PARTICULARLY BECAUSE OF ITS APPARENT RELATIONSHIP TO THE ASSASSINATION OF CONGRESSMAN RYAN.

4. OBVIOUSLY THE TAPE CAN BE COPIED AND A COPY PROVIDED TO THE GUYANESE GOVERNMENT. HOWEVER, ANY EDITORIALIZING OR TAMPERING WITH THE TAPE COULD PREJUDICE ITS VALUE AS EVIDENCE.

5. RELTED TO THE EMBASSY’S ACQUISITION OF THE TAPE, WE HAVE A BROADER QUESTION INVOLVING CERTAIN DOCUMENTS OF THE PEOPLES TEMPLE WHICH HAVE COME INTO OUR POSSESSION DUE TO THE “VACUUM CLEANER” APPROACH WE HAVE HAD TO ADOPT IN ORDER TO GATHER UP AS MUCH MATERIAL AS POSSIBLE BEFORE IT DISAPPEARS FROM THE SCENE. THESE DOCUMENTS APPEAR TO HAVE WIDE INTEREST IN TERMS OF THAT ORGANIZATION AND ITS ACTIVITIES. AGAIN, THE

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EMBASSY IS IN NO POSITION TO EVALUATE OUR LEGAL RIGHT TO THESE PAPERS AND FILES NOR DO WE HAVE A CLEAR UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT LEGAL INHIBITIONS UNDER EXISTING STATUTE MIGHT GOVERN EVEN OUR EXAMINATION OF THESE PAPERS.

6. ACCORDINGLY, IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT A MEMBER OF THE STAFF OF THE LEGAL ADVISER BE SENT TO GEORGETOWN WITHOUT DELAY INORDER TO ADVISE US IN WHAT IS WITHOUT DOUBT A CONSULAR RESPONSIBILITY MATTER WHICH APPEARS TO HAVE NO PRECEDENT IN AMERICAN CONSULAR EXPERIENCE. PLEASE ADVISE.

BURKE

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Originally posted on March 3rd, 2020.

Last modified on December 30th, 2020.
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