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Posts Tagged ‘FBI’

Rex Mundi: Marc Rich, Fugitive in Paradise

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Since this was written, President Clinton has pardoned Marc Rich and Pinky Green, the Russian economy has taken off, and one of Rich’s own lawyers—Vice President Cheney’s former chief-of-staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby—is himself a defendant in the criminal courts. (This, in connection with the Valerie Plame imbroglio.) What’s to be made of it all? I’m not sure. But other than Richard Nixon, I can think of no other felon, or quasi-felon, who has been pardoned for his crimes without having first been convicted of them.  Perhaps the explanation is that Rich and Green have been helping their countries – the United States and Israel – behind the scenes.  Like Hollywood tycoon Arnan Milchan, who is widely alleged to have long used his businesses to help finance the operations of the Mossad, former 20th Century Fox honcho Rich may well have done the same…if not for the Mossad, then perhaps for the CIA.

Light snow falls through the darkness as a gray Mercedes glides out of the driveway of one of the oldest and most spectacular mansions in Switzerland.

As the car winds its way into the mountains above the lake, windshield wipers brushing at the snow, a man in a black cashmere coat and a dark blue suit sits in a cone of light in the backseat, reading. Not far behind, a chase car flirts with the Mercedes’ rear bumper, surging closer and closer, then falls back. Inside, three Israeli bodyguards scan the road, alert for the possibility of a bounty hunter’s ambush or a terrorist’s kidnapping.

Marc Rich

Marc Rich

The man in the Mercedes is at once honored and infamous. There is a fellowship at Oxford University in his name, and his foundation disburses millions to worthy causes. Despite this, indeed, despite all the good he’s done, he remains a fugitive, wanted by the FBI, Customs, the IRS, U.S. Marshals and Interpol. Should he be caught and convicted, he could face more than 300 years In prison.

It would be helpful, then, to know what he is reading as he leans back in the leather seat, engulfed by darkness, luxury and paranoia. At five A.M. it is too early for the newspapers; they’ll be waiting on his desk when he arrives at the blue glass cube that is his office building. But there are the late-night faxes, certainly, and it may well be that among them is a message from one of his lawyers – the best that money can buy. It could be a note from Leonard Garment, then, or Brad Reynolds or perhaps not.

Perhaps it’s a message from his bustling Moscow office, or a copy of the most recent missive from the secret police of the mineral-rich republic of Kazakhstan. For nearly a year, renegade Kazakh spooks have been quietly distributing diatribes against him to the press, accusing him of a host of crimes in an effort to discredit his company and sabotage his business.

And in Moscow itself, ultranationalist newspapers have published articles alleging that his commodities business is a front for laundering drug money. He denies the allegation, but it has its believers. His companies have an annual turnover of more than $3 billion per year in what was formerly the Soviet Union, so the man in the Mercedes bestrides the disintegrating Russian economy like a sumo wrestler on a pony.

Considering the stakes, it is hardly surprising that business rivals would stoop to slander in an effort to knock him off. Then again, he may be studying the numbers. As in: How many tons of aluminum are stored in his Rotterdam and Singapore warehouses? How many board feet of timber were taken from his forests in Chile last month? How many tons of light crude petroleum are moving across the oceans in his tankers?

A Belgian-born American with Spanish and Israeli citizenship (and a pending application to Switzerland), the man in the Mercedes is Marc Rich, a billionaire over and over again, and one of only a handful of people who might reasonably be called, in novelist Tom Wolfe’s parlance, a “master of the universe.” Unlike Wall Street wheeler-dealers who trade in the abstractions of futures contracts, stocks and bonds, Rich is a player on the periodic table itself, buying and selling strategic quantities of the world’s raw materials – its very elements – as well as more complex compounds (sugar, soybeans, oil, government officials). He is a titan in the business of wholesaling the planet’s natural resources to the highest bidders.

He owns or controls oil wells in Russia, mines in Peru and electrical supplies in England. There are refineries in Romania, office buildings in Spain and smelters in Australia, Iran, Sardinia and West Virginia. He has 40 offices and 1300 employees throughout the world and is simultaneously the uncontested emperor of aluminum, a prince of sugar, a shogun of soy, a mover and shaker of the world’s markets in nickel, lead, zinc, tin, chrome, magnesium, copper and coal.

One could go on. The managing director of a private intelligence network in the U.K., one that has followed Rich for more than a decade on behalf of a secretive Arab client, says bluntly, “Marc owns Peru,” and this isn’t so hard to believe. With an annual turnover in excess of $30 billion, Marc Rich & Co. AG has a larger turnover than the GNPs of many Third World countries-including the two dozen whose economies are said to be entirely within his hands.

Sitting in the back of his Mercedes, it may be that he is reading Izvestia, faxed from the Moscow office. He would agree that the Russian newspaper has behaved responsibly in the past, defending him against the U.S. Justice Department in a front-page editorial. But now, in the new Russia, the newspaper has actually opened its pages to investigative reporters and other idiots. Only recently, Izvestia reported that a $750,000 reward had been offered by the U.S. for Rich’s capture, while suggesting that he was somehow responsible for the export from Russia of 700,000 tons of high-quality fuel oil, purchased for a fraction of its cost. (His profit was estimated to be between $48 million and $400 million.)

There are other allegations, of course, and a blizzard of rumors. It is said by one of his competitors, for example, that Rich has corrupted executives at the Finnish national oil company and that he’s using them to plunder their country’s economy.

Trade unionists in Romania accuse Rich of having banked the fortune that Nicolae Ceausescu stole, and a freelance spook in what was formerly Ollie North’s apparat insists that Rich worked hand-in-glove with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to loot the U.S.S.R. of its gold reserves during the Eighties. The Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics and International Relations has called for an investigation of Rich’s connections to the infamous and now defunct BCCI.

And so it goes. In Amsterdam, the anti-apartheid Shipping Research Bureau accuses Rich of busting UN sanctions against South Africa. In New York, the authoritative Platt’s Oilgram News reports that he made oil shipments into Serbia at the same time the UN was preparing a blockade against that bellicose country. In London, Private Eye suggests the billionaire has been trying to violate similar embargoes imposed by the UN against Iraq.

But what do they know? Can anyone really be all that bad? (Can anyone really be all that rich?)

The rumors fall like snow past the windows of the Mercedes. But Marc Rich isn’t reading rumors. He knows the truth, and if he doesn’t, he can pay to have it found. Perhaps, for instance, he’s reading the report that he commissioned on a question of some delicacy – the report on the provenance of his blonde German girlfriend. Avner Azulay, an Israeli private eye, was hired by Rich to find out (among other things) if the woman’s family was pro-Nazi during the war. The detective’s report brought welcome news.

And so the man in the Mercedes can relax. It’s almost dawn in the Alps, he hasn’t been snatched and his girlfriend is clean. What more could a man want?

What more, indeed?

To understand who Marc Rich is, we need to know how one of the most powerful men in the world came to be a prisoner in paradise and a capitalist in flight.

Let us, then, begin at the beginning: Marc Rich (nee Reich) was born in Antwerp in 1934. He came to the U.S. with his parents eight years later, arriving in 1942. With the war in Europe behind them, the family settled in Kansas City, Missouri, where Rich’s father opened the Petty Gem Shop and earned a modest income. Rich attended public schools (where he seems to have made no impression whatsoever on his classmates), joined the Boy Scouts and went to summer camp in the Ozarks. (One of his tent-mates was writer Calvin Trillin, who remembers Marc as “the quietest kid at Camp Osceola. “)

To have been a Jew in Kansas City in the Forties (and one, moreover, who spoke three languages while still a child) could not have been easy. But he didn’t live there for long. The Petty Gem Shop prospered and became the diversified Rich Merchandising Co., which Rich’s father soon sold at a nice profit. In 1950 the family moved to New York, where the elder Rich entered into a partnership to manufacture burlap bags. With the Korean War shifting into overdrive, this proved to be a brilliant stroke: Military requirements pushed the demand for burlap through the roof, and the family’s fortune was made.

By then, Marc was enrolled at New York University. But as a sophomore, he was lured away from school by an acquaintance of his father’s, who wanted him to apprentice as a commodities trader at Philipp Brothers.

In 1954 Philipp Brothers was the biggest raw-materials trading company in the world, bridging the gap between mining and manufacturing companies on five continents. Established by scrap-metal merchants in Hamburg during the 1890s, the firm had expanded to England and the U.S. in the years before World War One. By World War Two it had become a giant with enormous influence in the Third World.

Rich began to learn the metals-handling business while working in the traffic department at Philipp Brothers. Like many of the other apprentices, he was the son of Jewish refugees. Unlike them, he’d grown up in the Midwest, surrounded by goyim. His father was a millionaire who was well-connected at Philipp Brothers itself. Marc wore suits that the others couldn’t afford, and he came to work in a red MG TD that seemed to instill envy in all who saw it.

Four years after leaving NYU, Rich was given his first assignment abroad. Sent to Havana on the eve of the Cuban revolution, he found himself in a vortex of decadence and corruption. It was a place where almost nothing worked except the bribe, which always worked. Rich got the company’s metal out of Cuba and was sent out into the world to make even more money for Philipp Brothers. He began to travel constantly between New York and La Paz, Cape Town and Santiago, taking time out to get married in 1966. His wife is the almond-eyed Denise Eisenberg, a New Englander who, like her husband, was the child of Jewish refugees who’d made a fortune in America after the war.

Unlike Marc, however, Denise was a rock-and-roller. He lived in a world of boardrooms dominated by patriarchal millionaires; she was a junk-food addict who loved the movies and was as driven to make it as a pop star as her husband would one day be driven to corner the world’s free-aluminum market.

Within a year of marrying, Rich was placed in charge of the Philipp Brothers’ office in Madrid and given a seat on the company’s European management committee. Always an insider, he was now privy to many of the company’s most closely held secrets, overseeing virtually every trade that Philipp Brothers made on the continent. Not content with that, he pulled off an extraordinary feat: in the late Sixties he invented the spot market for oil.

After World War Two, the world market was dominated by the Seven Sisters–companies that controlled the price and production of oil from wellhead to gas pump. By tapping suppliers in countries that had more oil than scruples – Iran was such a place – Rich and his Philipp Brothers’ associate, Pincus “Pinky” Green, were able to buy excess crude and sell it to refineries operating at less than capacity. In this way, the Seven Sisters were bypassed, and a gusher was tapped.

In the spring of 1973, Rich and Green anticipated the huge price increases that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries would impose in the autumn. Acting on tips, possibly from sources in Israel, OPEC or the State Department, they learned that the price of oil on the spot market would jump (in fact, it would triple). So they bought $150 million worth of crude that spring, paying $5 a barrel above the spot price to get it.

It was a great deal, but a mixed blessing. The reaction at Philipp Brothers was unmitigated terror. Rich was forced to sell the oil before the embargo took place. In effect, the directors of Philipp Brothers cashed out before the winning hand was played. Belatedly, they realized their mistake and gave Rich and Green a freer rein. The resulting profits were enormous. And so were the bonuses owed to the two traders.

Indeed, the bonuses were so large—as unprecedented in their size as the oil deal had been risky—that the company refused to pay. So Rich and Green bolted, taking with them a half dozen of the firm’s best traders. In 1974, armed with pledges of as much Iranian oil as they could handle, the unlikely pair began trading as Marc Rich & Co. AG.

From the beginning they waged a private war against Philipp Brothers, doing everything in their power to destroy the company. Secretaries and clerks were bribed to provide copies of the opposition’s telexes, which enabled Rich and his cohorts to win contracts by bidding only pennies more than Philipp Brothers for tons of metals and grains. There were even allegations that Rich’s operatives had bugged the company’s headquarters in New York.

By the early Eighties, Phibro-Salomon (Philipp’s name after a merger with Salomon Brothers) was reeling, and Marc Rich and Co. had an annual turnover in excess of $10 billion. And yet, even while operated as a kind of pawnshop for the mineral wealth of the Third World, Marc Rich & Co. remained an enigma. Which was exactly the way Marc Rich wanted it.

To many, Rich’s obsession with secrecy bordered on paranoia, but the reality was that secrecy and profits were intimately linked. To pull off his deals, Rich often had to rely on bribery and sanctions busting. Throughout the Seventies and Eighties, for instance, South Africa was subject to oil embargoes imposed by the United Nations, OPEC and the European Community in response to that country’s apartheid policy. For a commodities trader like Rich, headquartered in neutral Switzerland, the UN embargo was made to order. The Afrikaners were happy to pay more than $8 a barrel over spot, which meant profits of more than $100 million on each contract Rich’s company brokered.

Nor was it particularly difficult to find a supplier. The Soviet Union needed hard currency to buy grain and build submarines, and one way to get it was by ignoring its own trading sanctions against an oil-thirsty country such as South Africa. With the buyer and seller lined up, all that was necessary was to launder the oil through a purposefully convoluted series of corporations chartered in such venues as Monaco, Liechtenstein and the Cayman Islands. Sometimes, when the cargo was delivered, the tanker would be scuttled and the seamen sent home by air. Subsequent investigations would reveal that the missing ship’s owners were headquartered at a Swiss post-office box—on which the monthly fee was overdue.

One such shipment left the Black Sea in September 1988, sailing aboard the Dagli, a Liberian oil tanker flying a Norwegian flag, carrying Soviet oil bought by a Greek firm for delivery to Italy. The muddled itinerary and ownership made tracing the vessel next to impossible. Slipping through the Dardanelles, the ship kept on going as it passed Sicily, and continued on through the the Straits of Gibraltar. Turning left at Tangier, it began communicating in code and covered its name in tarpaulins. The oil was eventually delivered to Cape Town in mid-October. According to Amsterdam’s Shipping Research Bureau, which investigated violations of oil embargoes against South Africa, “the whole masquerade had been set up by the real buyer, Marc Rich, who made use of a company that soon after ceased operating and another company belonging to his empire of which no traces are left at all.”

