Responses to the Trolls . . .

2.  John Delane Williams’ “Review” of LBJ Mastermind and LBJ Colossus Books

In the second of two essays published by John Delane Williams on May 31, 2018 he offers his critique of my first two books, however in doing so makes a number of outright errors and other confusing misstatements. 

 Williams’ critique begins with this paragraph:

The titles simply promise more than Nelson delivers. Nelson doe [sic] a very good job of bringing together the works of others and ties them together well. However, LBJ was a poor candidate for the “mastermind” of the JFK assassination. That Lyndon Johnson was a scoundrel of the worst sorts was widely known, and Nelson went to great lengths to remind us of Johnson’s nefarious activities. But does it add up to Johnson being the “mastermind” of the JFK assassination? In my opinion, Nelson makes a better case for James Jesus Angleton as being the “mastermind” than for Lyndon Johnson.

His opinion that LBJ was a “poor candidate” for being the “mastermind” and that James Jesus Angleton was a better one may be due to his own dubious reasoning skills as well as the indications he left which suggest that he missed entire sections of both books, as will be demonstrated below. To assert – as he did in that opening paragraph – that I’ve based that proposition only on Johnson’s ambiguous “nefarious activities,” indicates that he missed numerous specific, factually-supported statements.[1]   

Next he asserts that I “garbled” the account of “[the] hearing held by the Senate Rules Committee regarding Lyndon Johnson’s relationship to Bobby Baker”.   His own muddled “correction” of the name of the committee (he stated that name was “the Senate Rules and Administration Committee”) was simply another instance of what he himself  conceded — that he was “parsing words” — about my calling the meeting “secret” instead of “closed” (another term that might apply here is “pedantic”).  

But the correct terminology (according to Wikipedia), at the risk of creating even more pedanticalness, is:

“The Senate Committee on Rules and Administration (also called the Senate Rules Committee [emphasis added – ed.]) is responsible for the rules of the United States Senate, administration of congressional buildings, and with credentials and qualifications of members of the Senate, including responsibility for dealing with contested elections.”

I concede my error in the statement that Senator John Williams (R-DE) “chaired” the committee, since it could only be chaired by a Democrat, as they were the majority party. I should have stipulated that he merely voluntarily came to the committee with information obtained while running his own investigation of the Bobby Baker scandal.  To be more accurate, however, he had begun acting as its ad-hoc chairman, virtually taking over the committee’s investigation of Bobby Baker as a result of the feckless “leadership” of the actual committee chairman, B. Everett Jordan.   

The  committee had been considered by many senators to be a dead-end assignment and Chairman Jordan was probably the least energetic senator in the chamber.  Senator Jordan was described by Robert Caro as “[a] sixty-seven-year-old … first-term southern conservative from North Carolina . . . slow-talking and slow-thinking—even Baker had to say he was ‘something of a bumbler’.”

Sen. John Williams, practically single-handedly, was credited with being the driving force behind the Bobby Baker “investigation” because he was personally directing it, while being fed information about Baker’s shenanigans by none other than Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.[2]   Senator Carl Curtis affirmed this point within his book, “Forty Years Against the Tide” (p. 246):

At this point, Senator John Williams, of Delaware, began to take an active part.  Williams was a man beyond reproach, sincere and intelligent and dedicated. During his service in the Senate he was rightly referred to as “the conscience of the Senate.” He was an expert investigator, tenacious and courageous. Senator Williams became the prime mover in bringing about the investigation of Baker.

[ . . . ]

Senator Williams introduced a resolution calling upon the Committee on Rules and Administration to conduct an investigation of the financial and business interests and possible improprieties of any Senate employee or former employee.

Williams then referenced my five requirements for the “Mastermind” title:

a. Who has the most to gain?

b. Who has the least to lose?

c. Who has the means to do it?

d. Who has the apparatus in place to cover it up?

e. Who has the kind of narcissistic/sociopathic personality capable of rationalizing the action as acceptable and necessary, together with the resolve and determination to see it through?

