How the FBI thwarted one agent’s JFK investigation

Joseph Milteer said JFK would be shot

There’s more to the heroic story of FBI agent, Don Adams, whose recent death was reported in JFK Facts by BIll Hogan. Hogan reported that Adams had broken ranks with the Bureau to say that the investigation of the assassination of President Kennedy was compromised.

“I have learned that crucial evidence was withheld from me as an agent investigating a planned assassination of the president, just weeks before it actually took place,” Adams wrote in his book From an Office Building with a High-Powered Rifle( Trine Day, 2012),
Now you can review the evidence Adams was denied: a chiling tape recording made a couple of weeks before Kennedy was killed and a tape transcript, both of which authorities ignored when investigating JFK’s assassination.
Don Adams only learned the story many years later.
A man named William Somersett was working as informant in the segregationist National States Rights Party in 1963. In early November 1963  Somersett secretly audiotaped party leader Joseph Milteer who had been discussing killing a SNCC leader in Atlanta earlier that month.   Milteer also discussed plans to kill President Kennedy, which he said involved shooting the JFK  with a rifle from an office building.
“They will pick up somebody in the hours afterwards…just to throw the public off,” Milteer said.
Sommersett informed the Miami police who passed his report to the FBI and the Secret Service. The FBI and the Secret Service acknowledged that they received copies of the tape transcript no later than November 12, 1963

Read the tape transcript while listening to the tape - start at 13:58, which coincides with the first highlighted portion of the transcript.

Adams investigates

As a young FBI agent in Georgia, Adams was assigned to investigate Milteer.  He  says that he conducted two interviews with Milteer.  The first one was on November 16, 1963 when Adams donned work clothes and concealed his FBI identity while chit-chatting as Milteer was leafleting in the center of his hometown.  The second one took place on November 27, when Milteer denied any role in the killing of JFK.

The Milteer’s comments were ignored by the FBI and the Warren Commission. Adams’ report on his November 16 1963 meeting with Milteer has vanished.

Don Adams, FBI agent

Adams conducted other interviews in the ensuing days on other aspects of the JFK investigation, but  he was not told that Milteer had boasted to Somersett on November 26 that Dallas was a success and that “Martin Luther King and Attorney General Robert Kennedy are now unimportant.”

The tape transcript shows Somersett telling the Miami police: “He [Milteer] couldn’t guess, in my opinion, that the President would be shot from a window.”
As the years went by, Adams learned about Somersett’s interviews with Milteer.  His bosses had never told him about these interviews.
Adams couldn’t understand why the Secret Service didn’t carefully monitor the office buildings in downtown Dallas. Why didn’t they call off JFK’s dangerous public appearances held in Tampa, Miami, and Dallas in the month of November?
The Secret Service did cancel a planned motorcade during JFK’s visit to Miami on November 18, 1963 and instead transported the president by helicopter.  Despite that move, the Secret Service wrote a 250-page report within a month after the assassination that made no mention of the Milteer threat.
Five years later
Incredibly, five years later, Somersett phoned his superiors on April 3, 1968, reporting that Martin Luther King was about to be assassinated.  King was killed the next day.  Yet the FBI’s supervisor on Freedom of Information Act cases filed a court declaration stating that the only suspect to the MLK killing was James Earl Ray, ignoring Somersett’s evidence once again.

A new document is now revealed in its entirety in Adams’ book.  Although this copy has some redactions, it contains most of the critical information.

(Unfortunately, the document is unavailable at the Mary Ferrell site but it can be found in the Kindle edition of Adams’ book, at locations 2419 and 2424.)

This new revelation is a memo of an interview that Jim Garrison’s colleague and fellow investigator Bud Fensterwald had with Somersett about two months after King’s death.  Adams says that a tape of this Somersett-Fensterwald meeting was provided to Somersett’s bosses at Miami Intelligence and sent on to the FBI. The memo says that Milteer admitted to Somersett that he was in Dallas on November 22 and that  Milteer said patrolman J. D. Tippit and Jack Ruby were part of JFK assassination.