Experts estimate that Marc Rich supplied at least eight percent of South Africa’s oil needs during the Eighties, arranging for more than 75 secret shipments from the Soviet Union, the Persian Gulf and Brunei. The value of those shipments was in the billions, and so were the profits. But that was only a part of Rich’s payoff. When Phibro-Salomon stopped trading with South Africa in 1985, responding to anti-apartheid activists in the U.S., Rich quickly stepped in to fill the gap, replacing the firm as the exclusive sales agent for one of South Africa’s largest lead mines.

The South African trade put Rich into the sanctions-busting business in a big way. Rich must have convinced himself that political sanctions did not apply to his operations, or, if they did, that clever lawyers could get around them.

It’s not surprising, then, that the 1980 U.S. embargo against Iran was viewed by Rich as an opportunity to make a killing. Laundering Iranian oil through Panamanian fronts and sham transactions, Rich’s company was able to subvert price controls, evade taxes and move hundreds of millions of dollars in illicit profits offshore. Unfortunately for Rich, however, the deals also brought an indictment.

A pair of Texas oilmen, who were themselves under indictment for falsifying the offshore origin of what was purported to be domestic oil, offered up Marc and Pinky in return for light sentences. Rich and his partner were each charged with 51 counts of conspiracy, tax evasion, racketeering and trading with the enemy. Anticipating the indictment, Rich locked the doors to his ten-room apartment on Park Avenue and fled New York in early June 1983. A few days later, he and Denise were ensconced in Switzerland in a mansion overlooking the town of Zug. The indictment came down a few months later.

Although Rich and Green each faced more than 300 years in prison, they knew they’d be safe in the Alps. The extradition treaty between Washington and Bern was so old that it predated the income tax itself. It covered murder, rape and mayhem, but, the Swiss maintained, nothing in it applied to “the modern crimes” for which Rich and Green had been accused. In essence, since neither had strangled anyone, the billionaires were more than welcome to remain in Switzerland.

Meanwhile, and at a cost of more than $10 million, a platoon of brand-name lawyers (Edward Bennett Williams, Michael Tigar, Boris Kostelanetz and others) was deployed to wage a rearguard battle in the States. There, the courts had blocked some $50 million in payments owed to the Marc Rich group by other companies, and the prospect of property seizures seemed likely. There was, in addition, a contempt-of-court fine that amounted to $50,000 a day for Rich’s refusal to surrender subpoenaed documents to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Rich paid the fine by check in twice-weekly installments, complaining from Switzerland that if he surrendered the documents, he would be guilty of business espionage under Swiss law. This view was echoed by the cantonal prosecutor in Zug—though, admittedly, he sat on the boards of more than 30 of Rich’s corporations and so might not have been entirely objective.

Even as the legal battles continued, Rich knew that one could do worse than to be rich in Zug. With its fiscal pheromones of low taxes, bank secrecy and lax incorporation requirements, Zug was a mecca for businesses that operate on the edge.

And Marc Rich was in the middle of it. His mansion overlooking the Zugersee was decorated with Picassos, a Miro and a Braque. He skied at St. Moritz, where he maintained a luxurious chalet, and began to host a New Year’s Eve party for tout l’Europe. Placido Domingo was a guest, as were a constellation of other celebrities. Rich attended charity balls in Geneva and Lucerne, where he gave generously to the fight against fashionable diseases, and he caused a stir at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Taking a page from the extraditables in Colombia, he bought the approval of the little guy in Zug by pouring money into the local sports franchise, dramatically improving the fortunes of the Zug hockey team (now one of Switzerland’s best). Nor were his philanthropies confined to Switzerland. When the Jamaicans began to complain about Rich’s hammerlock on their aluminum industry, the fugitive billionaire responded by underwriting the costs of the country’s bobsled team at the 1988 Olympics.

Denise Rich, meanwhile, was making it big on her own. In 1985, a Sister Sledge rendition of one of her songs, Frankie, topped the British charts for six weeks, selling more than 750,000 copies. Denise followed Frankie’s success with her own album, Sweet Pain of Love, which may or may not have been inspired by her husband’s pursuit of beautiful aristocrats. In any event, the fugitive was now married to a rock star who appeared on European TV.

In the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, in a washed-out office with cipher locks on the door and a metal detector at the entrance downstairs, a federal marshal plotted to bust Marc Rich. Indeed, Rich and Pinky Green were the sum of his caseload, and they occupied every hour of his day. The marshal spoke regularly with Rich’s rivals, with would-be bounty hunters, disaffected employees and customs officials and cops in the most remote corners of the world. He knew who Rich slept with, where he had dinner and how much he drank. From time to time he packed a valise and went after the fugitives, but the operations he mounted were never successful.

Learning that Rich was en route by private jet to Helsinki, he arranged for the plane to be met by police. Incredibly, Rich’s flight made a U-turn at 20,000 feet and headed back to Switzerland. A more ingenious plan required the cooperation of the Jeppesen Sanderson company, which has a near monopoly on the sale of aeronautical charts. Knowing that Rich’s widespread business interests required him to fly to some of the world’s most remote places, the marshal asked the company to tip him off whenever Rich’s pilots requested new charts. Jeppesen Sanderson refused to help. And so it went: The marshal couldn’t get the cooperation he needed, and whenever a trap was laid, Rich eluded it. Clearly, Rich had better spies than the U.S. Marshals Service could muster.

A lesser man might have been content to cut his losses and enjoy his millions in the Alps. But not Marc Rich. Although his companies had been indicted on an array of serious charges, and he himself was reduced to the status of fugitive racketeer, Rich still wanted to do business in America. All he needed was someone to front for him until his lawyers could reach a settlement with the Justice Department.

The line between chutzpah and hubris is a thin one, and Rich crossed it when he sent a trader named Bob Tribbett to New York in May 1984, instructing him to arrange a soybean transaction with Romania. It wasn’t a big deal by Rich’s standards, only $24.5 million, but it was obviously important to him because, in the end, it cost him millions and taught him a dangerous lesson: Fugitives are fair game.

To complete the deal Rich proposed, Tribbett hired Robert Whitehead, an investment banker, unaware that Whitehead was hooked up with the FBI and the DEA, for whom he was a contract informant. Whitehead’s office suite, telephones, car and private plane were bugged.

None of this was known to Rich or Tribbett, who had other things on their minds, not the least of which was an unusually sensitive transaction with Iran.

Four years earlier, when the American government left Iran to the Ayatollah Khomeini and the mullahs, U.S. military attaches and advisors sabotaged computerized records and equipment, including anti-aircraft missiles, the guidance systems of which were removed by departing American advisors.

Enter Marc Rich.

According to Whitehead, Rich used his contacts to obtain gas-fired gyroscopes from North Korea, providing them to the Iranians as replacements for the missing guidance systems. Suddenly, at a crucial point in the Iran-Iraq war, Iranian missiles became a factor. It was as if Marc Rich had delivered an entire inventory of missiles to the ayatollah’s forces – long before Irangate. (It would be a year before Iranian, Israeli and U.S. negotiators would meet in Europe for the first time to discuss swapping Hawk missles for U.S. hostages in Lebanon.) What Rich got in return for the gyroscopes is unknown, but putting the ayatollah in his debt could not have hurt his position as one of the world’s largest independent oil brokers.

Meanwhile, even as the gyroscope deal went down with Iran, Whitehead obtained a $24.5 million loan fom the Marine Midland Bank for the soybean transaction. Tribbett says that Whitehead was supposed to receive about $35,000 from the Marc Rich organization for his part in the deal, but Whitehead admits that he took about $5 million instead.

The FBI confirms that figure as the amount that went missing on Whitehead’s watch, though what happened to the money is unclear. Tribbett suggests that Marine Midland used the funds to cover Whitehead’s other debits at the bank. Whitehead’s FBI handler has a different explanation: “To tell you the truth, I think he just pissed it away.”

In any event, Rich found a better way to do business in the U.S. while still on the run. In the fall of 1984, lawyers for Rich and the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York arrived at a compromise. Marc Rich & Co. AG, and Clarendon, Ltd. (formerly Marc Rich International) pleaded guilty to dozens of criminal charges, sustaining $171 million in fines (including $21 million for contempt of court in refusing to surrender subpoenaed documents). Rich raised the money by selling a 50 percent interest in 20th Century Fox to oilman Marvin Davis, with whom he had co-owned the studio. From then on, the U.S. government had no further claim on Rich’s companies, though Rich himself remained a wanted man.

Today, Rich’s biggest play is under way in what was formerly the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. Brimming with natural resources, “the Wild East” is a political and economic mess. A diverse group of ministries holds sway over a melange of ethnic mafias, born-again capitalists, footloose KGB agents and what used to be called “the masses.” It is a world in which billions of dollars in Soviet gold reserves have been looted by Communist Party apparatchiks, at least three of whom are reported to have cartwheeled to their deaths from the windows of Moscow office buildings.

The once vast reserves of Soviet gold have dwindled toward zero, while more than 1000 tons have been smuggled out of the country to Zurich and Tokyo aboard military cargo planes and Aeroflot flights. Under-the-table transactions by the managers of mines, along with clandestine shipments by factory supervisors, are now so frequent that border republics such as Latvia and Estonia have become major exporters of copper, nickel and aluminum–even though none of these metals is produced in either country. Meanwhile, privatization continues with all the deliberation of a national fire sale.

It is, in other words, just the sort of place in which a man like Rich can make a killing. Who’s to stop him? In 1992 the Russian government considered posing a moratorium on all business dealings with Marc Rich & Co. AG pending “a thorough investigation.” Other allegations surfaced that Rich has been illegally exporting raw materials, bribing government officials and aiding capital flight from the country.

Despite the official pronouncements against him, Rich has seen his operations in the former Soviet Union grow exponentially in the past year. Where ten employees once sufficed, 150 have now been hired, and the company’s regional turnover is in the billions. Rich and his colleagues have stepped into the void left by the shattered Communist infrastructure, taking over many of the functions once carried out by Soviet trading organs.

In this, the man in the Mercedes has been abetted almost as much by his contacts as by the vaults of currency at his command. And of those contacts, none are more colorful or well-connected in intelligence circles than an Orthodox rabbi named Ronald Greenwald.
A Brooklyn boyhood chum of Pinky Green’s, Greenwald is both a rabbi and a commodities dealer. As an agent for Marc Rich in New York, he is also one of those rare spiritual advisors who find it necessary to deny that he’s a CIA agent and/or a front for the Mossad. Affable and wry, the Reb is himself an important player in war-torn Tajikistan, where convoys of aluminum are escorted by private armies in the Reb’s employ.

Meanwhile, there are signs that Greenwald’s persistent lobbying for Rich and Green’s freedom from their pending indictments, in tandem with the efforts of Leonard Garment and former Justice Department official Brad Reynolds, is having an effect. When Representative Bob Wise (D-W. Va.) convened a subcommittee hearing two years ago on Capitol Hill, seeking to learn why the Justice Department has been unable to nab one of the most conspicuous fugitives in the world, representatives from Justice at first refused to appear before the subcommittee and then stonewalled it. Wise was outraged.

“This isn’t your average miscreant who has fled the country for knocking over 15 7-Elevens and is kicking around the dock at Marseilles;’ he said. “This is Marc Rich operating with total impunity out of a tall office building in Switzererland. Why hasn’t this been made a priority?” He noted that Rich is under indictment for trading with the enemy and for “the biggest tax fraud in history.”

Despite the seriousness of the charges, Wise said, there seems to be “a lack of political will” to apprehend Rich and Green. Wise pointed out that the government has yet to publish a reward for their arrests or, for that matter, a wanted poster. Despite the severity of their crimes, Wise noted, neither man is among the 15 most-wanted fugitives currently being sought by the U.S. Marshals Service—though several thugs who have knocked over 7-Elevens are prominent on the list.

Calling the case “strange,” the subcommittee criticized Justice for its “lack of relentlessness” and cited numerous failures in the department’s handling of the case. The worst of these may well have been its failure “to ensure that, at a minimum, the fugitives do not make money from the U.S. government.”

Until recently, Rich and his companies have continued to do business—big business—with the U.S. government, despite Rich’s status as a fugitive. The Commodity Credit Corporation has enabled the elusive billionaire to sell American grain by providing more than $50 million in export subsidies to one of Rich’s companies. As bizarre as this may seem, an even greater irony rests with the U.S.

Mint’s reliance on Marc Rich for the copper, nickel and zinc that it needs to (literally) “make money.” Between 1989 and 1992, the Rich organization sold more than $45 million in metal to the Mint.

Through the efforts of Congressmen Dan Glickman and Bob Wise, Rich is no longer doing business with the CCC or the Mint. But not much else has changed. There is no evidence that the Justice Department has acted on recommendations made by Congress.

On the contrary, the only change known to have taken place is that the hardworking marshal, who knew more about Rich and Green than perhaps anyone else in government, has been taken off the case and reassigned to Tampa.

To anyone attending the Wise hearings, the conclusion was virtually inescapable that Rich and Green are being protected—and not just by the Swiss and the Colombians.

One can speculate about the sources of Rich’s protection in the federal government. He is, after all, in an excellent position to further certain U.S. foreign policy objectives and to satisfy various intelligence requirements in Third World countries. It would hardly be surprising, then, if the State Department, CIA or National Security Council were to enlist the help of a fugitive with Rich’s broad access and enormous means.

It should be remembered, too, that Rich has a complex and intriguing relationship with the Justice Department. When Congressman Wise questioned Justice about its contacts with Rich’s attorneys and other agents, seeking to make a deal on his behalf, the department refused to discuss the matter. Why Justice should stonewall Congress on behalf of a fugitive is uncertain, though few would doubt that the wall was built to conceal the fact that Rich is working with Justice (and quite possibly with other agencies) on what can only be called “special projects.”

