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.
This is, I suspect, why Jones’s 201-file was purged by the CIA immediately after Jones’s case-officer, Dan Mitrione, was murdered in Montevideo, Uruguay. [As we'll see, Mitrione was, first, a policeman in Indiana, and then a counter-insurgency expert in South America.] 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, Joe Holsinger, is 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. The truth is darker, the evil more banal.
I.1 RYAN AND THE NUMBERS
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 homosexual 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." "...the 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, a Friday.
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 an unwelcome one 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 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.
I.2 THE CAUSE AND MANNER OF DEATH
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,  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; James 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’d 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’d 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 the 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 that was 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, and Stanley Clayton—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 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 Newsweek, in which the massacre was reported.
But then the tags and i.d. bracelets were removed, prior to the bodies’ return to the United States.
In a real sense, therefore, the bodies were dis-identified, though no one seems able to say why. According to Newsweek, however, 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.] They’d been forgotten, and were still awaiting burial.
I.3 THE NOIWON ALERT
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 upon the reports brought back from Port Kaituma by the escaping small plane, 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 return the bodies of those who had been killed at the airstrip.
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, the 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 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.]
But how did they know?
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
According to Dr. Julius Mader, an East German academician with ties to the Stasi intelligence service, Dwyer was actually a CIA officer. [Mader is the author of Who's Who in the CIA. It's in that book that Dwyer is named as a CIA officer.] This opinion would appear to have been based on analysis of Dwyer’s background, which included his 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, 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 Washington about what had happened. Whether he reported that suicides and murders were taking place, or just suicides, is uncertain.
At the Temple’s residence in Georgetown – a modest house called “Lamaha Gardens” – a woman named Sharon Amos was told by radio of the ambush at Port Kaituma. She also learned that Jones intended to pull the plug on Jonestown and the more than 900 people who lived there. 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 raido 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.
Even so, mysteries remain.
One of them concerns the so-called “Last Tape.” This was a cassette found in a tape-recorder beside Jim Jones’s lifeless body. On the tape, we can hear people wailing and screaming, when Jones suddenly asks, “And what comes, folks, what comes now?”
JONES: “And what comes, folks, what comes now?”
UNMAN ["Unman" = Unidentified Man.] [in background]: “Everybody…hold it! Sit down right here…” [loud background noises, agitated]
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.” [On the tape-recording that I have, it appears that this is actually Jones's voice, and that he says, "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.”
JONES: “I’m not talking about Jjara, I said Dwyer.”
The Last Tape is anything but indistinct, and it would seem to suggest that Richard Dwyter returned to Jonestown after the ambush at Port Kaituma. Jones appears to be ordering his followers to protect Dwyer by taking him to East House (a part of the Jonestown encampment form which Temple attorneys Charles Garry and Mark Lane had already escaped). There is no other “DWyer” associated with the Peoples Tem ple, so it would seem, reasonable to conclude that it was Richard Dwyer whom Jones hoped to protect. Why he should have wanted to do so is a mystery.
According to Dwyer himself, the incident never occurred. He did not leave Port Kaituma that evening, but stayed there to take care of the wounded. If, as some have testified, he seemed to be elsewhere, that can only be because he was moving back and forth between the two locations at which the wounded were being kept.
“What reasons people may have had for saying these things, I don’t know,” Dwyer has 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.”
After entering Guyana, and making anti-communist speeches, Jones seems to have dropped off the face of the earth. Following the Guyana Graphic article of October 27, he disappears from the public record for almost six full months.
It is possible, of course, that he journeyed into the interior of that country to work among the Amerindians—but the evidence for this is so slim as to be invisible. Indeed, it consists solely of a remark by anthropologist Kathleen Adams, who wrote that Jones had at one time worked as a missionary in Guyana. Where and when is left unstated, but it was presumably during that period that Jones learned about his homicidal predecessor, the Reverend “Smith.”
The only disturbance in the empty field of Jones’s whereabouts from 10/61 until 4/62 is the information that Passport #0111788 was issued in his name at Indianapolis on January 30, 1962.
This is a considerable anomaly. As we have seen, Jones already had a passport—#22898751, issued to him in Chicago on June 28, 1960. This earlier passport, which he had planned to use on a trip to the Soviet Union, was still valid. Why, then, did someone make an application for a new passport, and who picked it up? Moreover, how is it possible that Jones’s second passport had a lower number than the one that he’d received more than a year before?
These questions cannot be answered at this time: the evidence reposes in the files of the State Department. What may be said, however, is that there is good reason to suspect that someone was impersonating Jim Jones during this period; and that, in fact, a photograph of the impostor survives. We’ll return to this subject shortly.
