Pioneering Black Secret Service JFK Guard Warns Of Current Lessons

 

Abraham Bolden, the first African American to serve on the White House detail guarding a president, has a secret to share July 29 in Washington, DC: Gross security lapses enabled President John F. Kennedy's murder in 1963.

Abraham Bolder (recent)Bolden will break the persistent media silence about those JFK-era security shortfalls at the annual Whistle Blowers Summit beginning July 29 on Capitol Hill. The free event, themed “Black Lives Matter,” is from July 29-31.

This editor will introduce Bolden and set the context of a media landscape that seeks, in general, to bury the facts of Kennedy's murder with the transparently false claim that the president was killed by a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, with no accomplices.

Abraham Bolden book cover, The Echo from Dealey Plaza In 2008, Bolden published The Echo from Dealey Plaza, a memoir documenting major security lapses. Major newspapers and leading researchers favorably treated his book. But they have largely since ignored it and him even during the 50th anniversaries of the murder and Warren Commission investigation and Secret Service breakdown in the White House loomed so serious that the Washington Post won a Pulitzer Prize for covering them. 

Part of the reason surely must be that Bolden's recollections undercut conventional wisdom about JFK's killing. As recently as July 18, a Washington Post news story drawn in relevant part from one in the Dallas Morning News flatly stated without any attribution that the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository "is the vantage point from which Lee Harvey Oswald fired at Kennedy." That statement is open to expert challenge on several grounds. But the newspaper editors used a formulation that denied to readers any clue of the controversies.

Similarly, Bolden challenges key elements of conventional accounts regarding JFK security and follow-up investigations.

He raises, for example, the animosity some agents held for the president. "The bastard should be killed!" he quoted his boss, the Secret Service special agent in charge of its Chicago office, as blurting out after 1961 news reports of one of the president's civil rights initiatives.

More generally, Bolden believes, “No one could have killed our President without the shots of omission fired by the Secret Service.” He thus describes JFK problems far more serious than recent ones that won this year's Pulitzer Prize for national reporting for Washington Post reporter Carol Leonig, who exposed dangers to President Obama from Secret Service flaws. 

In another anecdote Bolden shared with author Vincent Palamara, Bolden said discovery of a likely assassination attempt in Chicago deterred the president's planned trip there on Nov. 2, 1963. The trip was cancelled the morning of JFK's departure from Washington, ostensibly because the president had a cold and the distraction of the assassination of the president of South Vietnam. Bolden and Palamara describe, however, discovery of a suspected assassination via sniper fire along an 11-mile Chicago parade route, much like what occurred later at Dealey Plaza in Dallas.

Such points are necessarily based on fragmentary and often suppressed evidence. More tellingly, Bolden documents the abusive frame-up he endured on corruption charges in 1964 after he made known to colleagues his plan to warn the Warren Commission in May of security problems among Secret Service colleagues, along with racist and anti-Kennedy attitudes some of them held.

Before he could talk with commission personnel, authorities arrested him on charges of seeking a bribe from an indicted counterfeiter.

Astonishing legal irregularities marred Bolden's two trials, prison sentence and appeals. For example, his Alabama-born trial judge instructed a jury to convict Bolden.

The main prosecution witness soon recanted his testimony and testified that federal prosecutors threatened him unless he framed Bolden with a false claim that Bolden had sought a bribe.

Even so, Bolden failed to win either a new trial or new judge. As extra punishment, he was kept in solitary confinement two years, told he was crazy, and force-fed mind-altering drugs. It's telling also that the Warren Commission failed to seek out his testimony, just as it neglected vast numbers of other inquiries that failed to sustain the pre-determined conclusion that Oswald killed Kennedy, acting alone.

What Happened In Dallas?

IJacqueline Kennedy, Clinton Hill in Dallasn a colorized, iconic image from the JFK assassination in Dallas, Secret Service agent Clint Hill bravely seeks to protect First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in Dealey Plaza.

