Sunday, January 30, 2011
The Kennedy Detail - Kelly's Review
The Kennedy Detail by Gerald Blaine with Lisa McCubbin
– By William Kelly (Billkelly3@gmail.com)
The Kennedy Detail – JFK’s Secret Service Agents Break Their Silence by Gerald Blaine with Lisa McCubbin and a foreword by Clint Hill (Gallery/Simon & Schuster, 2010, 427 p.).
Gerald Blaine’s The Kennedy Detail (TKD) is a significant and insightful account of some of the men who were entrusted with the sacred responsibility of protecting the life of the President and failed. They failed to protect the President, failed to determine the truth as to what happened in Dallas, and now they fail to exonerate themselves and their agency for their dereliction of duty and the perversion of the truth.
The Kennedy Detail is an important new book because it’s an insider’s account of the activities of the Kennedy administration, reveals some Secret Service protocols, provides evidence of conspiracy and details how and why those agents failed to protect Kennedy. It does so while at the same time “CTA,” as former Agent Abraham Bolden puts it - covers their ass.
It is from a study of the Secret Service protocols and activities that we come to an understanding of how the assassination was allowed to occur, and from the personal interactions between the Kennedy family and the men who failed to protect his life, why it was allowed to happen.
Apparently the manuscript was not officially previewed and approved by the government censors since the book reveals Protective Research Section (PRS) protocols (See: PRS & DPD), previously unknown names behind the Secret Service codes for radio communications (1), rejects the official Warren Commission conclusion regarding the Single-Bullet-Theory (2), promotes convincing evidence of a shot from the front (3), and reveals that Agent Blaine kept copies of the advance reports that were supposed to have been intentionally destroyed and no longer exist. (4)
What I want to know is how come these issues don’t get any headlines in the mainstream media?
Instead we get the spin on how the President ordered the agents off the bumper of the limo, thus blaming the victim for his own murder (5), and Agent Blaine’s acknowledgement that he almost accidentally shot LBJ at his DC residence on the night of the assassination (6), both of which are non-issues, but the only ones that have thus far made news headlines. (7)
I would think that the agents bucking the official party line on the “Single-Bullet-Theory,” saying there is evidence of a shot from the front (“fist sized hole in back of head”), and being in possession of official records thought to have been destroyed would make much better headlines.
Some of these issues are also dealt with in the Discovery Channel documentary based on this book (8), as well as an hour long discussion Gerald Blaine, Clint Hill and Lisa McCubbin had with Gary Mack at the Sixth Floor museum in Dallas which was taped and aired on CSPAN, and where my suspicion that the manuscript was not previewed by the government was confirmed. (9)
But The Kennedy Detail isn’t just about the assassination of the President, it also gives a good, overall, general impression of what it was like to protect, or at least try to protect a popular president who had also irritated the most radical right wing conservatives in the country –extremists who physically threatened him, and eventually killed him, so they didn’t have an easy job.
This isn’t the first time agents have “broken their silence” and talked, as many agents talked to Vince Palamara and a few talked to Seymour Hersh and revealed how some of his bodyguards deeply despised JFK.
This book however, in its pronounced fondness for the president and his family, is in stark contrast to the Dark Side of Camelot, in which Hersh convinced four members of the Secret Service Kennedy detail to “break their silence” and reveal some of the more trashy details of Kennedy’s extra-marital dalliances, as well as their personal distain for him. (10)
So this book isn’t the first insider’s account, but it is a good addition to what is already on the public record. This book was written and published in response to three other conspiracy books that have been written about the Secret Service and the assassination, one by former SS agents Abraham Bolden’s Dealey Plaza Echoes (11), Vince Palamara’s Survivor’s Guilt (12), and From A Window With A High Powered Rifle, by former FBI agent Don Adams.
While The Kennedy Detail still maintains the fantasy that the assassination was the work of one lone, deranged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald is hardly mentioned, and is simply dismissed as fitting “the classic profile of an assassin driven by a fanatical desire for recognition,” which is clearly contradicted by the fact that Oswald denied having killed anyone. So much for the “fanatical desire for recognition.” (13)
The whole idea that the institution of the Secret Service continues to officially proclaim that the President was murdered by a lone deranged gunman, yet fail to show how Lee Harvey Oswald was psychotic, cuts to the heart of the problem, and that political assassination will remain a serious national security threat until it is recognized that their accused assassin was actually the Patsy, and that the assassination was a political act to eliminate Kennedy by killing him. That those actually responsible for the crime got away with it and escaped justice is now a sidebar to the fact that it has yet to be determined exactly how the assassination actually transpired.