According to the Brazilian Federal Police, Jim Jones arrived by plane in Sao Paulo on April 11, 1962. There does not seem to be any surviving record of his point of embarkation, but it may well have been Havana. According to Bonnie (Malmin) Thielman, who met Jones at about this time, there was “a picture of him and Marceline standing on either side of Fidel Castro, whom they had met during a Cuban stopover en route to Brazil…” [Op cit., The Broken God, p. 27]
An American family, making “a Cuban stopover,” seven to eleven months after the Bay of Pigs? Physically, transportation would not have been difficult to arrange. Both Mexico City and Georgetown were transit-points for Havana. But Cuban visas were by no means issued automatically—especially to Americans making well-publicized, anti-communist speeches in Guyana. How much harder it must have been for Jones to arrange to have a photo taken of himself with Castro (who was at that time the target of CIA assassination attempts planned by yet another Indianapolis native, the CIA’s William Harvey).
It’s a peculiar, even eerie, business. I’m reminded of the man who impersonated Lee Harvey Oswald while applying for a visa at the Cuban Embassy in Mexico City during 1963. [Despite Oswald's demonstration of pro-Castro sympathies---he was arrested in New Orleans after handing out leaflets for the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC)---his impostor was not given the requested visa.]
Whatever his reason for visiting Cuba during the Winter of 1961-62, and whatever the reasons he was permitted to enter the country, Jones had no trouble entering Brazil that April. Given a visa that was valid for eleven months, he and his family traveled to Belo Horizonte where, as we have seen, Dan Mitrione had settled in as an OPS adviser at the U.S. Consulate.
Jones took rooms in the first-class Hotel Financial until he and his family were able to move to a house at 203 Rua Maraba. [Estado do Minas, "Pastor Jim Jones lived and worked in Belo Horizonte with his children," Nov. 23, 1978, p. 23.] This is a pretty street in an attractive neighborhood on a hill in one of the best parts of town. Accordingly, his new neighbors were almost all professionals: doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, and journalists. It was not the sort of place from which one could easily minister to the poor.
Not that it mattered. Jones’s stay in Belo Horizonte had little or nothing to do with alleviating poverty.
According to his neighbors, Jones would leave his house early each morning, as if going to work, and return very late at night. Sebastiao Carlos Rocha, an engineer who lived nearby, noted that Jones usually left home carrying a big leather briefcase; on a number of occasions, Rocha said, he saw Jones walking in Betim, a neighboring town. ["To Brazilians, Jim Jones was a CIA Agent," O Globo, Nov. 24, 1978.]
Elza Rocha, a lawyer who lived across the street and who sometimes interpreted for Jones, says that her neighbor told her that he had a job in Belo Horizonte proper, at Eureka Laundries. ["Leader of the Peoples Temple Lived in Belo Horizonte," Estado de Minas, Nov. 23, 1978, p. 1; and, from the same issue, "Pastor Jim Jones lived and worked in Belo Horizonte with his children," p. 23.]
This is a huge dry-cleaning and laundry chain, a quasi-monopoly whose central plant is serviced by more than a score of pick-up points (small storefronts) throughout the city. In essence, a customer delivers his laundry to one of the stores, where it is later collected by a delivery truck. The truck takes the dirty clothes to the central plant, where they’re cleaned, and then returns them to the store from which they came. It’s a big business.
But it’s not one in which Jim Jones ever worked. According to Sebastiao Dias de Magalhaes, who was head of Industrial Relations for Eureka during 1962, Jones’s claim to have been an employee of the laundry was false. [Ibid.] Senor de Magalhaes, and two other Eureka workers, have told the press that Jones lied in order to conceal what they believe was his work for the CIA. [Besides de Magalhaes, Elineu Pereira Guimaraes and Marcidio Inacio da Silva were interviewed. See O Globo, "To Brazilians, Jim Jones was a CIA Agent," Nov. 24, 1978.]
Still, if you didn’t know better, Jones’s cover-story served three purposes: first, it explained where he went during the day—to work. Second, it offered a theoretically visible means of support: he had a check from Eureka (everyone knows Eureka). And third, it gave Jones an alibi for a mysterious period during which he’d vanished from Belo Horizonte. According to Elza Rocha, when Jones returned, he told her that he had been sent to the United States for “special training” in connection with the machinery used by Eureka. Where Jones actually went, and why, is a unknown. [Estado do Minas, "Pastor Jim Jones lived and worked in Belo Horizonte with his children," Nov. 23, 1978, p. 23.]
Eureka wasn’t Jones’s only cover, however. He didn’t mention Eureka to Sebastiao Rocha. Instead, he claimed to be a retired captain in the U.S. Navy. He said that he had suffered a great deal in the war, and that he received a monthly pension from the armed services. The implication was that he had been wounded in the Korean conflict. According to Senor Rocha, “Jim Jones was always mysterious and would never talk about his work here in Brazil.” ["To Brazilians, Jim Jones was a CIA Agent," O Globo, Nov. 24, 1978. ]
Yet another Rocha, Marco Aurelio, was absolutely certain that Jones was a spy. At the time, Marco was dating a young girl who was living in the Jones household. [Brazilians newspapers identify the woman as "Joyce Bian." Since one of Jones's ministerial assistants, Jack Beam, is known to have joined him in Belo Horizonte in October, 1962, and to have brought his family with him, we may suppose that this was Beam's daughter.] Because of this, and because Rua Maraba is a narrow street on which parked cars are conspicuous, he noticed that a car from the American Consulate was often parked outside Jones’s house. According to Marco, the car’s driver sometimes brought bags of groceries to the Joneses—which, if true, was definitely not standard consular procedure.
