House of Representative Report on Jonestown--Findings

May 15, 1979

On the basis of the factual evidence obtained by the Staff Investigative Group, we render the following findings. In doing so we recognize that we are the beneficiaries of retrospect on the events which preceded November 18, 1978. In this respect, we have striven to utilize these advantages without falling victim to the pitfalls accompanying them. We have sought to be objective and balanced but not frozen from judgement. In attempting to be fair and understanding, we have not been timid.


A. Jim Jones and People's Temple


Whatever Jim Jones ultimately became and whatever can be said of him now, there is little clear insight into what motivated him to begin his ministry in Indianapolis in the mid 1950's. Some contend he was always a committed Socialist who used religion as a vehicle to further his political beliefs and objectives. Others hold that Jones began as a genuine believer in Christianity but eventually became a nonbeliever or an agnostic. His own often-expresssed claim that he was the dual reincarnation of Christ and Marx reflects the dichotomy. Wherever the truth may lie on his religious beliefs, at the outset, he was seemingly genuine in his ardent support for such social causes as the welfare of older people, racial integration, and rehabilitation of alcoholics and drug addicts. His advocacy of such causes singled him out, and partially in response to the resistance he encountered in established churches where he had accepted pastorates, he began his own church, the People's Temple. By 1965 he had generated enough notoriety and displeasure in Indiana to cause him to decide to move his activities to California accompanied by a small band of Indiana followers. One reason he chose Ukiah, Calif. and its Redwood Valley area was because he had once read that its unique geographical assets made it one of three locations in the world thought to be safe from a possible nuclear holocaust.

By 1972 he decided to once again relocate People's Temple to the richer and more active political pastures of San Francisco and bought an old church building on the edge of the black ghetto area. A second People's Temple church was established in Los Angeles. In 1974 he began creating in the jungles of Guyana the agricultural community known as Jonestown. What finally drove him there together with the majority of his flock in mid-1977 was the publication of a New West magazine article which exposed many of his operations, a fact which he saw as part of the alleged mounting conspiracy against him.

Tactics of Jim Jones

The mental deviations and distortions and the psychological tactics which culminated and were most manifest in the holocaust of Jonestown on November 18 were rooted in Indiana and perfected in California. Who and what was Jim Jones? We believe it is accurate to say he was charismatic in some respects; in fact, he was especially adroit in the area of human psychology.

As we have studied him and interviewed those who knew him well and had come under his influence, we have concluded that he was first and foremost a master of mind control. Among the tactics he practiced with engineered precision are the following recognized strategies of brainwashing:

Inherent in these principles which Mr. Jones masterfully and regularly employed was his central strategy of "divide and conquer" through which he consolidated his power over people.

In addition to these tactics, however, Mr. Jones regularly used other devices and methods to achieve his ends:

In the process of manipulating the control board of this extraordinary system Jones suffered extreme paranoia. One can speculate that while it may have been initially staged, his paranoia ultimately became a self-created Frankenstein that led not only to his fall but the tragic death of more than 900 others, including Representative Leo J. Ryan. His paranoia ranged from "dark unnamed forces," to individuals such as Tim Stoen and other defectors from the People's Temple, to organizations such as the Concerned Relatives group, and ultimately to the U.S. Government in the form of the CIA and the FBI--all of which he ultimately believed were out to destroy him.

Further, in establishing this analysis of Jim Jones it is worth noting that he apparently had several bisexual perversions. Finally, there is some irony in the fact that although he controlled considerable wealth (estimated at $12 million) he sought out special privileges but none of the usual trappings of wealth such as fancy cars or expensive houses. In short, Mr. Jones was more interested in ideas than in things. He was not driven by greed for money but for power and control over others. That control continues to be exerted even after his death on the minds of some of his followers. It is graphically illustrated by the suicide of Michael Prokes, one of Jones' closest associates, during a March 13, 1979, press conference in California in which he defended Jones and cited the achievements of People's Temple and Jonestown.

