Friday, July 6, 2012

Secret Service Records Previously Thought Destroyed Turned Over to NARA

Secret Service Records Thought Destroyed Located – By William Kelly

Copies of Secret Service records, thought to be among those files destroyed by the Secret Service in 1995, have been located among the personal records of former agent Gerald Blaine and turned over to the NARA for public release.

Like the Air Force One radio tapes found among the estate files of General Chester Clifton, these records from Blaine’s papers offer more proof that there are still previously unknown records out there that can be located, added to the public record and fill in the missing pieces to the Dealey Plaza puzzle.

Gerald Blaine, author of the book “The Kennedy Detail,” which is being made into a major motion picture, first called attention to the record in his book.  In “The Kennedy Detail” Blaine said that he has boxes of copies of the Secret Service Advance Reports for Tampa and Chicago that the Secret Service said were destroyed after the ARRB requested them.

“The Kennedy Detail” (p.357): “It had been a long time, but Blaine was compelled to pull out his files to make sure is 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 out, but he’d insisted the boxes 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 (Abraham Bolden) was making. He was holding in his hands the Tampa advance report that had supposedly been destroyed.”

After notifying the NARA of Mr. Blaine’s remarks, I received a note:

“Mr. Kelly, I just wanted to let you know that last week we received a file of records from Mr. Blaine, some of which document the Tampa trip.  We will be conducting archival processing (re-foldering/boxing) of the files and adding them to the Collection in the near future. We appreciate the heads up that led us to contact Mr. Blaine.”

Chief, Special Access and FOIA Branch
National Archives at College Park

As written into the JFK Act law: "SEC. 4. PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY ASSASSINATION RECORDS COLLECTION AT THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES AND RECORDS ADMINISTRATION, (b) DISCLOSURE OF RECORDS- All assassination records transmitted to the National Archives for disclosure to the public shall be included in the Collection and shall be available to the public for inspection and copying at the National Archives within 30 days after their transmission to the National Archives."

It should be noted however, that the documents Blaine turned over to the NARA consists of a ream of papers only about an inch thick, and do not represent the two boxes of material that he Secret Service destroyed in 1995, though they do contain references to the Tampa trip and could be some of the records previously thought destroyed. 

The significance of the Tampa trip as it relates to what happened at Dealey Plaza cannot be overemphasized, as Blaine himself recounted in his book that on the night and early morning the next day, while he guarded the  back yard of LBJ's residence The Elms at 2:30 am, he encountered the new President walking around out side and almost shot him with his Thompson submachine gun. The next day, when called to a special meeting by the director of the Secret Service, Blaine thought he would be questioned about his nocturnal encounter with the President. Instead, he was quite surprised to find out the meeting was about the Tampa trip, which perplexed Blaine since the President had just been killed in Dallas. Why did the Tampa trip require a special meeting of top Secret Service officials on the day after Dallas? 

In “Legacy of Secrecy” (p. 766, Counterpoint Press, 2008) Lamar Waldron and Thom Hartmann called attention to these records when they wrote, “In November 1994, the authors informed the Review Board very generally about JFK’s 1963 plans for a coup in Cuba, without revealing Almeida, and about the attempt to kill JFK in Tampa four days before Dallas. Six weeks later, the Review Board learned that – in violation of the JFK Act – the Secret Service had just destroyed files covering JFK’s Tampa trip, and other important files. That destruction would not become public knowledge until 1998, and even today, most members of Congress remain unaware of it.”

