Sunday, 23 September 2012 21:15

Evaluating the Case against Lyndon Johnson

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The weaknesses in the arguments that LBJ initiated and masterminded the plot to kill his predecessor offered by a number of recent books are here reviewed and synthesized.


with Seamus Coogan and Phil Dragoo


lbj color

In light of the ongoing stream of LBJ-did-it books, beginning with the Glenn Sample/Mark Collom The Men on the Sixth Floor in 1996, and capped by Philp Nelson’s rather overstated LBJ: Mastermind of JFK’s Assassination in 2011, the authors’ decided to analyze some of the common evidence used in these tomes. From 1996 to 2011 there have been at least six books saying more or less the same thing: LBJ was in charge of the Kennedy plot. Besides the two named above, there are works by the bombastic Barr McClellan, the prolific Joseph Farrell (Click here to see that review), one by Mark North (click here to see that review ), and a revision of his first book The Texas Connection by Craig Zirbel called The Final Chapter. Almost all of these books use one or more of the following pieces of evidence of testimony in advancing their arguments. Johnson has occupied a curious position at CTKA. Barring two reviews of books, by Seamus Coogan and Joe Green, (Click here for Joseph Green’s review of Philip Nelson’s book), arguments mitigating this "Johnson did it alone theory" are scattered around CTKA in a number of articles and on linked websites. Perhaps the two most detailed looks are Coogan’s review of Alex Jones (Click here for that) and a reply by Coogan to George Bailey on Greg Parker’s site, which has now been removed. The authors have tangled with this myth in various threads related to Nelson’s book at the Lancer and DPF forums, with the assistance of people like Charles Drago, Gerald Ven, Tony Franks and Albert Doyle, to name just a few.

No matter how often you tell people that the accumulated evidence clearly shows that Johnson had grave doubts about the assassination, and was unconvinced (as was Hoover) with the evidence concerning Oswald in the days after the assassination (Gerald McKnight, Breach of Trust, p. 283), and no matter how often you send people the link of LBJ asking Hoover, if any shots had been fired at him, there is still an “LBJ as mastermind” syndrome afoot. We are not saying that Johnson had no role in the assassination or cover up. The evidence for the latter is clear. But for some writers to say, as Barr McClellan and Phil Nelson do, that Johnson was the prime force behind the conspiracy, this simply has not been demonstrated to any convincing degree. Indeed a suspicious amount of LBJ did it obfuscation abounds. Let us detail some of it.

1: LBJ created the Warren Commission

This is perhaps the biggest fallacy (and it’s really the most ignored ‘truth’) in all the pro conspiracy LBJ-did-it phenomena. Thanks to the excellent work of Donald Gibson, in his star turn in Probe Magazine (reprinted in The Assassinations) we now know the true, documented story behind this potent but ultimately fanciful tale.

The HSCA’s description of how the Warren Commission came into existence is neither complete nor accurate. The myth--or at least part of it--goes that Johnson, Fortas, Katzenbach and RFK decided to create a presidential committee to silence rumors of conspiracy. Katzenbach himself testified before the HSCA in 1978 and gave an extremely mixed account of how the commission was set up, not to mention who originated the idea. Indeed, it appears that he and the Committee were reluctant to discuss that rocky road.

Donald Gibson found out that the idea for a commission was first suggested by Eugene Rostow, Dean of the Yale Law School during a telephone call to presidential aide Bill Moyers, on the 24th of November 1963. Moyers then informed LBJ about his discussion with Rostow on the morning of November 25th. That same day LBJ talked with Hoover at 10.30 am about the idea put forward to him about a commission, telling Hoover that it was a bad idea. Indeed, he stated unequivocally that he preferred an FBI report sanctioned by the attorney general that would support a Texas court of inquiry. A mere ten minutes later LBJ got a call from journalist Joe Alsop. Alsop, using all the charm and persuasion he could muster, tried to change LBJ’s mind regarding a presidential commission and he encouraged him to discuss the matter with former Secretary of State, Dean Acheson. Gibson believes that the idea originated from Rostow, Alsop, and Acheson, and it was supported by the Washington Post and the New York Times and Dean Rusk. LBJ called Senator Eastland on the 28th of November and persuaded him to abandon the idea to create an independent senate investigative committee. So LBJ was transformed in the space of four days from an opponent to the creator of the commission.

One of the more sinister things that happened during this time was that, in talking to the White House, Rostow gave every indication that there were other people in the room with him awaiting the outcome of that very conversation. Alsop told Johnson he had just talked with Acheson. Who were Rostow’s “other people”? Well, that’s anyone’s guess. But when we consider that Rostow, Acheson and Alsop were all members of the Eastern Establishment it’s hardly surprising that Seamus Coogan and Jim DiEugenio suspect that one of the people listening in on Rostow’s phone call was Allen Dulles.

Further Reading: The Creation of the ‘Warren Commission by Donald Gibson, pages 3-16, The Assassinations edited by James DiEugenio and Lisa Pease, 2003.