Marco Rocha’s interest in Jones was more than idle, however. According to him, he was keeping a loose surveillance on the American preacher at the request of a friend—a detective in the ID-4 section of the local police department. The detective was convinced that Jones was a CIA agent, and was trying to prove it with his young friend’s help. Unfortunately, the policeman died before his investigation could be completed, and Jones left town soon afterwards. [O Globo, "To Brazilians, Jim Jones was a CIA Agent," Nov. 24, 1978.]
Gleaning the purpose behind Jones’s residency in Belo Horizonte is anything but easy. He is reported to have been fascinated by the magical rites of Macumba and Umbanda, and to have studied the practices of Brazilian faith-healers. He was extremely interested in the works of David Miranda, and is said to have conducted a study of extrasensory perception. These were subjects of interest to the CIA in connection with its MK-ULTRA program. So, also, were the “mass conversion techniques” at which Jones’s Pentecostal training had made him an expert.
Whether these investigations were idle pastimes or Jones’s actual raison d’etre in Belo Horizonte is unknown. Neither is there hard evidence that Jones’s presence was related to Dan Mitrione’s work at the Consulate—though Jones was certainly aware of Mitrione’s post. According to an autobiographical fragment that was found at Jonestown, Mitrione
“…was known in Belo Horizonte by everybody to be something other than a mere ‘traffic advisor’. There were rumors that he participated with the military even then, doing strange things to dissenters… Mitrione’s name would come up frequently.”
Subsequently, according to that same fragment, Jones went out of his way to socialize with the Mitrione family.
“I’d heard of his nefarious activities in Belo Horizonte, and I thought ‘I’ll case this man out.’ I wasn’t really inclined to do him in, not me personally, but I certainly was inclined to inform on his activities to everybody on the Left. “But he wouldn’t see me. I saw his family and they were arrogantly anti-Brazilian…”
Because Jim Jones was a sociopath, a suspected agent of the police/intelligence community, and a man whose historical stature was intimately entwined with his false public identity as an “apostle of socialism,” there is good reason to be skeptical of the sincerity of his pronouncements about Dan Mitrione and his family. If Mitrione was, as seems likely, Jones’s first “control,” then Jones would obviously fear the revelation of that fact. In particular, he would fear the chance discovery of their past association, and the questions such a discovery would raise. To allay such suspicions, Jones may well have acted to co-opt the discovery—explaining it away in advance. Thus, he tells us that he knew Dan Mitrione as a child, and that, in Brazil, he wanted to “inform on his activities to everybody on the Left.” So it was, we’re told, that he decided to “case this man out,” and came to know his family.
This may explain the presence of a consular car outside Jones’s house: if Jones was socializing with the Mitrione family, the consular car was probably their’s. But who are the people on the Left to whom Jones refers? Whom was he going to tell about Dan Mitrione? So far as anyone knows, Jones’s acquaintances in Brazil were all conservatives. Indeed, like Bonnie Thielman’s father, the Rev. Edward Malmin, they should more accurately be described as right-wingers. And, as such, they would undoubtedly have approved of Mitrione’s work.
Nevertheless, while there is every reason to be skeptical of Jones’s memoir, it is interesting that he characterizes his relationship to the Mitriones as that of an informant, or spy. Given Jones’s sociopathic personality (not to mention his rightwing sermons in Guyana and the implications of his CIA file), it is very likely that Jones was working for Mitrione rather than against him.
While Jones is said to have gone to the U.S. Consulate often, the only person whom he is known to have seen there was Jon Lodeesen. [ Besides Marco Rocha's remarks about a car from the American Consulate, Bonnie Thielman recalls that Jones often went to the Consulate on unknown business.]
On October 18, 1962, Vice Consul Lodeesen wrote a peculiar letter to Jones on Foreign Service stationary. The letter reads:
“Dear Mr. Jones: “We received a communication and we believe its your interest to come at the Consulate at your earliest convenience.” (Sic.)
Signed by Lodeesen, there is a redundant post-script to the letter, requesting that Jones “Please see me.”
While the letter itself is entirely opaque, an attachment to it is not. This a passport-type photograph of a man who, despite his mustache and receding hairline, looks remarkably like Jim Jones—or, more accurately perhaps, like Jim Jones in disguise. While one cannot be certain, it may well be that the photo is related to the peculiar circumstances under which a second passport was issued to Jones—while the first passport was still valid. [The letter from Lodeesen, with the photograph attached, was provided by the FBI to attorneys in the Layton case.]