In the past year or so, the Justice Department has quietly inserted two sealed envelopes into Rich’s court file. While those envelopes are not to be opened unless Rich is brought before the court, there can be no doubt that the contents of at least one envelope pertain to Rich’s efforts to help the Justice Department nab other fugitives.

One such fugitive is Tom Billman. Accused of stealing more than $100 million from a Washington, D.C.-area S&L, Billman was apprehended in Paris last spring after leading the authorities on an around-the-world chase that lasted more than three years. At the time of his arrest, the globe-trotting embezzler was prominent on the U.S. Marshals’ 15 most-wanted list and living under an assumed name.

Rich’s contribution to Billman’s apprehension was to hire an Israeli private eye, the same Avner Azulay who checked out Rich’s girlfriend, to help track down Billman. With a hefty budget, Azulay paid out more than $200 an hour to private intelligence agencies in London, New York and Washington, instructing them to track Billman’s movements and money in Europe and Asia. The information that Azulay received was then provided to U.S. officials, and the rest (or, at least, Billman) was history. Whether Billman’s arrest was a direct result of Rich’s efforts is unknown. The Justice Department won’t say, and. Rich would under no circumstances want to take credit for helping the U.S. track down its enemies, some of whom are his business partners.

The contents of the second envelope are a mystery, but may have to do with rumors that Rich and Greenwald played a key role in arranging the 1992 expulsion of East German leader Erich Honecker from Moscow to Berlin, where, after an abortive trial, he was permitted (for reasons of health) to leave Germany for residence in Chile.

Asked about Honecker and Billman, Greenwald shrugs. “There are rumors,” he says with a sly smile. And then he shrugs again. “With Marc, there are always rumors.”


“King of the World,” was first published in Playboy in February, 1994.

Throat: Mark Felt, Robert Bennett and the Post’s Cointelpro Problem

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

That Deep Throat should turn out to be Mark Felt is not the most welcome news at the Washington Post. The paper would have much preferred a crypto-liberal such as Leonard Garment in the role (assuming that Adam Sandler wasn’t available). Almost anyone, in other words, would have been better than the guy responsible for supervising the FBI’s infamous COINTELPRO operations during the 1960s.

Mark Felt

Mark Felt (August 17, 1913 – December 18, 2008). FBI photo.

As anyone who marched in the Sixties knows, these were secret and unconstitutional counterintelligence programs targeting the Left and a handful of white supremacists. As head of the FBI’s Inspection Division, it was Felt’s responsibility to maximize the effectiveness of the program in the field. Lest there be any doubt about this, it should be emphasized that Felt’s brief was not to ensure that anyone’s civil liberties were protected, or even that the law was adhered to, but to make certain that Hoover’s attack on the anti-war movement ran smoothly.

So bestowing the mantle of Deep Throat on the Toscanini of black-bag jobs must have felt like crowning Jenna Jamison “Sweetheart of the Year.” (Yes, she’s done important work, but…no.) Watergate editor Ben Bradlee and his colleagues would no doubt like the public to see this as an irony—one of those wacky things that happen in Washington all the time. But it’s not that. It’s much more.

Historically, Deep Throat has been cast as an American hero, the Nixon Administration official who came forward, however secretively, to blow the whistle on the Administration’s improprieties and crimes. By helping the Post unravel the White House cover-up, Throat and his cub-reporter buddies almost single-handedly destroyed the Wicked Warlock of the West Wing. The rest is history.

And myth.

One of the most lasting consequences of the Watergate affair has been its corrosive effect upon investigative reporting. Through its unquestioning embrace of Deep Throat, Hollywood and the press have romanticized the anonymous source and, in so doing, legitimized him. The results are there to be seen in your daily newspaper: story after story, attributed to no one in particular. “Speaking on condition of anonymity… “ “White House sources denied…” “A Pentagon official said…”

As sources disappear, the news becomes more propagandistic. Ambitious and calculating pols drop innuendos and send up trial-balloons, without ever having to take responsibility for what they’ve said. Or not said. In the playground of anonymous sources, the public is increasingly informed by creative writers like Jason Blair (formerly of the New York Times), Stephen Glass (ex-New Republic), Jack Kelly (gone from USA Today), and, ironically, Woodward’s former protégé at the Post, Janet Cooke. Not surprisingly, the public becomes increasingly skeptical.

The problem with anonymous sources is not just that they might be “composite” characters, or that they might not exist at all, but rather that the source’s motives are beyond scrutiny. So the story is necessarily incomplete.

That said, our view of the Watergate affair may now be changed by the certain knowledge of Throat’s identity. Until recently, his motives could only be inferred. And the inference was that he was a government official so outraged by the Nixon Administration’s hubris and disregard for the law that he risked all to alert the public. A real Good Guy, in other words.

That’s what Hollywood and the Post would have us think, and it is what Mark Felt’s grandchildren believe. But inasmuch as Grandpa was himself convicted of “conspiring to injure and oppress citizens of the United States” by having authorized countless black-bags job and warrantless searches at the Bureau, it seems unlikely that Felt would be traumatized by a break-in at the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters in the Watergate office building.

If I am right about that, then it’s likely Throat’s concern was as much political as it was civic.

In his June 2, 2005 article in the Post, outing his source, Woodward tells us that Felt regarded the Nixon White House as “corrupt…sinister…(a) cabal.” And, as the Post reporter makes clear, this was a view that Felt held long before to the Watergate break-in. Indeed, Woodward says, “Felt thought the Nixon team were Nazis.”

As it happens, this is exactly what I thought at the time, as did nearly every other liberal that I knew. Strange, then, to learn that this same point of view was shared by Mark Felt, a professional Red-hunter so highly placed in the FBI that only the Director, J. Edgar Hoover, outranked him.

Or maybe it’s not so strange.

A similar view of the Nixon Administration was held by James McCord, the rightwing evangelist and former CIA Security chief who led the break-in team at the Watergate. In a series of bizarre “newsletters” written after he had been arrested, McCord put forward a conspiracy theory suggesting that the Rockefeller family was lunging for control of the government’s critical national security functions, using the Council on Foreign Relations and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger as its means to an end.

At the Pentagon, then-Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Elmo Zumwalt, went even further. To Zumwalt, the Nixon Administration was “inimical to the security of the United States.” [Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., On Watch (New York: Quadrangle Books, 1976), p. xiv.] Indeed, as the admiral later explained, he eventually left the Administration because “its own officials and experts reflected Henry Kissinger’s world view: that the dynamics of history are on the side of the Soviet Union; that before long the USSR will be the only superpower on earth and…that the duty of policy-makers, therefore, is at all costs to conceal from the people their probable fate…” [Ibid.]

Egad…they’ve sold us out!

But Zumwalt, Felt and McCord were by no means alone in their suspicions of the Nixon White House. Within the Pentagon, a military spy-ring was pillaging Kissinger’s secrets on behalf of Adm. Thomas Moorer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff since 1970.

Within the offices of the National Security Council, and on secret missions to China, Kissinger’s briefcases were rifled and his burn-bags ransacked. In all, perhaps a thousand top-secret documents were stolen and transmitted to Moorer’s office (if not elsewhere, as well) by Yeoman Charles Radford, a young Mormon acting on orders of Adm. Robert Welander.

Here, matters become a bit incestuous.

Admiral Welander was an aide to Moorer. But he was also a mentor of Lt. Bob Woodward, whose commander Welander had been aboard the USS Fox. Reportedly, it was at the urging of Welander—who had yet to be implicated in “the Moorer-Radford affair”—that Woodward extended his tour of duty in 1969, going to the Pentagon to serve as Communications Duty Officer to then-Chief of Naval Operations, Tom Moorer.

In that capacity, Woodward presided over the CNO’s code-room, reading every communication that went in and out, while acting, also, as a briefer and a courier. This, he tells us, is how he met Deep Throat, while cooling his heels outside the Situation Room in the White House. It was 1970 and, according to Woodward, Mark Felt was sitting in the chair next to him, cooling his heels.

The Moorer-Radford affair is not usually considered a part of the Watergate story, though it deserves to be. The Nixon Administration learned of the Pentagon spy-ring in late 1971, but the affair itself did not become public until nearly three years later. By then, the Watergate story was almost played out.

While president, Nixon was determined to keep the affair secret, telling Kissinger aide David Young, “If you love your country, you’ll never mention it.” But the Pentagon’s chief investigator, W. Donald Stewart, was more forthcoming. Asked how seriously the affair should be taken, Stewart replied with a rhetorical question: “Did you see that film, ‘Seven Days in May’? That’s what we were dealing with…”

The film is about a military conspiracy to topple the president. A coup d’etat, in other words.

So it is interesting to learn that Mark Felt placed Yeoman Radford under electronic surveillance long after the White House learned of his activities, and even after Radford had been transferred to a dead-end military post 3000 miles from Washington, D.C. This suggests that Felt may have been more concerned with counterintelligence issues than he was with prosecutorial ones. (Radford was never charged with a crime.)

So why did Radford do it?

Jim Hougan’s, ‘Secret Agenda’ is available at Amazon.

According to Radford, whom I interviewed many years ago, his “superiors” believed that Kissinger’s foreign policy was “catastrophic” by design. His own espionage activities, Radford insisted, were intended to defeat a conspiracy conceived by “the Rockefeller family” and orchestrated by the Council on Foreign Relations. The purpose of this supposed conspiracy, according to Radford, was to win the Soviets’ cooperation in guaranteeing the Rockefellers’ “continued domination” over the world’s currencies. In return for this, Nixon and Kissinger were to construct a foreign policy that would ensure Soviet hegemony and a one-world government. [Jim Hougan, Secret Agenda: Watergate, Deep Throat and the CIA (Random House, New York, 1984), p. 75]

From Egad, we move to Yikes! It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for Nixon. But not quite.
It wasn’t just Donald Stewart who was worried about a Seven Days in May scenario. The CIA, was spying on the White House, as well. Enter Woodward’s second source: Robert Bennett.

Until Woodward identified Mark Felt as Deep Throat, I was of the firm opinion that the honor belonged to Bennett. This was so because it seemed to me that, at a minimum, for someone to be taken seriously as a candidate for Deep Throat, there should be some evidence that he met secretly with Woodward and fed him stories about Watergate.

Until Woodward outed Felt, the only candidate who fit the bill was Bennett.

In 1972, when Mark Felt was reading transcripts of Yeoman Radford’s conversations, Bennett was the new owner of the Robert R. Mullen Company. This was a CIA front with offices in Washington and abroad. Among Bennett’s employees was the seemingly retired CIA officer, E. Howard Hunt. Politically hyper-active during the Nixon Administration, Bennett was also the Washington representative of the Howard Hughes organization (which was just entering negotiations with the CIA over plans to recover a sunken Soviet submarine from the Pacific Ocean’s floor). It was Bennett who suggested that Hunt might want to interview ITT lobbyist Dita Beard, and it was Bennett who volunteered his own nephew to work as an infiltrator at the DNC. One might go on with Bennett’s contributions to the Watergate affair, but the point is made: Bennett was an extremely well-placed source, if not a co-conspirator.

Today, Senator Bennett is a Mormon elder and one of the richest men in Congress. That he was also a key source of Bob Woodward’s during the Watergate affair is memorialized in a Memorandum to the Record written by Martin J. Lukoskie, Bennett’s CIA case-officer in 1972 . [The memo was first published in the so-called “Nedzi Hearings” of the House Armed Services Committee’s “Inquiry into the Alleged Involvement of the Central Intelligence Agency in the Watergate and Ellsberg Matters,” which began May 11, 1973. See, also, Secret Agenda, pages 329-31.] According to Lukoskie, Bennett “established a ‘backdoor entry’ to the Edward Bennett Williams law firm which is representing the Democratic Party (and the Washington Post )…” Bennett’s job was to “kill off any revelation” about the Mullen Company’s relationship to the CIA. A second part of his brief was to dissuade reporters from pursuing a ‘Seven Days in May’ scenario” that would have implicated the CIA in a conspiracy to “take over the country.”
Sounds like Bennett should to have had a word with Donald Stewart, as well.

The relationship between Bennett and the Post was subsequently clarified by Lukoskie’s CIA boss, Eric Eisenstadt. In a memo to the Deputy Director of Plans, Eisenstadt wrote that Bennett “has been feeding stories to Bob Woodward of the Washington Post with the understanding that there be no attribution to Bennett. Woodward is suitably grateful for the fine stories and by-lines he gets and protects Bennett (and the Mullen Company).” [The memo is dated March 1, 1973.]


It’s enough to make you wonder, though not, apparently, enough to make the press wonder. But this is what the Deep Throat mystery is all about. It’s not just a parlor game to canonize yet another celebrity. Rather, it’s a question of deciding whether or not the Post’s coverage was manipulated by a cabal of spooks who were working to destroy an unpopular president.
This is, of course, a conspiratorial point of view. Most of the press has embraced Mark Felt as the celebrity de jour and, toward that end, the only motive they impute to his behavior is a love of country. And that is what’s likely to be taught in the schools.
More objective observers, however, will point to the fact that FBI Director Hoover died a few weeks before the Watergate break-ins, and will suggest that his second-in-command, Mark Felt, went after the Nixon Administration because he was disappointed at not being named to take Hoover’s place.

