Date: Fri, 21 Aug 1998
AGENTS GO ON RECORD:
JFK DID NOT ORDER SECRET SERVICE OFF DALLAS LIMOUSINE
KENNEDY NEVER ORDERED SECURITY STAND-DOWN OR BUBBLE-TOP REMOVAL
PRESIDENTIAL SECURITY MYSTERIOUSLY "STRIPPED" AND OTHERWISE
COMPROMISED FOR FATAL MOTORCADE
SECRET SERVICE IGNORING OF ADVANCE WARNING OF THREATS DOCUMENTED
"HISTORY" CORRECTED 35 YEARS LATER BY PRIMARY SOURCES
by Vincent M. Palamara
(EDITOR'S NOTE: The following news story, by historian and researcher Vincent M. Palamara, sets the record straight regarding the long-repeated falsehood that President John F. Kennedy was somehow responsible for his own assassination because he ordered Secret Service agents off his open car and otherwise fatally undermined the performance of his bodyguards. Palamara, widely recognized as the preeminent expert on Secret Service personnel and procedures during the Kennedy era, has secured the first on-the-record comments from agents in the presidential detail of November 22, 1963 and other primary sources.)
These mutually corroborating stories shed important new light on the conspiracy to murder the president, and put an end to groundless, designed-to-mislead speculation that has plagued the assassination investigation from its inception and otherwise contributed to the obstruction of justice. C.R.D.)
The following former Secret Service agents told me in on-the-record interviews, and in no uncertain terms, that JFK never ordered the agents off the rear of his car, was not difficult to protect and was in fact extremely cooperative with the Secret Service:
Agents off the rear of limo
- Gerald A. Behn (chief of JFK's detail),
- Floyd M. Boring (#2 JFK detail agent),
- Arthur L. Godfrey (one of three shift leaders on the Texas trip),
- Donald J. Lawton (on the Dallas JFK detail),
- Rufus W. Youngblood (#2 agent on Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson's detail),
- Samuel A. Kinney (driver of the Secret Service follow-up car in Dallas),
- Robert I. Bouck (head of the Protective Research Section),
- Robert Lilley (a member of JFK's detail from election night until one month before Dallas),
- Maurice G. Martineau (agent in charge of the Chicago office) and
- John Norris (a member of the Uniformed Division)
Representative responses by former Secret Service agents and others to my question, "Did JFK ever 'order agents around', including having them dismount the rear area of the limousine?" were as follows:
Kinney (interviewed on 10/19/92, 3/5/94, 4/15/94) -- "Absolutely, positively no. He (JFK) had nothing to do with that, no, never ... President Kennedy was one of the easiest presidents to protect ... ninety nine percent of the agents would agree."
Lilley (interviewed 9/27/92, 9/21/93, 6/7/96) -- "I'm sure he did not. He was very cooperative with us once he became president. Basically, (his attitude was) 'whatever you guys want is the way it will be.'"
Godfrey (interviewed 5/30/96, 6/7/96; correspondence 11/24/97) -- (JFK) never ordered us to do anything. He was a very nice man ... cooperative. He never asked me to have my shift leave the limo when we were working it."
Behn (interviewed three times on 9/27/92) -- "I don't remember Kennedy ever saying that he didn't want anybody on the back of his car. I think if you watch the newsreel pictures and whatnot, you'll find agents on there from time to time."
A photo from the Tampa Tribune of November 19, 1963 -- three days before the assassination -- clearly supports Behn's contention. It depicts agents Donald Lawton and Charles Zboril on the rear of JFK's limousine in both urban and suburban areas, during a politically significant, high-visibility presidential visit to Florida.
One of the earliest and arguably most influential (to this day) misrepresentation of JFK's relationship to the Secret Service, and in particular to agents on his various details, can be found in "Death of a President," by William Manchester. One passage in particular exemplifies the lengths to which "respected" historians such as Manchester have gone, knowingly or otherwise, to falsify the record.
"Kennedy grew weary of seeing bodyguards roosting behind him every time he turned around, and in Tampa on November 18 (1963), just four days before his death, he dryly asked Agent Floyd Boring to 'keep those Ivy League charlatans off the back of the car.' Boring wasn't offended. There had been no animosity in the remark." (1988 Harper & Row/Perennial Library edition, pp. 37-38)
When asked to comment on the record about that portion of "Death of a President," Boring said that the statement attributed to him by Manchester is, to say the least, inaccurate. "He quotes me?" Boring asked incredulously. "I never told him (that JFK ordered agents off the limousine). (JFK) was a very nice man, never interfered with us at all." Indeed, Boring stated that he was not interviewed by Manchester-- a fact that is confirmed by the book's source notes.
