I just finished reading former Secret Service Agent Blaine’s 448-page cover-your-ass memoir, The Kennedy Detail. As a former agent myself and the first African-American to be appointed to the White House detail personally by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, I have been dismayed by the continual attempts by certain former agents of the United States Secret Service to deny culpability in the assassination of the President on November 22, 1963. The attack upon my credibility in Blaine’s CYA account of that event was expected. Still, I was hoping that these former presidential bodyguards would show at least the barest measure of contrition instead of trying to blame the assassination on Kennedy himself.

Unlike the vast majority of Americans, I was an agent during that critical period in 1963. My own book, The Echo from Dealey Plaza, is an autobiography which is supported by documented facts, unlike Blaine’s book. In Echo I relate the questionable habits and attitudes of a number of my fellow agents while I served with them carrying out our sworn duties to protect the president: for examples their heavy drinking, their wild partying while on duty, their cavalierness and even contemptuousness toward their life-and-death responsibilities, their disrespect of Kennedy and his progressive policies. One agent even declared with chilling seriousness within my earshot that, were an attempt made on the life of President Kennedy, he would take no action. I also talk about the overt and persistent racism ingrained in the Secret Service of that era.

Blaine dismisses my claims of discriminatory practices and racial baiting during my time with the agency as being unfounded. However, on page 25 in Echo I document by Secret Service file memo 3-11-602-111 the starkly racist policy that would have grossly hampered an agent of my color in carrying out his government-appointed duty to protect the president. Blaine also asserts that Agent Robert Faison, the first black Secret Service agent who was permanently assigned to the White House detail in 1963, took issue with what Blaine terms my unbelievable charges of racism. Curiously, in his book Blaine fails to mention him by name. If there was NO racism in the Secret Service even in the comparatively unenlightened year of 1963, how is it then that, a mere few years ago in 2000, 2002, and as recently as 2005, no fewer than 68 African-American agents filed a series of class-action civil lawsuits charging the United States Secret Service with “a decades-long pervasive atmosphere of racial harassment and retaliation against those who challenged the status quo”?

Further in the book Blaine makes a minor but telling error. He states that I reported the conduct of my fellow agents to the head of White House Secret Service, James Rowley. I never did go to Rowley, as it was common knowledge that he was already aware of the shenanigans of his subordinates but did nothing to stop them. On page 45 of Echo, I specifically state that I went directly to Rowley’s superior, the well-respected, no-nonsense Chief U.E. Baughman, who happened to be leaving his job in a few weeks. Baughman was appalled by what I had to say and promised to leave my report with his successor—who, as it turned out, was Rowley. 

After Kennedy’s assassination, Baughman was publicly critical of the actions or inactions of the Secret Service as he witnessed them from outside the agency. I myself was aware of coverups and obfuscations during my last months in the Secret Service. For example, as far it being a policy to forbid agents to ride on the running boards of the presidential vehicle (they were attached solely for the purpose of protecting the president), this ridiculous piece of disinformation wasn’t circulated until AFTER the assassination. There was NO official memorandum or other notification of any such change in policy.

Lastly, there is an even more serious accusation leveled at me by Blaine.

In early November 1963 I was back in the Chicago office when the Secret Service was in the middle of investigating a shady character named Echevarria, who had been overhead to say that he was about to “take care of Kennedy”. My own desk was near that of the investigating agent. I paid special attention as he dictated his reports and noted that he finished them before November 22. Clearly, the investigation took place prior to the events in Dallas. However, on the afternoon of November 26, four days after the assassination, a special meeting between Secret Service Inspector Thomas Kelly, Special Agent in Charge James Burke—the two lead investigators of the shooting in Dallas—and representatives of the FBI held a meeting in our office. After this meeting, these same reports were restructured and the dates of the investigation were changed to indicate that the Echevarria investigation was conducted AFTER Kennedy’s assassination. 

In order to better understand the timing of the events surrounding the assassination, I have attempted in subsequent years to bring this cover-up to light. Blaine, however, has accused me of concocting this story. As he puts it, “Bolden’s using the JFK assassination to save his own skin.”

But I was there. Blaine has stated in defense of his whitewash memoir, “I was there.” Well, he wasn’t there, he was in Austin at the time of the shooting. I was present during all the events I have recorded in my book.

A final note: Blaine has repeatedly, in print and in person, referred to me as “the convicted felon” in an attempt to discredit me and my autobiography. I may well be a convicted felon but I sleep well at night knowing I did everything I could to save the life of President Kennedy. Can the agents in Dallas who trotted behind the president’s car and saw his head blown to pieces say the same thing?

From COPA, 8 November 2010

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 subpoena 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, The Not-So-Secret Service, Who's Who in the Secret Service, and Honest Answers about the Murder of President John F. Kennedy: A New Look at the JFK Assassination. All told, Vince has been favorably mentioned in over 140 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's THE MEN WHO KILLED KENNEDY (VHS and DVD), C-SPAN, Newsmax TV, A COUP IN CAMELOT (DVD/BLU RAY), KING KILL '63, THE MAN BEHIND THE SUIT (DVD), National Geographic's JFK: THE FINAL HOURS (including on DVD), 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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