That’s possible, of course, but even if Felt didn’t get to be Director, he got the next best thing. That is to say, he got the files. Within hours of Hoover’s death, Felt took charge of Hoover’s Official and Confidential files—including one that was headed “Black-Bag Jobs.” The fate of other files in Hoover’s executive suite, including the Director’s Personal and Confidential files and the so-called “Do Not File” files, remains a mystery. [For details, see Inquiry into The Destruction of Former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s Files and FBI Record-keeping, Hearings before the Government Information and Individual Rights Subcommittee of the House Committee on Government Operations, 94th Congress, 1st session, Dec. 1, 1975. ]

Now that we know that Mark Felt is Deep Throat, it would be grand to ask him about the Director’s missing files, his view of Yeoman Radford’s spying, and his reasons for going to the press, rather than to the Justice Department, with his concerns about Watergate. It’s clear, however, that his family has no intention of making the old man available. He is, after all, 91-years-old and not entirely well.

My guess, however, is that if Felt were asked about these issues, he would take a more conspiratorial view of them than most. What makes me think so is Woodward’s account of a meeting he had with Throat, shortly before the Watergate hearings began in the Senate. According to Woodward, Throat Felt told him:

Everyone’s life is in danger…
(E)lectronic surveillance is going on and we had better watch it.
Who’s responsible?
C-I-A… ”[Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, All the President’s Men (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1974), p. 317.]

Now, there’s a story! But curiously, it never appeared in the Post.

Jim Jones, Dan Mitrione and the Peoples Temple: Part 1

Sunday, July 3rd, 2011

What follows is a work in progress about Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple. In so far as it has a central thesis, it is that Jones initiated the 1978 massacre at Jonestown, Guyana because he feared that Congressman Leo Ryan’s investigation would disgrace him. Specifically, Jones was afraid that Ryan and the press would uncover evidence that the leftist founder of the Peoples Temple was for many years an asset of the FBI and the CIA. This fear was, I believe, mirrored in various precincts of the U.S. intelligence community, which worried that Ryan’s investigation would embarrass the CIA by linking Jones to some of the Agency’s most volatile programs—including “mind-control” studies and operations such as MK-ULTRA.

Jim Jones

Jim Jones

This is, I suspect, why Jones’s 201-file was purged by the CIA in 1970, immediately after Jones’s case-officer, Dan Mitrione, was murdered in Montevideo, Uruguay.  

A second finding that will come as a surprise to many is that the Jonestown catastrophe was as much a massacre as it was a “mass-suicide” – contrary to what was reported in the press.

What I believe and what I can prove are, in some instances, two different things. There is no smoking gun in the pages that follow. But I think the reader will agree that there are certainly a great many empty cartridges lying around—enough, perhaps, to stimulate further investigation by others.

Having said that, it should be added that I am hardly the first to suggest that the Jonestown massacre was the outcome of someone’s secret machinations. The affair is inherently mysterious, and conspiracy theories abound—the most prominent among them that “Jonestown” was a CIA mind-control experiment.

This is a view that has been put forward in a number of venues. Congressman Ryan’s close friend and chief-of-staff, the late Joe Holsinger, was persuaded of it. The respectable Edwin Mellen Press has gone so far as to publish a book on the subject. [Was Jonestown a CIA Medical Experiment? by Michael Meiers, Studies in American Religion, Volume 35, Edwin Mellen Press, 1988.  Meiers answers the question affirmatively, relying upon circumstantial evidence that is not entirely convincing.] And professional conspiracists such as John Judge have embraced the thesis wholeheartedly.

In my view, they’re probably mistaken. Ultimately, the truth is darker, the evil more banal.


In the Fall of 1978, with Thanksgiving less than two weeks away, Congressman Leo Ryan (D-CA) flew to Georgetown, Guyana accompanied by a contingent of “Concerned Relatives” and members of the press. The purpose of the trip was at once simple and difficult: to determine whether or not American citizens were being abused or held against their will at the Peoples Temple agricultural settlement in Jonestown.

Reports to that effect had been received from a number of sources, including Temple “defectors,” relatives of those in Jonestown, and investigative journalists. Whether those reports should be believed was a separate matter. An American-based political organization that used the trappings of religion to attract members and avoid taxes, the Temple was a controversial institution—a personality cult that presented itself as a vehicle of “apostolic socialism.” Though its membership was predominantly black, the group was run by a white matriarchy that was, in turn, under the spell of a Bible-hating, charismatic sadist named Jim Jones. [My description of Jones is intended without rancor.  That he was charismatic is obvious to any who have ever heard him.  That he was a sadist is apparent from his mistreatment of dissenters at Jonestown, and from the sexual attacks that he so often carried out upon his followers.  That Jones was Bible-hating, as well as Bible-thumping, is clear from his instruction that the Good Book should be used as toilet paper.  Other evidence of Jones's hatred for the Bible abounds in a journal found at Jonestown.  In its pages, the anonymous diarist quotes Jones as saying that "The Bible will be used to put you back into slavery."  "...(T)he white man used the Bible to keep blacks in slavery."  "That God up there doesn't look after the good people down here....  If Harriet Tubman hadn't torn it up, we'd still be in slavery.  We've got to get rid of the Bible or the white man will use it to lead us back into slavery."  On the same page, the writer notes that "Jim claimed superiority to Jesus."  Elsewhere, we are told that "Jim led the congregation in singing, 'The Old Bullshit Religion Ain't What It Used to Be.'"  And, by no means finally, the writer quotes Jones to the effect that "Religion is the opiate of the people....Jim told of God's creation of Lucifer, who led away one-third of the angels.  God fouled up.  'Some of you get nervous when I say that.'  He said religion was used by the ruling class to control us.  'They" steal, 'they' lie, but they tell us niggers, 'Nigger, don't lie.'  They kill all the time, but 'thou shalt not kill.'"]

Escorted by Richard Dwyer, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy, Congressman Ryan and a part of his contingent visited the remote commune on the afternoon of November 17, 1978 – a Friday.

Jim Jones, Charles Garry and Richard Dwyer

Jim Jones, Charles Garry and Richard Dwyer (Left to right). This image is from “the Jonestown Institute” at San Diego State University.

Though the visit was unwelcome and filled with tension, Temple attorneys Charles Garry and Mark Lane arranged for the delegation to be given a tour of the settlement, food and a place to sleep. Accordingly, members of the Ryan party met with Jones and spoke with many of the organization’s rank-and-file. Speeches and entertainment went on until late in the eventing.

By Saturday afternoon, November 18, though Ryan himself had spoken favorably about several aspects of the settlement, a number of “defectors” had declared themselves, saying that they wanted to leave under the congressman’s protection. It was then, as Ryan and his cohort were preparing to depart, that the congressman was suddenly, freakishly attacked by a knife-wielding man. Though the scuffle was quickly broken up, and Ryan uninjured, the provocation put an end to the uneasy truce that both sides had cultivated. [Credit for stopping the attack is usually given to the attorneys.  In fact, it seems that one of the Templars, Tim Carter, was the first to intervene.  Interestingly, Carter reports that Don Sly's attack on Ryan, was most, best half-hearted.  "It was like he wanted to be stopped," Carter said.  The implication is that Sly's attack was a command performance that Jones had demanded and that Sly himself hoped would fail.]

Driven to the airstrip at nearby Port Kaituma, where two small planes waited, Ryan and his party were ambushed by a contingent of Templars, driven to the scene on the back of a tractor. When the shooting ended, five people, including the congressman, lay dead on the tarmac. Nearby, and in the surrounding jungle, survivors of the congressional delegation, having fled from the shooting, hid from sight, tending each other’s wounds. Meanwhile, the death-squad returned to Jonestown as one of the small planes, its engine damaged, took off for the capital carrying both flight crews and news of the ambush.

As night descended on western Guyana, both the wounded and the well concealed themselves in a rum shop at Port Kaituma, awaiting evacuation in the morning. Five miles away, unknown to anyone in Port Kaituma, a holocaust unfolded in Jonestown.

Guyanese defense forces arrived at the airstrip the next morning, shortly after dawn. Securing the runway, the troops turned toward Jonestown, marching down the long, rough road to the commune. They reached the settlement at mid-morning, and were horrified to find a field of cadavers – men, women and children lying in an arc around the settlement’s central pavilion.

Some two-hundred bodies were quickly counted, but the numbers of dead climbed ever higher in the days that followed. Revisions to the toll were continual, and sickening: 363, 405, 775, 800, 869, 910, 912, 913… To newspaper readers and watchers of the evening news, it seemed almost as if the slaughter was on-going, rather than a fait accompli.

Amid the confusion and horror, the escalating body-count provoked suspicions, though explanations abounded. It was said, for example, that the count was consistently low because the bodies of children lay unseen beneath the corpses of adults. Skeptics, however, pointed out that some of the earliest reports listed 82 children among 363 dead. [Baltimore Sun, November 21, 1978.  A subsequent report, by the Associated Press on November 25, listed 180 children among 775 cadavers.  The final count, recorded by the Miami Herald on December 17, reported that 260 children were among the dead] It seems fair to say, then, that the children’s presence was known from the beginning, and ought to have been taken into account. Moreover, even if the dead had been counted from the air, and even if one assumed that all of the children had been hidden from sight—which, as photos attest, was not the case—the body-count should have been more than 600 from the very first day.

But it wasn’t.

Of course, conditions were primitive, and the circumstances ghastly. Mistakes were inevitable. Even so, 789 American passports had been found at Jonestown within a few hours of the troops’ arrival. [Los Angeles Times, November 24, 1978] This discovery, coupled with the low body-count, had somehow caused those at the scene to believe that hundreds of “cultists” were “missing.” Indeed, it was to find these supposedly missing Templars that military search-parties were sent by foot, plane and helicopter to search the surrounding forest.

Meanwhile, incredibly, the dead lay in plain sight—nearly a thousand of them in an area the size of a football field.
It was a a week, then, before the body-count stabilized at 913 and, when it did, skeptics wondered how it was possible that 363 bodies had concealed 550—particularly when 82 of the 363 were said to have been small children.

Even mathematically, and from its inception, “Jonestown” did not make sense. Something was wrong with the reports from the very first day.


More than 900 men, women and children were suddenly, violently dead under circumstances that, even at this late date, remain mind-boggling.

The official view, as it emerged in newspapers and instant-books, [It is literally true that, even before the dead could be buried, both the San Francisco Chronicle and the Washington Post had published books about the massacre.] was that upwards of 1000 brainwashed religious fanatics committed suicide in the jungle because their leader, Jim Jones, told them to. One by one, they’d come forward without protest to drink cyanide-laced “Kool-Aid” from a vat. [In fact, the sweetener used was Fla-Vor-Aid] It was as simple as that, the public was told. Jonestown was proof-positive of the effectiveness of “brainwashing,” and of the dangers inherent in the new religions.

In reality, what was presented as news was only a theory and, as it turned out, an inaccurate one. Viz.:

Seven months after the massacre, the New England Journal of Medicine commented on the handling of the bodies at Jonestown. [New England Journal of Medicine, "Law-Medicine Notes: The Guyana Mass Suicides: Medicolegal Re-evaluation" by William J. Curran, J.D., LL.M., S.M. Hyg., June 7, 1979] Citing the criticisms of forensic experts and organizations, [10] the Journal noted that:

Six months after the massacre, only one-third of the bodies at Jonestown had been positively identified;
no death certificates had been obtained for any of the people who’d died in Guyana;
a medicolegal autopsy ought to have been performed on every body to establish the cause and manner of death in each case.

In fact, only seven autopsies were carried out among the 913 victims—an appalling figure. (As one forensic expert, Dr. Cyril Wecht, remarked: every American who dies under suspicious circumstances has a right to an autopsy.) Even then, the autopsies that were carried out were hardly conclusive: all of the bodies had been embalmed in Guyana, using a procedure that “ripped up” the internal organs, almost a month before the autopsies were conducted. [It was Dr. Rudiger Breitenecker who commented on the procedure used in Guyana (trochar embalming).  Dr. Breitenecker was the only civilian who participated in the seven autopsies conducted by the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology team at Dover Air Force Base.  Those autopsied were: Laurence Schacht; William Castillo; Jim Jones; Violatt Dillard; Maria Katsaris; Carolyn (Moore) Layton; and Ann Moore. ]

This was unfortunate, to say the least.  But it was also understandable.  The dead were infested and putrefying in Guyana’s heat, which made their handling exceedingly unpleasant, and their identification difficult. Indeed, six leading medical examiners described the handling of the bodies (by the military and others) as “inept,” “incompetent” “embarrassing,” and a case of “doing it backwards.” ["Medical Examiners Find Failings By Government on Cultist Bodies," by Lawrence K. Altman, New York Times, Dec. 3, 1978] Dr. Rudiger Breitenecker, who assisted at the seven autopsies, agreed. There had been “a series of errors,” he said. “We shuddered about the degree of ineptness.”  [Op cit., American Medical News.  See also, "Coroner Says 700 in Cult Who Died Were Slain," by Timothy McNulty and Michael Sneed (Chicago Tribune Service story), The Miami Herald, Dec. 17,1978.]

Despite the difficulties, “probable cyanide poisoning” was listed as the cause of death in five of the seven autopsy reports—though, as it happened, only one of the five bodies (that of Maria Katsaris) showed any traces of cyanide (“although carefully searched for…”). [The quote is taken from the autopsy report on Carolyn Moore, prepared by Dr. Robert L. Thompson.]

Still, the suspicion of cyanide poisoning in the absence of cyanide itself is not as strange as it sounds. As one of the examining physicians pointed out, cyanide is unstable in “the postmortem interval.” Perhaps, then, it broke down in the victims’ tissues. In any case, the “relevant body fluids” may have been contaminated by the embalming process itself or, in the course of that procedure, the fluids may have been diluted or discarded. The fact that Diphenhydramine was found in the stomachs of several victims and in the “poison-vat” as well, suggested that the victims had partaken of the vat’s contents. That the contents of the vat included cyanide could not, however, be proven from an examination of the vat itself—which, upon study, betrayed no traces of the poison. [With respect to the absence of cyanide in the vat, see page 4 of the autopsy protocol (AFIP #1680274) for Laurence E. Schacht.] (The explanation was offered that the vat had an acid pH at which cyanide is unstable. The assumption, then, was that the poison broke down in the days after the massacre.)

