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The Secret Service and the Failure to Protect President Kennedy
By Vincent Michael Palamar
Trine Day LLCCopyright © 2013 Vincent Michael Palamara
All rights reserved.
The Warren Commission was puzzled, as were select members of the media and the public. Why were no agents posted on the back of the limousine, on November 22, 1963, holding the hand rails built for just that purpose? Or, at the very least, why weren't the agents walking or running beside the car? After all, in most people's minds, agents had performed these functions since at least the days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, if not beforehand. In response to the Warren Commission's justifiable curiosity on this subject, Secret Service Chief James J. Rowley had agents Jerry Behn, Floyd Boring, Emory Roberts, John Ready, and Clint Hill wrote reports of their experiences with the President concerning this matter of security (why Roy Kellerman, the nominal agent in charge of the Dallas trip, and the numerous other Texas agents weren't asked is unstated). Oddly, nothing is mentioned specifically about 11/22/63, as was requested by the Commission.
At first glance, all five reports appear to support the notion that President Kennedy did noot want agents on or near the rear of his limousine:
Special Agent In Charge (SAIC) of White House Detail (WHD) Gerald A. "Jerry" Behn, not on the Texas trip, stated unequivocally in his report (dated 4/16/64; the fourth report to Rowley) that JFK "told me that he did not want agents riding on the back of his car" during several trips all the way back to November 1961, without referencing any trips in 1962 or 1963. Behn, the number one agent in JFK's Secret Service detail, mentions the trip to Bonham, Texas in November 1961, yet this was for the non-motorcade funeral of Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn and a hardtop vehicle without steps for the agents was used, rendering any alleged instructions moot, as the car was protected.
Behn also mentions the trip to Seattle, Washington during this same period. While the car was a rented Lincoln Continental without rear grab handles or platforms for the agents, again making any alleged instructions moot, to more than compensate for this situation, the Secret Service protected the motorcade with hundreds of Seattle policemen guarding rooftops, as well as lining the parade route and mingling in the crowds.
In addition, Behn discusses JFK's famous trips to Mexico City in 1962 and to Berlin in 1963. However, since agents did indeed ride on or near the rear of the limo during these high-profile motorcades, Behn brought these trips up only in the context of both the president's desire to meet the people and his seeming disapproval of an instance of security that was invoked on each trip. Still, the net effect of the mere mention of these trips was the presentation of a small mosaic of presidential disapproval. Taken at face value and coming from the leader of the White House Detail, the man who was the direct pipeline to the President, this alleged presidential edict seems to be an authoritative and conclusive fact.
However, during the course of three exclusive interviews with the author on 9/27/92, Mr. Behn dropped an unexpected bombshell:
"I don't remember Kennedy ever saying that he didn't want anybody on the back of his car."
Before the author could catch his breath, Behn added that newsreel footage from the period will bear him out on this point, one example being the June 1963 trip to Berlin (there are many others from 1961 to 1963): "I think if you watch the newsreel pictures you'll find agents on there from time to time," Behn said. Again, Behn was the number one agent in the Kennedy detail and he was forceful, matter of fact, and unequivocal to a complete stranger — the author — on the phone (luckily for history, Behn consented to being taped, as he died of cancer 4/21/93).
Mr. Behn's reputation was and is impeccable: former Agent Maurice G. Martineau told the author on 9/21/93: "No one that I can think of would have been better positioned to give you information than Jerry Behn ... (he was) as well informed as anyone I can think of that you could contact." Behn garnered the utmost respect from his colleagues that the author spoke with, making his unequivocal statements to the author that repudiated his own report of crucial importance. Remember, Behn, who served in the agency from 1939-1967 and who became the number one agent for JFK and LBJ, passed away over a decade before one of his men, Gerald Blaine, a "buck private," so to speak, who only served from 1959-1964, wrote his book, The Kennedy Detail. Behn is also on record stating that JFK's staff did not pose any unique problems versus other presidential staffs he dealt with.
Mr. Behn ended his report to Rowley by stating, "As late as November 18  ... he [JFK] told ASAIC Boring the same thing [or so Boring claimed]."
Assistant Special Agent In Charge (ASAIC) Floyd M. Boring, also not on the Texas trip, dealt primarily with the 11/18/63 Tampa, Florida trip in his report (dated 4/8/64; the first report to Rowley), while also mentioning the 7/2/63 Italy trip, alleging that President Kennedy made this request for both stops. Boring made the Florida trip in place of Mr. Behn in his position as the number two agent in Kennedy's Secret Service detail. Boring was also a respected veteran of the agency, serving from 1944 to 1967 and was decorated for valor regarding his role in protecting another president during an assassination attempt involving multiple shooters: the attempt on President Harry Truman at Blair House in Washington, D.C. on 11/1/50.
Then, in yet another alarming contradiction, Boring exclaimed to the author on 9/22/93:
"No, no, no-that's not true ... [JFK] was a very easy-going guy ... he didn't interfere with our actions at all. He actually – No, I told them ... He didn't tell them anything ... He just – I looked at the back and I seen these fellahs were hanging on the limousine – I told them to return to the car."
