The Worst US Secret Service Failure Since Nov. 1963?

James DiEugenio traces a parallel between the agency’s deletion of text messages from Jan. 6 and the disappearance of six boxes of materials concerning the  assassination of JFK. 

Cassidy Hutchinson giving testimony to the Jan. 6 congressional committee on June 28. (C-Span)

By James DiEugenio
Special to Consortium News

The revelation that the U.S. Secret Service deleted text messages from the day of the Jan. 6, 2021 storming of the U.S. Capitol is raising potential parallels with the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to the Trump White House chief of staff,  testified on June 26 to the congressional committee investigating the events of Jan. 6 that her boss, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, warned her four days in advance that “Things might get real, real bad on Jan. 6th.” She also testified that President Donald Trump was warned about weapons on hand that day. In spite of that, he still wanted his security to scrap the metal detectors at the site of his White House rally.

The accepted wisdom was that Trump had not planned on going to the Capitol to join the thousands of people he had helped summon there.  But Hutchinson testified that Trump had indeed planned on going to the Capitol to join the demonstrators.

She said under oath that she was told he was so intent on going that he tried to grab the steering wheel, and even lunged at Bobby Engel, one of the Secret Service agents in the SUV, to direct the vehicle to the Capitol. Hutchinson testified that she was told that by Tony Ornato, a Secret Service agent who left to become Trump’s deputy chief of staff, only to return to the service as a senior official.

Hutchinson’s testimony is being disputed, however. Senior Secret Service agents are ready  to testify that that did not happen, according to The Guardian. The newspaper reported:

“Carol Leonnig of the Washington Post, author of two books on the Trump administration and a history of the Secret Service, Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service, said: ‘Sources tell me agents dispute that Donald Trump assaulted any agent or tried to grab the steering wheel on Jan 6. They agree Trump was furious about not being able to go to Capitol with his supporters. They offer to testify under oath.’”

Salon reported:

“After her testimony, journalists citing anonymous sources reported that Engel and the driver of Trump’s vehicle were ‘prepared to testify under oath’ to dispute Hutchinson’s account and that Ornato denied telling Hutchinson that Trump ‘grabbed the steering wheel or an agent.'”

But Salon reported Monday that neither Ornato nor Engel have showed up to testify one month later and both have hired private counsel. 

The Secret Service and Pence

There are also questions about the Secret Service’s intentions after it was revealed to the committee that the service wanted to drive Vice President Mike Pence away from the Capitol that day, where he had been removed to a basement loading dock during the riot upstairs. Pence refused to leave and after the angry mob, some of whom were looking for him, left the Capitol, he returned to the House chamber to oversee Joe Biden’s certification as president-elect, defying pressure from Trump.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) has even suggested the Secret Service was in on the plot to remove Pence from the Capitol to stop him from certifying Biden that day.

Deleted Messages

Suspicions about what the Secret Service was up to later deepened as it became known that the service deleted its text messages from Jan. 5 and Jan. 6.  

Worse yet, it was later revealed that the agency had been told in advance not to do so.  In fact, there appears to have been not one, but three separate warnings issued to the Secret Service not to delete the messages. Further, the Department of Homeland Security knew about the deletions but failed to inform Congress.

A Secret Service spokesperson claimed to The Washington Post that the text messages were lost during a “device replacement program” in January and February and that the Homeland Security inspector general only asked for the texts in February after some of the deletions occurred.

U.S. Secret Service agent on top of the White House, July 3, 2021. (White House, Adam Schultz)

The National Archives has asked the Secret Service for more information about “the potential unauthorized deletion” of the text messages. The Secret Service has until Aug. 19 to respond.

The service — entrusted with protecting the president — has fallen under such grave doubt that the Department of Homeland Security has told them to halt their internal inquiry.

This may be the greatest Secret Service failure since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, according to commentators such as MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell. And Leonnig, of The Washington Post, has pointed out that the Secret Service’s disappearance of crucial documents is a pattern extending back to 1963.  It was then repeated in 1995.  And it has potentially happened again surrounding the events of Jan. 6. 