“Probable cyanide poisoning” was, therefore, a conclusion based upon circumstantial evidence: i.e., reports, including press reports, from the scene. These accounts noted the presence of cyanide salts in the inventory of Jonestown’s medical dispensary; and, also, the discovery of cyanide in syringes and bottles on the ground around the pavilion. Finally, there was the account of Dr. Leslie Mootoo, chief medical examiner and senior bacteriologist for Guyana, who examined scores of bodies in situ within a day or two of the disaster. According to Dr. Mootoo, who labored long and hard, taking specimens and samples from many of the dead, cyanide was present in the stomachs of most of those whom he examined. Unfortunately, evidence of his findings disappeared soon after it was collected. According to Dr. Mootoo, his specimens and samples were given to “a representative of the American Embassy in Georgetown, expecting that they would be forwarded to American forensic pathologists.” They weren’t. No one seems to know what happened to them.

Of the two remaining bodies (of the seven that were autopsied), Jim Jones was found to have been killed by a gunshot wound to the head. As for Temple member Ann Moore, her death was attributed to two causes, because it was impossible to say which came first. She had been shot in the head; and, unlike the others, a massive quantity of cyanide was found in her body’s tissues. (Why the poison should have broken down in the bodies of the other victims, but not in the body of Ann Moore, is unknown.)

In the end, physicians were able to certify the cause of death in only two of the more than 900 cases—though Dr. Mootoo’s field-work lent considerable weight to the conclusion that most of the victims had been poisoned.

As for the manner of death, whether suicide or homicide, the best evidence was again Dr. Mootoo’s. The Guyanese physician, trained in London and Vienna, concluded that more than 700 of the dead had been murdered. This conclusion was based on several observations. In the case of the 260 children, for example, they could hardly be held responsible for their own deaths. So they had been killed by others. As for the adults, Dr. Mootoo reported that 83 of the 100 bodies that he examined had needle-punctures on the backs of their shoulders—suggesting that they had been forcibly held down and injected against their will. [American Medical News, "Bungled Aftermath of Tragedy," by Lawrence Altman, MD, p. 7.] (A second possiblity is that they may have been given coup de grace injections, perhaps to guard against the possibility that some of the victims might have feigned death in hopes of escape.) Moreover, Dr. Mootoo noted, syringes containing cyanide, but lacking needles, lay everywhere on the ground at Jonestown—a circumstance which led him to conclude that the syringes had been used to squirt poison into the mouths of those (children and others) who had refused to drink. Still other victims seem to have been duped into thinking that they were taking tranquilizers: bottles containing potassium cyanide, but labelled “Valium,” were scattered on the ground around the pavilion. ["Some in Cult Received Cyanide by Injection, Guyanese Sources Say," by Nicholas M. Horrock, New York Times, Dec. 12, 1978.] Based upon this evidence, Mootoo concluded that as many as 700, and possibly more, of Jonestown’s victims were murdered.

No other conclusion seems reasonable. Once Dr. Mootoo’s findings are accepted with respect to the cause of death (cyanide poisoning), we have little choice than to accept his judgment upon the manner in which the vast majority of victims died. As the only physician to gather evidence at the scene and to examine the dead where they lay, Dr. Mootoo based his findings upon the best (and, sometimes, the only) evidence available.

An eye-witness account would help to answer some of the lingering questions, but few witnesses survived. Those who did survive—Charles Garry, Mark Lane, Mike and Tim Carter, Michael Prokes, Odell Rhodes,Stanley Clayton, and others—did so because they were able to flee the scene. [In interviews with this writer, Clayton and Rhodes emphasized the presence of armed guards, some with rifles and others with crossbows, who formed a perimeter to prevent people from escaping the encampment.  (The street-smart Clayton and Rhodes escaped using pretexts.) ] The only exceptions to this were a group that left Jonestown on the morning of the massacre, supposedly to go on a picnic; an elderly woman named Hyacinth Thrush, who slept through the massacre and remembered nothing of it; and a man named Johnny Cobb, who hid through the night in a tree. [According to Cobb, he heard screams and gunshots throughout the night, and saw flashing lights.]

Just as the cause and manner of death were obscured by the decision to embalm the corpses before they could be autopsied, the identities of those who died were also encrypted. Why this was so is a mystery in its own right.

“Lots of people had identification tags on their wrists, usually their right one,” said Frank Johnston, an American magazine photographer who toured the commune shortly after the massacre. [Miami Herald, "Army to Identify Bodies of Cultists," 22 Nov., 1978, p.1.] Some of these tags were hand-made, apparently by the communards themselves, while others had been issued by the medical clinic at Jonestown. Still other victims were identified on the ground by Hyacinth Thrush and others who’d known them. Once identifications were made, the military tagged the bodies. Relatives of the dead, including Johnny Cobb, saw the tags. So did anyone who glanced at the cover of the contemporaneous Newsweek, in which the massacre was reported.

But then the tags and i.d. bracelets disappeared.  When the bodies arrived at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, the tags and bracelets were gone.

In a real sense, the bodies had been dis-identified, though how and why and by whom remains a mystery. According to Newsweek, the order to remove the tags was issued by Robert Pastor, the National Security Council’s staff coordinator for Latin American and Caribbean affairs. Asked about this, Pastor denies that he gave such an order, adding that it would have been senseless for him to have done so. He’s right, of course, but…there it is.

A great deal more could be said about the mishandling of the bodies. It may be enough, though, to call attention to news reports published nearly a decade after the massacre. According to UPI and the Los Angeles Times, three of the Jonestown dead were discovered in January, 1986 stacked in caskets inside a Storage-R-Us facility in Southern California. [Los Angeles Times, 9 January, 1986, I:2:5; UPI, 9 January, 1986, National/Domestic News, PM cycle, Los Angles.] How they had gotten there is unknown.  All that could be said with certainty is that they had been forgotten, and were awaiting burial years after they had died.


As Dr. Mootoo’s evidence established, most of the people at Jonestown were murdered. How is it, then, that Jonestown has become synonymous with “mass suicide”? An “After Action Report” of the Joint Chiefs of Staff helps to establish the chronology of the myth.

According to the Pentagon, which took responsibility for transporting the dead back to the United States, the National Military Command Center (NMCC) was first notified of an incident in Guyana at 7:18 P.M. on Saturday, November 18. ["Guyana Operations," After-Action Report, 18-27 November, 1978, prepared by the Special Study Group, Operations Directorate, USMC Directorate, Joint Chiefs of Staff (distributed 31 January, 1979).  All times are taken from Appendix B, "Chronology of Events."] This information, apparently based on reports brought back from Port Kaituma by the escaping pilots, was that Congressman Ryan had been shot at the jungle airstrip. [Ibid.]

Wikipedia captions this image, “Photograph of military personnel carrying bodies of the victims of the Jonestown massacre out of a helicopter.” However, this does, indeed, appear to be a C-141 aircraft. This image is from “the Jonestown Institute” at San Diego State University.

At 8:15 P.M., a Department of Defense MEDEVAC was requested by the State Department. Its mission: to evacuate the wounded from Port Kaituma, and to bring back the bodies of those who had been killed.

At 8:49 P.M., the State Department relayed a request from the Prime Minister of Guyana, Forbes Burnham, asking that a pathologist accompany the MEDEVAC. Why Burnham should have requested a pathologist from the U.S. is uncertain. The information available to him at the time would seem to have been restricted to the news that Congressman Ryan and others had been ambushed by small-arms fire.

Six hours later, at 3:04 A.M. on November 19 a C-141 MEDEVAC left Charleston, N.C., bound for Guyana.

Barely 25 minutes afterward, at 3:29 A.M., the JCS chronology indicates that “CIA NOIWON reports mass suicides at Jonestown.” [Ibid. The JCS chronology cites the following reference: "CIA 191138Z Nov 78".  NOIWON is the National Operations and Intelligence Watch Officers Network.]

All entries in the JCS chronology are Eastern Standard Time. In Guyana, however, it was one hour and fifteen minutes later than in Washington, D.C. – which means that the CIA notified the Defense Department of the “mass suicides” at 4:44 A.M. (Guyana-time).

But how did they know?

How did the CIA know that anyone was dead in Jonestown – let alone so many as to justify the notion of “mass suicides”? And how could the CIA be so mistakenly certain of the manner in which the dead had died: that is to say, suicide rather than murder?

Somehow, the Agency learned of the mass deaths while it was still dark, hours before the Guyanese Defense Forces (GDF) arrived at the commune. According to the “narrative summary” of the JCS report:

“At approximately 1800 that same evening (November 18), Reverend James Warren Jones, the founder and leader of the Peoples Temple cult, held a meeting of all members. He convinced them that they and their children would have to die. The members of the cult lined up and began receiving a poison drink. Guards were stationed around the compound to insure that no one left the camp…” [Ibid.]

The CIA was the source.  But from where did it get its information, so soon after the apocalypse in the jungle?

This has been a mystery for than 25 years. Until recently, I was of the opinion that the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy, Richard Dwyer, had returned to Jonestown after the ambush at Port Kaituma. What made me think so was an excerpt from the so-called “Last Tape” that Jim Jones made, while sitting on the dais at the pavillion in Jonestown, cajoling his followers to kill themselves. [The tape was obtained from the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  I've quoted from the FBI's transcript of that tape.] Against a background of wailing and screams, we hear the following: one hears

JONES: “And what comes, folks, what comes now?”

UNIDENTIFIED MAN (UNMAN) in background: “Everyone…hold it!  Sit down right here…”

JONES: “Say peace, say peace, say peace, say peace…what comes, don’t let…take Dwyer on down to the middle (?) of the East House.  Take Dwyer on down.”

UNWOMAN: “Everybody be quiet, please!”

UNMAN: “Show you got some respect for our lives.”  (NB: On the tape-recording in the author’s possession, obtained from the FBI through the Freedom of Information Act, it appears this is Jones speaking, rather than an Unidentified Man, and that what he says is: “Keep Dwyer alive!” – and then adds, “Sit down, sit down, sit down.”)

UNMAN: “Let me sit down, sit down, sit down.”

JONES: “I know…”  (Jones begins to hum, or keen.)  ”I tried so very very hard…  Get Dwyer out of here before something happens to him.”

UNMAN: “Jjara?”

JONES: “I’m not talking about ‘Jjara’!  I said Dwy-er!

The “Last Tape” is anything but indistinct, and there would seem to be only one way of making sense out of it: that is to say, it means what it says.  Jones is giving orders to his followers to protect “Dwyer” by taking him to East House (a part of the Jonestown encampment to which Temple attorneys Charles Garry and Mark Lane had been sent, and from which they had already escaped.  There is no other “Dwyer” associated with the Peoples Temple, so it would seem fair to conclude that Dwyer had returned to Jonestown from the ambush at Port Kaituma – and that Jones wanted to protect him.  But why?

Jones is explicit and yet…it makes no sense.

For his part, Dwyer has always denied that he returned to Jonestown that evening.  He says he tended the wounded in Port Kaituma, throughout the night.  If some of those at Port Kaituma found him missing at various times, then it must be because he was moving back and forth between the two locations in which the wounded had been sequestered.

“What reasons people may have had for saying these things, I don’t know,” Dwyer later testified.  ”I was not present in the tavern (at Port Kaituma), obviously, when I was at the tent.  I wasn’t present in the tent when I was in the tavern.  But that’s it.”

Compounding the uncertainty about Dwyer’s whereabouts that night is the allegation that the Deputy Chief of Mission was, in fact, a CIA officer under embassy cover.

The allegation is made by Dr. Julius Mader, an East German academician with ties to the former East German intelligence service (Stasi).   [Mader is the author of Who's Who in the CIA.  It's in that book that Dwyer is named as a CIA officer.] Mader’s opinion would appear to have been based on analysis of Dwyer’s background, which included Dwyer’s enlistment in the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, followed by service in the fly-blown capitals of Syria, Egypt, Bulgaria and Chad.

In other words, Dwyer looked like a spook. And Mader wasn’t the only one who thought so. Kit Nascimento, Guyana’s Minister of Information at the time, has stated flatly that Richard Dwyer was the CIA’s Chief of Station in Guyana when the Jonestown massacre occurred.

But Mader and Nascimento were mistaken.

In fact, the CIA station chief in Guyana was a colleague of Dwyer’s, who was himself working under State Department cover at the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown.  This was James Adkins, who would later come a cropper in the Iran-Contra hearings, during which he was criticized for what might be characterized as “over-achievement” on behalf of the Contras in the early 1980s.  He later resigned from the CIA.

Adkins is important to the story because he was the first outsider to learn of the murders and suicides at Jonestown – and it was he who notified his CIA bosses in Washington about what had happened.  Whether he reported that suicides and murders were taking place, or just suicides, is uncertain.

In the event, there were others in Georgetown who knew what was happening at Jonestown – but said nothing about it.  One of them was a member of the Peoples Temple who lived in “Lamaha Gardens,” a modest house that the Peoples Temple used for liaisons in Georgetown, Guyana’s capital.  Told by radio of the ambush at Port Kaituma, Amos knew what would happen next.  Everyone in Jonestown was about to die.  Taking her children into the bathroom, Mother Amos dutifully slit their throats, then took her own life, as well.

News of the horror quickly got out, but nothing further was heard from Jonestown itself.  The “agricultural settlement” was a black hole.

