A former Secret Service agent has told WLS-TV there was a plot to kill President Kennedy in Chicago three weeks before he was assassinated in Dallas.
Kennedy was murdered on Nov. 22, 1963. Today is the 44th anniversary of JFK's assassination.
Lee Harvey Oswald would never have had the chance to kill Kennedy in Dallas, had an assassination plot in Chicago succeeded three weeks earlier, a plot that has been mentioned over the years.
Kennedy was due to arrive in Chicago the morning of Nov. 2 to attend the Army-Air Force football game at Soldier Field and ride in a parade. Newspapers had even printed JFK's detailed travel plan from O'Hare airport to the Loop.
Although police were preparing to line the motorcade route, Secret Service officials in Chicago were deeply troubled about the visit because of two secret threats.
Right-wing radical and Kennedy denouncer Thomas Vallee had arranged to be off work for JFK's visit; Vallee, an expert marksman, was arrested with an M1 rifle, a handgun and 3,000 rounds of ammo. But then there was the phone call to federal agents from a motel manager concerning what she'd seen in a room rented by two Cuban nationals.
"Had seen lying on the bed several automatic rifles with telescopic sights, with an outline of the route that President Kennedy was supposed to take in Chicago that would bring him past that building," said former Secret Service agent Abraham Bolden.
Bolden, 72, of Chicago, was a young agent in 1963. After a few years as an Illinois state trooper, Bolden joined he Secret Service and was invited by Kennedy onto the prestigious White House detail. He was the first black agent assigned to protect a president.
Bolden recalled how agents bungled surveillance of those two suspected Cuban hit men. They disappeared and were never identified.
"No one was sent to the room to fingerprint it or get an ID. The case was lost and that was the end of it," Bolden said.
On Nov. 2, the president was about to leave the White House for Chicago and Bolden says a Cuban murder squad here was unaccounted for.
"The morning of the game, the special agent in charge of the Chicago office called the White House and recommended the president cancel his trip to Chicago," Bolden said.
News reports stated that Kennedy didn't show because he was ill or because of a diplomatic crisis. Official investigations of JFK never determined why the president canceled Chicago Nov. 2. But in his first interview in 44 years, Bolden said JFK stayed away because of an imminent threat.
Bolden said the president didn't come to Chicago because he was basically waved off by the Secret Service, and it wasn't because he had a cold.
Information about Vallee, his similarity in appearance and background to Oswald and details of the Cuban hit squad in Chicago were never given to federal agents in Dallas.
Bolden said the information was not known to have been passed on to Dallas.
In a book that Bolden wrote with his wife, due out in the spring, he will cite another contributing factor in the JFK murder: on-duty drunkenness by Secret Service agents.
"I told the chief of the Secret Service this, that if anything happens, an emergency situation develops with President Kennedy, that their reflexes are going to be in a condition that they won't be in a condition to respond, and Dallas, Texas, proved I was right," he said. "The president's life was in grave danger because of the inefficiency of security around him, too many weaknesses."
"When that bullet struck the head of the president, it struck me too because I saw it coming," Bolden said.
When the Warren Commission began investigating JFK's assassination, Bolden says, he attempted to inform members about the Chicago plot and misconduct by his fellow agents.
During that time Bolden was arrested and prosecuted for soliciting a bribe from a counterfeiter and served a six-year sentence. He says it was a setup to silence him. The main witness has since recanted, and Bolden hopes now to clear his name.
A spokesman for the Secret Service in Washington said that officials "would not have any comment whatsoever about Mr. Bolden's statements."