2. E. Howard Hunt named LBJ as the Mastermind of the assassination

In 2007, E. Howard Hunt, the infamous CIA officer and Watergate conspirator gave a deathbed confession to his son Saint John Hunt. He left behind a taped confession in which he claimed that LBJ ordered the murder of JFK. He claimed that LBJ asked CIA officer Cord Meyer to organize a plot to kill the man he considered an obstacle between himself and the Presidency. Then Meyer enlisted CIA officers, David Phillips, William Harvey, David Morales, Frank Sturgis and a French gunman to carry out the assassination. Hunt claimed that he did not take part in the plot, but was merely a benchwarmer. Should we really believe Hunt and his allegations that LBJ was the mastermind of the plot? Of course not.

Hunt was a professional liar during his career at the CIA and he remained a liar to his death. Old habits die hard. Mark Lane proved in his book Plausible Denial that Hunt had lied about everything, like his denial that he was in Dallas the 22nd of November. And there is also his dirty effort to blame the deceased President Kennedy for the murder of Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem by forging documents.

It seems that his confession was a limited hangout to shift the blame for the deed from the real conspirators to a past president. So he gives us something to satisfy our curiosity, like some renegade CIA agents and LBJ in order to stop us from searching further, thus protecting the identity of the real conspirators to whom Hunt was intensely loyal.

If Hunt was indeed part of the plot (and there are strong indications that he was no bench warmer but ‘well in on it’), he would have taken orders from people like Dulles, Dick Helms and James Angleton. For example he was exceptionally close with Dulles, helping author his memoirs once Kennedy had him kicked out of the agency after the Bay of Pigs debacle. Yet Hunt did not mention any of this and instead suggests for the organizing role, for the first time, another CIA officer, Cord Meyer. The problem with this attribution is simple: There is little or no corroborating evidence to show that Cord Meyer was a part of the conspiracy. On the other hand, there are plentiful indications that Hunt was involved.

It is important to note here how this whole ‘Hunt confession” episode, which Jesse Ventura also used on his Kennedy conspiracy program, got started. Canadian journalist David Giammarco and actor Kevin Costner had an abiding interest in the JFK murder. They tried to get Howard Hunt to star in a documentary about the case. They wanted him to tell what he knew about it. It literally took years to coax him into doing so, and Costner had to make a special trip down to Florida and entice Hunt with a promise of a producer credit for the show. As with most TV specials, Hunt would be paid a certain amount upfront when the project sold, and then he would get a certain percentage of the profits later.

As most people know, the thing eventually fell to pieces. And then, Hunt’s son, Saint John Hunt, became his father’s sole adviser on the project. From here on in, it was all downhill. The project never got made. What was left then was a one-sided story in the April 5, 2007 Rolling Stone, which is incomplete and not factually solid. This then was the genesis of the so-called Hunt confession(s). We use the plural because the one detailed in the Rolling Stone piece and in Hunt’s last book differ slightly. But the key points are, the CIA was ordered to do a job by Vice-President Johnson; and Hunt is not a participant. Which, to anyone really interested in the case, is a telling point. Because when it came time in court to prove where Hunt was on November 22, 1963, the CIA psy war operator who despised President Kennedy couldn’t do it. Even with hundreds of thousands of dollars and his reputation on the line.

In summary, except for Cord Meyer, the rest of the CIA officers that Hunt named—David Phillips, Bill Harvey, Antonio Veciana, Frank Sturgis, Dave Morales, Lucien Sarti—are in reality nothing new. For they are have all been mentioned by other authors, and often in other scenarios not related to the Kennedy assassination. In fact Sarti, Hunt’s grassy knoll gunman, was first introduced in the original The Men Who Killed Kennedy series as part of the, now discredited, Christian David-Steve Rivele French assassination team story. Further, Hunt actually says that Sturgis invited him in on the plot, but he turned down the opportunity. To anyone who knows Hunt’s imperious and condescending approach to the Cubans he manipulated during the Bay of Pigs and Watergate, the idea that Sturgis would approach his boss Hunt for a project simply does not ring true. But by doing this, apart from spreading disinformation, Hunt gave his son a little gift to provide him with some extra income. His son cashed in on this in a big way: he now sells everything his father ever said. Further, there is no declassified evidence that Cord Meyer was close to the Kennedy case either in the months leading up to it, or in the months afterwards when the cover up ensued. And Hunt says that Meyer was the action officer in charge of the operation.

On the other hand, there is evidence that people like Phillips, Jim Angleton, Richard Helms, and Howard Hunt were so involved. And there is plentiful evidence that Allen Dulles was a large part of the cover up on the Warren Commission. But yet, except for Phillips, none of these men were mentioned by Hunt. I wonder why.

Indeed an indication of how far Saint John Hunt has slumped in credibility since his Rolling Stone stardom can be seen in the generally negative opinions of his appearance on Jesse Ventura’s show. Some months before his appearance, CTKA had run one of the first exposés of Hunt’s very public and explicit wheeling and dealing in a well known article on Alex Jones (Alex Jones on the Kennedy Murder: A Painful Case by Seamus Coogan). When Saint John Hunt stated along the lines that the more exposure he had the more dangerous it had become for him, Hunt’s lack of sincerity was all too obvious.

