Thursday, August 26, 2010

Abraham Bolden American Hero, Are There Lessons In His Story Today

Abraham Bolden is not a name many people know. He was the first Black Secret Service Agent assigned to a presidential protection detail, and like the vast majority of African American firsts he was brilliant in his job. He was asked personally by John Kennedy to join the detail, which turned out to be a life savor for Kennedy at least for a time. I'd like to relate his story after the jump, and see if there are any lessons we can learn today.

Abraham Bolden led a life of excellence in law enforcement in a time when the Blue Line was mostly White. In 1960 He was tabbed by Kennedy as he worked in Chicago law enforcement as "the Jackie Robinson of the Secret Service".

After an outstanding career in law enforcement, Abraham Bolden was appointed by John F. Kennedy to be the first African American presidential Secret Service agent, where he served with distinction. But you haven't heard about Abraham Bolden during Black History month, because after helping to prevent JFK's assassination in the weeks before Dallas, Bolden was arrested on the very day he went to Washington to tell the Warren Commission about those attempts. Caught in a maze of National Security concerns that only became clear after four million pages of JFK files were released in the 1990s, Bolden was sentenced to six years in prison, becoming America's first National Security Whistleblower.
The files released after Congress passed the JFK Act unanimously in 1992 show the massive amount of information that had been withheld from at least five Congressional investigations. Even worse, the Final Report of the JFK Board created by Congress shows that crucial files about attempts against JFK--the cases Bolden worked on--were destroyed by the Secret Service in 1995. And, a report by the government oversight group OMB Watch says that "well over one million CIA records" related to JFK's era remain unreleased, perhaps until the mandatory release date of 2017.

Bolden, now 71, can't wait that long.

Plus, the long-secret files that have been released show how keeping millions of documents secret for decades have negatively impacted US actions in dealing with Iraq, Central America, and Cuba, as well as preventing crucial intelligence failures from coming to light prior to 9/11.

On February 14, 2006, Congress held hearings about National Security Whistleblowers, aimed at improving laws to protect them from retaliation for trying to tell the truth. The witnesses who testified revealed a litany of workers being attacked by their own agencies, of documents destroyed or withheld--even from Congress--and of years of struggle to get fair hearings. This pattern began in the case of Abraham Bolden in 1964, yet most in Congress are unaware of his case. Likewise, Congress doesn't realize that not only did the Secret Service admit destroying crucial JFK documents in 1995, but that the Secret Service then failed to confirm their compliance with the JFK Act under oath, as did other agencies.

The JFK Board's Final Report detailing that was released 1998, amidst the aftermath of the Monica Lewinsky affair, which may explain why it received little attention at the time. The OMB Watch report in which an official who worked with the JFK Board admitted that "well over one million CIA records" are still secret was released in the hotly contested election year of 2000, which may be why that escaped the notice of journalists and those in Congress. In addition, the major revelations in the four million JFK documents that were released in the 1990s--and continued to trickle out today--are only just now coming to light.

In today's world of instant e-mail and 24-hour news channels, many were recently amazed that Vice President Cheney was able to keep news of his shooting of another man secret for almost 24 hours.

Yet in November 1963, John and Robert Kennedy were able to keep two assassination plots against JFK that month out of the media at the time. The first was in Chicago, on November 2, 1963--when JFK had to cancel his trip and motorcade at the last minute--and the second was during JFK's long motorcade through Tampa, Florida on November 18, 1963, just four days before Dallas. Both the Chicago and Tampa plots had many similarities to Dallas, yet they were withheld from the news media and most investigators.

Bolden was involved in investigating the Chicago plot and was informed about the similar Tampa attempt. Bolden's own testimony to a Congressional Committee about the Chicago plot was kept secret for over fifteen years, but when finally released in the 1990s, it supported other information that had emerged about the plot over the years.

Unknown to Bolden until recently, the crux of all this secrecy about the attempts to assassinate JFK in Chicago, Tampa, and Dallas were John and Robert Kennedys' "Plan for a Coup in Cuba" to overthrow Fidel Castro on December 1, 1963. The most secret operation of the Kennedy years, the CIA side of the operation was code-named AMWORLD, a term withheld from five Congressional investigations (and the Warren Commission) and declassified only in the 1990s. It appeared in print for the first time just three months ago. Using declassified files from the National Archives, we found that in the days, weeks, and months before Dallas, Robert Kennedy had a secret government committee looking at how the US could deal with the "assassination of American officials" if Castro found out about the Kennedys' coup plan, and tried to retaliate.