A Barely Noticed Pardon

In April this year, Biden pardoned former Secret Service agent Abraham Bolden. This was lightly noted in the media, mainly in the Midwest. The story behind the pardon was all but ignored.

Few people know that before President Kennedy was killed in Dallas, there were at least two prior attempts on his life in that very month of November 1963.

As Oliver Stone notes in his film, JFK Revisited, [for which I wrote the script] one was in Tampa and the other in Chicago. Bolden was involved in the latter. The circumstances surrounding the attempt to kill Kennedy in Chicago were first covered up by the Secret Service in 1963.

The Secret Service was in receipt of two tips about the attempt to kill JFK in Chicago. One was from an informant code named “Lee,” one was from a landlady from a boarding house on the North Side. 

The landlady told the F.B.I. that four men had rented rooms from her. She had seen four rifles with telescopic sights in one of the rooms along with a newspaper sketch of the upcoming motorcade route. As with the more general tip from “Lee,” this information was passed on to the Chicago office of the Secret Service.

Based on this information, plus the efforts of a local policeman, three men were arrested, though no further information was drawn from them.

Kennedy ended up canceling the trip on the day he was to arrive in Chicago. The ostensible reason was the crisis in Saigon involving the overthrow of the Diem government.

As James Douglass notes in his fine book, JFK and the Unspeakable, Secret Service protocol was seriously abridged. The agents were told not to prepare written documents.  Instead, they dictated oral reports. They were then asked to turn over their notebooks. At headquarters, this data was sequestered, thus making it deniable. There is no evidence it was made available in the Secret Service central files.

As many observers have noted, this was a grievous error.  Because the plot to kill Kennedy in Chicago had so many similarities to what happened in Dallas, if the information had been made available, it is highly possible that Kennedy’s assassination could have been prevented.

Bolden was the one agent in Chicago who tried to tell the Warren Commission what had happened.  Two weeks after he told another agent he was going to testify, Bolden was arrested and convicted of taking a bribe in a counterfeiting case he was investigating. He was sentenced to six years in prison. One of the witnesses against him later admitted he had perjured himself in testifying against Bolden, but Bolden was denied a retrial.

The facts about the attempt to kill Kennedy in Chicago were so assiduously covered up that the story did not emerge until 1975 when the illustrious journalist Edwin Black wrote a story about it for Chicago independent, an alternative journal.

But the Secret Service did not stop there. In 1994, the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) was assigned the task of declassifying and opening all the documents relating to President Kennedy’s assassination.

As with the records of Jan. 6, a similar pattern is discernible. The National Archives in 1994 had briefed the Secret Service on the upcoming requests by the ARRB. Six boxes of Secret Service materials had been set aside and tagged for transfer.

Yet in January 1995, at about the time when the Review Board was ready to inspect those records, two of the boxes were destroyed. This included records of 23 trips Kennedy made in the autumn of 1963.  The destroyed records included three folders about Chicago.

The Secret Service tried to say it was all part of a routine destruction procedure.  Today they are saying the records were lost in a routine transfer procedure. Considering the circumstances both then and now, these explanations are highly questionable.

As ARRB analyst Doug Horne noted in his book Inside the ARRB, the board was furious at this willful destruction of important material. They considered it an act of outright defiance.  They prepared an option of calling an open hearing and inviting the media to attend.  This way they themselves could hear in open colloquy the excuses over what the Secret Service had done.  In the end the board decided not to do so.  That might have been a mistake, considering what has now happened.

The role of the Secret Service in the failure to protect President Kennedy was papered over by the Warren Commission.  From drinking hard liquor until 3 a.m. the night before, to scaling back the motorcycle escort in Dallas, to approving an unconscionable  motorcade route — agents should have been fired and the top level of the hierarchy should have been overhauled. 

That routine should not be allowed this time around. Secret Service Director James Murray should be asked why he did not directly intervene in securing all text messages from Jan. 5 and 6.  His relationship with Ornato should be pored over with a magnifying glass.

Was Hutchinson accurate about the aborted trip from the Ellipse to the Capitol?  Was Ornato under orders not to take Trump there? Did Pence and his staff suspect something was afoot, and was this why they refused to be driven away?

