Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Noted law professor destroys "The Kennedy Detail"

Noted law professor destroys "The Kennedy Detail"

Pay No Attention
The Kennedy Detail, the other book I want to discuss, whitewashes
the Secret Service. It attempts to continue the earlier coverup of the
major errors the Secret Service committed. It is defensive in tone
and pretends that the Secret Service did not let down President
Kennedy. It omits or misstates key facts in order to make the
performance of the Secret Service agents look better than it was.
Nastily, the book even suggests that JFK was partially responsible
for his own assassination because allegedly he forbade agents from
standing on the back of the limousine where they might have
shielded him from shooters. (The claim that JFK barred agents from
riding on the back of the limousine is almost certainly false.) The
Kennedy Detail could appropriately have been subtitled Pay No
Attention to the Secret Service’s Major Malfunction.
Perhaps unintentionally, however, The Kennedy Detail sets forth facts which are confirmatory of
the consensus critical of the Secret Service.
• Jerry Behn, the Special Agent in Charge of the White House Detail (and the most senior agent
on the Detail) was on vacation and did not accompany JFK on the trips to Florida or Texas. “He
took his first vacation in four years the week JFK was assassinated.” Oddly, however, Jerry Behn
was in his office in Washington, D.C. when the assassination occurred. “He was supposed to be
on vacation, but he’d come into the office for just a couple of hours.” As the most senior Secret
Service agent on the Detail, Behn usually was at the president’s side whenever Kennedy was
away from the White House, and on trips he occupied the right front seat of the presidential
limousine. (This means, of course, that despite the known threats to JFK’s safety posed by
gunmen, and despite the fact that he was traveling to a dangerous place, JFK was, on his visit to
Dallas, not accompanied by the experienced, supervisory agent who ordinarily was in close
personal attendance when the president appeared in public or traveled. With President Kennedy
in such apparent danger on his trip, Jerry Behn had chosen a most inopportune time to take a
• When the Special Agent in Charge was unavailable, an Assistant Special Agent in Charge
would closely accompany the president on trips and sit in the right front seat of the limousine.
Contrary to usual practice, however, Jerry Behn’s deputy, Floyd Boring, an Assistant Special
Agent in Charge of the White House Detail, was at home on an unusual day off on Nov. 22,
1963. “Agent Floyd Boring was relaxing at home on a rare day off when he got the call [telling
him of the assassination].” (This means that Boring had picked a peculiar time to take the day
off, since he knew about the dangers of the Dallas visit and also knew that Jerry Behn was not
traveling to Dallas. It also means that while on his hazardous visit to Dallas JFK unusually was
not accompanied by either of the experienced agents who usually were in close proximity to him
while traveling.)
• Because of the absence of Behn and Boring, another Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the
White House Detail, Roy H. Kellerman, sat in the right front seat of the limousine as it
motorcaded through Dallas. Kellerman was an experienced agent. (The Dallas visit appears to
have been Kellerman’s first major trip as the supervisory agent.) It was Kellerman who
scandalously remained in his seat and made no effort to get to or shield the president when the
shooting began.
• At the time of the assassination, the White House Detail was in a weakened condition due to
recent resignations and transfers. Nearly one-third of the 34 agents on the White House Detail
assigned to protect JFK, including a number of experienced agents, had recently resigned or been
transferred. “In the past two months alone, eleven of the most experienced agents on the
Kennedy Detail had been replaced. It had been a purely personal choice by the agents–they’d
requested, and had been granted, transfers to field offices… [N]early a third of the agents had
decided they just couldn’t do it any more. Too many missed birthdays and anniversaries, too
many holidays away from home.” (This means that despite several known plots to assassinate the
president, the Secret Service nonetheless was permitting numbers of its experienced agents to
leave the Detail. Shouldn’t it have been obvious under the circumstances that allowing so many
experienced agents to depart was unwise?)
• Perhaps because of the recent departures from the Detail, some of the agents in Dallas were
working their first motorcade.
Ironically, therefore, despite The Kennedy Detail’s efforts to divert blame away from the security
men who dismally failed to prevent the assassination, some of the information in the book tends
to support the consensus that the Secret Service did not do its job on Nov. 22, 1963.
Donald E. Wilkes, Jr., is Professor of Law Emeritus in the UGA School of Law

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