The thinking behind such plans--and worries that the revelation of the Kennedy coup plan could trigger another nuclear confrontation with the Soviets just a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis--was behind most of the secrecy surrounding JFK's assassination. However, key officials in agencies like the FBI, the CIA, and the Secret Service also used the excuse of National Security to withheld information that could have been embarrassing to them.

We only uncovered the Kennedys' plan with the help of almost two dozen people who worked with John and Robert Kennedy on the coup plan, their war against the Mafia, and their tragic aftermath. One of them told us that Robert Kennedy was aware of Bolden's plight, but "couldn't" do anything about it at the time--and in the context of the coup plan and the plans to protect it we had just been discussing, it was clear why. Any intervention on Bobby's part could have unraveled a veil of National Security secrecy that could have led to World War III.

Our sources and all the new documents don't show any vast conspiracy to kill JFK--they confirm what Bobby Kennedy himself came to believe, after several secret investigations by his trusted associates: that the Mafia had been behind his brother's assassination. Those Mafioso had infiltrated the Kennedys' coup plan through AMWORLD, and used the secrecy surrounding it to prevent a thorough investigation into JFK's death by pointing the blame toward Castro.

Bolden went to Washington in the Spring of 1964 to tell Warren Commission staff about the Chicago and Tampa attempts, and other Secret Service laxity, such as late night drinking bouts by the agents. News reports of the late-night drinking of Secret Service agents the night before JFK's assassination were threatening to become a major scandal, but the Secret Service couldn't reveal that the agents were blowing off steam after the stress of the recent plots against JFK in Chicago and Tampa. While Warren Commission staff had heard vague rumors of the Chicago plot, they had been told nothing about the Tampa attempt (which would continued to be withheld from the later Congressional investigations into JFK's assassination).

Bolden was arrested the day he arrived in Washington to talk to Warren Commission staff.

Bolden himself had previously arrested both of his accusers, one of whom later admitted committing perjury against Bolden. But the Chicago judge told the jury he felt Bolden was guilty, and Bolden was convicted and sentenced to six years in jail. Former Senate investigator and top Freedom of Information attorney Bud Fensterwald looked into Bolden's case and concluded that Bolden had been framed. After reviewing Fensterwald's files, we tracked down additional information about the Chicago mobster that Bolden's accusers worked for, whose gangster associate had infiltrated AMWORLD. The Mafia knew the Secret Service wouldn't defend Bolden because of his accusations of laxity, and that others in the government couldn't come to Bolden's aide because of National Security concerns.

After over forty years, Abraham Bolden is still trying to clear his name, but National Security concerns that date from 1963 still stymie his efforts. Along with another researcher, we provided written testimony about the Tampa attempt against JFK to the JFK Board in November of 1994.

But about six weeks later, in January 1995, the Board's Final Report states that the Secret Service told them they had just destroyed records covering the time of the Tampa (and Chicago) attempts. This was despite the 1992 JFK Act which required those records be preserved and released. The Secret Service also told the Board it had earlier destroyed other crucial records. And as we noted earlier, "well over one million CIA records" related to JFK's assassination still remain secret today, despite passage of the 1992 JFK Act.

Abraham Bolden paid a heavy price for trying to tell the truth about events involving the man he was sworn to protect--JFK--that became mired in National Security concerns. Bolden still lives in Chicago, and has never given up trying to clear his name. Two days after Christmas, his wife passed away unexpectedly just three days before their 49th wedding anniversary. She had remained with Bolden through it all, always sure of his innocence.

Has anything changed in 45 years? There have been ample diaries posted here on Kos regarding the recent scandal in the Secret Service regarding the same kind of joviality expressed in e-mails joking about Jesse Jackson's assasination. The nooses etc. continue.

With the recent comedy routine put on by Mike Huckabee and the already dangerous world we live in I can only hope that the rank and file Secret Service is filled with Abraham Boldens of strength and charachter so we may not have to relive things like below.

UPDATE-Abraham Bolden's book is called The Echo from Dealey Plaza. Bolden was framed and imprisoned on a trumped a charge of bribery surrounding the alleged sale of files. The real issue and what I'm hoping to draw attention to is that the young agents that came to work in the culture of the Secret Service that produced Agent Bolden's story would now be in high supervisory positions within the agency. Here is a link to a Slate article regarding the actions of current Secret Service supervisors.


Over the weekend I was able to contact Mr. Bolden and share an exchange of e-mails. He has last week been awarded the Baker Street Hugo's Tankard Award for the Pursuit of Justice. is his link. That Mr. Bolden should contact and share with an obvious groupy says a lot. My title for this was so correct. Mr. Bolden is a great American.