When the Embassy learned of the ambush from one of the returning pilots, Adkins got on the radio – and stayed on the radio for hours – listening hard.  For a long while, nothing could be heard.  But int he early morning hours of November 19, the voice of Odell Rhodes was suddenly heard, transmitting almost hysterically.  After witnessing so many murders and suicides, Rhodes had used a pretext to get past a cordon sanitaire of Temple guards armed with shotguns and crossbows.  Reaching the relative safety of the surrounding jungle, he’d made his way to the little police station in nearby Mathews Ridge.  It was from there that he broadcast the report that stunned Adkins.

As for Dwyer, he appears to have played a courageous role at the airstrip that night, taking care of the wounded and the dead at considerable risk to himself.


Jim Jones, Dan Mitrione and the Peoples Temple: Part 2

Saturday, July 2nd, 2011


Still, we’re not done with CIA.  Its relationship to Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple, and therefore to the Jonestown massacre, is an important issue that will be discussed in subsequent pages.

Here, however, we are concerned with the initial reports of the massacre.  And, in particular with those responsible for labeling the disaster a “mass suicide”—contrary to the evidence being gathered by Dr. Mootoo.  The person who seems to have been most responsible for spinning the story in that way was Dr. Hardat Sukhdeo, a psychiatrist.

Dr. Sukhdeo is, or perhaps was, “an anti-cult activist” whose professional interests (according to an autobiographical note) were “homicide, suicide, and the behavior of animals in electro-magnetic fields.”  His arrival in Georgetown on November 27, 1978 came only three weeks after he had been named as a defendant in a controversial “deprogramming” case. [Sukhdeo was named with "deprogrammer" Galen Kelly in a suit brought by the Circle of Friends on behalf of Joan E. Stedrak.  The suit is believed to have been filed on November 6, 1978]  It is not entirely surprising, then, that within hours of his arrival in the capital, Dr. Sukhdeo began giving interviews to the press, including the New York Times, “explaining” what had happened.

Jim Jones

Jim Jones, he said, “was a genius of mind control, a master.  He knew exactly what he was doing.  I have never seen anything like this…but the jungle, the isolation, gave him absolute control.”  Just what Dr. Sukhdeo had been able to see in his few minutes in Georgetown is unclear.  But his importance in shaping the story is undoubted: he was one of the few civilian professionals at the scene, and his task was, quite simply, to help the press make sense of what had happened and to console those who had survived.  Accordingly, he was widely quoted, and what he had to say was immediately echoed by colleagues back in the States.

That Sukhdeo’s opinions were preconceived, rather than based upon evidence, however, seems obvious.  Even so, it is clear that he was aware of the work that Dr. Mootoo had done—which, as we have seen, contradicted Sukhdeo’s statements about “mass suicides.”

In an interview with Time, Sukhdeo refers to an “autopsy” that had been performed on Jim Jones in Guyana.  This can only have been a reference to Dr. Mootoo’s somewhat cursory examination, in which Jones’s body was slit open on the ground.  It is difficult to understand how Sukhdeo could have been aware of that procedure without also knowing of Mootoo’s finding that most of the victims had been murdered.

Dr. Sukhdeo was himself a native of Guyana, though a resident of the United States.  He claimed at the time that he’d come to Georgetown at his own expense to counsel and study those who had survived.  But that is in dispute.

According to his attorney, Robert Bockelman, Dr. Sukhdeo retained him to prevent his having to testify at the Larry Layton trial in San Francisco.  (Layton was a member of the Peoples Temple who participated in the events at the Port Kaituma airstrip.)  Dr. Sukhdeo’s primary concern, according to Bockelman, was that it should not be revealed that the State Department had paid his way to Guyana.  You see the issue: was Doctor Sukhdeo there to help the survivors—or to debrief them on behalf of some other person or agency? [Asked about this, Sukhdeo insists that he paid his own way to Guyana.]

Nor was this all.   Prior to retaining counsel in San Francisco, Dr. Sukhdeo had himself been retained by Larry Layton’s defense attorneys and family.  (Indeed, he testified in Layton’s trial in Guyana, where “most of his testimony concerned cults in general and observations about conditions at Jonestown.”) [United States v. Layton, Federal Rules (90 F.R.D. 520/1981), pp. 521-22, in re a "Memorandum and Order Denying Plaintiffs Motion to Compel Production of Sukhdeo Tapes." ]  During the time that he was helping Layton’s defense, it appears that Dr. Sukhdeo was also meeting  —surreptitiously, according to his own lawyer—with FBI agents.  Asked about this, Sukhdeo says that at no time during these meetings did he disclose any confidential communications between himself and Layton. [Ibid]

The suggestion that Dr. Sukhdeo may have secretly “debriefed” Jonestown’s survivors on behalf of the State Department (or some other government agency) may seem unduly suspicious.  On the other hand, a certain amount of suspicion would seem to prudent when discussing the unsolved deaths of more than 900 Americans who, in the weeks before they died, were preparing to defect en masse to the Soviet Union.  The government’s interest in this matter would logically have been intense. [The CIA has stated that, in deference to its Charter, which prohibits the Agency from collecting information on Americans, it took no notice of the Temple's approaches to Soviet embassy personnel in Guyana.  The disclaimer is widely disbelieved.]

It is true, of course, that not every psychiatrist agreed with Dr. Sukhdeo’s analysis.  Dr. Stephen P. Hersh,  then assistant director of the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), commented that “The charges of brainwashing are clearly exaggerated.  The concept of  ’thought control’ by cult leaders is elusive, difficult to define and even more difficult to prove.  Because cult converts adopt beliefs that seem bizarre to their families and friends, it does not follow that their choices are being dictated by cult leaders.” [Associated Press, story by Chris Connell, November 21, 1978.]

That said, there is more at stake here than public perceptions.  Investigators of the Guyana tragedy have a responsibility to both the living and the dead: to find out what actually happened, and to make certain that it cannot happen again.


To understand the fate of the Peoples Temple, one must first understand why the intelligence community seemed (against all odds) to ignore the organization for so long—appearing to become interested only when Congressman Ryan began his investigation.  Consider:

Image from a Peoples Temple brochure, portraying leader Jim Jones as the father of the “Rainbow Family”. Image courtesy of The Jonestown Institute,

The Peoples Temple was created in the political deep-freeze of the 1950s.  From its inception, it was a leftwing ally of black activist groups that were, in many cases, under FBI surveillance. [For many years, the FBI maintained a "Racial Intelligence" file.  A 1968 Airtel sent to that file refers to the Bureau's concerns the possible emergence of an American "Mau Mau," the "rise of a (black) messiah," and "the beginning of a true black revolution."]  During the 1960s, when the Bureau and the CIA mounted Operations COINTELPRO and CHAOS to infiltrate and disrupt black militant organizations and the Left, the Temple went out of its way to forge alliances with leaders of those same organizations: e.g., with the Black Panthers’ Huey Newton and with the Communist Party’s Angela Davis.  And yet, despite these associations, and its ultra-left orientation, we are told that the Temple was not a target of investigation by either intelligence agency.

In the early 1970s, suspicions began to surface in the press, implicating the Peoples Temple in an array of allegations including gunrunning, drug-smuggling, kidnapping, murder, brainwashing, extortion and torture.  Under attack at home, and feeling the pressure abroad, Temple officials undertook secret negotiations with the Soviet Embassy in Georgetown, laying the groundwork for the en masse defection of more than a thousand poor Americans.  According to the CIA, it took no interest in these discussions.

Under the circumstances, only the most naive could fail to be skeptical of the disinterested stance that the FBI and the CIA claim to have taken.  But what does it mean?  Why would the FBI and the CIA give the Peoples Temple a pass?

The answers to those questions are embedded in the contradictions of Jones’s own past and, in particular, in that most mysterious period in the preacher-man’s life: the 1960-64 interregnum that his biographers gloss over.  As I intend to show, the enigmas of Jones’s beginnings do much to explain the intelligence community’s hands-off stance toward the Temple, but also the bloodshed in which ended.


Jim Jones was born in Crete, Ind. in 1931.  When he was three, he moved with his family to the town of Lynn.

His father was a partially disabled World War I vet.  Embittered by the Depression and unable to find work, he is alleged (without much evidence) to have been a member of the Ku Klux Klan.  Jones’s mother, on the other hand, was well-liked, a hard-working woman who is universally credited with keeping the family together.

Jim Jones’s religious upbringing took place outside his own family.  Myrtle Kennedy, a friend of his mother’s who lived nearby, saw to it that he went to Sunday School, and gave him instruction in the Bible.  While not yet a teenager, Jones began to experiment, attending the services of several churches. [Raven: the Untold Story of Rev. Jim Jones and His People, by Tim Reiterman with John Jacobs, E.P. Dutton (New York, 1982), pp. 9-21.]  Before long, he came under the spell of a “fanatical” woman evangelist, the leader of faith-healing revivals at the Gospel Tabernacle Church on the edge of town. [It is Jones's biographer, Tim Reiterman, who characterizes the unidentified woman evangelist as "fanatical."  See Raven, p. 18.]  (This was a Pentecostal sect of so-called “Holy Rollers,” a charismatic group then believed in faith-healing and speaking in tongues.)   Whether there was more to their relationship than that of a priestess and her protege is unknown, but it is a fact that Jones’s association with the woman coincided with the onset of nightmares.  According to Jones’s mother, he was terrorized by dreams in which a snake figured prominently. [The possibility that Jones was sexually abused as a child should not be ruled out---particularly in light of his own abusive sexual behavior as an adult.  Even those who remain loyal to Jones, insisting that he was somehow "misunderstood," lament his enthusiasm for sexually humiliating those who had displeased him---not occasionally by resorting to homosexual rape.]

Whatever the nature of his relationship to the lady evangelist, Jones soon found himself in the pulpit, dressed in a white sheet, thumping the Bible.  The protege was a prodigy and, by all accounts, he loved the attention.

In 1947, 15-years-old and still a resident of Lynn, Jones began preaching in a “sidewalk ministry” on the wrong side of the tracks in Richmond, Ind.—sixteen miles from his home.  Why he traveled to Richmond to deliver his message, and why he picked a working-class black neighborhood in which to do it, is uncertain.

What is certain, however, is that, while in Richmond, Jones established a relationship with a man named Dan Mitrione.  Like the child evangelist, Mitrione would one day become internationally notorious and, like Jones, his violent death in South America would generate headlines around the world.  As Jones told his followers in Guyana,

“There was one guy that I knew growing up in Richmond, a cruel, cruel person, even as a kid, a vicious racist—Dan Mitrione.” [The quotation is from type-written fragments of an autobiography found amid the carnage at Jonestown.]

Myrtle Kennedy has confirmed that the two men knew one another, saying that they were friends. [ It was independent researcher John Judge who asked Kennedy about Jones's relationship to Mitrione.]

That Jones knew Mitrione is strange coincidence, but not entirely surprising.  A Navy veteran who’d joined the Richmond Police Department in 1945, Mitrione worked his way up through the ranks as a patrolman, a juvenile officer and, finally,  chief of police.  It is unlikely that he would have overlooked the strange white-boy from Lynn preaching on the sidewalk to blacks in front of a working-class bar on the industrial side of town.
What is surprising about Jones’s statement, however, is  his description of Mitrione as a “vicious racist.”  There is nothing anywhere else to suggest that Mitrione held any particular views on the subject of race.  Communism, certainly—but race, no. [A book about Mitrione, and his 1970 assassination in Uruguay, is Hidden Terrors, by A.J. Langguth, Pantheon Books (New York, 1978).]

Which is to say that either Jones was wrong about the Richmond cop, or else he knew something about Dan Mitrione that other people did not.
If Mitrione were to play no further part in Jones’s story, there would be little reason to speculate any further about their relationship.  But, as we’ll see, Jones and Mitrione cross each other’s paths repeatedly, and in the most unlikely places.  Neither family friends nor playmates (Mitrione was eleven years older than Jones), their relationship must have been based upon something.  But what?

Two possibilities suggest themselves: either Mitrione was counseling in Jones in the way policemen sometimes counsel children, or their relationship may have been professional.  That is to say, Mitrione may have recruited Jones as an informant within the black community.  This second possibility is one to which we’ll have reason to return.


Very little research seems to have been carried out by anyone with respect to Jones’s early career.  It is almost as if his biographers are uninterested in him until he begins to go off the deep end.  This is unfortunate—particularly in light of the possibility that Jones may have been a police or FBI informant, gathering “racial intelligence” for the Bureau’s files.

What is known about his early career is, therefore, known only in outline.

He graduated from Richmond High School in about January, 1949, and began attending the University of Indiana at Bloomington. [Jones moved from Lynn to Richmond in the Fall of 1948.] He was married to his high school sweetheart, Marceline Baldwin, in June of the same year.

In the Summer of 1951, Jones moved to Indianapolis to study law as an undergraduate.  While there, he began to attend political meetings of an uncertain kind.  Ronnie Baldwin, Marceline’s younger cousin, was living with the Joneses at the time.  And though he was only eleven years old, Baldwin recalls that Jones sometimes took him to political lectures.  On one such outing, Baldwin remembers, he and Jones went to a “churchlike” auditorium where “communism” was under discussion.  They didn’t stay long, however.  Soon after they’d arrived, someone came up to Jones and whispered in his ear—whereupon Jones took his ward by the arm and exited hurriedly.  Outside, Jones said “Good evening” to a man whom Baldwin believes was an FBI agent. [Op cit., Raven, p. 40]

It’s a peculiar story, and Jones’s biographers don’t seem to know what to make of it. What sort of meeting could it have been?  The assumption is made, in light of Jones’s later politics, that it was a leftist soiree of some kind.  After all, they were talking about communism.  But that makes very little sense.  Indianapolis was a very conservative city in 1951.  (It still is.)  Joe McCarthy was on the horizon, and the Korean War was beginning to take its toll.  If “communism” was being discussed in anything other than whispers, or anywhere else than a back-room, the debate was almost certainly one-sided and thumbs-down.