That it was Jon Lodeesen who contacted Jones is significant in its own right. This is so because Lodeesen has been a spy for much of his life. According to Soviet intelligence officers, he is a CIA agent who taught at the US intelligence school in Garmisch Partenkirchen, West Germany—a sort of West Point for spooks. Subsequently, he worked at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow—until he was declared persona non grata for suspected espionage activities. Kicked out of the Soviet Union, he went to work for Radio Liberty, a CIA-created and -financed propaganda network based in Munich. There, he was Deputy Director of the Soviet Analysis and Broadcasting Section. [SeeCIA in the Dock, edited by V. Chernyavsky, Progress Publishers, Moscow (1983): "Saboteurs on the Air: A Close-up View" by Vaim Kassis and Leonid Kolosov, pp. 147-67.] More recently, Lodeesen was recommended for work with a CIA cover in Hawaii. [The letter (dated January 12, 1983) was from Ned Avary to Ron Rewald, then CEO of the Hawaiian investment firm Bishop, Baldwin, Rewald and Dillingham.] In a letter to the proprietor of the cover, Lodeesen was described as “fluent in the principal Russian tongues” and an expert on “Soviet double agents, dissidents and escapees.”
Just the man, in other words, to handle the passport problems of an American psychopath who’d applied for a visa to visit the Soviet Union; who’d made repeated trips to Castro’s Cuba; who had two valid passports at the same time; and who seems to have been the victim of, or a party to, an impersonation.
II.8 JONES IN RIO
Friends of the Jones family in Belo Horizonte are agreed that he lived in the city for a period of eight months, beginning in the Spring of 1962. He then moved to Rio de Janeiro.
Once again, Jones seems to have been following Dan Mitrione’s lead. In mid-December, as the Jones family packed for the move to Rio, Mitrione left Belo Horizonte for a two-month “vacation” in the U.S. At the beginning of March, he returned to Brazil—but not to Belo Horizonte. Instead, he found an apartment in the posh Botafogo section of Rio de Janeiro.
There, he was not far from Jim Jones, who was recumbent in equally elegant surroundings, having found an expensive flat in the Flamengo neighborhood. [Jones's address in Rio was #154 Rua Senador Vigueiro.]
According to Brazilian immigration authorities, who are said to keep meticulous records, the Jones family left Rio for an unknown country at the end of March. And they did not return.
According to Jones, however, he and his family lived in Rio until December of 1963. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy (in November of that year) was the stimulus for their return to Indiana.
There is, in other words, a nine-month period in which Jones’s whereabouts are at least somewhat questionable. One would think, of course, that there would be a great many records and witnesses to the matter. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Those members of Jones’s family, and his associates, who might have seen him in Rio either died at Jonestown—or were too young at the time to be certain where they were in 1963. [For example, Jones's natural son, Stephan.]
The issue should have been settled, of course, by the newspaper articles that appeared in Brazil after the Jonestown massacre. These were stories with local angles, describing Jones’s life in Brazil. Curiously, however, none of the articles originating in Rio quote identifiable sources. This is quite unlike counterpart articles written about Jones’s stay in Belo Horizonte. In the latter, almost everyone seems delighted to get his name in the paper. In Rio, nobody wants to be identified.
By far the most extensive account of Jones’s stay in Rio de Janeiro was published in a newspaper that is thought by many to have been owned, or secretly supported, by the CIA. This was the English-language Brazil Herald. [Brazil Herald, "The little-known story: Jim Jones' early days in Rio de Janeiro," by Harold Emert, December 24-26, 1978, p. 9.]
According to the article, it was “through a friend in Belo Horizonte” that Jones “found a job as a salesman of investments” in Rio. The source for this information is unstated, as is the identity of Jones’s friend in Belo Horizonte.
The company for which Jones is said to have worked was Invesco, S.A., which had offices in the Edificio Central in downtown Rio. [There have been persistent rumors that Jones, while in Rio, was employed by a "CIA-owned advertising agency." Invesco, while not an advertising agency, is the only firm to which these rumors could possibly refer. It is certainly the case that any number of Brazilians suspected that its American owners were working for the CIA.] At least, it did until the firm went bankrupt, under scandalous circumstances, in 1967. Though this occurred more than ten years before, Invesco’s former assistant manager—Jim Jones’s boss—was still in Rio at the time of the Jonestown massacre. An American who’d come to Brazil in the late 1940s, and stayed, he was willing to confirm Jones’s employment at Invesco—but not much more. And he did not want his name used.
“As a salesman with us,” he told the Herald, “(Jones) didn’t make it. He was too shy and I don’t remember him selling anything,”
Applied to Jim Jones, this is a remarkable statement. Is it possible that someone who sold monkeys door-to-door in Indianapolis during the Fifties could be too timid to sell mutual funds in Rio de Janeiro during the bull-markets of the Sixties? The mind boggles. Here is a man who is said to have talked 900 people into killing themselves for what he hoped would be his greater glory…and he was “too shy”?!
“We hired him on a strictly commission basis and as far as I know he didn’t sell anything in the three months that he worked for us,” the former assistant manager said.