Abraham W. Bolden, Sr. Acceptance Speech May 17, 2008
Baker Street Hugo’s Companions
Tankard Award

Mr. Fred Anderson, President
Honored Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

It gives me great pleasure to accept the Baker Street Hugo's Companions Tankard Award for the pursuit of Justice. I wish to thank the directors and officers of your organization for considering me as a recipient of this award.

There are, of course, others who have played a prominent part in my life who deserve a mention at this time. First, I wish to thank the Infinite Cosmic Creative Consciousness who gave me an earthly life thus permitting me to make a positive contribution to my fellow man. Secondly, I wish to thank my wife, Barbara L. Bolden, who is now deceased, but who was the spark behind the initiatives that made my successes possible. Thirdly, I wish to thank my family who continue to shower me with their love and support. I want to thank my literary agent, Victoria Sanders and the editor, John Glusman, and the employees of Random House, Inc. for their decision to publish my book, The Echo from Dealey Plaza, and thus to whom I am deeply indebted to for the events that are taking place here tonight.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I want you to know that I have always been committed to the quest for justice. As a young man, I had dreams of becoming a renowned musician but the love of the law took precedence in my life and I followed my inner yearnings and became the first African American Detective for the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, an Illinois State Policeman, and finally, the first African American Secret Service Agent to be assigned to the White House Detail in Washington, D.C. This assignment was during the presidency of John F. Kennedy.

It was not easy being an African American pioneer in occupations that had previously been reserved for members of other races and nationalities. I had to endure many injustices and insults, both subtle and overt that were aimed at discouraging me in the pursuit of life and liberty. But all of the trials that confronted me could not dim my faith in the ultimate assurance of justice.

Early in my education process, I learned of a document called the Constitution of the United States of America and later during my life, I raised my right hand and swore to uphold that constitution. I learned that the framers of that document, being wise men, saw the need to amend that constitution in order to protect the citizens of America, from the government itself and thus was born the first 10 amendments to the constitution called the Bill of Rights. This Bill of Rights guaranteed the citizens of this country certain inalienable rights that cannot be abrogated or abolished. These guarantees of the right of a trial by an impartial jury, the right against illegal searches and seizures, the right to be represented by counsel when accused of a crime, the right to be confronted by your accuser. All of these rights are designed to protect the citizenry from the tyranny of an oppressive government. The suppression of these rights can lead to the destruction of the foundations upon which any democracy must be sustained.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as I document in The Echo from Dealey Plaza, many of these rights as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States of America was denied me as I tried to defend myself from the false and malicious charges concocted against me by two master criminals who were working in collusion and concert with high government officials, at the time that I was an agent of the United States Government. In order to silence me and keep me from revealing the dereliction of duty and other actions of certain secret service agents and officials who were attempting to cover up important details of investigations regarding the assassination of our beloved President John F. Kennedy on that dreadful day, November 22, 1963. These rights were stripped away from me and I stood as one naked and unprotected by the laws of this country as my forefathers were during the period of slavery. During the span of 24 hours, 44 years ago, on May 18th, 1964, I began to experience first hand what it would be like to live in a country devoid of the protection of our great constitution.

On that woeful day and the years of tribulation that followed, I felt the abuses of individual rights that mirror the actions of a tyrannical government devoid of constitutional restraints. I was brought out of Washington, D.C. by deceit and trickery and accused of crimes against my government. I was denied requested representation by an attorney during questioning, denied food during questioning, denied a fair trial by an impartial judge and jury, sent away to prison even though the witness against me admitted under oath that I had been convicted based upon his perjured testimony that was solicited by a government attorney, spent a part of my sentence locked away in the psychiatric ward of a government penitentiary as my government forced me to ingest psychotropic drugs in an effort to dehumanize me and take away any credibility that I might have as a former agent of the U.S. Secret Service.

But I knew that if I could just make it thru that river of chaos that attempted to drown me in its waters, there was Justice on the other side. I had faith that someday, somehow, somewhere, I would, by the Grace of the Infinite Cosmic Creative Consciousness, have an opportunity to tell my story, to bring the truth to the American people. I knew that I could never give up the pursuit of Justice because I want to leave for the generations of all peoples that will come after me, the message that one should never give up the battle for justice and equity under the law. We must stand up and be vigilant or we will lose those principles that are the foundations of a civilized society. For if we fear to stand up for truth and justice, we don’t deserve it; for unless the fields and vineyards of Justice are watered with sacrifice, they will dry up and the weeds of tyranny will take root.

Again, I accept this award with humbleness and hope that I will merit it for the balance of my life. God bless America

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