If the National Archives establishes malfeasance in the deletion of the texts, it would be the biggest Secret Service failure since 1963.  And this time around, it should not be concealed.  Once was bad enough.

James DiEugenio is a researcher and writer on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and other mysteries of that era. His most recent book is The JFK Assassination : The Evidence Today.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.


39 comments for “The Worst US Secret Service Failure Since Nov. 1963?

  1. August 1, 2022 at 15:13

    if the aroused mob fiasco on jan 6 can pass of for an insurrection then the super bowl is a threat to world peace…in fact, if what passes for a left in america had ever mounted such an angry demo at the capitol quite a few critics here would have been cheering – in disbelief…please come off it and stop treating an angry outcry among alienated americans as though it was any remotely passing for threat on “our” democracy, where it took nearly two billion dollars to elect “our” president…all of that money coming, of course, from homeless, disabled, poverty stricken masses among our ruling power citizenry…gimme a break

  2. Tony
    August 1, 2022 at 13:52

    “The role of the Secret Service in the failure to protect President Kennedy was papered over by the Warren Commission.”

    There was no ‘failure’ to protect the president. The Secret Service deliberately refused to protect the president. No assassination plot is likely to succeed without the cooperation of the Secret Service.

    The head of the Secret Service in 1963 was James Rowley. If his organisation really had ‘failed’ then we would have expected President Johnson to have fired him. But he stayed on in that role until 1973. If incompetence had really been the issue, then President Johnson would have been risking his own assassination by retaining Rowley!

    No, the fact that Rowley was retained strongly suggests that Johnson was not unhappy about the Secret Service performance in Dallas. He got to achieve his burning ambition of becoming president and he may well have avoided being sent to prison because of the scandals that were starting to break.

    James Rowley was also a former employee of the FBI and remained on good terms with J. Edgar Hoover who avoided compulsory retirement at the start of 1965 because President Johnson allowed him to stay on. This is not something that President Kennedy is likely to have done.

  3. R. Billie
    July 31, 2022 at 15:13

    The SS is pretty good at keeping its backside covered, and avoiding even a hint of scandal. If you happen to have an insatiable appetite for exercises in futility you could try this: try to find the SS officer who pushed and then fell on top of President Reagan in the back seat of the car the day John Hinkley started popping off with his little Saturday Night Special. If you can find him (good luck) try to interview him about what really happened that day (again, good luck).

  4. IJScambling
    July 31, 2022 at 11:32

    JFK and the Unspeakable is indeed a fine book, in my view, after reading widely in the assassination literature. Instead of concentrating on the immediately central and best-known figures, it steadily widens the circle of those responsible for “the unspeakable”–that government criminals of the worst sort would engineer the brutal extinction of a world leader moving away from his prejudices toward global progress and peace. A most profound work, but not perhaps for those seeking an ordinary “who dun it” analysis.

  5. lester
    July 31, 2022 at 10:10

    Don’t forget the destruction of the mKULTRA records.

  6. bobok
    July 30, 2022 at 22:00

    The irony of trump and his supporters railing against the ‘deep state’ when, in fact, it serves the most reactionary, and facist, gangsters of the empire isn’t lost on me. But what do I know? Who can we trust, and why?

  7. bluedogg
    July 30, 2022 at 20:13

    Was it a failure of the Secret Service when they murdered JFK, a failure or part of the plan, and my money goes to part of the plan.

  8. Cal Lash
    July 30, 2022 at 16:16

    One doesn’t need to be big on conspiracies to see the facts in this article.
    Time to indict and seriously prosecute a whole bunch of dudes.
    Not six months from now but today.

    • Maricata
      July 30, 2022 at 20:29

      The problem is that under a failed liberal democracy there are no remedies for crimes. Blackmail and murder still run the day.

      Once the fascists take formal power, they will lock up as many socialists as they can kettle.

      If you can, get a passport

  9. Em
    July 30, 2022 at 15:14

    Can any outcome that was clandestinely contrived and executed be considered ‘a failure’ by those who were never in the loop?
    Can a political system be regarded as democratic by those whose voices are never heeded in the first place, by those in the loop?

