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After 40 Years, the First National Security Whistleblower Still Seeks Justice
Published on Friday, February 17, 2006, by
After 40 Years, the First National Security Whistleblower Still Seeks Justice
by Lamar Waldron and Thom Hartmann
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.

Will Abraham Bolden live to finally see the justice so long denied to him?

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 decades ago.

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


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