It is well known that the Secret Service destroyed many of its records from the fall of 1963 period after receiving a subpoena from the Assassination Records Review Board. in the mid-1990s.

In his book, Adams does a good job of summing up the problem:

“The information received by the Miami Police Department and then the Secret Service and the FBI in October and November of 1963 certainly should have set the foundation for a properly completed investigation.

“It was Nov. 9, 1963, when both the Miami FBI office and the Secret Service obtained a copy of the tape from Lt. Everett Kay of the Miami Police Department’s Intelligence Unit of a conversation between Somersett and Milteer where Milteer openly discusses the planned killing of President Kennedy with a high-powered rifle from an office building. All hell should have broken loose at that moment…

“…The Miami Intelligence Unit notified the FBI and the Secret Service immediately.  The Washington, D.C. FBI office and others throughout the country were notified about this serious threat. It would seem to go without saying that Director Hoover would have been notified instantly. As I have said, I did not know of the Nov. 9, 1963 tape recording until 1993, when I read about it in High Treason. Here I am, the case agent of the investigation involving Milteer, and I am never informed by anyone in the FBI about the tape recording or the direct threat. Obviously, this information was purposefully kept from me in total violation of the strictest Bureau rules.

“While I never knew of the tape recording, my fellow agent and partner Royal McGraw did. It wasn’t until 2007 when I discovered his full Jan. 22, 1964 report in the National Archives that I learned that McGraw had been aware of the tape recording. In hindsight, I started to wonder why I was assigned this most important investigation by SAC McMahon on Nov. 13, 1963. I was an FBI neophyte, a first-office agent. My supervisor in Thomasville, McGraw, had been an agent for 10 years at that time. Could McGraw have made sure the Milteer investigation was assigned to me to give him cover, should any aspect of the Nov. 9 tape-recorded threat become reality?”
Adams, to his ever-lasting credit, denounced the misconduct of his colleagues and sought to set the record straight.  He died on June 14 at age 83 in Akron, Ohio,

(The final quote can be found in Adams’ book:   From an Office Building with a High-Powered Rifle: One FBI Agent’s View of the JFK Assassination (Kindle Locations 1324-1341, 1343-1354). Independent Publishers Group. Kindle Edition.)

38 comments

  1. GM says:

    Very interesting. Is there a possibility that Milteer’s comments were designed to test the reaction (or in this case the non reaction) of the intelligence agencies/Secret Service to assassination threats against President Kennedy? I don’t think Milteer would have been directly involved in a possible plot at Dealey Plaza. Perhaps his role was indirect.

    • Gerry Simone says:

      It always seemed to me that Milteer was in a circle of right wingers who had limited knowledge of information heard through the proverbial grapevine, but that he wasn’t an actual co-conspirator but perhaps an accessory.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Don Adams’ FBI partner Royal McGraw and the William Sommersett tape are again fine examples of many people with fore knowledge of JFK’s murder in the street. Can people keep secrets? You bet they can until a man like Don Adams investigates the situation or they are worried about their precious pension.

  3. Larry Hancock says:

    Just for reference, Milteer’s remarks were reported to the Secret Service and forwarded to the Washington DC. threat file because Milteer had mentioned Washington in the dialog. Unfortunately the Secret Service’s practice was to compile such threats by location and only review them in regard to the President’s presence in that location. They didn’t seem to grasp the idea of a mobile threat. Of course the Bureau’s repose was to go ask the people Milteer mentioned if they planned to kill the President and amazingly all of them denied any such thing. That ultimately led to the FBI’s downgrading of Sommersett’s value as an informant – hard to believe but that was how Hoover ran the shop.