    • Maricata
      July 30, 2022 at 20:30

      “The difference between democracy and dictatorship is that in a democracy you vote first, and take orders later; in a dictatorship, you don’t have to waste your time voting.”

      Charles Bukowski

      • Em
        July 31, 2022 at 15:03


        Whoever you are, wherever you are coming from
        Thanks for shining an arc of the fiery light of Charles Bukowski, in this direction
        Causing a crevasse in one so ‘damned’.

        Talking the walk rather than walking the talk
        In order, simply to rehabilitate one’s essence
        Little more than a puny palliative be.

        With appreciation!

  10. Richard Coleman
    July 30, 2022 at 14:30

    As the National Security State has fully emerged after 11/22, the SS and FBI have become fully politicized. And 11/22 could not have been merely a “failure” of the SS. If it had been, the rest of the gov would have descended on it like a ton of bricks. The event had to have been approved and sanctioned by the most powerful elements of the NSS both in and out of government.

  11. July 30, 2022 at 13:57

    Douglass’ book is indeed a thorough discussion of the JFK assassination. I was in the 6th grade when the Cuban Missile Crisis sent us crouching under our parochial school desks. It’s important to know how closely Kennedy was working with Khrushchev. That collaboration, among other things, is what led to his death. I don’t have any confidence in the lightweights running the show today, however. The global situation is much more complex. And as a lifelong “Democrat”, I can barely believe the senile incompetence in the current White House. Living in the NYC metro has me in a “duck & cover” headset these days. Maybe I should pull out that rosary and start praying again.

  12. Leroy
    July 30, 2022 at 13:42

    I’ve heard that the official policy of the SS is not to use text messaging while on duty. Is this true? Because if it is, then the “missing text messages” would have been unauthorized.

    That seems to complicate matters. As if it’s not complicated enough, from what little we “know.”


    • Maricata
      July 30, 2022 at 20:31

      What we do know is that ALL communications are saved by the NSA. Why not ask them?

      • Daniel
        July 31, 2022 at 12:03

        Exactly. No Such Agency, indeed.

  13. michael888
    July 30, 2022 at 13:00

    The Partisan Show Trial on January 6th, by the legislature, was carefully massaged to present some prosecutorial evidence and hide other exculpatory evidence.

    I was looking forward to the (retired immediately after the riot) Senate Sargent-at-Arms Michael Stenger’s testimony about provocateurs/ professional agitators, such as Epps and John Sullivan, but he tragically died the day before his testimony “of natural causes”.
    Washington, D.C., police officers, Gunther Hashida, Jeffrey Smith, Howard Liebengood and Kyle deFreytag, died by suicide in the months after defending the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot by Trump supporters. Perfectly normal? And people wonder where conspiracy theories come from.

  14. July 30, 2022 at 12:37

    This is far more in depth than any other reporters on this story. I’m glad I have you guys here. This is also deeply disturbing .

  15. Indite_the_cia
    July 30, 2022 at 12:02

    “neither Ornato nor Engel have showed up to testify one month later”

    Isn’t the burden for these agents appearance on the investigation committee?

    If the testimony is crucial to the investigation wouldn’t the committee be responsible for issuing/not issuing a subpoena for their appearances?

    I’m of the opinion these hearings are nothing more that a desperate attempt (again) at political assassination.. the Hutchinson testimony was so biased and (seemingly scripted) it was laughable.

    • Blessthebeasts
      August 1, 2022 at 13:29

      As is the notion that there was any attempt at “insurrection.” Trump grabbed the wheel and wanted to go to the Capitol to do what–lead a bunch of unarmed seniors to overthrow the government? Please–be reasonable, people!

  16. Jim Naorhleans
    July 30, 2022 at 10:49

    Given that ever since Mr. Snowden’s actions, we’ve known that the motto of the NSA is to “Collect Everything”, then this of course means that the US Government has copies of all such digital communications and audio of the phone calls.

    And probably several other agencies as well.
    America spies on everyone and everything. Its built into the system.
    I would consider it to be highly likely that there are one or more copies of everything in America right now.
    After all, those agency heads will soon need to be protecting their budgets from the next President.