It was at about this same time that Jones gave up the study of law and, to everyone’s surprise, decided to become a minister.  By 1952, he was a student pastor at the Somerset Methodist Church in Indianapolis and, in 1953, made his “evangelical debut” at a ministerial seminar in Detroit, Michigan.

By 1954, Jones had established the “Community Unity” Church in Indianapolis, while preaching also at the Laurel Tabernacle.  To raise money, he began selling monkeys door-to-door. [One hardly knows what to make of this bizarre fund-raising method.  There can't have been that much demand for the beasts.  Nevertheless, the practice is worth noting, if only because it constitutes, however tenuously, Jones's first known link to South America.  Contrary to some reports, the monkeys were not obtained from university research laboratories in Indiana, but from suppliers below the Equator.]

By 1956, Jones had established the “Wings of Deliverance” Church as a successor to Community Unity.  Almost immediately, the Church was christened the Peoples Temple.  The inspiration for its new name stemmed from the fact that the church was housed in what was formerly a Jewish synagogue—a “temple” that Jones had purchased, with little or no money down, for $50,000.

Ironically, the man who gave the Peoples Temple its start was the Rabbi Maurice Davis.  It was he who sold the synagogue to Jones on such remarkably generous terms.  A prominent anti-cult activist and sometime “deprogrammer,” Rabbi Davis is an associate of Dr. Sukhdeo’s.


By the late 1950s, the Peoples Temple was a success, with a congregation of more than 2000 people.  Still, Jones had even larger ambitions and, to accommodate them, became the improbable protege of an extremely improbable man.  This was Father Divine, the Philadelphia-based “black messiah” whose Peace Mission movement attracted tens of thousands of black adherents and the close attention of the FBI, while earning its founder an annual income in seven figures.

For whatever reasons, beginning in about 1956, Jones made repeated pilgrimages to the black evangelist’s headquarters, where he literally “sat at the feet” (and at the table) of the great man, professing his devotion.  With the exception of Father Divine’s wife, Jones may well have been the man’s only white adherent.

It was not entirely inconvenient.  Living in Indianapolis, Jones could easily arrange to transport members of the Peoples Temple by bus to Philadelphia—where they were housed without charge in Father Divine’s hotels, feasted at banquets called “Holy Communions,” and treated to endless sermons. [When Father Divine died in the summer of 1972, years after Jones had moved his own congregation to California, Jones nevertheless arranged for a caravan of buses to cross the country to Philadelphia---where Jones announced that he was Father Divine's white reincarnation.  In that capacity, he said, he was quite prepared to take control of the Peace Mission movement (and its considerable assets).  Mrs. Divine said no.]

That Jones made a study of Father Divine, emulated him and hoped to succeed him, is clear.  The possibility should not be ruled out, however, that Jones was also engaged in collecting “racial intelligence” for a third party.

Whatever else Jones may have picked up from his study of Father Divine, there is reason to believe that it was in the context of his visits to Philadelphia that he was introduced to the subject of mass suicide.  Among Jones’s personal effects in Guyana was a book that had been checked out of the Indianapolis Public Library in the 1950s, and never returned.    In the pages of Father Divine: Holy Husband, the author quotes one of the black evangelist’s followers:

“‘If Father dies,’ she tells you in the calmest kind of a voice, ‘I sure ’nuff  would never be callin’ in myself to be goin’ on livin’ in this empty ol’ world. I’d be findin’ some way of gettin’ rid of the life I never been wantin’ before I  found him.’  “If Father Divine were to die, mass suicides among Negroes in his movement could certainly result.  They would be rooted deep, not alone in Father’s relationship with his followers, but also in America’s relationship with its Negroe citizens.  This would be the shame of America.”  (Emphasis added.) [Father Divine: Holy Husband, by Sara Harris, pp. 319-20.]


In January, 1959, Fidel Castro overthrew the Batista dictatorship, and seized power in Cuba.  Land reforms followed within a few months of the coup, alienating foreign investors and the rich.  By Summer, therefore, Cuba was in the midst of a low-intensity counter-revolution, with sabotage operations mounted from within and outside the country.

Within a year of Castro’s ascension, by January of 1960, mercenary pilots and anti-Castroites were flying bombing missions against the regime.  Meanwhile, in Washington, Vice-President Richard Nixon was lobbying on behalf of the military invasion that the CIA was plotting.

It was against this background, in February of 1960, that Jim Jones suddenly decided to visit Havana.

The news of Jones’s visit to Cuba—one is tempted to write “the cover-story for Jones’s trip to Cuba”—was first published in the New York Times in March, 1979 (four months after the massacre in Guyana).  The story was based upon an interview with a naturalized American named Carlos Foster.  A former Cuban cowboy, Baptist Pentecostal minister and sometime night-club singer, Foster showed up at the New York Times four months after the massacre.  Without being asked, he volunteered a strange story about meeting Jim Jones in Cuba during the Winter of 1960.  (Why Foster went to the newspaper with his story is uncertain: news of his friendship with Jones could hardly have helped his career as a childrens’ counselor). [New York Times, "Jim Jones 1960 Visit to Cuba Recounted," by Joseph B. Treaster.  As evidence of his veracity, Foster provided the Times with letters and an affidavit that Jones had signed, promising to support Foster if he should emigrate to the United States.]

Nevertheless, according to the Times story, the 29-year-old Jones traveled to Cuba to expedite plans to establish a communal organization with settlements in the U.S. and abroad.   The immediate goal, Foster said, was to recruit Cuban blacks to live in Indiana.

Foster told the Times that he and Jones met by chance at the Havana Hilton.  That is to say, Jones gave the Cuban a big hello, and took him by the arm.  He then solicited Foster’s help in locating forty families that would be willing to move to the Indianapolis area (at Jones’s expense).  Tim Reiterman, who repeats the Times‘ story, adds that the two men discussed the plan in Jones’s hotel-room, from 7 in the morning until 8 o’clock at night, for a week.  More recently, Foster has elaborated by saying that Jones offered to pay him $50,000 per year to help him establish an archipelago of offshore agricultural communes in Central and South America.  Foster said that Jones was an extremely well-traveled man, who knew Latin America well.  He had already been to Guyana, and wanted to start a collective there.

After a month in Cuba, Jones returned to the United States (alone).  Six months later, Foster followed, on his own initiative, but the immigration scheme went nowhere. [Foster came to Indianapolis in August, 1960.  He accepted the hospitality of the Peoples Temple for the remainder of that Summer, and then decamped for New York (where his fiance was living).]

The anomalies in this story are many, and one hardly knows what to make of them.   Foster’s information that Jones was well-traveled in Latin America, and had already been to Guyana, comes as a shock.  None of his biographers mentions Jones having taken trips out of the United States prior to this time.  Could Foster be mistaken?  Or have Jones’s biographers overlooked an important part of his life?

An even greater anomaly, however, concerns language.  While Reiterman reports that Foster was bilingual, and that he and Jones spoke English together, this isn’t true.  Foster learned English at Theodore Roosevelt High School in the Bronx—after he’d emigrated to the United States. [Ascent, "Lure of the Cowboy Mystique," by Aubrey E. Zephyr, October, 1983.  This is an article about Foster's Urban Western Riding Program (for inner-city youngsters).] (Reiterman seems to have made an otherwise reasonable, but incorrect, assumption: knowing that Jones did not speak Spanish, he assumed that Foster must have been able to speak English.)

Today, when Foster is asked which language was spoken, he says that he and Jones made do with the latter’s broken Spanish.
The issue is an important one because Foster is, in effect, Jones’s alibi for whatever it was that Jones was actually doing in Cuba.  That the two men did not have a language in common makes the alibi suspect: how could they converse for 13 hours at a time, day in and day out, for a week—if neither man understood what the other was saying?

As for Jones’s own parishioners, those who’ve survived have only a dim recollection of the trip.  According to Reiterman, “Back in the States, Jones revealed little of his plan, depicting his stay more as tourism than church business.”  This sounds like a polite way of saying that the trip served no obvious purpose.  Nevertheless, he did bring back some strange souvenirs.  “He showed off photos of Cuba…  One picture—a gruesome shot of the mangled body of a pilot in some plane wreckage—indicated that Jones witnessed the pirate bombings of the cane fields.  Jones told his friends that he had met with some Cuban leaders, though the bearded man in fatigues standing beside Jones in a snapshot was too short to be Castro.” [Op cit., Raven, p. 62.]

It would be interesting to know just what Reiterman is talking about here.  The presumption must be that there is a photograph in which Jones is seen with a man who might easily be confused with Castro—if it weren’t for the latter’s diminutive size.  In fact, however, it probably was Castro.  When Jones arrived in Brazil in 1962, he carried a photograph of himself and his wife Marceline, posing with the Cuban premier.  Jones said that the picture was taken on a stopover in Cuba on the way to Sao Paulo. [The reference to a Cuban stopover on the way to Brazil, and to a photo of Jones, Marceline and Castro, is told in The Broken God, by Bonnie Thielmann with Dean Merill, David C. Cook Publishing Co. (Elgin, Ill.), 1979,  p. 27.] That is to say, in late 1961 or early 1962.

How Jones met Fidel Castro—and why—is an interesting question.  So, too, we can only wonder at his proclivity for taking photographs of mercenary pilots in their crashed planes.  Pictures of that sort could only have been of interest to Castro’s enemies and the CIA.
Returning to Carlos Foster, if the tale that he told to the Times was a pre-emptive cover-story, a “limited hang-out” of some sort, what was Jones actually doing?  Why had he gone to Havana?  At this late date, and in the absence of interviews with officials of the Cuban government, there is probably no way to know.  What may be said, however, is this:

Emigration was an extremely sensitive issue in the first years of the Castro regime.  The CIA and the State Department, in their determination to embarrass Castro, did everything possible to encourage would-be immigrants to leave the island.  As a part of this policy, U.S. Government agencies and conservative Christian religious organizations collaborated to facilitate departures. [Religion In Cuba Today, edited by Alice L. Hageman and Philip E. Wheaton, Association Press, New York, p. 32.]  Jones’s visit may well have been a part of this program.

But there is no way to be certain of that.  Cuba was in the midst of a parapolitical melt-down.  While the CIA was conspiring to launch an invasion, irate Mafiosans and American businessmen had joined together to finance the bombing-runs of mercenary pilots.  Meanwhile, the Soviets had sent their Deputy Premier, Anastas I. Mikoyan, to Havana for the opening of the Soviet Exhibition of Science, Technology and Culture. [Mikoyan was in Havana from February 4-13.] The visit coincided with the Soviets’ decision to give Cuba a long-term low-interest loan, while promising to buy a million tons of Cuban sugar per annum.  The “Hilton Hotel” at which Jones was staying was the temporary home of a Sputnik satellite that the Soviets had put on display.  According to former CIA officer Melvin Beck, the CIA was trying to photograph it, and the lobby was crawling with spies from as many five different services (FBI, CIA, KGB, GRU and DGI).

[In this connection, an interesting coincidence concerns the presence of New York Times reporter James Reston at the Hilton.  He was there to cover the Mikoyan visit, as well as the Soviet exhibition, and it seems fair to say that, in a literal sense, at least, he must have crossed paths with Jim Jones.
           It is ironic, then, that nearly twenty years later, his son should one day write a book (Our Father Who Art In Hell) about the decline and fall of the Peoples Temple.  And in that book, a peculiar story is told:
          "In December, 1978, James Reston, Jr. (met) a journalist friend at the Park Hotel in Georgetown.  The journalist announced ominously that he now knew the full story behind Jonestown.  But he would not write it.  He would not tell his editors he knew it.  He would forget it and flee Guyana as  soon as possible.  He told Reston the name of his informant. "'He will contact you at your hotel.  If you want it, you will get the full story.  I have just heard it, and I've sent the man away.  If I were you, I wouldn't take it either.  It will make you the most celebrated writer in America, and you will die for it.'
          "Reston felt a nervous laugh rising from his belly and controlled it."
           Reston seems not to have pursued the matter.]

While one cannot say that Jones’s 1960 visit to Cuba was necessarily a spying mission, the circumstantial evidence suggests that it was.  That is to say, virtually every element of the trip can be shown to have been of particular interest to the CIA: encouraging Cuban emigration; documenting the destruction of aircraft piloted by mercenaries; the Sputnik at the Hilton; and, it would seem, Castro himself.


Cuba wasn’t the only country to which Jones intended to travel in 1960.  On June 28 of that year, at about the same time that Foster arrived in Indianapolis from Cuba, the State Department issued a passport (#2288751) to Jones for a seventeen-day visit to Poland, Finland, the U.S.S.R., and England.  The purpose of the trip, according to Jones’s visa application, was “sightseeing – culture.”

Which presents us with an enigma.  According to State Department records, this was Jones’s first passport.  How, then, did he travel to Cuba in February if he did not receive a passport until the end of June?  Did he enter the country “black”?  Was he using someone else’s documents?  And what about Carlos Foster’s certainty that Jones had previously traveled throughout Latin America?  Was Foster mistaken, or had Jones in fact visited Guyana?

It is almost as if we are dealing with two Jim Joneses.  And perhaps we are.  It’s a subject to which we will need to return.

Here, however, I want to point out certain coincidences of timing in the lives of Jim Jones and Dan Mitrione, and to discuss Jones’s own file at the CIA.

Passports typically require about 4-6 weeks to be mailed out.  Since Jones’s passport was issued on June 28, 1960 his application would have been filed in early May.  As it happens, it was during that same month that Dan Mitrione was in Washington D.C., being interviewed for a new job with a component of the State Department’s Agency for International Development (AID), the International Cooperation Administration (ICA).  An acknowledged cover for CIA officers and contract-spooks such as Watergate’s E. Howard Hunt and the JFK assassination’s George de Mohrenschildt, the ICA would become infamous during the 1960s, funding the construction of tiger-cages in Vietnam, and training foreign police forces in the theory and practice of torture.