    • Bill Simpich says:

      Larry puts his finger on what bothers me the most about the Milteer story – the reaction of the Secret Service. As Larry points out, the Secret Service cancelled the Miami motorcade, but not the Dallas motorcade. Since the threat went all the way to Washjngton, isn’t it logical that the. Secret Service would at least be monitoring the windows of the tall buildings along the Dallas motorcade route? Yet the evidence is that they did not and didn’t use extra help that was offered. Commission Document 3 is a 250 page Secret Service report written a month after JFK’s death, yet it says nothing about the Milteer threat. I advocate as much research on the Secret Service as possible; the work of people like Vince Palamara interviewing the agents and Pamela Brown on the limousine show what can be done and the degree of the agency’s complicity. I have some CIA documents that will add to the discussion.

      • John McAdams says:

        As Larry points out, the Secret Service cancelled the Miami motorcade, but not the Dallas motorcade.

        Actually, no.

        No Miami motorcade was cancelled.

        The original plan was to chopper the president to a point near the hotel. A very short motorcade would then take him to the hotel.

        That in fact is what happened.

        http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/milteer.htm

        • Jonathan says:

          The bigger point is that the Secret Service controlled the manner and method of the president’s travel. Regardless of what the S.S. did in Miami or elsewhere, the S.S. grossly fell down on the job in Dallas. And gave the finger to the ARRB by burning its travel documents for much of the Kennedy presidency. It’s a highly suspect organization in 1963 and at later times, IMO.

          You, John McAdams, can rely on a 1976 Secret Service communication to the Church Committee to support your assertion that there was no cancellation of a JFK motorcade in Miami, if you wish. I wouldn’t trust the veracity of any such document, given all the known misbehaviors of the S.S.

          • John McAdams says:

            OK, so let’s add the Secret Service to the list of liars to whom you will not listen.

            Conveniently, that list seems to include everybody who tells you something you find inconvenient, doesn’t it?

            But how about looking at some primary sources:

            This document shows that the plan (always) was for JFK to depart the airport by chopper for the hotel):

            http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/images/milteer1.gif

            This diagram (from John Fiorentino) shows that the chopper had to land a few blocks short of the hotel:

            http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/images/jfk-amer-hotel1.jpg

            And sure enough, there was a short motorcade to the hotel from the heliport.

            http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/images/Miami_motorcade.jpg

          • Jonathan says:

            Reply to:

            John McAdams
            July 11, 2014 at 12:20 pm

            I listen to liars. Always have. The question is whom and what to believe without corroboration? I’d say you’re gullible if you take any government agency utterance on a matter of controversy at simple face value. The American people have been misled and deceived far too often for me to do that. Missing IRS emails, anyone? Snowden’s recent revelations on NSA snooping, anyone? The list goes on and on.

            I value those who tell me things that are so but contrary to what I’ve said or believed. For example, Jean Davison corrected everyone here, myself included, on the fact that a certain postal form was required for shipment of handguns but not long guns. Bravo to Jean, I say. That’s a nugget of fact.

            I don’t disagree with you about the Miami motorcade. You dodge the bigger point of my previous comment, however, about Secret Service laxity in Dallas.

          • John McAdams says:

            You dodge the bigger point of my previous comment, however, about Secret Service laxity in Dallas.

            I think you would be hard pressed to show that the Secret Service was laxer in Dallas than in any other city.

            If you think the Milteer thing should have set off alarm bells for Dallas, you have to face the fact that Milteer was in Miami, talking about JFK’s trip to Miami.

            You also need to read Larry Hancock’s post above:

            Just for reference, Milteer’s remarks were reported to the Secret Service and forwarded to the Washington DC. threat file because Milteer had mentioned Washington in the dialog. Unfortunately the Secret Service’s practice was to compile such threats by location and only review them in regard to the President’s presence in that location. They didn’t seem to grasp the idea of a mobile threat.