    • Maricata
      July 30, 2022 at 20:32

      Of course. Nothing is erased,everything is known

  17. Jim Naorhleans
    July 30, 2022 at 10:44

    So, in the past, the SS has destroyed evidence and imprisoned the person who tried to be a whistleblower.

    This leads to one very important question. How many people spend how many years in Federal Prisons for this assault upon Law and Order in America? If the answer is Zero, then the next question is obvious …. Why the Heck would anyone think they would not do it again?

    Democracy in America Died on Nov 23, 1963, in Daley Plaza, Dallas TX.
    Notice this one fact, as Joe Biden’s “Approval Rating” heads for depths previously unexplored even by the Donald … John F. Kennedy was the last actually popular American President, with an Average Approval Rating for his shortened years in office at a whopping 70+%. America has not seen a government of the people, by the people and for the people, which of course would be approved of by the people and whom the people would see as ‘being on the right track’, such a government has not been seen since in America.

    If you want a democracy, it has to be protected. And that means those who deny the people the knowledge they need to make decisions need to be punished. And especially when those people go outside the law and disobey legal commands to preserve evidence.

    • robert e williamson jr
      August 1, 2022 at 16:16

      I could not agree more with anything than what you wrote Jim Naorhleans in your July 30, 2022 @ 10:44 submission here.

      Most especially your last paragraph.

      It is apparent to me that when CIA was created those who created it did so including a “death trap” for anyone who got off their script. Those loathsome purveyors of progress for all. Those having any socialist tendencies would be closely monitored. Now read those histories of the illegal shenanigans FBI and CIA involved themselves in prior to and after the JFK murder. Bada bing, bada boom!

      As one reads the many comments here what becomes most obvious is the CIA creators plan worked, but only because of DOJ’s failures to pursue investigations in a professional, unbiased manner. The “FIX” was in place. Once the congress was intimidated this experimental game of democracy was on borrowed time.

      Read your history. What happened instead with the was a travesty of monumental proportions, a white wash of lies and misrepresentations. And it occurred in open view of everyone.

      That last paragraph of yours is a dandy Jim.

      “If you want democracy , it has to be protected. And that means those who deny the people the knowledge they need to make decisions need to be punished. And especially when those people go outside the law and disobey legal commands to preserve evidence.”, Jim Naorhleans writes.

      It is very obvious from the onset of the CIA that it’s creators never intended anything of the sort, that protection for the Democracy. The CIA had written a caveat into the fabric of the CIA founding documents, the sources and methods ploy, this so called legal exception of disallowing anyone or organization from the authority to demand such information made that certain and the DOJ and it’s courts were in on the “FIX”. If not things would have changed and the JFK murder would have been the subject of an appropriate investigation. Instead those chosen to protect the democracy chose not to pursue that end.

      What they created instead was the sure-fire gagging of any dissent, the democracy be damned.

      In my opinion, humble as it maybe, they succeeded and have ruined the United States of America. Simply look around. James DiEugenio’s title implies the recent events connected to the U.S. Secret Service are failures and the title works well for his purpose. I’m not sure I agree in the broader context.

      Wiki the USSS, the Unites states Secret Service, which until 2003 was under the Treasury Department. (see the patriot act of 2001) On the wiki page Take time to read “Primary Missions: The secret Service is mandated by Congress with two distinct and critical missions national security missions : protecting the nations leaders and safe guarding the FINANCIAL and CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE of the United States. Based on this claim alone USSS blew it when we examine the events of 911, why is it no one even seemed to notice?

      Read the remainder of the page, comparing what is written there to the failures of USSS brings to mind an attempt at the blackest of dark humor. It appears to me FBI, USSS, CIA many others in the National Security apparatus failure point to successes for the bad guys. And the bad guys are those in the shadows with the money behind them to court favor with worthless congress members who sold out and lead to these hapless agencies filled with ,I’m certain , many well intending good people, victims themselves of their perverted leaders. For decades hapless Americans held faith the DOJ would serve them honestly, it did not happen.

      It is what it is folks and what it is, is time for real change because these failures are the Outline of Success for the bad people in our government who have deceived us at every turn because of interference from members of super wealthy elitists suffering from the disease of greed for even more wealth and power .

      Look around, who among us benefits the most from these travesties.