3. Madeleine Brown’s allegations

Out of respect to people who have passionately advocated for Madeleine Brown, her claims that she was LBJ’s mistress are likely true. But she gets a bit wobbly with her claims she gave birth to his illegitimate son Stephen, and she falls off the precipice with her murder plot party story. For instance, before her son passed away, he filed a lawsuit against Lady Bird Johnson for depriving him of his legal heirship. This action was dismissed since Stephen failed to appear in court. ("Dallas Morning News", 10/3/90) As so often happens with people like Brown, the temptation to embellish upon the original tale is simply too great. In the cruel, imbalanced world of tall stories, serial liars like Judith Campbell Exner thrive, while those like Madeleine Brown are punished from all quarters and quite mercilessly so.

In this regard Brown’s claims that Johnson was behind the assassination led her into the clutches of Dave Perry. During the nineties, and still today, Perry glories in picking up on the worst aspects of conspiracy research, pulling it apart and cleverly insinuating that the research community is advocating for people like Brown. When, in fact, only a small group of largely Dallas-based JFK researchers have ever endorsed her story. Brown left herself open to Perry, the bottom rung opportunity feeder.

According to Brown’s story she was invited to a social party at the mansion of Clint Murchison, the Texas oil tycoon. She said that among the guests were J. Edgar Hoover, Clyde Tolson, Richard Nixon, H. L. Hunt, Fred Korth, Cliff Carter, etc. In her own words “Tension filled the room upon his arrival. The group immediately went behind closed doors. A short time later Lyndon, anxious and red-faced, re-appeared. I knew how secretly Lyndon operated. Therefore I said nothing... not even that I was happy to see him. Squeezing my hand so hard, it felt crushed from the pressure, he spoke with a grating whisper, a quiet growl, into my ear, not a love message, but one I'll always remember: ‘After tomorrow those goddamn Kennedys will never embarrass me again - that's no threat - that's a promise.’” But did this meeting happen? And were LBJ and Hoover present? As explained in the Alex Jones article, probably not. There are a number of versions of this myth and each one gets wilder than the next.

Johnson himself was seen by a few thousand people and filmed that night in the company of President Kennedy at the Houston Coliseum. Johnson didn’t arrive in Fort Worth until 11.05 pm on the night of the 21st of November, and it is roundly reported that he wound up his day in the same hotel at a very late hour with his advisors. (William Manchester, Death of a President, pgs 135, 138).

The same goes for Dick Nixon, who was on the town late that night with Joan Crawford. (Nixon was a partner in a law firm that represented the Pepsi-Cola Company. Crawford was the wife of the CEO of Pepsi.) This was widely reported in the Dallas press and was still being reported until fairly late that evening. (The Dallas Morning News, Friday, November 22, 1963, Section 1-19) Kai Bird’s biography describes John McCloy hearing the news of the assassination while having breakfast with former President Eisenhower. (The Chairman, p. 544) As for Hoover, according to Anthony Summers, it is highly likely (to the point of absolute certainty) that J. Edgar Hoover, like McCloy, was nowhere near Texas at the time. For instance, the next day he was calling Bobby Kennedy from his Washington office at around 1:34 P.M EST with news of the shooting. (Summers, Official and Confidential, p. 394). In fact, none of the standard biographies of Hoover—Powers, Theoharis, Gentry, or Summers—notes him being in Texas that evening.

A Dallas-to-Washington round trip is around 3.5 hours each way. Why would two very powerful and highly visible 68-year-olds, like Hoover and McCloy, fly to Dallas to meet with Johnson at some ungodly hour, well after 11:00 P.M CST, compromising themselves in the process, and then fly back from Dallas, arriving home anywhere between 3:00-5:00 AM the following morning?

The chauffer that supposedly furnished the Hoover story was identified as Warren Tilley, but he was unable to talk due to throat cancer. His wife Eula who also worked for Murchison said that there wasn’t any such party, and further, that Clint Murchison Sr. had suffered a stroke in 1958 and he would have been unable to attend. But beyond that, Clint Murchison Sr. was not even living in that house those days, but in his ranch 75-85 miles southeast of Dallas. His son John Murchison was occupying the house in question with his wife. Another purported witness to the party was a seamstress named May Newman who did not work in the house that staged the alleged party but in the house of Virginia Murchison, Clint’s second wife. And, if so many famous people flew into Dallas that night, and so many of them drove to one house, would not at least one or two reporters have noticed it? Or been told about it?

Assuming that Murchison, LBJ, Nixon, McCloy and Hoover among others were planning to assassinate JFK, would they have waited until the night before the assassination to finalize the plan? And, my God, why would they meet in front of so many attendees? Why would they plan the killing in Texas, Johnson’s and Murchison’s home state? And why wouldn’t the four lads based in Washington just get together there? These sorts of logical questions have to be discounted for one to believe this scenario in all its extremities.