If elimination was the motive for the murder at Dealey Plaza, the murder can be understood, not in following the alleged assassin, but from a study and analysis of the victim. (14)
In such elimination murders, crime scene investigators know that the killer is just a pawn who is removed from the actual sponsors of the killing by layers of “buffers,” as Joe Valachi called them, or “cut-outs,” as they are referred to by intelligence officers. Therefore, it is from a study of President Kennedy, and not Oswald the Patsy, that we discover who killed him.
Since the assassination must be viewed as part of an overall Big Picture that also includes the entire Kennedy administration, The Kennedy Detail is valuable because it encompasses it all, at least in part, and provides some colorful details of the presidential trips, including descriptions of visits to Berlin, Ireland, Italy, India and Mexico City.
Domestically, the Kennedy family spent much of its time, not only at the White House, but at Glenn Ora and Wexford, the rural weekend retreats in Middleburg, Virginia, in Palm Springs, where JFK went to play golf with the boys, Palm Beach, where the Kennedy family maintained a bayside home, and New York City, where Kennedy had a permanent residence at the Carlyle Hotel. Each destination had unique security considerations and each gave them different challenges, most successfully met, but it is the one failure for which they will be remembered.
DALLAS AND TAMPA ADVANCE REPORTS
As this book intimidates, the presidential trips planned for Chicago and Tampa earlier in November, 1963 were somehow connected to the assassination in Dallas. These were trips that were so significant and sensitive that the advance reports had to be officially destroyed by the Secret Service after the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) requested them. These are the same reports that Blaine now says he saved and still has in his possession. (15) The National Archives and Records Administration should recover them and make them available to the public as the JFK Act requires.
Since this book isn’t written in the first person, quoting the agents as their own personal narrative, it is apparent that Blaine, Hill and fellow agents told their stories to Lisa McCubbin, and she wrote the book, lacing it with assassination records released under the JFK Act. And it is to McCubbin’s credit that the book is easy to read, though it is filtered through her reporting.
Although most of what Abraham Bolden had said about the Chicago and Tampa plots to kill Kennedy has been independently confirmed (See: Jim Douglas, JFK & the Unspeakable), Blaine has a bug up his butt about Bolden, and in order to refute him, pulls out the missing and reputedly destroyed advance reports that no one else has seen.
As McCubbin puts it, “It had been a long time, but Blaine was compelled to pull out his files to make sure his memory was serving him correctly. Like any good investigator, he had kept all his personal reports for all these years. Every time they moved to a new house, with his various jobs, (his wife) Joyce had asked him why couldn’t he throw all that stuff away, but he’d insisted the boxes of files were important. He found the box from 1963 and started going through it. It was all there. Pages and pages of information that refuted all the claims this guy (former Agent Abraham Bolden) was making. He was holding in his hands the Tampa advance report that had supposedly been destroyed.”(16)
The National Archives and Records Administration and those responsible for the JFK Assassination Records Collection should be interested in knowing that Blaine has the advance reports for Chicago and Tampa that the Secret Service claims were intentionally destroyed after the ARRB requested them. And while Blaine claims these records refute the contentions of former agent Abraham Bolden that there were significant connections between the Chicago and Tampa trips and what happened in Dallas, those records should be released to the public so we can make up our own minds about what they say.
While the official records are important, it is from the personal recollections and anecdotes that make The Kennedy Detail fascinating. The book is chock full of such interesting stories about the personal interactions between the agents and the Kennedy family. For instance, there’s the time JFK beaned Blaine on the head with a golf ball [p.89]. Then the day at Hyannis Port when Kennedy sent his escort agents out sailing, knowing they would flip over and get drenched. And totally fascinating is the home movie Jackie made of the president’s assassination, complete with Secret Service agents jumping out of the car to chase the assassin, an eerie premonition of what was to come.(17)
But the two stories that seem to be getting the most attention concern whether Kennedy ordered the agents off the bumper and the time Blaine almost accidentally shot LBJ at the Elms - LBJ’s DC residence, on the evening of the assassination. From these two incidents – the president’s request for agents to stay off the bumper, and the security at the Elms, we can see the relationship between the orders given and how they were carried out.