      • JSA says:

        I hold the Secret Service heads (not every single agent) under a high “need to investigate further” category for the same reasons that Bill Simpich does. There’s the Chicago motorcade which was to take JFK to Soldier Field from O’Hare which was aborted and which raised red flags, and then there was the cancellation of the Miami motorcade but not the Tampa one, just prior to Dallas. I haven’t seen any satisfactory explanation for the REALLY SHODDY motorcade security in Dallas, including poor limousine support and what looks suspiciously like an SS agent confused with a “WTF” gesture at Love Field after being called off the back of Kennedy’s car, as shown here:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6OWcujJSCU

        What is going on at Love Field in this clip? Are there any reports that have surfaced, or witness/participant explanations for the calling off of the SS agent at Love Field?

  4. Shane McBryde says:

    Milteer really strikes me has your run of the mill eccentric, racist old nut bag. He obviously had more money than he has sense. It seems in Milteer’s world everybody had it coming all the time. But, who was this nut job hanging around that he was getting this spot-on info about King’s and Kennedy’s assassinations. I think he had credible reason to suspect the eminent death of both these people. But, I suspect he picked it up from some person or persons with whom he came in contact.

    The dude had a pretty expansive friends circle of high-level segregationist klansmen types. Which at that time, and in that place, was the mainstream point of view. I don’t know! It’s an awful head scratcher. Who did Milteer know, and when did he know them?

  5. Gerry Simone says:

    I wanted to further add that this may be another reason why you can’t trust the evidence gathered by the FBI in this case.

  6. John McAdams says:

    This new revelation is a memo of an interview that Jim Garrison’s colleague and fellow investigator Bud Fensterwald had with Somersett about two months after King’s death. . . The memo says that Milteer admitted to Somersett that he was in Dallas on November 22 and that Milteer said patrolman J. D. Tippit and Jack Ruby were part of JFK assassination.

    Interesting that this late “Milteer in Dallas” account from Somerset flatly contradicts earlier statements from Somerset.

    First, there was a November 26, 1963 Miami police interview:

    Q: Do you have any idea of your own thought, what is your thought, do you think maybe Milteer could have been in Dallas, Texas in the last two weeks?

    A: Yes, he could have been there, I am satisfied that he could have been most anywhere he wanted; he has two cars ready to move at anytime.

    Q: You have seen no evidence that he was there?

    A: No. He didn’t say that he was, the only thing he said that he had been in Texas.

    Then there is this:

    http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/somersett.txt

  7. Larry Hancock says:

    I know it sounds stupid – well it was stupid – but you have to understand Secret Service PRS protocol to make sense of this. PRS had nothing in the way of an analysis group – much like the FBI which itself didn’t do much intel analysis aside from Task Forces like the Organized Crime Task Force. The Secret Service did card files, threats by location. When a team was assigned to a Presidential event or tour they just pulled the cards for those locations – period. For example in Texas there was an NSRP threat in San Antonio, but no threat in Dallas. There is no sign that aside from coincidental verbal discussion anything got passed from unit to unit. There were warnings in Miami, coming out of the exile community. Could an exile travel to Dallas, sure, but the warnings stayed in the Miami threat file. Now Vince has turned up some indications that the PRS group may have had some special intel – they had actually assigned at least one and maybe two new PRS guys to the Presidential travel detail. What that was all about we have no clue on. But the Milteer thing is real simple, once he got filed as a threat in Washington DC, that was it. And by the way, he had worked in DC.

  8. bogman says:

    On Sepf. 10, 2001, someone posted that the next day jihad would be carried out in the major cities of the west on a CNN political board. Everyone on the board condemned the person who had never posted previously. The next day I reported the incident to the FBI following the 9-11 attacks.

    Could it be that Milteer, like the jihadist poster above, was aware of the “chatter” that intel agencies claim they hear before a major incident?

    • Jean Davison says:

      Milteer didn’t have to have inside information to come up with the “high-powered rifle from an office building” idea. A potential assassin didn’t have a large number of methods and opportunities available to him.

