COMMENT: In the wake of the recent scandal involving Secret Service agents assigned to protect Obama partying with prostitutes in Colombia, it is worth noting that this sort of thing is not without precedent.
Former Secret Service agent Abraham Bolden (the first African-American member of the Service) relates such activities in the run-up to President Kennedy’s assassination.
EXCERPT: . . . . Secret Service agents used this cottage whenever the president was in Hyannis Port [Massachussetts]. It had a large wooden porch across the front, a sitting area with a number of bedrooms off it, and a well-equipped kitchen. The large backyard had a patio and a brick barbecue pit, and led into thick woods. The cottage was relatively secluded, about fifty yards from the nearest house. As we hadn’t eaten since we left Washington, everybody chipped in some money, and Henderson and Foster drove off to buy food and drinks. They came back in about an hour with the groceries, along with a healthy supply of beer and bourbon.
We spent the afternoon and evening eating, drinking, chatting, and watching television. About 8:00pm, I overheard Henderson asking agents–not including me–if they wanted to go into town. He drove off with a couple of other men. In addition to the drinking, the White House detail also had a reputation for womanizing. Stories circulated throughout the service about arrogant agents in Washington who fancied themselves playboys, and sure enough, I was awakened at about 2:00 am by the sounds of women’s voices. I got up, used the bathroom, and wandered to the windows overlooking the front of the cottage. I heard the laughter of a woman and some men coming from one of the bedrooms, and a little later on saw two agents drive away with a couple of women in the station wagon. . . . (The Echo from Dealey Plaza; p. 32.)
COMMENT: Some have felt that this type of behavior may have played a role in the assassination. (In a follow-up post, we will discuss more sinister leads with regard to the Secret Service’s performance in Dallas on 11/22/1963.)
EXCERPT: . . . . Immediately after the assassination, several newspapers reported the presence of an unidentified man in the area now known as the “grassy knoll” in Dealey Plaza. According to some of the accounts, a Dallas police officer had run to the grassy knoll just after the president was shot, and encountered a neatly dressed man there. When questioned, the man reportedly presented a leather-bound commission book identifying him as an agent of the U.S. Secret Service. At the same time, rumors of the possibility of a lost commission book were circulating within the Service. The story that we heard from some agents in Washington featured several of the agents who were traveling with the president going to a strip club on November 21 and staying until the early morning hours of November 22. At least one of them was reported to have become quite inebriated and could have either lost his Secret Service identification or had it lifted off him that night.
In January 1964, ASAIC Martineau announced that the Secret Service intended to update identification books through out the agency, and that all agents needed to turn in their current identification books right away. We received newly engraved identification books about thirty days after the old ones were sent back to Washington. . . . It seemed fairly obvious to me that the Service was looking to sweep under the rug the fact that some agent had lost his identification, and the best way to do so was to issue new ID to all personnel. The Service was circling the wagons at a time when many members of Congress felt the FBI should take over the protection of the president. . . . (Ibid.; pp. 54–55.)