This, too, is an interesting remark because it implies that, while Jones worked for Invesco, there would be no record of the fact as a consequence of his failure to record any sales. Without putting too much of a point on it, the reader should know that commission-only sales’ jobs are favorite covers for CIA agents in foreign countries. This is so because the agent is not required to produce any cover-related work-product for his civilian boss (i.e., he doesn’t need to sell anything at all)—because he’s working strictly “on commission.” At the same time, salesmen working on commission are expected to travel, and to cultivate a broad spectrum of acquaintances.
Thus, whether Jones was working for Invesco or not, it served as a good cover for whatever else he might have been doing.
Still, if the sales-job which Jones is supposed to have held down produced no income at all, how did he support himself? According to the Brazil Herald, he “was receiving donations of checks sent by his followers in the US. His ex-boss notes having seen Jones’ briefcase filled with checks.” This is possible, of course, but extremely unlikely. Membership in the Peoples Temple had plummeted during Jones’s absence, dwindling from 2000 members in 1961 to fewer than 100 parishioners at the time of the Kennedy assassination. By the end of 1963, the electric and telephone bills had gone unpaid, and disconnection threatened. The idea that parishioners were supporting Jones in high style, by sending him personal checks, is ludicrous. Not only did they not have the money, but Jones would probably have starved had he depended upon cashing small personal checks, written on Indianapolis bank accounts, in Rio de Janeiro.
Elsewhere in the Brazil Herald story, the December 4, 1978 article in Time Magazine is cited. According to Time, Jones spent a part of 1963 working at the “American School of Rio.” Asked about this, the American School issued the following statement: “Neither the salary records maintained in the business office nor the personnel records maintained in the headmaster’s office reflect this name (i.e., Jim Jones) as having been connected with our school as an employee.”
Jones’s former boss at Invesco was not the only source for the article in the Herald. A second source was a Cariocan who claimed to be a Jones’s closest friend in Rio. In the article, she is identified only as “Madame X.”
After leaving Invesco, Madame X said, Jones went to work at the Escola Sao Fernando, while his son, Stephan, attended the British School. As it happens, however, there is no “Escola Sao Fernando” in Rio, and the British School denies that Stephan Jones was ever one of its students.
Elsewhere, Madame X says that Jones decided to return to the U.S. upon hearing of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination (on November 22). The trip to the States was supposed to be a temporary visit. Jones intended to straighten out the problems that the Peoples Temple was experiencing in his absence—and then to return to Brazil. Accordingly, Madame X added, a friend of the family continued paying Jones rent on the apartment in Rio. Eventually, when it became clear that the Joneses would not return, Madame X sold their furniture and other goods, and donated the money to charitable causes.
The “friend of the family” is, like Madame X and Jones’s boss at Invesco, never identified.
So who is Madame X?
The author of the Brazil Herald article, Harold Emert, doesn’t know. The reason he doesn’t know is that he himself never spoke to her. Jim Bruce did. Who, then, is Jim Bruce? According to Emert, Jim Bruce was at that time an American freelancer based in Brazil. It was he who inspired the Jim-Jones-in-Rio story and he who provided the sources: i.e., the Invesco executive and Madame X.
Why Bruce failed to write the story himself is unclear. [Once again, there is an interesting parallel between events surrounding Jim Jones and those involving Lee Harvey Oswald. That is to say, shortly after Oswald's arrest, a story went out on the wires describing in detail Oswald's peculiar background as a defector, the time that he spent in New Orleans, and so forth. The author of the scoop was Seth Kantor. Like Emert, however, Kantor was not the ultimate source of the story he reported---another journalist, "too busy to write it himself" (!), had given it to Kantor over the telephone. This was Hal Hendrix, a CIA operative working under journalistic cover]
There have been persistent rumors that Jim Jones worked for a CIA cover during his stay in Rio. The cover is said to have been an advertising agency, but no one can say why they think so. The Washington Post‘s Charles Krause and then-New York Times reporter John Crewdson each pursued the story, but neither was able to track it down.
Clearly, Invesco was at the heart of the matter, though its connection to Jones cannot have been more than a faded memory when Crewdson and Krause were looking into it. The only public reference to Jones’s association with the firm was in the weekend edition of a small, almost ephemeral, newspaper. The sources for the story were anonymous, and the newspaper itself no longer existed, having long since been swallowed up by a rival. As for Invesco, its 1967 bankruptcy had taken place under military rule amid strict censorship of the press. Because bankruptcies reflected poorly on the economy, and therefore on the ruling junta, their occurrence—however scandalous—often went unreported.
For these reasons, then, Invesco has remained almost entirely unknown.
Here, it needs to be emphasized that, for whatever reason, Jim Jones felt the need for some sort of cover in Brazil. That’s why he lied to his neighbors in Belo Horizonte, telling some that he was employed by the Eureka Laundries and others that he was a retired Navy captain living on a pension. In Rio, which has a small and gossipy expatriate community, the need for a cover would have been even more strongly felt. And for Jones’s purposes, Invesco was ideal.