After agreeing that these were all necessary, he then lists three more, stating that LBJ “fails miserably” to meet them, while ignoring the fact that in other parts of the book I specifically explained how Johnson either met each of them, or why they were not pertinent:

f. Who has a sufficiently strong intellect to carefully plan the details of the action?

 I would be the first to concede that Johnson wasn’t “intelligent” in the context of, for example, being a candidate for intellectual study—e.g. he was never a potential Ph.D. candidate—but, as I stated in the Mastermind book (p. 48):

 “The source of Johnson’s strength throughout his lifetime was his unique talent to manipulate men and women; it was a skill that he honed throughout his career and one he had perfected early on, as we saw demonstrated with the president of his college. That ability was based upon his innate talent for sizing up his targets and forming psychological blueprints of them, down to their strengths and weaknesses—especially their weaknesses: he may not have been a particularly intelligent man in general, but he was a genius at instantly categorizing someone into a kind of natural database of hundreds of categories, ranging from personal characteristics and background to his instant impression of their intangibles: intelligence, attitudes, and prejudices. Hubert Humphrey explained it in an oral history interview he did for Joe Frantz and the LBJ Library: “Johnson was like a psychiatrist. Unbelievable man in terms of sizing up people, what they would do, how they would stand under pressure, what their temperament was. This was his genius. He used to tell me many times, ‘You’ve got to study every member of this body to know how they’re really going to ultimately act. Everything about them, their family, their background, their attitudes, even watch their moods before you even ask them to vote.’ He was a master of human relations when it came to that Senate.”

And beyond the Senate, he was able to attract men and women to do his bidding in whatever field they occupied: From J. Edgar Hoover (ergo the entire FBI); Robert McNamara (DoD); Allen Dulles, Richard Helms, James J. Angleton (CIA); Eliot Janeway (Corporate financial markets); William Paley, C.D. Jackson, Henry Luce, etc. (MSM); Lew Wasserman, Ed Weisl, Arthur Krim (Hollywood); Abraham Fineberg (NY financial backer), to Carlos Marcello, Meyer Lansky, Sam Giancana, et. al. (Mafiosi), not to mention the numerous politicians from around the country, and his own employees, under his immediate direction.

 Did Dulles or Angleton have that breadth of reach?  No they did not, nor did anyone else in Washington.

g. “Who is sufficiently grounded in their psychological functioning so as to gain the support of other necessary high-level plotters?”

 [Furthermore, Williams stated]:

“Johnson was probably among the least able in terms of his psychological functioning. His probable bipolar disorder (See Hershman, 4) would have rendered Lyndon unable to function as a leader of people who were his intellectual superiors with somewhat more stable psychological functioning.”

As I explained in the Colossus book (p. 485-486, among other pages), Johnson actually used his manic state to climb his way up the political ladder:

 “ . . . he was highly skilled, even a genius, in the most esoteric psychic senses, especially while in his manic state, when he wasn’t in a psychotic meltdown [his most common state of mind]. Many people described his ability to “read” other people, always trying to find the real motives that his quarry preferred to remain hidden. By prying their innermost secrets from them in one or another of his varied methods, or obtaining them from private detectives or FBI files, he held a “special currency” custom fitted to that person’s position which he knew he could draw on at a later time.”

h. “Specifically, who would be trusted by James Jesus Angleton, J. Edgar Hoover, General Curtis LeMay and the other Chiefs of Staff, the top Mafiosi, and the moneyed oilmen?”

The above excerpts also speak to this issue, as do numerous other pages of both books. Indeed, the answers to all of Mr. Williams’ doubts are present within these books, but it does require one to read them with an open and curious mind. It is that point that will be examined further below.

Williams then criticized my supposed “error” regarding the number of “points” of the Malcolm Wallace fingerprint which matched the “blind print”.

For the record, in my first book (Mastermind) in the context of the original announcement, I had reported that fingerprint expert Nathan Darby found fourteen (14) matching points in his initial analysis in 1998.[3]  In the second book (Colossus), I reported that Mr. Darby had re-examined that fingerprint prior to his appearance in the 2003 video The Guilty Men and had modified his findings to be “at least thirty-four” (34) points.[4]

Speaking of “confusing and garbling”, he then stated (see his footnote #6) that Darby had:

“made [only] a six-point match of Mac Wallace’s fingerprint to the previously unidentified fingerprint found in the sniper’s nest at the TSBD. Later, a 34 point match confirmed Wallace’s presence on the sixth floor of the Depository, reported in Brown, W. (2001).”

Had he noticed the plainly-stated context in each of my books, he might have saved his readers a lot of confusion about a non-existent discrepancy when he wrote that,

 “Apparently Nelson did not see a later article when a 34 point match was reported, until after he finished the first book. Nelson does address the 34 point match in his second book.”

After sowing all of that confusion, he then tackles what he sees as more compelling evidence that, rather than Johnson, the “Mastermind” was more likely James J. Angleton:

 “Clearly, LBJ was unlikely to have played a role in these aborted attempts, other than perhaps to hope one of them was successful. But Nelson has LBJ playing a major role in Dallas. Part of that role was security stripping. Presumably, Johnson might have had an inkling of the two aborted assassination attempts (or three, including Miami). Only after the failure in Tampa on November 18 would the Dallas attempt be fully in play. Fairness would suggest the central figure in the plot was James Jesus Angleton of the CIA.”

Angleton as “Mastermind” . . . Really??

How could he possibly have had the connections to all of the other, non-CIA, non-Mafia, key people who performed mission-critical tasks.  Angleton had no long-term, deep connections to any of the key Texas officials, such as these, for example:

The Texas-based judicial officials

As the same point pertains to Johnson, I answered that in Chapter 1 of Colossus:

LBJ’s long-term sycophant, U.S. Attorney (later, thanks to his service to Johnson, a Federal Judge) Barefoot Sanders, who helped him derail all threats before, during and after—even decades after–the assassination, and well after Johnson and Hoover had both died.

The Dallas police officials

Clearly, Johnson’s connections to the Dallas Police Department, and their intrinsic fear of his long-heralded power over all Texas and federal law enforcement and judicial organizations, was key to a successful execution of the plot. This was amply demonstrated in the days immediately following the assassination, through his own voice and that of his aide Cliff Carter: “You have your man, no need for further investigation,” as reported by Henry Wade and Captain Fritz, among others.

Q: Who, other than LBJ, had that kind of authority? A: No one, that’s who.

  • Who—other than Lyndon B. Johnson—could have over-ridden JFK’s advance man Jerry Bruno’s efforts to select the Women’s Building at the state fairgrounds rather than the Trade Mart?
  • Who else could have made the last-minute changes to the motorcade route, and the sequence of vehicles, including canceling the flat-bed truck for photographers normally in front of the presidential limo, and putting them into automobiles six or seven cars back from the limo?

Then we have this incredulous collection of incoherence:

 “It seems entirely unlikely that either the CIA or the military would follow plans delivered by LBJ. More to the point, the CIA and military insulated themselves from exposure; if the plot failed and was exposed, Johnson would likely be implicated by Mac Wallace being present on the sixth floor of the TSBD. The area around Dealey Plaza was teeming with Mafia, which could lead to their being implicated. I can’t imagine J. Edgar Hoover paying much attention to a plan from LBJ. More likely, regarding the assassination, LBJ would have been involved on a “need to know” basis. Presumably, there was a contingency plan for an assassination in Dallas if the other attempts failed. His part of the plan likely was delivered to him through someone like Cliff Carter. The most important part of LBJ’s involvement was to cover-up the conspiracy.”

So, John Delane Williams actually thinks that Cliff Carter most likely explained and sold the plot to LBJ.  Seriously?

Do I have this right?   These wholly unsupported, intrinsically banal assertions—e.g. “seems unlikely that either the CIA or military would follow LBJ”—posits a rather weak predicate upon which to base the remainder of the absurd suppositions. They begin with his assertion that Hoover wouldn’t be “paying much attention to a plan from LBJ.”  The reality was that Hoover’s entire existence as FBI director depended upon Johnson’s continued patronage, a point validated and repeatedly demonstrated throughout both of the books that Williams has supposedly read, and repeated again in my fourth book, “Who REALLY Killed Martin Luther King Jr.? — The Case Against Lyndon B. Johnson and J. Edgar Hoover.”

