Dear Mr. President,
We know you have many pressing issues on your plate, but last week’s problems with the Secret Service and White House security also warrant your attention. What if the man who sprinted across the White House lawn–and into your home–hadn’t been a troubled ex-serviceman, but instead had been an terrorist from ISIS or Al Qaeda or a violent American white supremacist?
As you know, last week’s incidents were only the latest in a long line of Secret Service problems involving lax protection of you and your family, heavy drinking and irresponsible behavior by some agents, and racial discrimination. What you probably don’t know is that those problems have been issues for the Service since the early 1960s. One reason you–and most of the American public–aren’t aware of those issues is the culture of secrecy that sometimes pervades the agency when it comes to its own shortcomings.
That secrecy is especially ironic since this week marks the 50th anniversary of the release of the Warren Report, the book-length finding issued by the Warren Commission, appointed by President Lyndon Johnson and chaired by Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren. The Secret Service was one of several government agencies–along with the CIA, the FBI, and the Office of Naval Intelligence–that were found by later government committees to have withheld crucial information from the Warren Commission.
Even worse, the Secret Service and the other agencies continued to withhold important information from all of the later government committees that investigated the various aspects of JFK’s murder. These include the Rockefeller Commission appointed by President Ford, the Senate Church Committee chaired by Senator Frank Church, the House Select Committee on Assassinations whose Chief Counsel for G. Robert Blakey, and the Assassination Records Review Board, appointed by President Clinton.
Congress passed the 1992 JFK Records Act unanimously, to release all of the files related to the JFK assassination, including records about the covert US operations against Cuba in the early 1960s that surfaced in so many of the official JFK investigations. While more than 4 million pages were released, even today the National Archives refuses to say how many pages of files remain secret. Is it 50,000 pages, a figure put forth by some experts? 90,000 pages, a figure extrapolated from CIA fillings in a Freedom of Information lawsuit? Or the figure reported by NBC News in 1998 of “millions” of pages, which was confirmed by a report from OMB Watch, which quoted someone who worked with the National Archives as saying “well over a million CIA records”–not pages, but “records”–remained unreleased.
Because of the needless ongoing secrecy practiced by the Secret Service, CIA, FBI, and other agencies, you probably don’t know that just four days before President Kennedy was killed in Dallas, there was a major threat against JFK’s life during his long motorcade through Tampa, Florida. While the Secret Service and other agencies withheld information on that attempt from the Warren Commission–and all of the later government investigating committees–long-overlooked newspaper files and Tampa law enforcement officials have now allowed that attempt to be well-documented You probably also don’t know that in the weeks and days before JFK’s assassination in Dallas, the US government had a special subcommittee of the National Security Council making plans for what to do regarding the “possible assassination of American officials.” Only a few pages of those files were released decades later, though they indicated the existence of hundreds more pages from the various government agencies who had representatives on that sub-committee.
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