In essence, the company was an offshore analog of Bernie Cornfeld’s Investors Overseas Services (IOS). In South America, at least, it pioneered the practice of selling shares in mutual funds.
Created as a venture-capital firm in 1951, its original name was Expansao Tecnico Industrial, S.A. (ETIN). It was a subsidiary of Victorholt, S.A. Industria e Commercio, whose President was Lewis Holt Ruffin. According to an old Rio hand, ETIN was set up by employees of Price, Waterhouse, including a man who was reputed to have been a German spy during World War II.
While ETIN/Invesco has always had Brazilian investors, its affairs have tended to be dominated by the participation of Rio-based Americans, English, Germans and “Swiss. “ This last contingent includes a number of individuals who arrived in Brazil in the mid-to-late 1940s. While they claimed to be Swiss, they are thought to have been Germans.
Sources in Rio say that several of Invesco’s principals are associates of a former owner of theBrazil Herald, Gilbert Huber, Jr. [Huber bought the Brazil Herald from William Williamson, and later sold it to the Latin American Daily News.] Among other business activities, Huber is a part-owner of American Light and Power, and publishes the Rio de Janeiro “Yellow Pages”. [This information derives from sources in Rio. See, also, A.J. Langguth's Hidden Terrors, Pantheon Books, 1978, p. 88.] Huber is credited by many Brazilians with helping to pave the way for the reign of terror that followed the 1964 coup d’etat. By this is meant that Huber was one of two people credited with founding the Instituto de Pesquiasas e Estudos Sociais (IPES). Known in English as the Institute for Social Research Studies, IPES was established in 1961 by conservatives who were alarmed by the Cuban revolution and the leftward drift of the Brazilian government. Similar in many ways to the John Birch Society, IPES was almost certainly funded by covert American sources. [United States Pentration of Brazil, by Jan Knippers Black, University ofPennsylvania Press, 1977, pages 82-6.]
Initially, IPES was an instrument of propaganda, saturating the country with films, books, pamphlets and lectures attacking communism and ‘the threat from within.’ but propaganda was only a part of its strategy. Within a year of its founding, the Institute had begun to organize armed, paramilitary cells. It had also established a clandestine hand-grenade factory, and developed plans for a civil war. At the same time, it had hired a network of retired military officers ‘to exert influence on those on active duty.’ [Ibid.] One of those retired officers was General Golbery do Couto e Silva. His job was to compile 40,000 dossiers on Brazilians whose loyalties were considered suspect. When the coup succeeded, Golbery came out of ‘retirement’ at IPES. Moving to Brazilia with ‘hundreds of thousands’ of files, he established Brazil’s first intelligence service, the SNI—a South American fusion of its counterpart services in the United States, the FBI and the CIA. Many of the men and women in Golbery’s political dossiers suffered mightily under the junta. Some were placed under house arrest or imprisoned, while others were tortured. Still others fell prey to the esquadraos da mortes (death squads).
While Gilbert Huber’s connection to Invesco is merely rumored, another Huber’s is not. This is Joyce Huber Blumer, who owned 55,000 shares in the firm. [Ms. Huber is said to be Gilbert Huber's sister-in-law, but that information has yet to be confirmed.] British by birth, she has attracted a certain amount of attention in the Brazilian press for what has been characterized as a “baby-selling” enterprise. Two other owners of Invesco were a Swiss or German national named Werner Blumer (24,000 shares), and an American named Scott McAuley Johnson (54,000 shares). Blumer owns an art gallery in Rio, while Johnson is described by various sources as “a mystery man” of independent means.
The Train Robbers
Which brings us to an interesting story.
In the same year that Jones went to work for Invesco, a British hoodlum named Ronald Biggs participated in what came to be called “the Great Train Robbery,” sharing more than $7-million in cash and valuables stolen from a Glasgow-to-London mail-train.
Apprehended, and sentenced to 30 years, Biggs escaped from prison in 1965. Fleeing to France, he relied upon an international criminal network to obtain plastic surgery and passage to Australia. Tracked by the police as the “most wanted” man in the world, Biggs subsequently found his way to Rio de Janeiro (where extradition is, at best, a rarity). According to a reporter who was ultimately instrumental in revealing Biggs’s whereabouts, the fugitive’s patrons in Rio were the same people who owned Invesco: Joyce Huber, Werner Blumer, Scott Johnson and others.
How Biggs, while hiding out in Rio, came to live at Scott Johnson’s apartment, where he was patronized and protected by Huber and the others, is an important question. [An anecdotal account of Biggs' life in Rio, which discusses his friendship with Johnson and Huber, can be found in Biggs: The World's Most Wanted Man, by Colin Mackenzie, William Morrow & Co., New York, 1975.] Among other things, it suggests the possibility (indeed, the likelihood) that the firm which provided cover (or an alibi) for Jim Jones’s activities in Rio was part of the so-called ODESSA network. [ODESSA is an acronym for Organization der Entlassene SS Angehorige (Organization for the Release of Former SS Members). Die Spinne (The Spider), which was also known as the "Swastika Syndicate," was the clandestine operations arm of ODESSA. See Skorzeny: Hitler's Commando, by Glenn B. Infield, St. Martin's Press, 1981 (New York).]