Far less known are credible reports that the Secret Service and Dallas city and county police failed to follow normal procedures in securing advance the multiple potential assassin sites at the plaza, such as the privately owned Texas Book Depository Building and the nearby picket fence on the grassy knoll overlooking the last part of parade route. A view John F. Kennedy side profilefrom the picket fence is portrayed below in a Justice Integrity Project photo on the 50th anniversary of JFK's death.

Time and additional research have established the following facts, which are rarely reported in current news stories about either the Kennedy assassination or repeated breakdowns in Secret Service protection of President Obama:

Gross lapses by the Secret Service in 1963 enabled the only presidential assassination in recent history. Even before the assassination, for example, Secret Service personnel normally checked windows and rooftops along a parade route to prevent snipers but failed to do so in Dallas.

Among other lapses:

Some members of JFK's detail were carousing until the wee hours of the morning of his death.

A protective bubble top for the presidential limo was not used even though Dallas clearly contained harsh opponents of the President, including the Dallas Morning News publisher Ted Dealey, who had denounced Kennedy at a White House luncheon and approved on the day of the assassination a full-page ad bordered in black denouncing JFK again. The plaza, a virtual death trap in retrospect, was named for his grandfather.

Kennedy's limousine slowed to less than 10 miles per hour after executing a sharp turn just in advance of the killing zone.

Most vividly, a news clip shows Secret Service agents at the Dallas airport being waved off their normal positions stationed on the rear bumper of the limo. Similarly, motorcycle police failed to use their normal formation at the side of the president's limo, thereby making ground-level shooting more difficult.

Yet, according to independent researchers, no one in the Secret Service was punished, except Bolden when he tried to complain afterward about lax security precautions.

The publisher's introduction to Bolden's book begins as follows:

From the first African American assigned to the presidential Secret Service detail comes a gripping and unforgettable true story of bravery and patriotism in the face of bitter hatred and unthinkable corruption. Abraham Bolden was a young Secret Service agent in Chicago when he was asked by John F. Kennedy himself to join the White House Secret Service detail. For Bolden, it was a dream come true —and an encouraging sign of the charismatic president’s vision for a new America.

A cum laude graduate of Lincoln University, Bolden had earned his advancement by being the first African American detective to be employed by the historic Pinkerton Agency. He then became an Illinois state patrolman and a member of the U.S. Secret Service in October 1960.

But his dream turned sour when Bolden found himself regularly subjected to open hostility and blatant racism. He was taunted, mocked, and disparaged but remained strong, and he did not allow himself to become discouraged. More of a concern was the White House team’s irresponsible approach to security. Both prior to and following JFK’s assassination, Bolden sought to expose and address the inappropriate behavior and negligence of these agents, only to find himself the victim of a sinister conspiracy that resulted in his conviction and imprisonment on a trumped-up bribery charge.

Vincent PalamaraA gripping memoir substantiated by recently declassified government documents, The Echo from Dealey Plaza is the story of the terrible price paid by one man for his commitment to truth and justice, as well as a shocking new perspective on the circumstances surrounding the death of a beloved president. Details.

Among researchers who have treated Bolden's story as an important historical resource have been authors James Douglass, Lamar Waldron, and Vincent Palamara. The latter is the leading expert on the Secret Service performance during the assassination period. Palamara's 493-page study, Survivor’s Guilt: The Secret Service and the Failure to Protect President Kennedy, is based on first-hand accounts of more than 70 former agents, including Bolden. It quotes several experts as saying Bolden was clearly framed.

Biographical profiles on Bolden have been published by Spartacus Educational, Wikipedia and by special site, Abraham Bolden, created by Palamara.

Bolden will speak on a 4 p.m. Whistle Blower Summit panel "Political Prosecutions and the Danger to Democracy." Bolden will use Skype because at age 80 his infirmity makes travel impossible from his Chicago home.

Two other speakers will share in person their powerful first-hand experiences regarding other historically important issues that threaten democracy: electronic surveillance of all U.S. citizens without probable cause and the notorious Siegelman-Scrushy political frame-up.

The other speakers will be:

●  Former Qwest Communications Chairman/CEO Joseph Nacchio, a critic of the new USA Freedom Act for its inadequate privacy protections;

●  Former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy, co-defendant with former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman in a political case that has prompted many protests from experts and the public.

On behalf of the Justice Integrity Project, this editor will moderate the panel after publishing extensively about all three cases. They are treated in a previous column, Former Political Prisoners Nacchio, Bolden, Scrushy To Warn of Democracy Threats July 29, and the book Presidential Puppetry. This column is part 26 of our "JFK Assassination Readers Guide," whose previous parts are listed below to provide an introduction to the major research works and theories about the killing.

Whistle Blower Summit 2015Free registration for the conference begins at 9 a.m. at the Stewart Mott House, 122 Maryland Ave, NE., located between the Hart Senate Office Building and the Supreme Court.

Nacchio speaks also at a 10 a.m. news conference and Scrushy at a 6:30 p.m. dinner, both at the National Press Club, 529 14th St., NW. The dutch-treat dinner is open to the public.  

Beginning in May 2007, whistleblowers have convened annually for education and advocacy at the Whistle Blowers Summit for Civil and Human Rights. Summit panels and events include other major speakers, plus practical tips, book signings, other networking. Click here for details.

Bolden's words, bolstered by parallel tales of injustice regarding other historically important events, represents a rare opportunity for every concerned citizen to learn of the forces that shape our society.

 

Postscript:

Shortly after this column was published, we attended a news conference at the National Press Club where the club's president John Hughes and Washington Post Editor Martin Baron renewed their calls for Iran to release the Post's foreign correspondent Jason Rezaian, who has been held on apparently bogus and politically inspired charges for a year. The protest and press conference before a packed room was a worthy cause, with details here The Post urges U.N. to help free journalist in Iran and in a Post-created video.

As often, our walk several blocks from office to the press club and back took us through a crowd of tourists near Ford's Theater, scene of President Lincoln's assassination in 1865. Especially after re-immersion in the Bolden account of Kennedy's assassination and the Post's cavalier treatment of the Oswald mysteries in its July 18 obituary of a museum director, as noted above, one cannot help thinking how much of tourism, news-gathering and indeed history amount to a check-list approach.

For most of us most of the time, we must rush through the motions to complete as much as we can on the check-list, while knowing (hopefully) that real understanding requires more attention than realistically possible for most topics.

It's a humbling thought. But is that necessarily bad when the stakes are high?  


 

 
Contact the author Andrew Kreig
 

 

Abraham Bolden and Secret Service Protection of President Kennedy

John F. Kennedy side profileHuffington Post, After 45 Years, a Civil Rights Hero Waits for Justice, Thom Hartmann, July 13, 2009, updated May 25, 2011. A great miscarriage of justice has kept most Americas from learning about a Civil Rights pioneer who worked with President John F. Kennedy. But there is finally a way for citizens to not only right that wrong, but bring closure to the most tragic chapter of American presidential history. After an outstanding career in law enforcement, Abraham Bolden was appointed by JFK to be the first African American presidential Secret Service agent, where he served with distinction. He was part of the Secret Service effort that prevented JFK's assassination in Chicago, three weeks before Dallas.

But Bolden was framed by the Mafia and arrested on the very day he went to Washington to tell the Warren Commission staff about the Chicago attempt against JFK. Bolden was sentenced to six years in prison, despite glaring problems with his prosecution. His arrest resulted from accusations by two criminals Bolden had sent to prison. In Bolden's first trial, an apparently biased judge told the jury that Bolden was guilty, even before they began their deliberations. Though granted a new trial because of that, the same problematic judge was assigned to oversee Bolden's second trial, which resulted in his conviction. Later, the main witness against Bolden admitted committing perjury against him. A key member of the prosecution even took the fifth when asked about the perjury. Yet Bolden's appeals were denied, and he had to serve hard time in prison, and today is considered a convicted felon. 

