Both the Warren Commission Report of 1964 and the House Committee on Assassinations Report of 1978 criticized the Secret Service for their actions on November 22, 1963. In both reports, it was decided that the men assigned to protect President John Kennedy had not done a proper job of establishing security for his Dallas motorcade on that fateful day. Let’s take a look at the procedures the agents were supposed to follow and what actually happened.
There were November presidential motorcades planned in four Texas cities: Houston, San Antonio, Fort Worth and Dallas. The security protocol required for motorcades was the same in all four cities.
- On any motorcade parade route: All windows in building of two or more stories were required to be closed and under observation.
- Motorcade speed must be forty miles per hour.
- At any turn, the corner must be secured as must open areas like the Grassy Knoll. Any bridge under which or over which the president’s vehicle must travel must be cleared an under observation.
- Security personnel must ride art the side and at the rear of the president’s vehicle. Local law enforcement personnel on motorcycles should ride alongside the president’s vehicle.
Were all such requirements followed for President Kennedy’s motorcade through Dallas on November 22, 1963. None of them were.
- The route chosen involved two sharp turns, requiring the president’s vehicle to be slowed to ten miles per hour or less. On a dry run, the Dallas Chief of Station for the Secret Service, Forrest Sorrels said: “We’d be sitting ducks here.” Never-the-less, over the objections of Kennedy’s advance team, he approved the route just the same
- The corners of each of the two required turns were not secured during the motorcade.
- The windows of the Texas Book Depository Building on the right side of Elm Street were not closed, nor were they under observation.
- The Grassy Knoll on the right of elm Street was not secured or under observation.
- The overpass under which the president’s vehicle had to drive was not secured or under observation. In fact it was full of observers. (When questioned, about these lapses in security protocol,Service spokesmen claimed that they were too short-handed to fulfill the above demands.)
- Secret Service agents were removed from the sides and rear of the president’s vehicle.
- The motorcycle escort was removed by the ranking Secret Service agent on the scene at Love Field from the sides to the rear of the president’s vehicle.
- The president’s military adviser was removed from his customary seat in the center of the front seat of the president’s vehicle at the direction of the ranking Secret Service agent on the scene at Love Field. (When questioned, Secret Service spokesmen claimed that President Kennedy himself had ordered the removals/changes mention above. Contrary testimony by Kennedy aides insisted that he always deferred to the security requirements suggested by the Secret Service and would never intervene in such a manner.)
In the photograph below, you can see the local motorcycle policeman riding to the rear of the president’s vehicle, not alongside. The suited figure at the top left of the photo is a Secret Service agent who would normally be alongside the president’s vehicle. The president is obviously exposed to the max on all sides.
On a separate note, it is required of Secret Service agents that they be in their rooms by 11 PM when on the road with the president. All the members of Vice-president/Johnson’s detail were in compliance with this regulation.
None of President’s detail were. In fact many were still out drinking at dawn. They joked that they had left two local firemen guarding the President and Mrs. Kennedy back at the hotel.
In the next blog on the Kennedy assassination we will take a look at how the members of the president’s Secret Service detail reacted to the first shot and their questionable conduct at Parkland Hospital.
see: The Kennedy Assassination: Why Was Kennedy Killed? Vol 2 at www.the kennedymurder.com