Story of U.S. Secret Service lapses a repeat of the past

The following is a guest posting from our co-Vice-president, Bruce Ricketts.

While not a Canadian story, I recently became aware of a Whistleblower story from the United States that deserves the attention of all Canadians, because it concerned the very Presidency of the U.S. and the actions exposed over 50 years ago were repeated recently.  The original transgression was a powerful one and the fact that it could be repeated so many years later shows that when we ignore history, we are destined to repeat it.

Abraham Bolden was first African American member of the Secret Service‘s Presidential Protective Division.  He was hand-picked by President John F. Kennedy.  Bolden spent only three months working for Kennedy, during which time he complained about the “separate housing facilities for black agents on southern trips”. At a meeting with James J. Rowley, the head of the Secret Service, Bolden criticized the “general laxity and the heavy drinking among the agents who were assigned to protect the President”. As a result of these complaints, Bolden was sent from Washington to the Chicago office and assigned to routine anti-counterfeiting duties.

According to Bolden, in October, 1963, the Chicago Secret Service office received a teletype from the Federal Bureau of Investigation warning that an attempt would be made to kill President Kennedy by a four-man Cuban hit squad armed with high-powered rifles when he visited the city on 2nd November.  Two suspects were arrested; however, they were eventually released.

Bolden later discovered that this information was being kept from the Warren Commission. When he complained about this he was warned “to keep his mouth shut”.  Bolden decided to travel to Washington where he telephoned Warren Commission Counsel J. Lee Rankin.  Bolden was arrested within 24 hours of that contact and taken back to Chicago where he was charged with discussing a bribe with counterfeiters. He was convicted on the testimony of two witnesses. Both were counterfeiters: one had been convicted in a case “made” by Bolden; the other was awaiting trial. Though, one of the witnesses admitted that he had perjured himself, Bolden was refused a re-trial and was forced to serve six years in federal penitentiary.   While in prison, when he tried to draw attention to his case, he was placed in solitary confinement.  Bolden had effectively been silenced.

Now in 2012, we are waiting to find out what will happen to Paula Reid, the African-American head of the Secret Service’s Miami bureau, who blew the whistle on the current scandal rocking the Secret Service concerning their general laxity and heavy drinking while President Obama was in Cartagena, Columbia.  (It is interesting to note that, similar to Bolden, Reid also sued the Secret Service for racial discrimination.)

If you want to learn more about Abraham Bolden, go to www.nightfright.com to listen to a two-part interview with him.  Or find his book, The Echo from Dealey Plaza.

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