Doug Horne, the chief analyst for military records of the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) wrote more extensively about the deliberate destruction of Secret Service records in his book, “Inside the ARRB” (2009, Volume V, p. 1451)



In 1995, the Review Board Staff became aware that the U.S. Secret Service had destroyed protective survey reports related to John F. Kennedy’s Presidency, and that they had done so well after the passage of the JFK Records Act, and well after having been briefed by the National Archives (NARA) on the Act’s requirements to preserve all Assassination Records from destruction until the ARRB had made a determination that any such proposed destruction was acceptable

I reported to work at the ARRB on August 7, 1995, and I still distinctly recall that this controversy was raging full force during the first two weeks I was on the job. I recall both General Counsel Jeremy Gunn and Executive Director David Marwell being particularly upset; they were seriously considering holding public hearings in which the Secret Service officials responsible for said destruction would be called to account and castigated, in an open forum, with the media present. The thinking at the time was that doing so would: (a) cause the Secret Service to take the Review Board and the JFK Act seriously; and (b) send a warning to other government agencies, such as the FBI and CIA, to also take the Review Board and the JFK Act seriously, lest they, too be dragged into public hearings that would cause great discomfiture and professional embarrassment.

Eventually – and unfortunately – tempers cooled and no public hearings were held. I suspect that Board Chair Jack Tunheim played a major role in finessing the matter; presumably, the Board Members believed that since the ARRB was still in its first year of its three-year effort to locate and review assassination records, that we would get more out of the Secret Service in the future with honey, than with vinegar. Stern official letters levying charges and counter-charges were exchanged; a face-to-face meeting between high-level officials of the ARRB and Secret Service was held; tempers cooled; and no public hearings were ever held. Relations with the Secret Service remained testy throughout the remainder of the ARRB’s lifespan. It was my impression, during my ongoing discussions with my fellow analysts on the Secret Service Records team for the next three years (from September 1995 to September 1998), that the Secret Service never “loosened up” and reached a comfortable working accommodation with the ARRB like the FBI, the CIA, and the Pentagon (or, at least the Joint Staff Secretariat) did. The Secret Service and the ARRB remained wary adversaries for four years.

The Review Board itself consciously soft-pedaled the dispute in its Final Report, devoting only one paragraph (and virtually no details whatsoever) to the incident, on page 149:

Congress passed the JFK Act in 1992. One month later, the Secret Service began its compliance efforts. However, in January 1995, the Secret Service destroyed Presidential protection survey reports for some of President Kennedy’s trips in the fall of 1963. The Review Board learned of the destruction approximately one week after the Secret Service destroyed them, when the Board was drafting its request for additional information. The Board believed that the Secret Service files on the President’s travel in the weeks preceding this murder would be relevant.

And that was it – that was the only mention of the entire imbroglio in the Final Report of the Assassinations Records Review Board. My intention here is to give the reader as much additional and relevant, information as I can at this writing, 14 years later. I was never “on the inside” of this problem, but I do have a correspondence file of letters exchanged, and will quote from them liberally to give the reader a sense of what it feels and sounds like when two bureaucracies go to war inside the Beltway. This is of more than mere academic interest, since the evidence presented in this chapter has shown that several Secret Service officials on the White House Detail were complicit in both the President’s death – due to willful actions that greatly lessened the physical security around President Kennedy during the Dallas motorcade – and in the coverup of the damage to the limousine, which if left in its original damaged condition, would have proved JFK was caught in a crossfire, and therefore killed by a conspiracy.

A Summary of the Records Destroyed by the Secret Service in January of 1995.

The Protective Survey Reports destroyed by the Secret Service in January 1995 were part of a group of records transferred by the Secret Service to the General Services Administration’s Washington National Records Center in Suitland, Maryland on August 7, 1974 under accession number 87-75-4. The instructions on the SF-135 (“Records Transmittal and Receipt” form) were: “Retain permanently for eventual transfer to the National Archives or a Presidential Library.” There were six boxes transferred under the accession number, and the two that were destroyed in January of 1995 contained the following files:

Box 1 Protection of the President (John F. Kennedy)

