264. Telegram From ALFA/J–2 to the Joint Task Force Intelligence Officer (Mattingly) Aboard the U.S.S. Nimitz1

Following is a CIA report. [1 line not declassified]

[1 paragraphs (5 lines) not declassified]

B. Condition of Hostages. Per subject, hostages are physically fit, have been seen walking in the courtyard and those seen walking appear alert and in good health. An ambulance has entered compound on two occasions but it is not known if anyone of the hostages were taken away from the compound. Based on their conversations [less than 1 line not declassified] hostages appear to be well-fed and shortages of food in city have not affected them.

C. Location of Hostages.2 The hostages are located in two areas. [less than 1 line not declassified] perhaps four to five of the hostages are kept in the Ambassador’s residence. Will attempt to determine from subject exact location within residence, but we are not sure they know. FYI. Four Iranian female guards cover the kitchen area. Subject said that hostages in the residence are often the Marine guards and they are rotated periodically. Can only speculate that they might be assisting [less than 1 line not declassified] in general KP duties. Bulk of hostages are in Embassy offices proper—they are split up between basement, first and second floors.

D. Strength of Guard and Their Readiness. Guard force formerly consisted of three units: Khomeini Revolutionary Guards, Iranian Air Force and the militant students. Air Force guards no longer present and compound is guarded by two remaining groups. Headquarters of Khomeini guards is the house formerly occupied by Mister Moore, the admin officer. The Khomeini guards total approximately forty—rpt forty. Khomeini guards mount guard duty only outside—repeat outside—the compound area. The militant students: Their headquarters are in small building located inside compound bordering on deadend street called “Coutche Bijan.” This is right of house occupied by subject. [Page 707] There are approximately twenty—repeat twenty—militant students in that apartment house. To left of subject’s apartment house there is another apartment house—three stories high—which normally houses approximately six Iranian female guards, those female guards who are on night duty.

E. Areas Patrolled. Areas patrolled by militant students are: 1. Embassy building where there are approximately one guard for each hostage or approximately 45. 2. Ambassador’s residence—approximately six guards including four female guards for kitchen area mentioned above. 3. The militant students also control the interior of the compound with emphasis on gates, exits, and around the Embassy building. These latter guards number approximately 100. There are also five to ten militant student guards near the gate to the compound in the vicinity of the Bijan Gate. In all, militant students total approximately 175 at any given time.

F. Status of Alert. All those mentioned above have weapons but subject unable to designate just what kind of weapons. The guards, according to subject, appear very alert and “keyed up.”

[Omitted here is the remainder of the telegram.]

  1. Source: Department of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff Records, RG 218–07–0002, Records of J–3 DDSO, Box 8, Iranian Hostage Crisis 1979–1984, I 380–458 Rice Bowl JTF Message Traffic (22–25 Apr 80). Top Secret; Limdis.
  2. In his memoir, Turner noted that the mission received “splendid good luck” when a CIA agent serendipitously encountered a cook from the Embassy leaving Iran on a commercial flight from Tehran to Rome. After landing, the agent questioned the cook, who provided useful eyewitness information on the location of the hostages. This information was sent immediately to Vaught at Wadi Kena and to Beckwith, who modified his rescue plan to “now concentrate his forces on the chancery with greater confidence.” (Turner, Terrorism and Democracy, p. 118)