Another problem with Brown is that she appears to be contradictory—and contradicted—on certain points. For instance: When did she first announce her relationship with LBJ? In 1982, almost 20 years after Kennedy’s murder. At that point, there was no accompanying announcement that she had a child with Johnson. She says she first met LBJ at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas in early October of 1948. But there is no evidence in any publications or newspapers that LBJ was in Dallas at that time. She first claimed that LBJ was behind the assassination, but then went on to say that LBJ told her that “It was the oil men and the CIA.” LBJ later told aide Marvin Watson that the “CIA had something to do with this plot.” Brown published a photograph in her book Texas in the Morning that shows an angry RFK hitting a post while LBJ looks really shocked. Madeleine claimed that the White House photographer that took the picture heard RFK screaming at LBJ: “Why did you have my brother killed?” How does she know that is what was said? Did the photographer tell her? Is it her interpretation? Nothing like this was verified in Talbot’s Brothers nor in Anthony Summers’ biography of J. Edgar Hoover. Or in any standard reference work on Bobby Kennedy. Then later in 1992, she told Harry Livingstone that LBJ did not die a natural death. His own Secret Service had him killed. Why? Because they hated his guts. She now had discovered even more evidence about the assassination. Namely that there were actually three plots to kill Kennedy, and the other two were backup plots. It was Johnson’s which succeeded with the KGB’s help. And Billy Sol Estes knew the names of all three assassins. Further, it was H. L. Hunt who called Jack Ruby to murder Oswald. (Killing the Truth, pgs 503-07)

Brown’s motive for putting herself in the spotlight may have been her dire financial situation. This had led her to be convicted of fraud in 1988 by forging the will of a relative and thus forging her destiny as a dubious LBJ source. (The conviction was reversed on appeal in 1994 on a procedural error.)

4. The Billie Sol Estes allegations

Billie Sol Estes was a friend of Johnson’s who provided lots of money for his political campaigns. The Department of Agriculture subsidized farmers to prevent overproduction and oversupply, things which occurred during the Depression. Cotton production on new land was prohibited so each farmer could produce cotton according to allotments that were given to them according to a formula.

Estes made millions of dollars from Federal subsidies for storing grain and cotton allotments by illegally purchasing allotments from other farmers for his farm. The Department of Agriculture suspected that Estes was involved in illegal activities and sent Henry Marshall, one of its officials, to investigate Estes. Marshall was killed in 1961 while investigating the scandal, but the case was (wrongly) ruled a suicide. Estes was convicted of fraud in 1962; he was sent to jail and was released in 1971. In 1984 Estes’ attorney sent a letter to the Justice Department and offered his client’s sworn testimony that LBJ had ordered the murders of eight people, including those of Henry Marshall, LBJ’s own sister Josefa and President Kennedy. Estes claimed that LBJ passed his orders through his aide Clifton Carter to Mac Wallace. (It is odd that Estes’ list included Josefa since she reportedly died of a cererbal hemorrhage in 1961 a the age of 49.)

Now, if we examine the original charges and newspaper stories that put Estes away—all based upon defrauding the government—one will see very little credible evidence, if any, showing that Johnson was involved with Estes’ schemes. There were three articles published in the Pecos Independent and Enterprise which triggered a federal investigation. Those articles don’t show any evidence that LBJ was involved in the scam or brought any improper influence to bear to protect Estes. (J. Evetts Haley, A Texan Looks at Lyndon, pgs 112-13, 119-20, 123) In 1984, when the murder of Marshall was reopened, Estes took the stand for the grand jury. Here he made the charges mentioned above, and this is where the Mac Wallace as LBJ assassin angle began. Since everyone Estes named was dead, it was easy for him to make the charges. And impossible to indict anyone. And contrary to unsupported rumor, there was no return of uninidicted co-conspirator charges against LBJ, Carter, and Mac Wallace in the Marshall case. How can one indict dead people who never appear before a grand jury?

Why did Estes turn on LBJ in 1984? In his book, Billy Sol Estes, he writes that he thought LBJ would help him when he was charged in the sixties. And Estes says Johnson could have done so. But this claim is bereft of logic. For if the sensational claims about Wallace killing Marshall are true, how much more can one help someone than ordering murder for hire? Which is what Estes says happened with Marshall. But if LBJ could have helped Estes in his legal plight, then why did he not just push some levers instead of resorting to murder?

If we examine the benefits Estes asked in return for the above information we’ll discover that he requested in return immunity from prosecution, his parole restrictions lifted, favorable consideration being given to remove his long-standing tax liens, and an official pardon. From his own words, its obvious that, as stated above, a convicted felon and liar like Estes—who was actually conviced of fraud twice-- had personal motives to implicate a dead President in the murder of JFK. Therefore we cannot take for granted the word of someone with a damaged reputation, little credibility, a criminal past and evident personal self-interest like Billie Sol Estes. In furtherance of this, if, as he said in his book (pgs 138, 143, 150, 152-3, 165) he had tapes of Carter talking about his carrying out LBJ’s orders in the Kennedy murder, he could make a million selling them. He never did so. And the reason he says he has tapes is probably to neutralize the fact that there is no other credible corroboration for his late arriving story.

But beyond that, as noted in the Madeleine Brown section, Estes later became a conduit for unbeleivable stories about the assassination. In addition to knowing the identities of the three assassins in the murder, he later got into a mutated form of David Lifton’s body alteration theory. In his 2005 book he now said there was body alteration in the JFK case. But it was not to JFK, but to a lookalike. Before the assassination, a mortician named John Liggett was to find a body like Kennedy’s, and it was to later match certain wound descriptions. On the day of the murder, Liggett was picked up in a hearse that contained the lookalike’s body. At Love Field he got on a plane and instructions were relayed to him and he made it look like the double had been shot in the head from the rear. Then, photographs of both bodies were taken and were later mixed and matched for the offical story. (Estes, pgs 155-157)

Who can beleive such a man? Or such a story? Well, maybe the always gullible Nigel Turner. He put Liggett’s wife on his extremely disappointing 2003 version of The Men Who Killed Kennedy. Turner and Arts and Entertainment Network were promptly sued by Liggett’s brother. A settlement was reached in 2005. That is what Turner gets for listening to a con man who said, at his second trial for fraud, words to the effect that his problem was he lived in a dream world. (Wall Street Journal, 8/7/79)

5. LBJ and Ed Clark organized the assassination

In 2003 Texas attorney Barr McClellan published his book Blood, Money & Power: How LBJ Killed JFK. Here he presented his theory that LBJ was the prime instigator who authorized the murder of JFK. McClellan was an attorney who in 1966 went to work in the law firm Clark, Thomas & Winters in Austin, Texas. This law firm represented LBJ’s interests, including advising on political strategy, campaign contributions, media issues and labor disputes. McClellan became a full partner in the firm in 1972 and left after a dispute with Ed Clark. McClellan claimed that Don Thomas, one of the partners, revealed to him in 1973 the truth about the president’s murder. Thomas allegedly said that LBJ confessed to him a month before his death that he had ordered attorney Ed Clark to organize the assassination of Kennedy. LBJ had also confessed this to his psychiatrist while being treated for depression. Thomas also claimed that LBJ asked him to reveal the truth to the world after he was dead to redeem himself from guilt. McClellan was astounded by these revelations but kept quiet until after Thomas’s death. In fact, at the 40th anniversary when the book was published, no one was around to contradict him. Not LBJ, not Thomas, not Clark, and of course, not the LBJ constant, Mac Wallace, who died in a car accident in 1971. That makes it kind of convenient to go on TV and say you knew Johnson killed John Kennedy.

This book, like Billy Sol Estes, and like a similar Johnson did it product, The Men on the Sixth Floor, says that Johnson was in on the Henry Marshall murder. Except in the Estes version, Clifton Carter arranged the murder. In the McClellan version its Ed Clark who did the arranging. But again, McClellan never advances any credible evidence that Johnson had anything to do with Estes’ scams. Which makes it easy for him to avoid the question of why Johnson would do such a thing. But, with McClellan, no evidence is really needed. Estes had LBJ responsible for about eight murders. McClellan goes way beyond that. LBJ was a veritable Murder Incorporated, responsible for eleven confirmed killings and with nine more possible ones.

Why would Thomas reveal all this to McClellan? Why would LBJ tell Thomas in the first place? This is how the author explains it. He sets forth a long conversation that he says Thomas told him about. Shortly before Johnson died in 1972, Thomas was at his ranch. Johnson now started to tell him about how he had Kennedy killed. Why did he say this? Because his presidency had collapsed, his reputation was nil, and he thought this confession would elevate his low image! Which is why he wanted Thomas to broadcast it after his death. Yep, that’s what he says. Maybe LBJ really was over the edge at the time? Or maybe it never happened. The psychiatrist himself did not reveal anything and neither he nor LBJ left anything written. McClellan’s whole book is like this. A series of sensational disclosures is made, and one goees looking for the annotation. Or even some corroboration. Its not there. Or if its there, it is so nebulous as to be meaningless. And when I say sensational, I mean it. Consider this string of accusations: Clark brokered a deal with Joe Kennedy to put LBJ on the 1960 ticket. LBJ learned about the art of assassination from the attempt on FDR and Thomas was involved in the famous heist of the senate seat from Coke Stevenson in 1948.

And then there is the Kennedy murder. Again, unlike with Estes, it was Clark who set this up, not Carter. Somehow Leon Jaworski got involved with a search for a second assassin, the first--it goes without saying—was Mac Wallace. Again, there is no evidence for this Jaworski allegation. Or any reason why it was Jaworski who Clark called. And there is no evidence advanced that Clark knew Wallace. Further, McClellan says he has no idea how Wallace met Oswald or interested him in the plot. So he just says that Wallace met Oswald at a print shop in Dallas in 1962. But there is no evidence in the record that Oswald had anything printed in 1962. McClellan then has Oswald firing at the motorcade with Wallace from the sixth floor. Even though there is no credible evidence Oswald was there at that time. The assassination scenario for McClelan differs from The Men on the Sixth Floor. In the latter there are three assassins Oswald, Wallace, and a Chickasaw Indian named Loy Factor. In the McClellan version Oswald and Wallace are up there, but the third assassin is on the knoll. If you can believe it, in defiance of the ballistics evidence, McClellan has Oswald killing Tippit and shooting at Edwin Walker. In other words, Barr McClellan did not know anything about the evidence in the JFK case; and he didn’t care to learn. So he just wrote what he wanted in defiance of the facts.

There is also the evidence of self-interest and personal motive since McClellan left the company after a heated dispute with Ed Clark. Not only would he have taken his revenge against Clark but he would have become famous as the man who solved the case. Or, alternatively, he distracted everyone at the 40th anniversary with his whimsical fantasy.

6: LBJ and Mac Wallace

Apart from the above, McClellan also enlisted in the Mac Wallace as JFK assassin ranks. He says Wallace fired shots from the 6th floor of the TSBD. If he could prove that Wallace was at the sniper’s nest, then by association he can cling to his theory that LBJ ordered the murder. An unidentified fingerprint was found on a box in the sniper’s nest. McClellan’s fingerprint expert, the late Nathan Darby, compared the fingerprint stored in the Archives against the fingerprints of Mac Wallace and found a match. But other experts have disputed the results, including those offered by author Glenn Sample, as did the FBI. So we cannot say with certainty that the fingerprint belonged to Wallace. And, further, if it was really LBJ who put Wallace up to this, then why would Wallace not wear gloves?

The book by Glen Sample and Mark Collum, The Men on the Sixth Floor, also claimed that Wallace was one of the shooters in the TSBD and that Wallace had recruited Ruby and Oswald into the plot. The book based this information on a man named Loy Factor who served a long stretch in prison for murder. Just before he died, Factor confessed that he was one of the three gunmen in the TSBD, the other two being Oswald and the omnipresent Wallace. Factor was not a very credible witness. In 1948 he had been declared incompetent by the Veteran’s Administration, to the point they required a legal guardian for him. In 1969 he strangled his wife. He also had a severe case of diabetes. In this version of the story, Wallace recruited Factor after testing his marksmanship ability. He then offered him ten thousand dollars for the job. At a house in Dallas two days before the assassination, Factor was in on planning sessions with Wallace, two mysterious Latins, and two others: Ruby and Oswald. He was then driven to the TSBD the day of the murder and escorted to the sixth floor and handed a gun. When he arrived there, both Oswald and Wallace were already at their firing positions. An Hispanic woman named Ruth Ann had a walkie talkie and gave them a countdown. Afterwards, Wallace, Factor and the girl all managed to escape, presumably with weapons and walkie talkie intact. The getaway is even more questionable: Factor was left at a bus stop to get out of town. But then Ruth Ann and Wallace thought better of it and picked him up. But yet, it was not exactly a great commando team escape. The car broke down in Oklahoma due to a bad clutch. And Factor, get this, had to hitchhike home. God knows what happened to Wallace and the girl. Factor died in 1994, and we do not know what motivated him to make this wild claim.

7: LBJ and the Connally - Yarborough incident

According to this one there was a severe argument between LBJ and JFK regarding the seating arrangement in the Dallas motorcade. JFK wanted Senator Ralph Yarborough to sit in the same car with Johnson and Governor Connally in the Presidential limousine. On the contrary LBJ was furious with this arrangement since he hated Yarborough for his political views and he demanded that Connally sit next to him and Yarborough sit with Kennedy. Those who believe that LBJ planned the plot take this incident as proof that LBJ knew that an assassination attempt was to happen during the parade in Dallas and he wanted to protect his good friend Connally and have Yarborough shot along with JFK.

The problem is that LBJ refused to sit next to the senator not because he knew about the assassination, but because he disliked the man and could not stand the sight of him. And it was mutual.

When Kennedy arrived in Texas, Connally organized a dinner in his mansion to honor the President. Yarborough was furious when he learned that he was not placed at the head table with Kennedy and that his wife was not invited at all. He was fuming and he held LBJ responsible for the arrangement and refused to sit next to him. That was the cause of the heated argument between JFK and LBJ that many overheard.

8: LBJ and the Mafia

One of the proponents of this theory is Craig Zirbel. Zirbel is returning for another slice of the ‘Lyndon did it’ pie. In his first book broaching the LBJ angle, The Texas Connection, he unequivocally stated that LBJ had nothing to do with the Italian mob and that they had nothing to do with the assassination. Now on the eve of the 50th Mr. Zirbel has changed his tune completely. He now says he was incorrect—the Mob was in on it with LBJ all along! His book, pretentiously named The Final Chapter, ignores years of work by numerous researchers since the late 70’s that the assassination had been carried out by the Mob for their own benefit.