ABC News, Ex-Secret Service agent Abraham Bolden claims misconduct in JFK era Ex-Secret Service agent claims misconduct in JFK era, Chuck Goudie, November 22, 2013. Abraham Bolden believes the Secret Service was in no shape to stop an assassination in Dallas, 50 years ago. Being the first black Secret Service agent on a U.S. President detail would seem enough to lock Abraham Bolden's place in history. But what sets him apart is the conspiracy of silence he says took place within the Secret Service -- a conspiracy he claims contributed to President Kennedy's vulnerability on that day in Dallas, 50 years ago. Bolden believes the Secret Service was in no shape to stop an assassination. "Now, for 50 years, Chuck, for 50 years, the United States Secret Service called me a liar," said Bolden. It wasn't that way in 1963 when President Kennedy brought Bolden from Chicago to the White House. Promoting agent Bolden to an all-white arm of the Secret Service was a bold move by the President in those heated civil rights days. But it ended on November 22, 1963. "It was as if I had been assassinated just like John F. Kennedy. The clean Abe was dead, now you've got another Abe to deal with," said Bolden. Bolden had complained to his superiors about earlier plots against the President -- including several in Chicago -- that were mishandled by the Secret Service and the dereliction of agents assigned to protect Kennedy. "They stayed out all night on Rush Street drinking and celebrating, one agent got so drunk they had to take him back to the hotel," said Bolden.

In 1964, as Bolden was on his way to testify before the Warren Commission, he himself was arrested on federal charges that he had solicited a bribe from counterfeiters he had helped bust. It took two trials to convict him in a reportedly weak case and he did six years in prison that Bolden has long held was a set-up and payback for his allegations against the secret service. "I don't think any citizen of the United States of America should have to endure what I had to endure simply because I wanted to tell the truth about what was going on surrounding the protection of a president of the United States. I'm not gonna stop until I take my last breath because I swore to uphold the Constitution. I went to prison-but that was my oath and that oath binds me for the rest of my life," said Bolden. The 78-year-old Bolden says he has been vindicated recently by well-publicized misconduct of Service Service agents and officials surrounding presidential trips to South America -- the same kinds of misconduct that he complained about 50 years ago. It is a culture of carousing and covering up that Bolden says continues to this day. Not all, or even the majority, but enough, he says to be a danger to those they protect. The U.S. Secret Service has never directly replied to any of Bolden's accusations.

Justice Integrity Project, Former Political Prisoners Nacchio, Bolden, Scrushy To Warn of Democracy Threats July 29 At 'Whistle Blowers Summit' In DC, Andrew Kreig, July 10, 2015. Participants in three of the most controversial and important politics-tinged criminal cases in recent American history will condemn dangers to democracy July 29 at the annual Whistle Blowers Summit on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Former Qwest Communications International Chairman and CEO Joseph Nacchio, former Secret Service White House special agent Abraham Bolden, and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy will speak on “Exposing U.S. Political Prosecutions & Dangers To Democracy” on a 4 p.m. panel moderated by the Justice Integrity Project. Each speaker became a participant, whistleblower, victim, and now a hero in, respectively, the national debate regarding warrantless electronic surveillance, President John F. Kennedy's 1963 assassination, and the federal prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, who remains imprisoned for 1999 conduct. The free, three-day event convenes government critics, the media, and other researchers, beginning at the Stewart Mott House July 29. 

Washington Post, Washington Post’s Carol Leonnig wins Pulitzer Prize for reporting on Secret Service lapses, Paul Farhi, April 20, 2015. For reporter Carol Leonnig, patience, timing and some extraordinary effort paid handsome returns. The Washington Post journalist spent months gaining the trust of normally reticent Secret Service agents to produce a series of bombshell stories last year about lapses in presidential security. In the wake of her reporting, which shook the faith in what was commonly viewed as an elite and selfless agency, President Obama replaced more than half of the service’s senior leadership, including its director. On Monday, Leonnig, 49, was awarded journalism’s highest honor, the Pulitzer Prize, for her revelations about the Secret Service. She was recognized in the national reporting category in an announcement by Columbia University in New York, which administers the awards.