The author reiterated the point – Mr. Boring was still adamant that JFK never issued any orders to the agents. Remember, Boring is admitting it came from him, and not JFK! With regard to exactly who makes the decision regarding the agents' proximity to the President, Agent Jerry Parr told Larry King: "I would say it was the agent in charge who makes that decision." (Boring's cousin, Kimberly Ann Boring-Ruiz, wrote to the author on 12/30/10: "I also recognize that your point was that JFK never told the agents to get off of the car. I even heard Floyd's own voice tell you that JFK never interfered with their job.")
In a later interview conducted by the author on 3/4/94, Boring was equally as adamant with regard to the notion (alleged by Behn and Boring in their own reports, among others) that JFK ever asked that the agents remove themselves from the limousine: He said, "Well that's not true. That's not true. He was a very nice man; he never interfered with us at all [emphasis added]."
As with Behn, it is quite fortunate that Boring also consented to having the interview recorded, as he later did for his interview with the Assassination Records Review Board in 1996, as Boring was quite ill for a time and died at the age of 92 on 2/1/08, a solid two-and-a-half years before The Kennedy Detail saw the light of day. And, if that wasn't enough, Boring also wrote the author in November 1997 and said that President Kennedy "was very cooperative with the Secret Service [emphasis added]."
Finally, Boring, who makes no mention of any alleged desires by President Kennedy to restrict security during his two presidential library oral histories, told the JFK Library on 2/25/76: "... of all the administrations I worked with [FDR-LBJ], the president and the people surrounding the president were very gracious and were very cooperative. As a matter of fact, you can't do this type of security work without cooperation of the people surrounding the president."
To say this is of paramount importance, as it greatly refutes official history and his own report to Rowley, would not be an overstatement: Agent Boring just happened to be in charge of planning the Texas trip.
Assistant To the Special Agent in Charge (ATSAIC) Emory P. Roberts (on the Florida and Texas trips), one of three Shift Leaders on the Kennedy detail and the commander of the Secret Service follow-up car, deals exclusively with the 11/18/63 Tampa, Florida trip in his report (dated 4/10/64; the second one submitted to Rowley): Boring was Roberts sole source, via radio transmission from the limousine ahead of his follow-up vehicle, for the alleged removal of the agents. Since Roberts makes no mention of any presidential directive, his report is essentially, from an evidentiary standpoint, meaningless. Quite frankly, Roberts, who died on 10/8/73 without talking to anyone officially except William Manchester, is an agent this author finds very suspicious.
As Agent Tim McIntyre, one of Emory's agents in the follow-up car in Dallas, put it to author Seymour Hersh: "His shift supervisor, the highly respected Emory Roberts, took him aside [when he first joined the Kennedy detail in November of 1963, shortly before the assassination] and warned ... that 'you're going to see a lot of shit around here. Stuff with the President. Just forget about it. Keep it to yourself. Don't even talk to your wife...."
Roberts was nervous about it. Emory would say, McIntyre recalled with a laugh, "How in the hell do you know what's going on? He could be hurt in there. What if one bites him," in a sensitive area? Roberts 'talked about it a lot', McIntyre said ... McIntyre said he and some of his colleagues ... felt abused by their service on behalf of President Kennedy ... McIntyre said he eventually realized that he had compromised his law enforcement beliefs to the point where he wondered whether it was "time to get out of there. I was disappointed by what I saw." McIntyre repeated the Roberts story on ABC, with this comment included: "Prostitution, that's illegal. A procurement is illegal. And if you have a procurer with prostitutes paraded in front of you, then, as a sworn law enforcement officer, you're asking yourself, 'well, what do they think of us'?"
Roberts was the President's receptionist during the Johnson administration while still a member of the Secret Service, effectively replacing loyal JFK aide Dave Powers, receiving a Special Service Award from the Treasury Department for improving communications and services to the public in 1968. This was and is unheard of, as agents are supposed to be apolitical. They were officially employees of the Treasury Department (in 2003 the Service was transferred to the newly-created Department of Homeland Security). A year later, during the start-up of the Nixon administration in 1969, Roberts was promoted to the coveted position of Inspector at Secret Service headquarters, responsible for overseeing a number of protective procedures and policies. Roberts retired from the Secret Service in February 1973. (Emory Roberts' grandson John worked in the White House as aide to President George W. Bush and is now state Republican House policy director). Much more about Agent Roberts later on.
In any event, there are alarming parallels between what LBJ thought of Roberts and Bobby Baker, a man he referred to as his son (Baker was his longtime aide who was later embroiled in scandal, serving time in jail): "Bobby is my strong right arm. He is the last person I see at night and the first person I see in the morning." LBJ said this of Roberts on 11/23/68: "He greets me every morning and tells me goodbye every night."
