Mr. Lawson: No, sir.
Mr. McCloy: Or no one to watch the windows?
Mr. Lawson: Oh, yes. The police along the area were to watch the crowds and their general area. The agents riding in the followup car as well as myself in the lead car were watching the crowds and the windows and the rooftops as we progressed.
Mr. Stern: What were the instructions that you asked be given to the police who were stationed on overpasses and railroad crossings?
Mr. Lawson: They were requested to keep the people to the sides of the bridge or the overpass so that -- or underpass -- so that people viewing from a vantage point like that would not be directly over the President's car so that they could either inadvertently knock something off or drop something on purpose or do some other kind of harm.
And yet we continue to let this agency off the hook. We forgot that even LBJ, a direct beneficiary of the agency's sloppiness with his former boss, trusted the outfit so little himself that he inquired at one point whether he could have the FBI protect him instead.
A Telling Bumper Sticker
It is foolish to ignore the worldviews and attitudes of people expected to protect presidents. Former Secret Service agent Abraham Bolden has described rampant racism and widespread contempt for Kennedy and his policies among Bolden's fellow officers.
Now, here are a few salient details about the Secret Service today that go beyond trying to get a little "R&R": When Washington Post reporters visited the Virginia home of Texas native David R. Chaney, one of the Secret Service supervisors on the Colombia trip, they found a silver pickup truck parked in front. On the vehicle they spotted a bumper sticker with an outline of the state of Texas, and the word "secede."
It is interesting to note that Chaney's father served in the Secret Service when Kennedy was in office. As assistant agent in charge of personnel, he was friends with many of the agents who were in Dallas in November, 1963.
Speaking of Dallas, consider these excerpts from a Warren Commission affidavit of Texas Sen. Ralph Yarborough, who was riding in the motorcade:
"After the shooting, one of the secret service men sitting down in the car in front of us pulled out an automatic rifle or weapon and looked backward. However, all of the secret service men seemed to me to respond very slowly, with no more than a puzzled look. In fact, until the automatic weapon was uncovered, I had been lulled into a sense of false hope for the President's safety, by the lack of motion, excitement, or apparent visible knowledge by the secret service men, that anything so dreadful was happening. Knowing something of the training that combat infantrymen and Marines receive, I am amazed at the lack of instantaneous response by the Secret Service, when the rifle fire began. I make this statement in this paragraph reluctantly, not to add to the anguish of anyone, but it is my firm opinion, and I write it out in the hope that it might be of service in the better protection of our Presidents in the future."
In the early 60s, Secret Service protection was downright awful. Henry Bosworth, the late editor of the Quincy Sun newspaper in Massachusetts, used to recount how he climbed aboard a press bus with no credentials, was asked no questions nor frisked for weapons, and found himself inside Hyannisport having drinks with JFK himself.
And how is it now? Here's an account of a WhoWhatWhy friend, from an Obama campaign stop in Grand Forks, North Dakota, in April, 2008.
"The night before I went to the convention center/domed stadium about 10pm & was walking the convention center concourse when I encountered a private security guard. We made small talk & soon he volunteered that his job the next day was to escort Obama from the ballroom through the kitchen into the main arena for the speech.