In this connection, Piers Paul Read’s The Train Robbers is of interest. [The Train Robbers, by Piers Paul Read, W.H. Allen, London (1978).] Read undertook to write the book more than a decade after the robbery, and long after several other books had already been published on the subject. What made these unpromising circumstances auger well, according to Read, were two things: first, he had the cooperation of most of the men who’d pulled off the robbery. Previously, only Ronald Biggs had given an account, and Biggs was considered an outsider by those who’d conceived and executed the plan. Second, and even more importantly, the gang confided important new information to Read. This was that the train robbery, and several of the subsequent escapes, had been financed and finessed by Gen. Otto Skorzeny. Among other things, this explained why it had never been possible to account for more than half of the money stolen in the robbery.
An unrepentant Nazi, Skorzeny had been Hitler’s favorite commando. After the war, he’d re-established himself in Madrid as an arms-dealer and, with even greater secrecy, as the mastermind behind Die Spinne—the underground railroad that obtained forged documents and plastic surgery for war criminals and others requiring safe-havens in South America and the Middle East. As the proprietor of a de facto intelligence agency with connections throughout the world, Skorzeny made millions as a consultant to countries and organizations whose politics were compatible with his own (e.g., Nasser’s Egypt and the Secret Army Organization in Algiers).
Train-robber Buster Edwards and his wife gave Read a detailed description—names, dates and places—of how Die Spinne had smuggled him from England to Germany to Mexico. [Since this was written, I was able to interview Buster Edwards at his flower-stall outside Waterloo Station in London. In that interview, Edwards confirmed what he'd told Read, and elaborated upon it with further details.] A woman named “Hannah Schmid,” [The name is a pseudonym that Read used in his book ] whose father had served with Skorzeny in the Second World War, saw to it that he received plastic surgery and the documents necessary to travel. Edwards recuperated for nearly a month in the home of a Prussian aristocrat, “Annaliese von Lutzeberg,” [This name is also a pseudonym, according to Read.] and was then sent on his way to Mexico—but not before he’d purchased shares (under an assumed name) in a business that Skorzeny owned. [Edwards invested 10,000 pounds in a real estate firm that Skorzeny was using to develop land near Alicante.]
While in Mexico, Edwards and two of the other train-robbers reunited with Schmid, who “proposed that they should run guns to the Peronists in Argentina; or train troops for a planned putsch in Panama…” [Ibid., p. 195. Besides Edwards, Bruce Reynolds and Charlie Wilson met with Schmid in Mexico City.] Edwards and his friends declined: it just wasn’t their scene.
In checking Edwards’ story, and the stories of the other robbers, Read found that every verifiable detail was confirmed. Before finishing his book, however, it was left to him to interview Ronald Biggs in Rio. Accordingly, he got on a plane.
Finding Biggs was not that difficult. He was living at Scott Johnson’s apartment. What he had to say, however, was in flat contradiction to the accounts of everyone else. According to Biggs, there were no Germans.
Read was flabbergasted. Had he been hoaxed? Or was Biggs lying on behalf of what Read suspected were his Nazi protectors? Read couldn’t be sure.
“At best (Biggs) wished me to disbelieve the Skorzeny connection so that he himself could break it to the world and reap the benefit; at worst he was still in the care of Skorzeny’s organisation and had been told to persuade me that it did not exist.
“The more I pondered this last possibility, the more convinced I became that this was the explanation—for it still seemed inconceivable to me that June (Edwards) had invented her meeting with Skorzeny in Madrid, or could have discovered that he was a friend of the Reader’s Digesteditor who spoke fourteen Chinese dialects. I suddenly realised how thoughtless and foolhardy I had been to come to a country (Brazil) known to be a nest of ex-Nazis. Clearly Biggs had been saved from extradition not because of his child, but because of neo-Nazi influence in government circles. The woman who had been with him at the airport, Ulla Sopher, a German-Argentinian with blonde hair and blue eyes, was part of their network. All the strands of the story came together to form a noose around my neck.” [Ibid., pp. 257-58.]
And yet, despite this cogent explanation for what had happened, and despite the evidence that Edwards and the others had provided, Read demurred. Over drinks in a sidewalk cafe, “I began to believe that Biggs was telling the truth.”
A bizarre turn-about that occurs at the very end of the book, Read’s conversion to Biggs’ account makes no sense at all. Biggs’s own fugitivity, which (like Edwards’s) was facilitated by plastic surgery and forged documents provided by an unnamed criminal syndicate, is the best argument against the story he tells.
One wonders if Read would have ended his book differently if he had known about Jim Jones, Scott Johnson and Invesco.