Motivation of People's Temple Members

The tactics and techniques of Jim Jones outlined above found fertile ground and were greatly facilitated because of the background and motivation of those who joined People's Temple. Generalities, of course, are always difficult if not dangerous. However, on this basis of the information which has come to us in the course of this investigation one can draw the following general profile of many who became People's Temple members and followers of Jim Jones:

People's Temple as a "Church"

Out of the findings outlined above regarding Jim Jones and members of his People's Temple, emerges one additional finding. It relates to the question of whether or not People's Temple was a "church" in the generally accepted sense of that word. Again, on the basis of testimony and compelling evidence collected in the course of this investigation we offer the following conclusion on that question:

Also outside the parameters of this committee's inquiry is whether in fact People's Temple was a "cult." Once again, recognizing that the problem is complex and laced with emotions and strong connotative overtones, the committee's investigation went only to the extent of seeking the opinions of respected legal scholars.


B. Conspiracy Against Jim Jones and People's Temple?

Was there a conspiracy against Jim Jones perpetrated by the U.S. Government or some other organization? That was one of the questions on which the Staff Investigative Groupattempted to obtain evidence during the course of this inquiry. On the basis of the information received, the following findings are offered:

The Staff Investigative Group was also informed by the Criminal Division of the Justice Department that it received a "citizen complaint" in December 1977, claiming "that a relative was being held in bondage in Georgetown, Guyana by Pastor Jim Jones." The facts spelled out in the complaint indicated no criminal violations within the Justice Department's jurisdiction. Accordingly Justice's information on the complaint was sent to the State Department.


C. Opponents and Media Intimidated; Public Officials Used

As part of Jones' constant and pervasive effort to control people and events, the evidence obtained by the Staff Investigative Group established that he persistently intimidated and harassed those who left People's Temple and anyone else, especially the media, who he felt were opposed to his interests. This clear pattern of intimidation and harassment was reinforced and compounded into success by the widely held belief by People's Temple defectors and opponents, that government officials were friendly toward People's Temple or had in some way been compromised. Consequently, attempts at early efforts to alert the public to the nature of People's Temple's activities were largely ignored and/or rejected.

Typical of some of Jones' tactics to intimidate and harass People's Temple defectors who were actively opposed to him were the following:

As a result of such tactics People's Temple defectors were frequently frozen in fear and severely hampered in their efforts to counteract Jones. The problem is illustrated in the following example which points up the desperate lengths to which opponents of People's Temple were driven as well as the degree to which officials in San Francisco appear to have been involved. Afraid to contact any public officials for fear that they were tied-in or friendly to Jones, one individual went to the length of writing consumer advocate Ralph Nader because he could not think of anyone else he could trust. The letter to Nader outlined many of the allegations against People's Temple which were later proven true. It also indicated that the letter writer feared for his life. it closed as follows:

If you want to help us, please write in the personal column of the Chronicle to "Angelo" and sign it Ralph and then we will respond and talk to you.

Rather than do that, Nader sent the letter to the District Attorney's Office in San Francisco. By some means, the letter filtered back to People's Temple and the writer soon thereafter received a threatening phone call that said "We know all about your letter to Angelo."

In another instance People's Temple defectors hired a private detective to surreptitiously observe their meeting with Jones' representatives in a public subway station. Their objective was to have an eyewitness in the event of violence.

With respect to Jim Jones' and People's Temple efforts to stifle the San Francisco media some of the following methods were employed:

Finally, as to the question of whether or not certain officials had in fact been compromised by Jones, the Staff Investigative Group believes the evidence is mixed. What is indisputably clear and solidly based on evidence is that many such officials were perceived of by Jones' opponents as extremely friendly to or enthusiastically supportive of Jones, thereby precluding them or their offices from pursuing actions against Jones in an impartial manner. In this regard, it should be kept in mind that Jones had endowed himself with the cloak of official legitimacy through his appointment by Mayor Moscone as director of the San Francisco Housing Authority. In addition political figures in San Francisco appear to have been enticed by Jones' ability to turn out hundreds of his followers to attend rallys, conduct mailings, man phone-banks, and otherwise provide support to political election campaigns, including some direct contributions.

Similarly, the media were not immune from Jones' wiles and attemped flatteries. For example, Jones made contributions of various sums totaling $4,400 to the San Francisco Examiner, the San Francisco Chronicle, and 10 other newspapers to be used as they saw fit in the "defense of a free press," Although the Examiner returned the money to the People's Temple, the management of the Chronicle sent the check to Sigma Delta Chi, the national journalism society, which in turn rejected suggestions that it be returned to People's Temple.


