News / USA

Kennedy Assassination Transformed US Secret Service

Kane Farabaugh

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, 48 years ago, stunned the world.  It was the first time since 1901- when President William McKinley was killed - that a U.S. president fell to an assassin’s bullet.

The Secret Service is responsible for protecting the president and his family.  President Kennedy’s death put the service on the defensive. In conversations with several former Secret Service agents, our correspondent reports that the assassination, and later attempts on Presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, led to changes in how the President and first family are protected.

On November 22, 1963, when shots rang out in Dallas, Secret Service Agent Clint Hill was in the best position to react.  His analysis of that day is simple.

“There’s no question that we failed in providing protection for President Kennedy," said Hill.

Agent Gerald Blaine was also in Texas that day, but not in Dallas. He says a lack of manpower was partly responsible. “In 1963 we had 330 agents; we had about 34 agents on the White House detail," said Blaine.

The agents were visible.  Some ran alongside or stood on cars in the presidential motorcade.  But Blaine says they couldn't communicate with each other.

“We didn’t have radios," he said. "We operated through hand signals. We had photographs of subjects that we had concerns about, and we would memorize those subjects. And we had to rely on each other to work together as a team."

Author Lisa McCubbin collaborated with Blaine on the book The Kennedy Detail.

She says weaknesses exposed by the Kennedy assassination forced a change in how the Secret Service was funded.

“So it made them realize even more how important their mission was, and they were able then to convince Congress to get more money," said McCubbin. "They had been asking for more money for years and years, to get more people. They knew they couldn't protect the president with what they had."

Clint Hill stayed with the Secret Service after the assassination.

He rose to assistant director, and witnessed changes in the agency:  no more travel in open automobiles and more agents, more money, and better communication.

But Hill suffered from guilt after the assassination. He retired in 1975.

Several months later, not once but twice, assailants tried to kill President Gerald Ford during visits he made to California.

And in 1981, another disaster was narrowly averted.

President Ronald Reagan, emerging from a Washington hotel, was shot by John Hinckley Jr.  Reagan was rushed to a nearby hospital for life-saving surgery.

Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy was shot in the abdomen. Press Secretary James Brady was struck in the head and seriously disabled..  

But no one died in the attack.

McCarthy says the incident led to even more changes. “After that, metal detectors were used to screen anyone who gets near the president," said McCarthy. "Shortly thereafter, and the legacy is that since that time, there has not been an attack on any of our presidents by the historic assassin which is the lone gunman."

Though the assassination of President Kennedy was a transforming event for the Secret Service, recent incidents are a reminder that the president is still a target.

At 21-year-old Idaho man is under arrest for allegedly firing several shots at the White House on November 11.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid