The Not-So-Secret Service

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WASHINGTON: Nobody likes a tell-tale. That’s the basic thrust of a letter sent by Secret Service Director Lewis Merletti to 3,200 of his current and 500 of his former agents. In the wake of one of their number ratting on President Kennedy’s memory for the sake of Seymour Hersh, Merletti reminds his men, an agent’s determination to keep confidences “should continue forever.”

What’s troubling Merletti so is the number of indiscretions from Agent Tony Sherman in Hersh’s controversial Kennedy expose “The Dark Side of Camelot.” Try this quote for size: “You were on the most elite assignment in the Secret Service and you were there watching an elevator or a door because the president was inside with two hookers.” Regardless of the truth of the incident, it’s not exactly what Merletti would call loyalty to your old boss.

Sherman is protesting First Amendment rights, and points out he’s only “tattling” on a President who’s been dead 35 years. Seymour Hersh is yelling conspiracy, and the White House is claiming it had nothing to do with Merletti’s little round-robin. Still, at least the Secret Service has something to be proud of. The Merletti letter was sent December 5; whether they intended to or not, servicemen have managed to keep it hush-hush for — oh, nearly two weeks now.