Dallas Observer, Dutch Film Portrays Our Own Robert Groden as Obsessed, Not Crazy, Jim Schutze, July 16, 2015. The title of Dutch documentary filmmaker Kasper Verkaik’s  60-minute film, Plaza Man, is a reference to Kennedy assassination conspiracy theorist Robert Groden, the guy who sells books and DVDs every fine weekend at Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas. But the Kennedy assassination, the conspiracy theories, even Groden’s long-running battle with “The Sixth Floor,” the city’s gingerly named assassination museum at Dealey Plaza, those are not what the movie is about. Those things appear in the film but only as bit players. The film really is an exploration of obsessio

Justice Integrity Project Readers Guide To JFK Assassination

* Denotes major articles in this Readers Guide series

Dealey Plaza Panorama (Andrew Kreig Photo)At right is a photo by this editor in Dallas showing Dealey Plaza. The Texas Book Depository Building where alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald worked is behind the row of trees. The car in the center lane is near the location of President Kennedy's limo at the time of his fatal shooting. The grassy knoll, from where most witnesses say shots emanated, is at left, with its picket fence just out of sight beyond the large road sign.

  1. Project Launches JFK Assassination Readers' Guide, Oct. 16, 2013.
  2. Project Provides JFK Readers Guide To New Books, Videos , Oct. 26, 2013. This is a list of new books and films in 2013.
  3. Project Lists JFK Assassination Reports, Archives, Videos, Events, Nov. 2, 2013. Leading video, events and archives from the last 50 years. *
  4. Disputes Erupt Over NY Times, New Yorker, Washington Post Reviews of JFK Murder, Nov. 7, 2013. *
  5. Self-Censorship In JFK TV Treatments Duplicates Corporate Print Media's Apathy, Cowardice, Nov. 7, 2013.
  6. 'Puppetry' Hardback Launched Nov. 19 at DC Author Forum on ‘White House Mysteries & Media,'  Nov. 19, 2013.
  7. Major Media Stick With Oswald 'Lone Gunman' JFK Theory, Nov. 27, 2013. Self-censorship.
  8. JFK Murder Scene Trapped Its Victim In Kill Zone, Nov. 30, 2013.
  9. JFK Murder, The CIA, and 8 Things Every American Should Know, Dec. 9, 2013. The CIA implicated itself in the cover-up, according to experts who have spoken out. *
  10. JFK Murder Prompts Expert Reader Reactions, Dec. 19, 2013. Reactions to our Dec. 9 column. 
  11. Have Spy Agencies Co-Opted Presidents and the Press? Dec. 23, 2013. *
  12. Don't Be Fooled By 'Conspiracy Theory' Smears, May 26, 2014. *
  13. Experts To Reveal Secrets of JFK Murder, Cover-up at Sept. 26-28 DC Forum , Sept. 5, 2014. 
  14. Dealey Plaza Picket Fence (Andrew Kreig Photo)Washington Post Still Selling Warren Report 50 Years Later, Sept. 22, 2014. *
  15. JFK Experts To Explode Myths, Sign Books In DC Sept. 26-28, Sept. 24, 2014.
  16. Former Cuban Militant Leader Claims CIA Meeting With Oswald Before JFK Killing, Sept. 27, 2014. *
  17. JFK Readers Guide: Assassination Books, Reports, Oct. 15, 2014. *
  18. Former House JFK Murder Prober Alleges CIA ‘Lied,’ Seeks Hidden Records, Oct. 18, 2014. *
  19. The JFK Murder 'Cover-up' Still Matters -- As Does C-SPAN's Coverage, Nov. 11, 2014. *
  20. JFK, Nov. 22 and the Continuing Cover-Up, Nov. 24, 2014. *
  21. JFK Assassination Readers Guide To 2013-14 Events, Nov. 28, 2014. *
  22. CIA, Empowered by JFK Murder Cover-up, Blocks Senate Torture Report, Dec. 1, 2014. *
  23. Nearly Too Late, Public Learns of Bill Moyers’ Conflicts Over PBS, LBJ, Jan. 2, 2014.
  24. Why Bill O'Reilly's Lie About JFK's Murder Might Matter To You, March 17, 2015.
  25. Free Videos Show Shocking Claims About CIA, JFK Murder Probes, June 29, 2015.