Commentary: There’s nothing new in latest Secret Service scandal

Commentary: There’s nothing new in latest Secret Service scandal
Bob Ray Sanders
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Bob Ray Sanders
Updated: 2012-04-25T10:49:43Z

Secret Service agents and military personnel, part of a security advance team in a foreign country for the U.S. president’s visit, decide to party hardy.
The result? A major “scandal” that has led to an extensive internal review, calls for a congressional investigation, the questioning of the “culture” within the Secret Service and a demand by some for heads to roll, especially the agency’s director, Mark Sullivan.
Before commenting further on this latest national “embarrassment,” let’s go back to another time, another president and another group of agents charged with protecting the leader of the free world.
It was the night of Nov. 21, 1963.
Based on the account from William Manchester’s The Death of the President, Air Force One and two other planes landed at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth shortly after 11 p.m. There was a light rain and no one in the presidential party expected to see many people turn out at that time of night.
But throngs of folks (10,000 according to the Star -Telegram) lined the West Freeway from the base to downtown. The Hotel Texas lobby was full of people, causing the Secret Service some alarm as the president and Jacqueline Kennedy made their way to their three-room suite on the eighth floor.
It had been a very long day and Jacqueline Kennedy was “exhausted.” Her husband, while tired, was exhilarated by what was turning out to be a great trip to Texas. They went to bed.
The on-duty Secret Service agents went about their duties, with the midnight-to-8 a.m. shift guarding outside Suite 850. There was an agent posted at the hotel entrance; another inspected the parking lot, secured the president’s car and checked the entrances and exits the president would use the next day.
There also were guards posted at the plane, routine even at a Strategic Air Command base.
“But nine agents of the White House detail, unknown to [agent-in-charge Roy] Kellerman, were out on the town,” Manchester writes. “They started with beer and mixed drinks at the Fort Worth Press Club with Mac Kilduff; then seven of them continued at a colorful establishment called ‘The Cellar,’ ordering ‘Salty Dicks,’ a nonalcoholic specialty of the house. One stayed until 5 a.m.”
Manchester continues, “Fellow drinkers during those early-morning hours included four agents who were to ride in the President’s follow-up car in Dallas, and whose alertness was vital to his safety. At various times they were joined by three agents of the twelve-to-eight shift — who were officially on duty, assigned to guard the President’s bedroom door — and chose to break the boredom of sentry duty in this fashion.”
When I became a member of the Press Club of Fort Worth (its official name so as not to be confused with a club of the Fort Worth Press newspaper), I often heard old-timers describe how they had broken the law that night, keeping the club open past legal hours for the partying Secret Service agents.
Conspiracy theorists for years have pointed to the agents’ actions as contributing to what happened the next day in Dallas. There has never been any proof that the behavior of mostly off-duty agents had anything to do with Kennedy’s assassination.
The truth is many federal agents, just as many local law enforcement officers, drink when they are off duty. It is their way of winding down after long, stressful and sometimes boring work days.
What happened in Cartagena, Colombia, is inexcusable. As many as 11 Secret Service agents and up to 10 military personnel are under investigation because they reportedly brought 20 prostitutes to their hotel rooms. Some agents allegedly had detailed information about the president’s itinerary and travel routes.
Although Congress loves to investigate things, I don’t know that we need an official congressional hearing over this, and it is far too premature to call for the dismissal of the director.
Salacious scandals feed the appetite of a 24-hour news cycle, but we should allow this one to take its course through the normal review process without the usual rush to judgment.

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About vincepalamara

Vincent Palamara was born in Pittsburgh and graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in Sociology. Although not even born when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Vince brings fresh eyes to an old case. In fact, Vince would go on to study the largely overlooked actions - and inactions - of the United States Secret Service in unprecedented detail, as well as achieving a world's record in the process, having interviewed and corresponded with over 80 former agents (the House Select Committee on Assassinations had the old record of 46 with a 6 million dollar budget and supboena power from Congress), not to mention many surviving family members, White House aides, and even quite a few Parkland and Bethesda medical witnesses for a corresponding project. The result was Survivor's Guilt: The Secret Service & The Failure To Protect President Kennedy. Vince is also the author of the books JFK: From Parkland To Bethesda and The Not-So-Secret Service. All told, Vince has been favorably mentioned in over 120 JFK and Secret Service related books to date (including two whole chapters in Murder in Dealey Plaza, The Secret Service: The Hidden History Of An Enigmatic Agency by Philip Melanson, and the Final Report of the Assassination Records Review Board, among many others), often at length, in the bibliographies, and in the Secret Service - and even medical evidence - areas of these works. Vince has appeared on the History Channel, C-SPAN, A COUP IN CAMELOT, KING KILL '63, THE MAN BEHIND THE SUIT, National Geographic, PCN, BPTV, local cable access television, YouTube, radio, newspapers, print journals, at national conferences, and all over the internet. Also, Vince's original research materials, or copies of said materials, are stored in the National Archives (by request under Deed Of Gift by the ARRB), the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Harvard University, the Assassination Archives and Research Center, and the Dallas Public Library. Vince Palamara has become known (as he was dubbed by the History Channel in 2003) "the Secret Service expert." As former JFK Secret Service agent Joe Paolella proclaimed: "You seem to know a lot about the Secret Service, maybe even more than I do!" Agent Dan Emmett calls Vince a Secret Service expert in his new book.
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