-         Andrews Air Force Base 1961 (Arrivals and Departures)
-         Andrews Air Force Base 1962 (Arrivals and Departures)
-         Andrews Air Force Base 1963 (Arrivals and Departures)
-         Arlington National Cemetery
-         Camp David
-         The Capitol
-         Churches
-         D.C. National Guard Armory
-         D.C. Stadium
-         Departures from South Grounds
-         Dulles International Airport
-         Embassies
-         Executive Office Building
-         Golf Clubs
-         Griffith Stadium
-         Homes of Friends
-         International Inn
-         Mayflower Hotel (three folders, for 1961-63)
-         National Press Club
-         Other Places Folders (#s 1-4, from January 1961-December of 1962)

Box 6 Protective Survey Reports for the following trips:

-         Duluth, Minnesota (9-24-63)
-         Ashland, Wisconsin (9-24-63)
-         Billings, Montana (9-25-63)
-         Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming (9-25-63)
-         Cheyenne, Wyoming (9-25-63)
-         Grand Forks, North Dakota (9-25-63)
-         Laramie, Wyoming (9-25-63)
-         Salt Lake City, Utah (9-26-63)
-         Great Falls, Montana (9-26-63)
-         Hanford, Washington (9-26-63)
-         Tongue Point, Oregon (9-27-63)
-         Redding, California (9-27-63)
-         Tacoma, Washington (9-27-63)
-         Palm Springs, California (9-28-63)
-         Las Vegas, Nevada (9-28-63)
-         Heber Springs, Arkansas (10-3-63)
-         Little Rock, Arkansas (10-3-63)
-         University of Maine (10-19-63)
-         Boston, Massachusetts (10-26-63)
-         Amherst, Massachusetts (10-26-63)
-         Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (10-30-63)
-         Chicago, Illinois (11-2-63): Three Folders [TRIP CANCELLED]
-         New York City (11-8-63)

In addition, one folder of vital records was missing from Box 2 in this accession, titled: “Other Places Folder #6” (for the period July-November 1963)

Clearly, withholding these two boxes of materials from any investigator would have kept that investigator from learning about normal protective procedures an concerns related to everyday activities throughout the Kennedy Presidency, and would furthermore have denied the investigator comparative knowledge regarding how JFK was protected in numerous venues just prior to the trip to Texas. Perhaps the reader can better understand now why Jeremy Gunn and David Marwell were so upset with the Secret Service. The records were destroyed in the fourth month following the establishment of the ARRB, and furthermore had originally been tagged: “Retain permanently for eventual transfer to the National Archives or a Presidential Library.” Their destruction occurred long after the Secret Service was initially briefed on the requirements of the JFK Records Act in December of 1992 by the NARA staff, and required willful action by officials within that agency; it was hardly an accident. The Secret Service clearly didn’t want the ARRB poking into its past procedures and practices; the agency had been the recipient of severe criticism in the HSCA’s 1979 Report, and apparently did not wish to repeat that experience, or to have its sealed records released to the Archives for placement in the JFK Records Collection, for all JFK researchers to peruse in the future.

Chronology of Letters Exchanged Between the ARRB and the U.S. Secret Service Over the Destruction of Protective Survey Reports

On July 25, 1995 Review Board Chairman John R. Tunheim sent a powerfully worded letter to the Director of the Secret Service registering the Review Board’s displeasure about its recent discovery that the two boxes in question had been destroyed over a half a year previously. A letter from Board Chair Jack Tunheim (rather than David Marwell or Jeremy Gunn) addressed directly to the Head of the Secret Service (instead of to the administrative officials with whom the ARRB staff had been dealing) was a powerful signal that the Review Board was immensely displeased and took the matter very seriously. Some key passages in Jack Tunheim’s letter are quoted below:

            In January of this year, Dr. Jeremy Gunnn of the Review Board staff requested of John Machado and Ann Parker of the Secret Service that the six boxes in the accession be made available for his review to evaluate the importance of the material for the JFK Collection in the Archives. Although four of the boxes were made available, we were not provided with boxes (1) and (6), the two most important boxes. On February 7, 1995 – and several times thereafter – Mr. Machado and Ms. Parker informed us that the Federal Records Center “could not locate” the two missing boxes….Although we repeatedly were told that special requests for these records had been made at the Federal Records Center, Ms. Ann Parker of the Secret Service finally informed Dr. Joan Zimmeman of the Review Board staff, on July 19, 1995 – six months after we had first requested the boxes – that the records had in fact been destroyed in January of this year at approximately the same time that we had requested them.