Until publication of this article and its correction of the record by first-person sources, the Manchester-originating falsehoods, among others relating to the assassination in general and Secret Service in Dallas in particular, have been accepted and repeated as fact by a mainstream media bereft of alternative testimony.
The assessments of JFK as a "security-friendly" chief executive were confirmed during on-the-record interviews with JFK aide Dave Powers and White House photographer Cecil Stoughton (both in the Dallas motorcade), and with June Kellerman, widow of Roy H. Kellerman, the #3 agent on the JFK detail.
Removal of the bubble-top
Another controversy with direct bearing on the criminal investigation of the assassination relates to the origin of the order to remove the bubble-top from the presidential limousine. Kinney adamantly told me that he, and not the president, was solely responsible for the removal of the presidential limousine's clear roof on November 22, 1963. However, in testimony to the House Select Committee on Assassinations, agents Kellerman and Win Lawson spoke of their involvement in that critical decision.
Kinney passed away on July 21, 1997. This correspondent cannot be definitive regarding the number of individuals involved in the decision to remove the bubble-top. However, based upon thorough investigation of the issue, the strong possibility exists that Lawson, acting through Kellerman and/or Boring, either gave the order or was represented as having given it.
Reduction of motorcycle outriders
The frequently repeated story that JFK ordered a reduction in the presence of motorcycle outriders in the Dallas motorcade is in need of correction. Although presidential motorcades on all prior stops on the November, 1963 Texas trip normally included anywhere from three to six cyclists on each side of the JFK limousine (a fact confirmed by numerous press and official White House films and photographs), the plans for Dallas were altered by Secret Service officials to give JFK just four non-flanking outriders.
Thus the presidential limousine was opened to crossfire, and the perceptions of professionally trained eye- and ear-witnesses were eliminated from the scene of the crime. Former agents Kinney and Godfrey confirmed that JFK never gave direct or implicit instructions to remove motorcycles from security positions adjacent to his car. Further, films and photographs of prior Texas trip stops clearly show a heavy motorcycle outrider presence during motorcades, up to and including the Fort Worth motorcade of November 21, 1963.
The origin of the order to strip presidential security by reducing motorcycle-based security remains mysterious, and carries sinister implications.
Could Dallas have been deemed a sufficiently non-threatening environment so as to justify a stripping of presidential security? Not according to on-the-record comments from former agents Kellerman and Abraham Bolden (to the Warren Commission and this correspondent, respectively). They stated that they were at a loss to explain or otherwise find justification for the at least three separate checks for threats and harmful subjects in Dallas conducted by the Protective Research Section of the Secret Service that produced negative results.
Given the city's history, including the 1963 attacks there against Adlai Stevenson, the acknowledged presence in Dallas of radical, violence-prone Right Wing groups and anti-Castro operatives, and the knowledge, commonly and officially held within the Secret Service and the Kennedy administration, of ongoing, non-location-specific threats against the president, those results were, in the opinion of interviewees, highly unusual.
Marty Underwood, Democratic National Committee advance man for the Dallas trip, told this correspondent that he was hearing all sorts of assassination rumors just 18 hours prior to the actual shooting. Underwood said that he conveyed this information to JFK, who told him not to worry. Former agent Kinney further stated that there was an assassination threat in Florida on November 18, 1963. Former agent Bouck said that he too was aware of the active pre-Dallas threats.
Additional fatal flaws in presidential security
during theDallas trip include:
|MOTORCADE ROUTE -- The route of the presidential parade violated Secret Service protocol by involving turns of 90 and 120 degrees. During interviews with this correspondent, the route was strongly criticized by former DNC advance man Underwood and former uniformed Secret Service agent Norris. In addition, Jerry Behn, the # 1 agent in JFK's detail, told me that the Dallas route was changed from another, as yet unknown route -- a fact he offered, under oath and in executive session, to the House Select Committee on Assassinations. That testimony remains, as of the date of this publication, unpublished. Former agents Lawson and Kinney confirmed to me that alternate routes (two, according to Kinney) were available.|
PUBLICATION OF MOTORCADE ROUTE -- Although Secret Service Chief James J. Rowley adamantly denied to the Warren Commission that his agency was responsible for the newspaper printing of the Dallas motorcade route, I have traced this critical decision to LBJ aide Bill Moyers, who in turn attributes it to "the agent in charge of the Dallas trip."