The level of naiveté of Williams’ statements reveals as much about the writer’s cluelessness as it does about the lack of merit of his argument. In fact, its speciousness renders the need for any further rebuttal on that point unnecessary.

As I wrote in “Colossus,” the “Driving Force” could not realistically have been merely a proxy figure, someone having much less power than that imbued into the person essentially guaranteed to imminently hold the office of the presidency:

“That catalyst would have to reach into not only all of the federal agencies, especially the military and intelligence organizations, but just as certainly into the state and local authorities in order to simultaneously ignite the fuses within each; it would take a unified “driving force” to do that, and Lyndon Johnson was uniquely capable of providing that kind of reach into every such entity. That element could have only come from a very powerful and dedicated single person, a very forceful person, one who could bring all the elements together. Some may prefer other terms, such as a “CEO,” a “Key Man,” a “Linchpin,” or even the term I’ve used, “Mastermind,” but that person, regardless of the label one prefers, could only have been a man consumed by power and obsessed for decades about becoming president of the United States. And such a man had to be someone known to be a sociopath, someone whose conscience was either non-existent or whatever little of it that might have remained was so completely repressed that it would not be a factor in the eventual execution of the plan. Moreover, such a person had to be driven by a mania that could not be suppressed, someone who knew that failure to attain the objective would spell personal disaster, something that was already assured, through the vindictive attorney general who really was “out to get him.”

Things get even worse than that in the next paragraph:

 “Nelson presumed LBJ had the guile to plan all of the important aspects in the assassination in Dallas. LBJ couldn’t even get President Kennedy to allow a change in the seating arrangements; LBJ wanted Governor Connally and Senator Yarborough to change their seating in the two limousines. This was denied by President Kennedy.”

To negate Johnson’s possible role in JFK’s assassination by citing his inability to get JFK to change the seating arrangements is beyond absurd. It only proves that there actually was one individual, JFK, whom he could not dominate.  Compounding this specious reasoning, in the next paragraph he seems to be accepting without question what Johnson told Hoover the next day on a telephone call which he was taping (surely Williams must recognize that Johnson did it merely for the purpose of “papering the file” with meaningless verbiage):

“A reason that neither the CIA nor the military would likely listen to any of Johnson’s ideas was that Johnson was a known loose cannon. Even as the planned assassination was unfolding, Johnson was unsure as to whether he might also be a target, in addition to President Kennedy. Nelson describes this in vivid detail (pp. 472-485). Johnson started ducking BEFORE any shots were fired, which tells us two things; LBJ knew when and where the shooting would take place; and Johnson’s own insecurities had him fearing for his own life. Such a man could not be trusted with any information that might implicate any of the main plotters.”

Mr. Williams actually believes (according to his own words here) that Johnson was “fearing for his own life”? Apparently, he doesn’t understand that his saying that to Hoover – in asking if anyone was shooting at him – in a recorded telephone call illustrates that Johnson always knew which calls were being recorded for posterity–he controlled that with his finger on a desk button–and thus put that in “for the record.” One does not need to be a “rocket scientist” to understand implicitly what should be an obvious point, one that goes to Johnson’s core manipulative skills.

Next Williams moves on to focus (more or less) on “The Colossus.” Here he misses more than one point, multiple times:

 While Nelson points out many of LBJ’s transgressions, one area not addressed is Lyndon’s fathering of children out of wedlock while being married to Lady Bird. The name Mary Margaret Wiley is in the name appendix with no page number, nor is she mentioned in the first book; she is addressed in the second book. It is surprising that Nelson is so circumspect in this area. Nelson acknowledges that LBJ brought Mary Margaret Wiley to Washington from Texas, and that she was a favorite mistress. She “suddenly” married one of LBJ’s key aides, Jack Valenti. Apparently Valenti agreed to allow the affair to continue after the marriage. As would happen, Mary soon became pregnant and a daughter, Courtenay, was born. Nelson only intimates that LBJ may have been the father.”