D. Awareness of Danger; Predicting the Degree of Violence

One area on which this inquiry concentrated under Chairman Zablocki's mandate dealt with the questions of whether (a) Representative Ryan had been adequately advised of the potential for danger, and (b) how accurately anyone could have predicted the degree of violence employed. On the basis of evidence gathered we have reached conclusions on both counts:


E. U.S. Customs Service Investigation

One key element relating to the question of whether the Ryan Codel had adequate awareness of the potential for danger as well as the degree of violence which ultimately ensued involves a 1977 U.S. Customs Service investigation of reported illegal gun shipments and other contraband to Jonestown. In the course of this inquiry, therefore, the Staff Investigative Group obtained evidence which warrants the following findings on the subject:


F. Conspiracy To Kill Representative Ryan?

Relative to the likelihood of a People's Temple-Jim Jones conspiracy to kill Representative Ryan, the Staff Investigative Group has reached the following conclusions based on evidence available to us:


G. The Privacy Act and the Freedom of Information Act

Throughout this investigation there were repeated references made as to the pervasive role of the Privacy Act and, to a lesser degree, the Fredom of Information Act in the tragedy at Jonestown. The Staff Investigative Group made a careful and thorough review of the issue which resulted in the following findings:


H. Role and Performance of the U.S. Department of State

The role and performance of the State Department in this matter was the central issue earmarked for investigation in Chairman Zablocki's mandate to the Staff Investigative Group. The points of reference surrounding that issue span 4 years and are complex and many. Given this reality, a major part of the investigation was devoted to this aspect of the issue. The following conclusions and findings based on evidence gathered are:


I. Involvement of the Government of Guyana

On the issue of People's Temple involvement with the Government of Guyana, the Staff Investigative Group renders the following incomplete findings:


J. Social Security; Foster Children

Although this inquiry's scope did not require investigating allegations that the People's Temple stole or fraudulently used its members social security benefits, some information regarding these charges did surface during the course of the probe that is worth noting.

At the time of the tragedy of November 18, 1978, a total of 199 social security annuitants reportedly lived in Jonestown. Altogether their annuities amounted to approximately $37,000 per month. It is readily apparent that this income contributed substantially to the maintenance of the Jonestown operations. The Social Security Administration (SSA) is presently conducting a review of its responsibilities and performances in paying benefits to Temple members. In this regard, the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare has submitted an interim report to the committee. In essence, the report indicates that to date no wrongdoing on the part of the temple has been discovered. It does cite, however, four cases that are being investigated because the beneficiaries' checks were being forwarded to Guyana from the United States without Social Security Administration's records revealing their correct addresses. The Social Security Administration review is continuing and upon its completion the committee is to receive a copy of the final report.

The interim report indicates, inter alia, that the Social Security Administration is responsible for administering Section 207 of the Social Security Act (43 U.S.C. 407) which provides, "the right of any person to any future payment under this title shall not be transferable or assignable, at law or in equity***." Consequently, whenever a social security annuitant requests that his or her checks be mailed to someone else's address the Social Security Administration looks into the possibility of assignment. Such an inquiry was launched after Temple members moved to Guyana and asked that their monthly payments be mailed in care of the Jonestown settlement's post office box address.

The U.S.Embassy in Georgetown, Guyana was asked by the Social Security Administration to query Jonestown residents as to why they wanted their checks sent to the settlement's post office address and whether any of the beneficaries had assigned the right to future payments to the People's Temple.

In response to the Social Security Administration's request, U.S. Consul Richard McCoy, during January and May 1978 visits to Jonestown, determined that the post office box address was being used for the convenience of the beneficiaries, that each annuitant interviewed was receiving and controlling the use of his monthly payment, and that none had assigned their checks to the Temple. McCoy's successor, Douglas Ellice, accompanied by Vice Consul Dennis Reece, also checked into social security matters during a November 7, 1978, visit to Jonestown.

McCoy did find Jonestown social security beneficiaries who were heavily influenced to turn over their monthly benefits to the Temple. Nevertheless, in his estimation, these individuals volutarily gave their money to the Temple. In addition, he reported that all of the beneficiaries he saw in Jonestown appeared to be adequately housed, fed, and in relatively good health. Given these findings, the Social Security Administration decided to continue the procedure of mailing the monthly checks to the Jonestown post office box address.