      JFK himself mentioned the possibility on the morning of 11/22, according to his aide Kenny O’Donnell:

      >>>>
      Mr. O’DONNELL. His view was that a demented person who was willing to sacrifice his own life could take the President’s life. And that if it were to happen, I think his general view was it would happen in a crowded situation.
      I don’t think it entered his mind that it might happen in the fashion as of a motorcade.
      Mr. SPECTER. What was his reaction to that risk?
      Mr. O’DONNELL. I think he felt that was a risk which one assuming the office of the Presidency of the United States inherited. It didn’t disturb him at all.
      Mr. SPECTER. When was the last conversation that you had with him on that general topic?
      Mr. O’DONNELL. The last conversation I had with him on that general topic was the morning of the assassination. [...]
      The conversation took place in his room, with Mrs. Kennedy and myself, perhaps a half hour before he left the Hotel Texas [in Fort Worth] to depart for Carswell Air Force Base.
      [....]
      Mr. O’DONNELL. Well, as near as I can recollect he was commenting to his wife on the function of the Secret Service and his interpretation of their role once the trip had commenced, in that their main function was to protect him from crowds, and to see that an unruly or sometimes an overexcited crowd did not generate into a riot, at which the President of the United States could be injured. But he said that if anybody really wanted to shoot the President of the United States, it was not a very difficult job–all one had to do was get a high building some day with a telescopic rifle, and there was nothing anybody could do to defend against such an attempt on the President’s life.
      >>>
      UNQUOTE

      There’s more near the bottom of this page:
      http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/russ/testimony/odonnell.htm
      [WC Hearings, vol. VII, 456]

      This conversation was also mentioned in William Manchester’s The Death of a President.

      I think Milteer was merely speculating, as he was when he suggested that someone might shoot JFK on the White House veranda from a hotel room window. We remember the one thing a fortune teller gets right, not all the misses.

  9. bogman says:

    Milteer also predicted that the authorities would pick some ‘nut’ up within a couple of hours after the assassination to ‘throw the public off.’

    How do you explain that amazingly prescient statement?

    As an aside, O’Donnell also believed at least one shot came from the knoll but Specter made sure not to go down that road, typical of most of the WC ‘testimony.’

    • Jean Davison says:

      What other outcome could Milteer have imagined? That the gunman he named would be caught and thus involve the racists he was associated with? I don’t think so.

      Oswald wasn’t arrested because he was a “nut.” He was arrested because he was spotted ducking the cops who were searching for Tippit’s killer. His arrest didn’t “throw the public off” since the evidence pointed directly to him.

      • bogman says:

        i think the truly prescient part was guessing the speed at which the assassin was apprehended and the investigation essentially ended.

        Guess that makes Milteer a pre-assassination conspiracy theorist. And he isnt even mentioned in the supposed bible of the assasination, the WR.

      • Ronnie Wayne says:

        I don’t think Milteer imagined it. He probably heard it elsewhere, along with more, which is why he was in Dealy Plaza 11/22/63.
        O wasn’t arrested because he was a nut. But he was labeled such in just a few hours. I read somewhere the 1st recorded use of “it must have been some kind of nut” was by Mrs. Cabell, the dallas Mayor’s wife, the Mayor whose brother was fired by JFK along with Dulles over the BoP.
        His arrest did throw the public off as far as a conspiracy. If you believe in one and that O was a Patsy, whether he participated in it in any capacity or not, it did exactly that. Hoover had his man and the crime solved in a few hours. After O was dead he fed the Warren omission what he wanted to.

        • John McAdams says:

          He probably heard it elsewhere, along with more, which is why he was in Dealy Plaza 11/22/63.

          He wasn’t in Dealey Plaza. That was a piece of crackpot photo analysis from Robert Groden.

          http://www.maryferrell.org/mffweb/archive/viewer/showDoc.do?absPageId=78284

          And the report from Somerset that Milteer said he was in Dallas came only years later, during the Garrison investigation. Somerset earlier said that Milteer “could have been anywhere.”

          http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/milteer.htm

          • Bill Simpich says:

            John, this is ridiculous. You say that it took years for Somersett to report that Milteer was in Dallas, but the very report you posted on this site shows that the authorities had this report by 11 27 63.
            http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/somersett.txt

            And I say this as someone who agrees that you caught me in a mistake by saying there was no Miami motorcade by putting up a photo showing there was a short one. My central point doesn’t change however. The Miami authorities were nervous about Milteer. The Dallas authorities ignored it. And the Secret Service higher ups in dc suppressed the Milteer story from the Warren Commission.