A few years earlier, in 1957, Mitrione had spent three months at the FBI’s National Academy. [Mitrione was then Chief of Police in Richmond. ]  The connections he’d  made stood him in good stead.  Immediately after his interview with the ICA, he was hired by the State Department as a “public safety adviser.”  Three months later, in September, 1960 he was in Rio de Janeiro, studying Portuguese; by December, he was living with his family in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Whether Mitrione was an undercover CIA officer in South America is disputed.  The Soviets say he was. [Who's Who in the CIA, by Dr. Julius Mader, Berlin (1968).] Officially, however,  Mitrione was an AID officer attached to the Office of Public Safety (OPS).  But OPS was very much a nest of spies: in the Dominican Republic during the mid-1960s, for example, six out of twenty positions were CIA covers. ["U.S. A.I.D. In the Dominican Republic - An Inside View," NACLA Newsletter, November, 1970.  This was according to David Fairchild, the Assistant Program Officer for USAID in Santo Domingo.  (NACLA is the North American Conference on Latin America.) ]  Moreover, Mitrione’s partner at the time of his 1970 kidnapping in Uruguay was a public safety officer named Lee Echols—whose previous assignment had been as a CIA officer in the Dominican Republic. ["Echols takes dead aim on laugh," San Diego Union, June 12, 1986, p. 11.]

Whether or not Mitrione was an undercover CIA officer, it is a fact that the CIA’s Office of Security opened a file on Jones, and conducted a name-check on him, coincident with Mitrione’s departure for Rio.  Why it did so is a mystery: the Agency won’t say.

It is speculated, of course, that the file and name-check were sparked by the Soviet Bloc destinations for which Jones had applied for a visa.  But that could hardly have been the case.  The visa requests had been made in May, and the passport issued in June.  It was not until November, some five months later, that the Office of Security sent agents to the State Department’s Passport Office, there to examine Jones’s records—an activity that would hardly have been necessary if the passport application had stimulated the name-check in the first place.

Given the CIA’s reluctance to clear up the matter, one can only speculate that the Agency may have been “vetting” Jones for employment as an agent.

Two points should be made here.  The first is that the CIA claimed, in the aftermath of the Jonestown massacre, that its file on “the Rev. Jimmie Jones” was virtually empty.  According to the Agency, it had never collected data—not a single piece of paper—on Jones or the Peoples Temple.  It simply had a file on him.

Which remained open for 10 years.  According to CIA record, the file was only closed—and closed without explanation—in the wake of Dan Mitrione’s assassination by Tupamaro guerrillas in Uruguay.

Which is to say that the lifespan of Jones’s file at the CIA coincided precisely with the dates of Dan Mitrione’s tenure at the State Department.  What I am suggesting, then, is that Richmond Police Chief Dan Mitrione was recruited into the CIA, under State Department cover, in May, 1960; that a CIA file was opened on Jones because Mitrione intended to use him as an agent; and that Jones’s file was closed and purged, ten years later, as a direct and logical result of Mitrione’s assassination in 1970.


To understand the significance of next occurred, one has to go back more than one hundred years.  It was then, in the Northwest District of Guyana, that a prophet named Smith issued a call to the country’s disenfranchised Amerindians, summoning them to a redoubt in the Pakaraima Mountains—the land of El Dorado.

Akawaios, Caribs and Arawaks came from all around to witness what they were told would be the Millennium.  “They would see God,” Smith promised, “be free from all calamities of life, and possess lands of such boundless fertility, that a…(large) crop of cassava would grow from a single stick.”

But Smith had lied.  And “when the Millennium failed to materialize, the followers were told they had to die in order to be resurrected as white people…

“At a great camp meeting in 1845, some 400 people killed themselves.” [Guyana Gold, by Wellesley A. Baird, Three Continents Press (Washington, 1982), pp. 164-181.  The quotation is from an Afterword by Kathleen A. Adams.  Ms. Adams wrote her doctoral thesis (for Case Western Reserve University) on the impact of the gold-mining industry on  Amerindian tribes in the North West District of Guyana.]

One-hundred-and-thirty-three years later, in the Fall of 1978, at a great camp meeting in the same Northwest District of Guyana, upwards of a thousand expatriate Americans, most of them black, and about as poor and disenfranchised as the Amerindians who’d preceded them, died under circumstances so similar as to be eerie.  They, too, had been promised that they would be freed from the calamities of life, and that they would possess lands of boundless fertility.  Like Smith, their charismatic leader had a generic sort of name and he, too, had lied.

This time, 913 people died in front of a large, hand-lettered sign that read: “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.”

The coincidence here is so dramatic that is impossible not to wonder if Jim Jones knew of Smith’s precedent.  Because, if he did know, and if his politics were, as seems very likely, a fraud, then the Jonestown massacre is revealed to have been a ghastly practical joke—the ultimate psychopathic prank.

According to Kathleen Adams, the anthropologist who first related the story about Smith and the Amerindians, Jim Jones was in fact familiar with the suicides of 1845.  He had learned of them, she said, while working as a missionary in the Northwest District.

Adams does not tell us when this was, but the implication is that it was long before the establishment of Jonestown.  The possibilities here are two:

The first is that Jones’s Cuban friend, Carlos Foster, is correct when he says that Jones was well-traveled and had been to Guyana prior to 1960.  The difficulty with this, of course, is that Jones’s biographers are ignorant of any such travels.  But if Jones did not go to Guyaya prior to 1960, he must have learned about Smith’s precedent while doing missionary work in Guyana—after his 1960 visit to Cuba.  But when could that have been?

The answer would appear to be at about the end of October, 1961.  Arriving at that conclusion is by no means an easy matter, however, given the chronological confusion that his most responsible biographer, Tim Reiterman, relates. [Op cit., Raven, pp. 75-78.]  Because this confusion raises a number of interesting questions about Jones’s activities, whereabouts and true loyalties, the matter is worth straightening out.

In the Fall of 1961, Jim Jones was becoming paranoid. Under treatment for stress, he was hearing “extraterrestrial voices,” and suffering seizures. [Dr. E. Paul Thomas was Jones's physician.]  Hospitalized during most of the first week in October, he resigned his position as Director of the Indianapolis Human Rights Commission. [Jones's hospital stay is related in the Indianapolis Recorder, October 7, 1961.]

It was then, according to Reiterman, that Jones confided in his ministerial assistant, Ross Case, that he’d had a vision of nuclear holocaust.

“A few weeks later, Jones took off alone in a plane for Hawaii, ostensibly to scout for a new site for Peoples Temple….”  (At a loss to explain why Jones should have gone to Hawaii, Reiterman implies that Jones viewed the islands as a potential nuclear refuge—a ludicrous notion in light of their role as stationary aircraft carriers.)

“On what would become a two-year sojourn, Jones made his first stop in Honolulu, where he explored a job as a university chaplain.  Though he did not like the job requirements, he decided to stay on the island for a while anyway, and sent for his family.  First, his wife, his mother and the children, except for Jimmy, joined him.  Then the Baldwins followed with the adopted black child….  During the couple of months in the islands, Jones seemed to decide that his sabbatical would be a long one.” [Ibid., p. 77.]

According to Reiterman’s chronology, therefore, Jones left Indianapolis for Hawaii near the end of October, 1961.  He then sent for his family, which joined him in what we may suppose was November.  The family remained in Hawaii for a “couple of months”: i.e., until January or February.

“In January, 1962, Esquire magazine published an article listing the nine safest places in the world to escape thermonuclear blasts and fallout….

The article’s advice was not lost on Jones.  Soon he was heading for the southern hemisphere, which was less vulnerable to fallout because of atmospheric and political factors.  The family planned to go eventually to Belo Horizonte, an inland Brazilian city of 600,000.”

Jones’s biographer goes on to say that, after leaving Hawaii, he subject traveled to California, and then to Mexico City, before continuing on to Guyana.  There, Jones’s visit “made page seven of the Guiana Graphic.” [Ibid., p. 78.]

That Jones made page 7 of the local newspaper is a matter of fact.  Unfortunately for Reiterman’s chronology, however, he did so on October 25 (1961).  Which is to say that the head of the Peoples Temple is alleged to have been in two places at that same time: in Hawaii and Guyana during the last week in October—with intervening stops in California and Mexico City.

Obviously, Reiterman is mistaken, but the issue is not merely one of a confused chronology.  There is evidence (including, as we’ll see, a photograph) which strongly suggests that two people may have been using Jones’s identity during the 1961-63 period.  Because of this, rumors that Jones was hospitalized in a “lunatic asylum” during that time should not be dismissed out of hand.  The rumors were started by a black minister in Indiana who is said to have been jealous of Jones’s success among blacks at the Peoples Temple.  While the allegation has yet to be documented, there are many other references to Jones’s having been under psychiatric care at one time or another.

Ross Case says that Jones sometimes referred to “my psychiatrist.”  Others have suggested that the real reason Jones went to Hawaii was to receive psychiatric care without publicity.

In later years, Temple member Loretta Cordell reported shock at seeing Jones described as “a sociopath.”  The description was contained in a psychiatrist’s report that Cordell said was in the files of Jones’s San Francisco physician (probably Dr. Carleton Goodlett).

In a recent interview with this author, Dr. Sukhdeo confirmed that Jones had been treated at the Langley-Porter Neuropsychiatric Institute in San Francisco during the 1960s and 70s.  According to Sukhdeo, he has repeatedly asked to see Jones’s medical file from the Institute, but to no avail.

“I have asked (Langley-Porter’s Dr.) Chris Hatcher to see the file several times,” Sukhdeo told this writer.  “But, each time, he has refused.  I don’t know why.  He won’t say.  It’s very peculiar.  Jones has been dead for more than 20 years.”

“The nation’s leading center for brain research,” Langley-Porter is noted for its hospitality to anti-cult activists such as Dr. Margaret Singer and, also, for experiments that it conducts on behalf of the Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA).  While much of that research is classified, the Institute has experimented with electromagnetic effects and behavioral modification techniques involving a wide variety of stimuli—including hypnosis-from-a-distance.

Some of the Institute’s classified research may be inferred from quotations attributed to its director, Dr. Alan Gevins (see Mind Wars, by Ron McRae, St. Martin’s Press, 1984, p. 136).  According to Dr. Gevins, the military potential of Extremely Low Frequency radiation (ELF) is enormous.  Used as a medium for secret communications between submarines, ELF waves are a thousand miles long, unobstructed by water, and theoretically “capable of shutting off the brain (and) killing everyone in l0 thousand square miles or larger target area.”

“‘No one paid any attention to the biological affects of ELF for years,’ says Dr. Gevins, ‘because the power levels are so low.  Then we realized that because the power levels are so low, the brain could mistake the outside signal for its own, mimic it (a process known as bioelectric entrainment), and respond when it changes.’”

The process is one that would no doubt fascinate Dr. Sukhdeo.  (As an aside, it’s worth noting that virtually every survivor of the Jonestown massacre was treated at Langley-Porter.  This occurred as a consequence of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone’s request that Dr. Hatcher undertake a study of the Peoples Temple while counseling its survivors.  (Hatcher’s appointment was made with surprising alacrity since Moscone himself was assassinated only nine days after the killings at Jonestown.)

Returning to the Guiana Graphic article about Jones’s visit to Guyana, it is worth pointing out that the story throws a crimp in much more than Reiterman’s chronology.  It makes a hash as well of Jones’s motive for going to South America.  The Esquire article, published in January, 1962 could hardly have prompted Jones to go anywhere in October, 1961.

So, too, the story in the Graphic provides clear evidence of Jones’s immersion in political intrigue.

At the time of his visit, the former British colony was wracked by covert operations being mounted by the CIA and MI-6.

By way of background, the most important political group in the country was the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), established by Dr. Cheddi Jagan during the 1940s.  A Marxist organization, the PPP’s activities had caused the British to declare “a crisis situation” in 1953.  Troops were sent, the Constitution was suspended, and recent elections were nullified in order to “prevent communist subversion.”

Over the next four years, MI-6 and the CIA established a de facto police state in Guyana.  Racial tensions were exacerbated between the East Indian and black populations—with the result that the PPP was soon split.  While Jagan, himself an East Indian, remained in charge of the party, another of its members—a black named Forbes Burnham—began (with the help of Western intelligence services) to challenge his leadership.

Despite the schism, the PPP was victorious in 1957 and, again, in 1961—just prior to Jones’s visit.  Coming on the heels of Castro’s embrace of the Soviets, Jagan’s re-election chilled the Kennedy Administration.  Accordingly, the CIA intensified its operations against Jagan and the PPP, doing everything in its power to increase its support for Burnham, provoke strikes and exacerbate racial and economic tensions.  It accomplished all these goals, secretly underwriting Burnham’s political campaigns, while using the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD) as a cover for operations against local trade unions.

Eventually, these operations would succeed: Jagan would be ousted, and Burnham brought to power.  A decade later, that same Burnham regime would facilitate the creation of Jonestown, leasing the land to the Peoples Temple and approving its members’ immigration.

It was in this somewhat dangerous context that Jim Jones arrived in the Guyanese capital.  Putting on a series of tent-shows, replete with faith-healings and talking in tongues, he warned the local populace against thieving American missionaries and evangelists—who, he said, were largely responsible for the spread of Communism.

Even Reiterman, who accepts almost everything at face-value, is puzzled by this: “Entering politically volatile South America,” he writes, Jones “seemed to want to put himself on the record as an anticommunist.” [Op cit., Raven, p. 78.]
Exactly.  And how convenient for the CIA, whose activities were being hindered by reform-minded missionaries.