THE RYBKA TAPE -- An important discovery was made by this correspondent during review of video of the Dallas trip shot by the ABC television affiliate in that city. During the start of the fatal motorcade at Love Field, Secret Service agent Henry J. Rybka begins to jog alongside the presidential limousine. He is immediately called back by his shift leader and commander of the follow-up car detail, Emory P. Roberts.
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Rybka's dismay and confusion is made manifest by his unambiguous body language: He throws up his arms several times before, during and after the follow-up car passes him. He was not being allowed to do his job -- and it was not JFK who was ordering the stand-down.
Despite the discovery by this correspondent of three reports to the contrary (two by Roberts) written on November 22, 1963, this newly discovered photographic evidence confirms that frustrated and vocal-in-his-objections Rybka did not enter the follow-up car and was left behind at the airport.
THE NON-PERFORMANCE OF AGENT ROBERTS -- The activities of Emory P. Roberts during as well as before the shooting are difficult to understand. As the first shots were fired, he recalled agent John D. Ready, who was attempting to run to the president's car. The initial explanation for this order -- the speed of and distance between the cars was too great for effective protective measures to be taken -- has been contradicted by photographic and eyewitness testimony.
And Kinney, the driver of the follow-up car who was seated beside Roberts, said that his shift leader, upon hearing what he later admitted he immediately knew to be a rifle shot, ordered his agents not to move.
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Thus, during the most critical seconds of the Dallas motorcade, John F. Kennedy was denied potentially life-saving protection as the result of a direct order given by a ranking member of the United States Secret Service.
During taped interviews and/or in signed correspondence, several agents and others stated for the record that they believe JFK was a victim of a conspiracy. These individuals include agents Kinney, Bolden, Martineau and Norris, and DNC advance man Underwood.
In addition, according to his widow and daughter, agent Kellerman "knew" that there was more to the assassination than has been officially acknowledged.
The suspect actions and inaction of Secret Service agents during the planning stage of the 1963 Texas trip, and in the Dallas motorcade on November 22, 1963, cry out for explanation.
Thanks to the courage of former Secret Service agents who told the truth for the record, defenders of the discredited Warren Commission theory of the assassination no longer can accuse JFK of complicity in his own murder. One fact remains clear: President Kennedy did not seal his own fate by ordering his guards to stand down.
That order originated elsewhere.
(BIOGRAPHICAL AND BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE -- Vincent M. Palamara is a graduate of Duquesne University. His research into the Secret Service aspects of the assassination of John F. Kennedy began in 1988. Since then he has contacted more than 35 former agents, White House aides and family members of their deceased colleagues. In 1997 he published "The Third Alternative -- Survivors' Guilt: The Secret Service and the JFK Murder" [Lancer Publications]. This book-length analysis, in which interviews appearing in this LancerLINE story are used at length, has garnered rave reviews from the magazines "Probable Cause" and "Lobster", and from the scholarly journal "The Fourth Decade." Mr. Palamara's articles have appeared in "The Fourth Decade," "The Investigator", "BackChannels", "Lobster" and "Kennedy Assassination Chronicles." He has been credited for research assistance in the following books: "High Treason 2: Killing the Truth," by Harrison Livingstone, 'Treachery in Dallas," by Walt Brown, "Bloody Treason," by Noel Twyman, "Assassination Science," edited by James Fetzer, "That Day in Dallas," by Richard Trask, and others. He is associate editor for "JFK Deep Politics Quarterly".
Mr. Palamara has presented papers at many of the major JFK assassination scholarly meetings. He has his own web page: www.njmetronet.com/jfkdpq/v/palamara.html "The Third Alternative" is available through JFK Lancer Productions[www.jfklancer.com].)
(LancerLINE REPUBLICATION AND INTERVIEW POLICIES -- This story may be republished, in whole or in part, without fees and with full permission by its author and LancerLINE, under the following conditions: Author [Palamara] and source [LancerLINE] credits must be included. Copyright and other ownership rights are retained by the author.