There are more reasons not to trust Roberts and some of the other agents' after-the-fact reports: Roberts, in attempting to defend Agent Ready's lack of action in Dallas, wrote, "SA Ready would have done the same thing (as Agent Hill did) if motorcycle was not at President's corner of car", a blatant falsehood that went unchallenged by the government. Strange, but this posed no problem at all for Agent Donald J. Lawton on November 18, 1963, in Tampa (but unfortunately, like Agent Henry Rybka, Lawton was left at Love Field on the 22nd). Even Chief Rowley got in on the act. He told the Warren Commission:
"Mr. Hill, who was on the left side, responded immediately — as he looked toward the Presidential car, being on the left side, he scanned from left to right, and when he saw there was something happening to the President following a noise, he immediately jumped from his position to get aboard from his side. Mr. Ready scanned to the right so he was looking away from the President, because he was looking around from the right side. As a consequence, he wasn't aware of what was happening in the front. The car was also going on a turn at that time [emphasis added]."
The car was actually heading straight to the overpass.
In addition, the alleged speed and distance between the two cars (9-11 mph and 5 feet, not the 20-25 mph and 20-25 feet stated in Roberts reports) was also used as the pretext for the recall of Ready during the shooting. Even Inspector Thomas Kelley got into the act, later testifying, "The agents, of course, in the follow-up car were some distance away from the action." If that wasn't enough, as this author discovered back in 1991 when viewing slow motion black and white video footage of the Love Field departure, one can see agent Donald J. Lawton jogging at the rear of the limousine on JFK's side only to be recalled by none other than Emory P. Roberts, who rises in his seat in the follow-up car and, using his voice and several hand-gestures, orders Lawton to cease and desist. As the ARRB's Doug Horne wrote in a memo dated 4/16/96, based on viewing the aforementioned video shown during the author's presentation at a 1995 research conference (later to be shown during my appearance on the History Channel in 2003): "The bafflement of the agent who is twice waved off of the limousine is clearly evident.
This unambiguous and clearly observed behavior would seem to be corroboration that the change in security procedure which was passed to SA Clint Hill earlier in the week by ASAIC Floyd Boring of the Secret Service White House Detail was very recent, ran contrary to standing procedure, and that not everyone on the White House Detail involved in Presidential protection had been informed of this change." In regard to the Love Field video, former agent Larry Newman told me he "never saw that before" and, when questioned on the matter, said he didn't know all the particulars and that Tim McIntyre would be a good source on this. Agents Hill and Blaine stated in 2010 that Lawton told them he was saying, "I'm going to lunch- have a nice trip", a damage control statement so ludicrous it is unworthy of further comment.
Finally, Emory Roberts placed Agent Rybka in the follow-up car in his (initial) reports, only to "correct" the record later, after November 22. Incredibly, Emory Roberts made this same "mistake" twice: In the shift report of 11/22/63 (separate from the one depicted in the Commission's volumes), Roberts placed Rybka in the "center rear seat" between Hickey and Bennett. Rybka remained at Love Field.
All of this begs the question: were Rybka and Lawton the two agents who were supposed to ride on the rear of the limousine in Dallas?
In any event, instead of a shout of alarm, or orders to his agents to take protective action, Roberts did nothing to help the wounded President. Allen Dulles of the Warren Commission asked Chief Rowley: "Who would cover straight ahead?" Chief Rowley responded, "The man in the front seat [i.e., Roberts] has that responsibility." Agent John Ready was recalled by Agent Emory Roberts to the follow-up car when he started to react to the gunfire on 11/22/63. Mr. Roberts had ordered the men not to move even after recognizing the first shot as gunfire, while a host of others thought the noise was a mere firecracker or motorcycle backfire. Regarding Roberts' disturbing order not to move, agent Sam Kinney, the driver of the follow-up car, told the author that this was "exactly right." SA Ready was the agent who was assigned to JFK's side of the limousine, as Clint Hill was assigned to Jackie's side.
Special Agent (SA) John David "Jack" Ready's very brief report (dated 4/11/64; the third given to Rowley) deals exclusively with the 11/18/63 Tampa, Florida trip. However, Mr. Ready was not on this specific trip: Mr. Boring was, once again, his source for JFK's alleged request. Ready would not respond to written inquiries. I phoned him on 6/13/05 and asked if it was true that Floyd Boring said this, based on JFK's request. After confirming he wasn't on the Tampa trip, Ready stated, "Not on the phone. I don't know you from Adam. Can you see my point?" This author does not see the point. If there is nothing to hide and this alleged statement by the president was the "common knowledge" Ready claimed, would it not have been a simple matter for him to affirm what his report stated? Interestingly, Ready submitted yet another report dealing with the assassination itself: "There appeared to be no spectators on the right side of the road [Elm Street, where the assassination occurred]," a blatant falsehood easily debunked via the photographic record.
Excerpted from Survivor's Guilt by Vincent Michael Palamar. Copyright © 2013 Vincent Michael Palamara. Excerpted by permission of Trine Day LLC.
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