          • John McAdams says:

            You say that it took years for Somersett to report that Milteer was in Dallas, but the very report you posted on this site shows that the authorities had this report by 11 27 63.

            Not true. The report actually said:

            Then Milteer allegedly said on the 23rd that he had been in Ft. Worth and Dallas, as well as other southern cities, but did not indicate the date he visited these cities.

            That’s miles from saying that Milteer called from Dallas on the 22nd.

            And then you have the other source: a November 26, 1963 Miami police interview:

            Q: Do you have any idea of your own thought, what is your thought, do you think maybe Milteer could have been in Dallas, Texas in the last two weeks?

            A: Yes, he could have been there, I am satisfied that he could have been most anywhere he wanted; he has two cars ready to move at anytime.

            Q: You have seen no evidence that he was there?

            A: No. He didn’t say that he was, the only thing he said that he had been in Texas.

            I suspect you agree with me about the Jean Hills and Roger Craigs of the world. It looks to me like Somerset belongs in the same category: witnesses who story got better over time.

          • david thurman says:

            Ok Mr. McAdams of Kennedy, Alabama you just impeached your earlier post, just above where you stated,

            “First, there was a November 26, 1963 Miami police interview:
            Q: Do you have any idea of your own thought, what is your thought, do you think maybe Milteer could have been in Dallas, Texas in the last two weeks?

            A: Yes, he could have been there, I am satisfied that he could have been most anywhere he wanted; he has two cars ready to move at anytime.

            Q: You have seen no evidence that he was there?

            A: No. He didn’t say that he was, the only thing he said that he had been in Texas.”

            So according to YOU (copy/pasted from your own posting just above here) on November 26, 1963, Somerset didn’t say Milteer, “could have been anywhere!” He said he’d been in Texas.

        • Ronnie Wayne says:

          I think the post below is an attempt to sideline this one. John doesn’t want to face the fact O was a trained USN Atiugi base Radar operator who tracked U-2′s and was recruited by the CIa.

    • John McAdams says:

      How do you explain that amazingly prescient statement?

      Calling that statement “prescient” involves some pretty strong assumptions.

      Was it to “throw the public off,” or because the “nut” shot J.D. Tippit?

      • bogman says:

        Milteer got the high-powered rifle from an office window right. Got the single assassin taken into custody quickly who was soon called a ‘nut’ right. And Milteer’s prediction that the person taken into custody was a patsy was supported by the accused himself. I’d say that’s five for five.

        • John McAdams says:

          And Milteer’s prediction that the person taken into custody was a patsy was supported by the accused himself.

          And we know Lee would never lie.

          How about Milteer’s claim that Jack Brown would do it?

          How about the fact that he was talking about Miami and not Dallas?

          How about the stuff about the “veranda of the White House?”

          Looks like a blowhard letting off steam.

  10. Bill Simpich says:

    John, you have made my point. Milteer did not bring Miami. Somersett brought up Miami. Milteer then told Somersett how Chattanooga native Jack Brown wanted to kill Kennedy – how Brown may have been the one who bombed the four little girls in Birmingham – and how Brown wanted to shoot JFK with a rifle on the White House veranda.

    The tape transcript: http://www.maryferrell.org/wiki/index.php/Transcript_of_Milteer-Somersett_Tape

  11. David Regan says:

    Around the 50th anniversary, CBS News revealed a separate Miami plot the FBI was not aware of. Exclusive: JFK Death Threat Note From Nov. 1963 In Miami Revealed For 1st Time « CBS Miami http://cbsloc.al/1wiu8GC

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