Not that Read didn’t have clues to the fact that Biggs was living in a kind of parapolitical twilight—a world defined by the inter-penetration of criminal syndicates and the intelligence community.
One such clue pertained to Biggs’ son, “Mikezinho,” who was born while his father was a fugitive in Rio. “Little Mikey” had a very interesting godfather, a man with powerful European connections and who, like Werner Blumer, was in the business of selling art.
This was Fernand Legros, who concerns us here only because his association with Biggs’s, and Biggs’s friends in Rio, adds perspective to what might be called “the Invesco circle.”
Legros has been described as a “playboy, millionaire, art dealer and CIA agent…” [The Great Heroin Coup, by Henrik Kruger.] A native Egyptian, with apartments in Switzerland, France and Spain, he was a homosexual whose lovers included the Secretary-General of the United Nations (Dag Hammerskjold) and members of French cabinet. [ Hammerskjold died in a plane crash in the Congo on September 17, 1961. The suspicion that the plane was sabotaged is widespread, but to date unproven. See The Last Days of Dag Hammerskjold, by Arthur L. Gavshon, Barrie & Rockliff with Pall Mall Press, London, 1963.] A naturalized American, Legros resorted to at least four passports: French, American, Canadian and British.
It is alleged (by author Henrik Kruger and others) that Legros played a lethal role in the mysterious (and still unsolved) kidnapping and murder of the Moroccan dissident, Ben Barka—who disappeared from the streets of Paris (where Legros owned an art-gallery) in October, 1965. According to Kruger, Legros had been in contact with Ben Barka in Geneva, where the art-dealer had a second gallery and both men had apartments. Lured to France, Ben Barka was kidnapped, tortured and killed. While his disappearance remains unsolved, the operation has often been attributed to French gangsters (including a man named Christian David) acting on Legros’s orders. Legros himself is believed to have been working at the time for either the CIA or France’s SDECE.
In 1967, Legros fled to Brazil upon being implicated in the authentication and sale of forgeries attributed to modern masters. Sold for millions to gullible investors around the world, the forgeries are believed to have been painted by Elmyr de Hory, Clifford Irving’s friend and neighbor on Ibiza.
But Legros’s influence seems not to have been much diminished by the notoriety surrounding the forgeries. According to Kruger, the art-dealer was “a personal friend of Henry Kissinger’s,…(and) the man the CIA assigned to snoop on UN secretary-general Dag Hammarskjold. Legros helped the CIA kidnap the African leader Moise Tshombe…” Not finally, Legros became an associate (in France and in Brazil) of the legendary French gangster Christian David.
While in Rio and Sao Paulo, David established a Brazilian-based narcotics syndicate to fill the vacuum created when the so-called “French connection” was broken. [Following the arrest and extradition of Paraguya's Auguste Ricard, heroin refined in Marseilles was shipped to David in Brazil for transport to the United States.] In this task, he was abetted by fugitive French collaborators and war criminals living in Argentina, Paraguay, Chile and Brazil.
Arrested by the Brazilian authorities in 1972, David was eventually deported to the United States, and then extradited to France—where he was sentenced to death. [The sentence appears never to have been carried out, and there are unconfirmed reports that David was freed some time ago.] Meanwhile, David’s pal, Fernand Legros, was himself in a Rio prison—occupying the cell next to Ronald Biggs. The circumstances of Legros’s imprisonment are murky, but it has been suggested that he was locked up as an exercise in protective custody, supposedly for having helped the CIA to arrange David’s arrest. While that allegation is unproven, it is certainly true that Legros had a rather easy time of it behind bars. “Each day…he was brought lavish meals including lobster, champagne, cognac and fat Havana cigars.” [Kruger tells us that, in 1974, French intelligence agents kidnapped Legros from Brazil, and brought him back to France. Imprisoned there, he was released upon the demands of Henry Kissinger, who protested the mistreatment of an American citizen.]
All of which is to say: what? That Jim Jones was somehow involved in the 1963 Great Train Robbery, or in the 1965 murder of Ben Barka? Hardly. Do I mean, then, to suggest that Jones was a party to the making and breaking of the “Brazilian Connection,” or that he was implicated in the wave of forgeries that culminated in Clifford Irving’s “autobiography” of Howard Hughes? Of course not.
My intention has only been to demonstrate that the milieu in which Jones found himself in 1963—the Invesco milieu, revolving around Scott Johnson, et al.—was anything but ordinary. A suspected CIA conduit, Invesco was owned and operated by men and women whose connections to criminals such as Ronald Biggs and spooks like Fernand Legros—and to gangster-spooks such as Christian David—are worth a deeper look. The coalescence of organized crime and the CIA during the early 1960s was responsible for parapolitical enormities which continue to resonate beneath the surface of American politics and culture.
Jones’s connections to Dan Mitrione and Jon Lodeesen, his resort to cover stories, his use of multiple passports, and his strange involvement with the Invesco circle, strongly suggests that the 1978 tragedy in Guyana was set in motion in Cuba and Brazil some fifteen years earlier.