Mark North is another individual who toes this line. In his latest book Betrayal in Dallas, North argues that JFK was killed in Dallas by Mafia contract killers hired by Louisiana Mob boss Carlos Marcello with the help of Dallas crony Joe Civello.. They picked Dallas because it was a Mafia-friendly city where LBJ, Henry Wade and other officials were bribed by gangsters. Robert Kennedy was determined to destroy the Civello mob in Dallas. To save himself and his political future LBJ went along with the Mafia plot and assassinated JFK. As Bill Davy noted in his review of this book, the name of the local Mob, the "Pearl Street Mafia", was actually manufactured by North. In reality, there is no such named organization. And although the North book was hyped as being backed by dozens of declassififed documents, Davy showed that this was just that: hype. For North overwhleming relied upon old newspaper sources for his footnotes. And a myriad of them. For example, footnote 10 to Chapter 3, lists 200 Dallas Morning News articles. Davy concluded that about 90% of his footnotes were to newspaper articles. Geez, with that kind of advance publicity, how did the assassination ever take place? Everyone and their uncle must have known about it. But as Davy also notes, when it comes time to come up with real references for criminal acts, the book comes up empty. These are not footnoted. (Click here for this review .)

It isn’t worth discussing this theory in any depth. It has been explained in the past that the Mafia could not manipulate CIA files, arrange the Mexico City incident, manipulate Richard Case Nagell, run the CIA’s anti-FPCC campaign of which Oswald was a part of, stage the Odio incident, manipulate the ballistics evidence, cover up the crime and then alter the medical evidence, or influence the Warren Commission cover up. If the Mafia was involved they were very junior partners. Most likely brought in to infuence Ruby to kill Oswald.

A serious question that we can pose is: Why would LBJ choose Dallas as the city where the assassination would take place? It would not have been clever to commit the murder in his own backyard and face the risk of exposure if the plot backfired. If the Mafia figures involved in the plot were to be arrested and confess that LBJ was responsible, it would have been difficult for LBJ to defend himself with all the potential scandals swirling around him (Estes, TFX, Bobby Baker). Why would he stupidly incriminate himself when it would have been easier to organize it from outside Texas, maybe in Chicago, Tampa or Miami? This is seldom pondered by the few Johnson sponsors like Joseph Farrell, Craig Zirbel, and Phil Nelson.

altgens

9: LBJ photographs during and after the assassination

Phil Nelson claimed that looking at the famous Altgens photograph he could not see LBJ, therefore he concludes that LBJ was hiding to avoid being hit because he had prior knowledge of the assassination. Unfortunately for Nelson, an object that is either LBJ or his Secret Service agent Rufus Youngblood can be made out in the photograph. This renders the notion of Altgen’s photo showing LBJ hiding to be utterly inconclusive at best.

One of the more bizarre theories tied to this was explained by the ever unimpressive Alex Jones: that Johnson was in communication throughout the motorcade with death squads armed with grenades and bazookas along the route. The stupidest thing about this is that for Johnson to have been orchestrating this event he had to be doing so in front of his wife, and barely four feet away from his arch political enemy Ralph Yarborough. Yarborough, in fairness, made something of a stir when he claimed to Jim Marrs that Johnson asked Herschel Jacks (not an agent), to turn the radio on so he could hear reportage of the motorcade on a local radio station. (William Manchester, The Death of a President, p. 203) Occasionally, he would ask how much further they had to go. Then, Rufus Youngblood, Johnson’s assigned agent, would radio back to his follow up car “And ask them how many more miles and so forth.” (Youngblood Testimony, Warren Commission, Vol. II, p. 151) The closest Johnson ever got to a walkie-talkie was when Youngblood eventually managed to get over the seat and protect him from any possible shots. From there, Youngblood was barking orders to the other agents. (Manchester, pgs 244-245, Youngblood Testimony, p. 149). There’s nothing hidden here: Johnson admitted to being near Youngblood’s device when he got up off the floor. (Johnson Statement: Warren Commission; Vol V P. 562)

If this evidence isn’t enough for you, how does logic sound? For Johnson to have coordinated the strike, it meant that he would have had to have undertaken a truly incredible sleight of hand. Because he was sitting next to his wife Lady Bird and a few feet away from his arch foe, Senator Ralph Yarbrough. Now, Yarbrough never said anything about Johnson talking into a radio in his Warren Commission affidavit. (Warren Commission, Vol. VII pgs 439-440) Nor did he say anything about Johnson being in continual radio contact with others to William Manchester in The Death of a President. (Manchester, pgs 244-245)
H.B. McClain, the motorcycle policeman whose job it was to shadow Johnson’s car, like other patrolmen, didn’t much like Johnson’s attitude towards him and his fellow officers either. Yet he never saw Johnson do anything of the sort. (Larry Sneed, No More Silence, pgs 162-169). Let’s not forget the scores of witnesses who never saw anything of the sort either.

All accounts of Johnson after the assassination are one of someone in deep confusion and fear. At Parkland Johnson was inconsolable and told Mac Kilduff that he wanted the announcement of JFK's death to be delayed until he was safely on the plane, stating his belief in a potential 'world wide conspiracy'. Now, Kilduff did not obey this command in any way. Johnson's performance at Parkland Hospital and on Air Force One were certainly not mugging, as some like the abjectly awful Alex Jones researcher Paul Watson, has claimed. (Talbot, pgs 282-285). He also took off for Love Field quite literally with Secret Service Agents sitting on top of him according to Evelea Glanges who saw Johnson leave the hospital ducking down in his vehicle on the way to Love Field (Crenshaw, Conspiracy of Silence, p. 107). On Air Force One, recently released documents citing Godfrey McHugh's observations of Johnson's behavior indicate he was so terrified that prior to the aforementioned swearing in he had to be coaxed out of the Air Force One toilet.