IVY LEAGUE CHARLATINS
As related in William Manchester’s book The Death of the President, Agent Blaine claims that he was told by the head of the White House Detail, Special Agent In Charge (SAIC) Jerry Behn, that while in Tampa four days before the assassination, the president told Behn “To keep Ivy League Charlatans off the bumper, back there.” (18)
To Behn, this was taken as a request they didn’t officially enter into any report, but orally passed along (over the radio) to other agents, such as Blaine and Hill, which resulted in the agents being ordered off the bumper of the presidential limo for the Dallas motorcade from Love Field to Dealey Plaza. The order given and the result being a dead president.
Then in the hours after the assassination we hear on the extant Air Force One radio transmissions, an order from Air Force One to the White House for a new secure telephone circuit to be put in LBJ’s private residence, the Elms, where the new president will spend the night. And it is Blaine at the other end of the order who is assigned to go to the Elms and secure the premises while the WHCA puts in the secure telephone lines. (19)
One of the most useful aspects of The Kennedy Detail is the appendix, which includes the radio codes names for most of the major players (ie. JFK is Lancer and Behn is Duplex), as well as the scenes of the crimes – AF1 (Angel), Andrews AFB (Acrobat) , the White House (Crown) and the Elms (Valley), which helps us decode and make sense of the Air Force One radio conversations and transcripts that we have. [See: Transcript and link to audio at Mary Ferrell Achives.]
INCIDENT AT THE ELMS
Blaine also explains the levels of security that were set up at the Elms, with the DC Police setting the first line of defense on the street, then a military presences with a National Guard unit stationed around the perimeters of the property, while the Secret Service were responsible for the house itself. (20) According to Blaine they set four men at each corner of the residence and they rotated clockwise every half hour in order to keep sharp. This is in contrast to the White House Oval Office door guard duty, which Blaine recounts as very boring, instigating the responsible agents to spend their time counting the floor tiles.
So when the new President approaches Blaine from an unexpected direction, apparently walking around his spacious backyard, Blaine almost shoots him with his cocked and ready Thompson submachine gun. Although Blaine doesn’t speculate, one wonders where the President was coming from? I’d like to know who his neighbors were and if he was visiting a confidential confidant, as he occasionally visited his former neighbor J.E. Hoover before he moved to the Elms.
THE MONDAY MORNING MEETING
Then it does seems odd, in the circumstances that Blaine puts it, that shortly after the President has been assassinated and he almost accidentally kills the new president for sneaking up on him in the dark, Blaine is called to the office of the director on Monday morning. It’s the day of the funeral, and he expects the worse, a dressing down for the machine gun incident at the Elms. But when he gets there, he is surprised to find all of the top Secret Service officials there – except Kellerman, the agent responsible for Dallas. And the topic isn’t about him almost shooting LBJ with the machine gun at the Elms. Instead, it’s about the Tampa trip and JFK’s “Ivy League Charlatans” remark for the Secret Service to back off the bumper.
One wonders whether or not there are official records, minutes or reports of this meeting, because it sure sounds fascinating. (21)
Although played out of proportion in the mainstream press, the subject of the agents on the bumper was a rather odd topic to be discussing on the day of the funeral, rather than the more substantive issues like how the President was killed, who did it and why.
It is highly unlikely the top brass of the Secret Service would hold such a meeting just to discuss the “Ivy League Charlatans” and the agents on the bumper issue. They must have made a lot of important, strategic decisions at that meeting, including whether or not they were to accept the guilt of the now dead chief suspect Lee Harvey Oswald, and whether or not he was to be considered as part of a Cuban Commie conspiracy or branded a Lone Nut Case.
The implications of JFK ordering them off the bumper may be a good excuse as to why they failed in their responsibility, and CTA - Cover Their Ass, but it doesn’t answer the question of how and why JFK was not protected from being shot in the head by a sniper with a high powered rifle. Did JFK also tell them not to bother checking the open windows in the buildings on the parade route so he would be a sitting duck for such snipers?
You would think that they would be especially on guard for a sniper attack since the Walker shooter was still on the loose, the Chicago plot entailed a sniper and as detailed in Don Adams’ book, an FBI informant had reported that a right wing extremist (Milteer) had said the president would be killed by a sniper from a high rise building. Then there were the two kids who had been found with a rifle in an office building overlooking where the President would speak in Fort Worth that morning, and JFK’s acknowledgement to both his personal aides and Rowley, the head of the Secret Service, that if someone wanted to kill him with a rifle, nobody could stop them. (22) With so many hints of a possible sniper attack, certainly such a scenario had to be seriously considered.
KELLERMAN’S RELIEF – No Threat Suspects in Dallas?
Another significant aspect of The Kennedy Detail is the insight it gives into the Protective Research Section (PRS), the department of the Secret Service responsible for identifying threats to the president, and countering them.
When it came to Dallas, Gerry Behn - the Special Agent In Charge of the Kennedy Detail decided to take a vacation and in his place sent Special Agent Roy Kellerman (aka Digest) to lead the Texas trip.
As part of the routine, before leaving for Dallas SA Kellerman checked in with the PRS to get the files on potential threats in the area, but was told there were no identified potential threats in the Dallas area at all.
According to The Kennedy Detail, Kellerman “felt relieved” at this news. (23)
But I can assure you for certain that Kellerman most certainly didn’t feel relieved. How could Kellermen possibly feel relieved? How could he feel relieved that the PRS found no possible threats in Dallas when the media had reported that US Ambassador Adlai Stevenson was physically attacked by an unruly Dallas crowd a week earlier? And if they weren’t Secret Service, then who were those guys who were reviewing the television news reels of the incident in order to try to identify those suspects? (24)
And in response to the criticism of the FBI in the aftermath of the assassination, J. E. Hoover himself wrote a memo to the Chief Rowley of the Secret Service reminding him that the FBI did tip them off about a Dallas police informant who reported on a college student who had threatened the President.(25) This informant was run by the Dallas Police unit that was composed entirely of US Army Reserve officers led by Captain Gannaway and Lt. Revill.(26)
As the late Professor Philip H. Melanson concludes in his book The Secret Service – The Hidden History of an Enigmatic Agency, (27) the PRS depends on local police intelligence units to provide them with the basic information on potential threats and suspects, and in Dallas that would have been the responsibility of the Dallas Police Department’s Criminal Intelligence Section of the Special Services Bureau, run by Gannaway and Revill. (28) [See: The SS PRS and the DPD SSBCIS]
Blaine didn’t enjoy the dry, daily grind of guarding the president and his family, but instead liked to do the advance work and run down the leads on potential threats provided by the PRS. He says he really liked working for the Secret Service, but after JFK was killed, Blaine says on his web site (but not in the book) that “LBJ was no JFK.”
And indeed he wasn’t, and he didn’t treat the Secret Service with the same respect that JFK did, despite calling them “Ivy League Charlatans.”
LBJ didn’t trust the Secret Service one bit, and personally asked J. E. Hover to provide an FBI agent to be at his side whenever he traveled aboard AFI, and requested a specific agent – Orrin Bartlett, who was the FBI’s liaison to the Secret Service at the time of the assassination. (29)
LBJ didn’t like the Secret Service agents being around all the time, and seemed to enjoy pissing on the legs of an agent. When the agent told LBJ what he was doing, LBJ reportedly replied, “That’s my perogative.” (30)
And so within a year Agent Blaine left the Secret Service and at the suggestion and recommendation of former LBJ congressional aide Jack Hight, took a job at IBM. Although Hight supposedly spoke highly of IBM, he didn’t stick around there long himself, and moved on to other companies and is now CEO of Modus Operandi. (31)
I had hoped that since he went from the Secret Service and the Kennedy Detail to IBM, Blaine might have had some answers to some outstanding questions related to IBM and the assassination. For instance, two IBM employees were with Johnny Brewer in the shoe store on Jefferson Blvd. when Tippit’s alleged assassin ducked into the shoe store alcove to avoid a police cruiser. Who were those guys and why were they never identified or questioned?(32)
And then there’s the report that there was a moving film or video of the assassination on a television in the Dallas IBM office on the afternoon of the assassination, an incident never confirmed or explained.(33)
But Blaine doesn’t get into either of those incidents.
Instead he describes how he assisted IBM in developing their top line computers that have been used by the intelligence agencies, FBI and Secret Service, yet doesn’t explain how all the information they compiled can’t seem to keep them from keeping assassins from killing important people.(34)
And as far as I can tell, they will never figure it out until they acknowledge that President Kennedy wasn’t the victim of a deranged lone nut case, and was killed in the course of a covert intelligence operation, and the perpetrators remain unknown.
The Kennedy Detail is an important book that fills in many of the blank pieces to the Dealey Plaza puzzle. It provides evidence of conspiracy and other crimes, presents new leads that can be pursued, adds a few new, living witnesses to the proceedings, and identifies important records that were supposedly destroyed.
But rather than putting an end to the nagging doubts people have about the assassination, it presents more questions than it answers.