Tunheim’s letter requested full accounting of what had happened to the two boxes; a listing of all other Secret Service records pertaining to President Kennedy that had ever been destroyed; and instructed the Secret Service not to destroy any records of any kind relating to President Kennedy or his assassination without first allowing the Review Board and its staff to review them for relevance. For added emphasis a copy of the letter was sent to the Chief Counsel of the U.S. Secret Service, as well as to John Machado, the apparent culprit who presumably gave the orders to destroy the records.

The Secret Service made an immediate attempt to de-escalate the matter by assigning an official named W. Ralph Basham, its Administrative Director of Administration, to reply. Basham’s reply, dated July 31, 1995, was a five-and-one-half page single spaced attempt at obfuscation, the administrative equivalent of a Senate filibuster, to use a legislative analogy. In addition to saying, in some many words, ‘Hey, we didn’t do anything wrong, we were following routine destruction procedures established years ago,’ the Secret Service attempted to wiggle out of its predicament by simultaneously suggesting that perhaps the destruction was really the Review Board’s fault because it was not in receipt of the ARRB’s expanded definition of what constituted an “assassination record” until February 1995, after the records were destroyed. Perhaps most disturbing of all was the narrow definition that the Secret Service had used commencing in December 1992 (following its NARA beefing on the JFK Records Act) to define what constituted an assassination record: namely, White House detail shift reports only for the period November 18, 1963 to November 24, 1963. Mr. Basham also tried to downplay the significance of the missing Chicago protective survey reports for the cancelled November 2, 1963 trip (during which conspirators had planned to assassinate President Kennedy) by writing:

The folder concerning the canceled trip to Chicago would only have contained a preliminary survey report, if any document at all, since final reports are not conducted when a trip is cancelled. This report, if in fact it was even in the prepared folder, would have been of limited scope. [Author’s comments: there were 3 folders on the cancelled Chicago trip, not one, and this attempt to portray the Chicago file as one folder was duplicitous; furthermore, how did Basham presume to know that any reports written about the cancellation of the Chicago trip would have been “of limited scope?” It is easy to make such  claim after evidence is destroyed, because there is no way you can be challenged.]

The ARRB’s response to this “in your face” piece of administrative obfuscation was signed out by Executive Director David G. Marwell on August 7, 1995, and showed no mercy. Rather than simply allow the matter to “go away” or “die,” as the Secret Service had hoped, Marwell’s leter (co-drafted by him and Gunn) resurrected the seriousness of the matter in no uncertain terms. I quote below, in part:

Although you concluded your letter by stating that you “trust this explanation will clarify any misunderstandings that may have arisen,” I regret to say that not only does your letter not allay our concerns, it compounds them.

The President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection (JFK Act) forbids the destruction of any documents “created or made available for use by, obtained by, or [that] otherwise came into the possession of …. The Select Committee on Asssassinations…of the House of Representatives.” It is our understanding that the records in Accession 87-75-0004 that the Secret Service destroyed were examined by the House Select Committee on Assassinations and thus were “assassination records” under the JFK Act and they apparently were destroyed in violation of law. [emphasis in original, which is most unusual in official government correspondence – it is the equivalent of shouting at someone during a conversation]

We see the destruction of these assassination records as particularly ominous in light of the fact that the Secret Service revised its destruction schedule after passage of the JFK Act and that it targeted for destruction records that, at the time the law was passed, were slated to be held “permanently.” [emphasis in the original]

Rather than refereeing to and applying the standards of the JFK Act, your letter suggests that the responsibilities of the Secret Service extend no further than complying with standard records disposal schedules. After acknowledging that the Secret Service in fact destroyed records in 1995 from Accession 87-75-0004 (related to the protection of President Kennedy), you state that they were “processed in accordance with National Archives and Records (NARA) procedures, and in full compliance with approved records disposition schedules.” The JFK Act, it should be clear, supercedes any law or any disposition schedule related to “assassination records.”