      We all have been had and for what ideal or ideology.

      You see in some instances dissent is the only healthy avenue to pursue change. When dissent becomes illegal no defense is left for the democracy.

      Thanks CN

  18. July 30, 2022 at 10:37

    More manufactured drama. As Russiagate was exposed as a false narrative so is the text issue. As we were reminded that the NSA captures all actions over the internet, which text need to go from phone to phone, person to person, it’s absurd for them to attempt to lead us into a deception that the text are lost. Just as it was absurd for them to claim Russia tampered with the election in 2016 without knowing exactly where the “hack” came from and or untraceable.

  19. July 30, 2022 at 10:06

    I think that in both cases (JFK and Jan 6th) that they were not a failure of the SS at all. They were major victories. The SS wanted everything kept under wraps, and viola, everything is under wraps. No charges will be filed, the Dems will do nothing (as usual) and things will go on their merry way.

    My understanding of cloud services suggests that those text messages are still out there, in the cloud, and that if the congress really wanted them, they could probably get them. I wonder how much they want to get them, and my guess is, not at all. The Blob protects its own, and it isn’t ever going to go after the SS. This will all get swept under the rug, just like JFK, and the gleefully compliant media will do their part, as usual.

  20. Altruist
    July 30, 2022 at 10:01

    Comparing the deletion of a few text messages in connection with the January 6th “insurrection”, which was at worst a minor riot and stunt, with suppressing evidence in connection with the assassination of President Kennedy, which was a real coup d’état and changed the course of history, is ridiculous.

    Also, I do not understand why the book “JFK and the Unspeakable” by James Douglass is consistently praised (the above article calling it a “fine book”). I read this book last year, and it is regretably not a fine book. Although it presents a wide range of interesting facts, the book is very disorganized, written in a circular fashion, without structure or linear thinking. It’s raw material without conversion into a solid argument or case.

    I think James Di Eugenio’s time would be best spent writing the definitive book about the assassination of JFK.

    • Blessthebeasts
      August 1, 2022 at 13:32

      True. It’s an obscene insult to the legacy of JFK to make such a comparison.

  21. KR
    July 30, 2022 at 05:19

    The J6 committee doesn’t have much, and this text message thing is just a sideshow to continue to get attention.

  22. Carolyn L Zaremba
    July 29, 2022 at 23:36

    They need to get Tony Ornato to testify in person under oath, or else Hutchinson’s testimony as to events is hearsay. He may deny it to the media, but will he deny it under oath?

    • John R
      July 30, 2022 at 17:59

      Does testimony under oath really mean anything to these people ? While it is supposed to I have very strong doubts.

  23. Paine
    July 29, 2022 at 23:02

    The 1-6 Commission should also be seeking not just Secret Service text messages but also the Secret Service White House audio transmissions.

    The Warren Commission also failed to retrieve SS audio recordings related to President Kennedy’s assassination.

  24. Dfnslblty
    July 29, 2022 at 19:37

    Suppose …
    “… Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, warned her four days in advance that “Things might get real, real bad on Jan. 6th.”
    … is a lie from the liar Meadows!
    This, to place focus on a 26-year old aide, and direct investigation away from formerly Treasury – now Homeland.

    And, Garland is now mute and dilatory …

    Oh, what a tengled web they weave …

    • Brian Bixby
      August 1, 2022 at 02:02

      I think that lifelong Republican Merrick Garland was specifically chosen to obstruct and slow-walk any investigation into the prior Sadministration. The prior Democratic administration protected war criminals and the perpetrators of the largest fraud in the history of money, the prior Democratic president protected the Iran/Contra criminals, so it’s something of a tradition I guess.

  25. CNfan
    July 29, 2022 at 18:28

    In parallel, I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that the entire corporate-owned news media routinely withholds vast amounts of highy significant information from the public.

    • Maricata
      July 30, 2022 at 20:34

      They are transnational corporations that trade on various exchanges. They own a vast amount of assets in various categories like real estate. They use fake shell companies often. They are not news networks they are networks of deceit and crime.

      • Daniel
        July 31, 2022 at 12:07


      • CNfan
        August 1, 2022 at 02:19


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