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
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
Bolden was arrested the day he arrived in Washington to talk to Warren
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.
Will Abraham Bolden live to finally see the justice so long denied to
As Congress looks into much-needed legislation to protect today's
National Security Whistleblowers, we urge to them to consider those like Bolden who risked their careers and lives to tell the truth
It's in the interest of Congress to do so, since the four million JFK
files released in the 1990s show the massive amount of information that was withheld from Congress in the 1970s and 1980s. Will no
one be held responsible--or even investigated--for that? Or for the Secret Service document destruction in 1995? And how can
Congress expect agencies like the CIA to keep them fully informed today, when so much has been--and continues to be--withheld?
After languishing for several years, Congress finally funded the Public
Interest Declassification Board, which is scheduled to be held on February 25, 2006, which is one opportunity for some of these
matters to be explored. All this secrecy has harmed--and continues to impact--American foreign policy and actions in countries
ranging from Iraq to Cuba.
Each of us has a member of Congress and two Senators who can be
contacted to let them know we care about these matters. Even those outside of the US can make journalists and others aware of
Bolden's plight and the ongoing secrecy of this government and the harm it brings to democracy.
It's the least we can do for ourselves, for history, and for a brave
whistleblower like Abraham Bolden.
Lamar Waldron and Thom Hartmann worked together for 17 years to research and write Ultimate Sacrifice: John and Robert Kennedy, the Plan for a Coup in Cuba, and the Murder of JFK. There is more
information about the book and Abraham Bolden at www.ultimatesacrificethebook.com.