This was a “right back in your face” response that told masters of obfuscation at the Secret Service that the ARRB wasn’t going to be rolled, and wasn’t going to go away. Marwell’s letter then upped the ante by requesting a ton of information which any Federal agency would have had a difficult time finding the resources to accomplish. Marwell’s letter ended with these words:

…we specifically request that you assure us that no Secret Service records related to Presidential protection between 1958 and 1969 or to the assassination of President Kennedy be destroyed until the Review Board has received prior written notice and has had an opportunity to inspect the records [emphasis in original] 

Sensing that the ARRB was flexing its muscles and was about to “go nuclear” [which was true – public hearings were being considered], Mr. Basham replied on August 15, 1995 with a calming one-page letter and requesting a meeting to discuss the “additional issues” which he said were raised by Marwell’s letter. That meeting was held the very next day (August 16, 1995) on ARRB turf, in our offices at 600 E Street, in Northwest Washington D.C.

Following the meeting, which lasted several hours, Jeremy Gunn (our General Counsel and Head of Research and Analysis) signed out a letter on August 21, 1995 to Mr. Basham and Mr. Personnette (Deputy Chief Counsel) of the Secret Service. Gunn recognized for the record that the Secret Service now had a much better understanding of what constituted an assassination record – the ARRB set the definition for this, not the agencies holding records, who all wished to minimize their work – and noted for the record that the Secret Service had agreed that no records related to Presidential protection for years 1958-1969 would be destroyed until after the ARRB had a chance to review them to verify that no assassination records were included. Gunn also recorded the agreement reached on August 16, 1995, that Dr. Joan Zimmerman of our staff would henceforth have full access to all Secret Service records upon demand, not just partial and limied access, as previously. The ARRB threw a face-saving bone to the Secret Service in Gunn’s letter, as well:

As acknowledged in the meeting, we fully understand and accept your interest in ensuring that no documents are released that would compromise Presidential protection. As we have mentioned before, our professional staff is in possession of current security clearances and we will take all appropriate measures to safeguard the records and ensure full compliance with the law.

On the same date, August 21, 1995, Gunn signed out a letter to the miscreant John Machado (who had ordered the two boxes destroyed), which was much less friendly in tone and which bored in on him with a number of questions about dubious statements previously made by Machado, and made additional requests for information and records

The crisis had abated, and the Secret Service had avoided embarrassing public hearings which would have exposed their perfidy. The public was not to learn of this business until that one cryptic paragraph was published in the ARRB Final Report in late September of 1998, three years later. Unlike poor JFK, whom corrupt individuals in the Secret Service had helped set up in Dallas in 1963, the Secret Service in 1995, had ‘dodged a bullet.’

Professor Jim Fetzer summed up the situation nicely with his comments in the documentary “The Smoking Guns,” which aired on the History Channel in 2003:

“The Secret Service…deliberately destroyed…records that would have revealed that the motorcade in Dallas was a travesty, a violation of at least 15 different Secret Service policies for Presidential protection. This behavior on their part raises the most serious and deserving questions about their complicity in the entire affair…which of course, is the reason why the Secret Service destroyed the records of its own motorcades when they were asked for them by the Assassination Records Review Board.”


Terry Hildebrand said...

Conveniently for Blaine, the only records apparently preserved are the ones in his hands, and that he chooses to disclose. Personally, I find Abraham Bolden's claims more credible.

Vince Palamara said...

Blaine wrote his book because of my 22-page letter to his best friend Clint Hill. This is a very important blog, Bill

DaRevCD said...

Are Secret Service officials covering up incompetence or complicity in the assassination?

Mark A. O'Blazney said...

But it is something to kick around. Thank you. Blaine should post all he has and look for more.