This leads us to another tangential myth that LBJ ordered Kennedy’s body to Bethesda Naval Hospital upon disembarkation in Washington. This is not true at all and the Secret Service's actions, though illegal, were probably not as sinister as they have been made out to have been.

The four main instigators behind the Secret Services seizure of the body and sending it off to Bethesda for one of the most bungled autopsies ever done were Admiral Burkley, Dave Powers, Godfrey McHugh, and Ken O’Donnell who, fearing the madhouse that Parkland was becoming, convinced Jackie to get out of there. (Manchester, pgs 415-434).

Kennedy’s physician Admiral Burkley wanted the autopsy done in Bethesda. General Ted Clifton had wanted it done at Walter Reed. Johnson, had no say at all over where the autopsy was being held (Manchester, p 177 ). David Talbot then goes on to say that, at Bethesda, Bobby Kennedy became the most important figure. However, he did not run the autopsy as has been irresponsibly pushed by others (Brothers, pgs 14-17). And neither did Johnson from afar as much as some people would like him to. It was clearly the military in charge, and Harold Weisberg explains as much in his book (Never Again pgs 472-474).

10. It was Dallas, Texas, Johnson’s backyard, therefore he had to have been the mastermind.

This means because the murder took place in Texas, LBJ was at the controls. The problem with this is with what we know today, there were probably at least three plots afoot to kill President Kennedy in the fall of 1963. And the first two were in Florida and Chicago. The one in Chicago has been recently fairly well documented due to the book by Secret Service agent Abe Bolden, The Echo from Dealey Plaza, the rediscovered in-depth essay by Edwin Black, and the work by Jim Douglass in his book JFK and the Unspeakable. (If you have not read the Black essay, click here) One has to ask: If the Chicago plot had succeeded, would these books have been published?

Was Johnson in on the assassination in some way? Perhaps. Did he know it was going to happen? Maybe. Was he in on the cover-up? Undoubtedly.

But the problem is that the last answer is documented with credible evidence. For instance, there were phone calls made by President Johnson to make people serve on the Commission in which Johnson used knowingly questionable evidence to make them say yes. He then suspended the specter of nuclear holocaust over them, which intimidated Earl Warren into asking for an investigation without investigators. Johnson also understood that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was running a makeshift inquiry which was focused on Oswald from the first day. These, and other instances, are documented and provable.

The answers to the first two questions are not. As we have tried to show here, some of the evidence adduced by those who advocate for Johnson’s culpability is not very trustworthy or convincing. There is little doubt that the Bobby Baker scandal and Don Reynolds’ scandals were threats to LBJ. Even Robert Caro acknowledges them in his disappointing book The Passage of Power. According to LBJ spokesman George Reedy, the former was not not a real threat to LBJ, the latter was more serious. Yet the latter, as Caro notes, was rather small in monetary value. Reynolds, Johnson’s insurance salesman, was asked to buy for Johnson’s wife a combination TV-stereo console set. Unless Reynolds had more up his sleeve, this seems a rather miniscule reason to murder the president, wound your friend the governor of Texas, and place yourelf in jeopardy of being tried and electrocuted for charges of murder and treason.

Perhaps there is more to this. Edgar Tatro is working on a long book on the subject. Based on Tatro’s past work, it should be worth reading. But we also know that there is evidence upcoming in Jim DiEugenio’s revised version of Destiny Betrayed that there was work done by hidden intelligence assets to fool Jim Garrison into buying into a Texas based conspiracy. And even before that, in 1966, there was an FBI undercover agent sent to convince Vincent Salandria and Sylvia Meagher that Johnson was behind the plot. The woman said her name was Rita Rollins. She was a nurse from Texas who saw practice runs for the assassination on a large ranch there. She said she had witnesses in Canada who could prove that this happened and Johnson was involved in it. Well, when Meagher started asking her questions about her nursing job, she couldn’t answer them. Six months later, Salandria found out that the real name of Rita Rollins was Lulu Belle Holmes. She worked for the FBI as an agent provocatuer in the Peace Movement. So its not like questionable efforsts in this vein are new. We are not saying that the latest round of books are FBI inspired—not at all. These authors all seem sincere. We just wish they could come up with something better than the above. Or actually start with something better than the above and work from more original sources.

Until then, works like McClellan’s, Nelson’s and The Men on the Sixth Floor, remain, for reasons stated above, not very convincing. And at worst, they lead to a cul de sac. With two million pages of declassified files, we have to do better.

Last modified on Saturday, 22 October 2016 22:49
Vasilios Vazakas

Vasilios Vazakas was born in Athens, Greece, and studied in Edinburgh, Scotland; he holds a BEng in energy engineering and an MSc in building services engineering. He has had a long-running interest in the JFK assassination, its relation to US foreign policy, and its relevance today.  Vasilios has contributed a number of book reviews to this site.

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