Section 1611 (f) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1811 (f)) stipulates that:

***no individual shall be considered an eligible individual for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, for any month during all of which such individual is outside the United States***

According to the Social Security Administration interim report:

***as soon as it was learned that members of the People's Temple were moving to Guyana, the Social Security Administration district office in San Francisco, working with postal officials and officials of the People's Temple, went to extraordinary lengths to ensure Social Security Administration was notified when a member who was entitled to social security benefits moved abroad. This action proved very effective. When members who had been entitled to SSI benefits left the United States, action was taken to stop the SSI payments.

To date, the Social Security Administration has discovered only one instance of a Temple beneficiary going to Guyana without notifying Social Security Administration authorities. This individual's checks were received and cashed by her husband who continued to live in the United States. The Social Security Administration has found nothing to indicate that the failure to report the wife's move to Guyana involved People's Temple officials.

The Staff Investigative Group has been informed by the Social Security Administration that its ongoing review of payments to Temple members is focusing on the following:

(a) Did any of the Retirement Survivors Disability Insurance (RSDI) beneficiaries living in Jonestown die there before November 18, 1978, without the knowledge of the Social Security Administration?

(b) Were any SSI payments made to a beneficiary for months after the month that individual left the United states? (As mentioned earlier, such payments are illegal.)

Some 656 social security checks were found uncashed and undeposited in Jonestown after the November 18 tragedy. According to one State Department official, the vast majority of the approximately $160,000 in checks recovered in Jonestown were August, September, and October 1978 social security checks.

The Social Security Administration claims it will be several months before the process of identifying the remains of the Jonestown dead is finished. At last report, 173 social security beneficiaries have been positively identified as dead. Eight others are known to have survived. The balance of 18 are still unaccounted for but the presumption is that they are among the unidentified deceased.

Possibly as many as 150 foster children have been alleged to have died in Jonestown during the mass suicide/murder ritual of last November. Senator Alan Cranston's Subcommittee on Child and Human Development is conducting an investigation of these charges with the assistance of the GAO. Preliminary indications are that 12 California foster children may be identified as having died. Greatly complicating the identification process is the fact that neither dental nor fingerprint records exist on most of the children. At this writing, it is hoped that the GAO investigators may be able to provide at least a preliminary report of their findings to Senator Cranston's subcommittee by the end of May 1979 for a hearing that will be held in Los Angeles.

The Staff Investigative Group was informed by State Department witnesses that the U.S. Embassy in Guyana was never asked by California welfare officials to check on the welfare and whereabouts of California foster children reportedly living in Jonestown. The U.S. Embassy, however, was aware that some foster children may have been living there and asked the Department of State to determine whether it was legal for such wards of the State to leave the United States. One Department witness stated that he queried appropriate California authorities and was told that court permission was required to take them out of the State. This same official also discerned some reluctance on the part of these authorities to talk about the subject.


K. Future Status of People's Temple

Although it was beyond the purview of the inquiry as mandated by Chairman Zablocki, the Staff Investigative Group obtained evidence and impressions relative to the possible future status of People's Temple and some related matters which the Group believes are useful to establish for this record.

Accordingly, it is our judgment at this time that the possibility of People's Temple being reconstituted cannot be discounted. This belief is based in large measure on the distinction seemingly held by surviving People's Temple members between Jim Jones as an individual and what People's Temple represented as an organization.Thus, while some remaining People's Temple members express varying degrees of regret, dismay, and disapproval over what Jim Jones did, they still seem to embrace the principles and objectives which they believer People's Temple sought to achieve. There is also some evidence to suggest that a power struggle may be underway within the ranks of surviving People's Temple sought to achieve. There is also some evidence to suggest that a power struggle may be underway within the ranks of surviving People's Temple members in an attempt to establish a new leader. Only time will determine whether in fact such a development may take place.

While the existence of a reported "hit squad" whose purported purpose is to eliminate Jones' staunchest opponents cannot be concretely documented it should not totally discounted. this group has been described as including some of Jones' most zealous adherents. There is evidence to suggest Jones and some of his key lieutenants discussed and had "understandings" to eliminate various individuals, including national political leaders. Time may diminish the possible threat of this factor in any and all future activities and investigations aimed at People's Temple.

1. Much of the confusion over these two acts results from the sometimes conflicting principal purposes for which each was enacted. The Privacy Act guarantees the privacy of public records maintained on an individual and limits access, except for the concerned party, to these records by other individuals and government agencies. The Freedom of Information Act guarantees an individual access to records pertinent to the operations of the Federal Government but safeguards the privacy of individuals cited in those records.


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