[Bill Kelly can be reached at email@example.com]
1) Appendix, The Kennedy Detail, p. 405-408
2) TKD, p. 214-216. First shot hit Kennedy in back, second shot hit Connally and third shot hit Kennedy in the head.
3) TKD, p. 217. “Slumped across the seat, President Kennedy lay unmoving, a bloody, gaping, fist-sized hole clearly visible in the back of his head.” Also see: TKD, p. 266. “All Clint could see was that the right rear portion of President Kennedy’s head was completely gone.” As all forensic pathologists and crime scene investigators know, entrance wounds are small and exit wounds are large.
4) TKD, p. 357. “He found the box from 1963 and started going through it all. It was there. Pages and pages of information….He was holding in is hands the Tampa advance reports that had supposedly been destroyed.”
5) TKD, p. 285-289. Monday morning meeting with SS Chief James Rowley, re: Ivy League charlatans. “Halfback, Lancer requests the Ivy League charlatans drop back to your location,” off the bumper. “We cannot say that the president’s assassination was caused by his own actions – that he was somehow at fault.”
6) TKD, p. 264. “He was on post at the rear corner of President Johnson’s large two-story French chateau-style house close to the back door…Instinctively Blaine picked up the Thompson submachine gun and activated the bolt on top….Blaine’s heart pounded, his finger firmly on the trigger. Let me see your face, you bastard. The next instant there was a face to go with the footsteps. The new President of the United States, Lyndon Baines Johnson, had just rounded the corner, and Blaine had the gun pointed directly at the man’s chest. In the blackness of the night, Johnson’s face went completely white. A spit second later, Blaine would have pulled the trigger.” Although Blaine asks, “What the hell was he coming around the wrong way for?” - he doesn’t ask where LBJ was coming from, and whether or not he was just taking a piss or visiting a neighbor.
7) TKD makes news headlines: Ex-Agent Almost Shoots LBJ – CBS News [http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:DU8AqHpC4dwJ:www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/10/20/national/main6974911.shtml+The+Kennedy+Detail+almost+shoots+LBJ&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us]
The Kennedy Detail: JFK ordered agents off the bumper. Discovery News.
“Four days before the fateful 1963 motorcade in Dallas,…the young president had requested that his secret service agents give him some space.”
8) The Discovery Channel program based on the The Kennedy Detail.
9) The Sixth Floor program – Gary Mack interviews Lisa McCubbin, Gerald Blaine and Clint Hill.
10) Hersh, Seymore. The Dark Side of Camelot.
11) Bolden, Abraham. Echoes from Dealey Plaza.
12) Palamara, Vincent. Survivor’s Guilt.
13) TKD, p. 255. Re: False portrait of Oswald as having “fanatical desire for recognition.”
14) Kessler, William F. and Weston, Paul, The Detection of Murder (1953 Greenberg). “Professional criminals do not usually kill for any other motive than elimination…Elimination killings…are truly difficult to unravel...In over 90 percent of these killings the persons who have the motive for the killing never handle the gun that fires the fatal shots, nor drive a car that is used in the killing. They are involved in the conspiracy and are guilty of murder because they procured the ‘trigger men’ who did the actual killing, but they have an alibi to prove they were many miles away from the scene of death at the time of the homicide….”
15) Secret Service Destroys Records. ARRB Final Report.
16) TKD, p. 357. See: Quote Note #4).
17) Film, by Knudsen. P. 130-131.
18) Manchester, William. Death of a President. (Harper & Row)
19) See: AFI Radio Transmissions; Transcript.
20) TKD, Blaine, Gerald, TKD
21) Secret Service Monday morning meeting, Nov. 25, 1963. Rowley, Blaine, et al.
22) Rowley, memo, re: JFK statement on sniper; JFK Aide O’Donnell.
23) TKD, Blaine, Gerald, (p. y) re: “Kellerman relieved” no PRS suspects.
24) Wise, Wes. Stevenson attack suspects on film; TKD, pictures in pockets of agents at Trade Mart.
25) Hover memo to Rowley, re: JBS threat suspect, w/photo.
26) Gannaway, Revill, reports on JBS threat suspect.
27) Melanson, Phil. History of Secret Service, re: DPD SSB CIU provides local information on suspects from informants.
28) Melenson, Phil. History of the Secret Service. DPD SSB CIU.
29) DeLoach, Cartha, Oral History, LBJ Library.
30) TKD, re: IBM, Jack Hight.
31) Jack Hight bio.
32) IBM employees at shoe store.
33) Film of assassination on TV at IBM office.
34) TKD; Blaine at IBM.