I believe that in the “Colossus” book, within the bounds of good taste and my attempt not to be overbearing about it, I made it adequately clear to most non-pruriently obsessed people that, absent DNA proof, Courteney Lynda Valenti’s paternal parentage is not clear-cut. [5] Evidently, some readers expect much more sensationalism in their reading materials, possibly from too much exposure to tabloids like The National Enquirer, with their ads saying things like “Don’t Miss Out . . . Get the Juicy Stories!”

And then we have this gem:

“Nelson said very little about Madeleine Brown, other than that she and LBJ had a son together.”

This is arguably the most absurd accusation in all of Mr. Williams’ pontifications.

Altogether, Madeleine Brown is cited twenty-five (25) times within the two books Williams purportedly read, which he could have discovered merely through checking the Index of those books and counting the page citations to Ms. Brown.  For him to have missed twenty-four of them (96%) leaves his “batting average” at 4%, thus explaining the origins of his cognitive dissonance:

  • In the first book, “Mastermind”, she is cited on ten (10) separate pages, throughout the book, some more than once on a page.
  •  In the second book, “Colossus,” she is cited on fifteen (15) separate pages.
  • She is repeatedly referenced for everything from how Hoover had pressured LBJ to get JFK to keep him on as the FBI director to how Johnson had been behind the disappearance of her son’s nanny, merely as retribution for her having seen the two of them embrace at the doorway to their hotel room.
  • She provided much context for Johnson’s relationships with the rich Texas oilmen and their mobster friends, and how they were all close friends of both Johnson and Hoover.
  • She also had knowledge about Johnson’s involvement with the murders he had ordered for five associates of Billie Sol Estes, stating that “had Marshall and the others not been killed Lyndon would have been forced out of office right then . . . “
  • Furthermore, among many other references, she had come forward to furnish information about the murder of U.S. Marshal Clint Peoples, including the fact that, though not reported publicly, witnesses had stated that “his wrists showed marks from handcuffs.”

Though, for the sake of brevity, I haven’t listed all twenty-five instances, it should be clear to all fair-minded people that there was much more to her story that was reported than merely that “she and LBJ had a son together.”

This ridiculous comment proves that Mr. Williams is not a focused reader—he has missed much substantive detail in not only this instance, but throughout his perfunctory “review” and thus cannot be expected to be a credible reviewer of either of my books, and, ergo, any other book for that matter.

Williams then made this banal and gratuitously off-point observation:

“Nelson goes on for 25 pages about LBJ’s Jewish connections. Nelson claims first to not be construed as being anti-Semitic, then tells us that LBJ’s maternal grandmother was Jewish and that LBJ was very pro Zionist in regard to Israel.”

 To suggest that there is a disconnect between my unequivocal comment about not being anti-Semitic and merely pointing out those plain facts, essential to the background context, all related to his being closely associated with militant Zionists—nothing about which can be reasonably construed as “anti-Semitic”—is yet another proof that the “disconnect” here is all in Williams’ mind.  This is merely one of the many ways that making any statement that touches on Israel, Jewish people or term “Zionist” evokes a knee-jerk rant of “anti-Semitism” in many people, as patently absurd as it is on its face.

Finally, in his summation, Williams made a series of erroneous statements, best illustrated by the following sample relating to Johnson’s treasonous actions to prod Israel to attack his ship, the USS Liberty, so that he could foist the blame for it on Egypt, and its president, Gamal Abdul Nasser, as a pretext for joining Israel in the Six Day War:

  • “A nuclear war with the Soviets was very likely off the table.”

Evidently, he skipped over the point that Johnson—before realizing that the Liberty had not sunk–had ordered two A-4 bombers to bomb Cairo, with nuclear bombs; they were recalled just minutes before reaching their target. (see p. 385)

  • “Both the Soviets and LBJ would have liked the removal of Nasser.”

Why would the Soviets want to have Nasser removed? He had been forced into the Soviet orbit, in part due to Johnson’s own actions, beginning in 1957 when he tried to force Eisenhower to withdraw his sanctions against Israel in their provocative actions in the Sinai.  Then, in 1963, upon becoming president when Johnson dropped any pretense of neutrality between the Mideast states when he gave Israel his unlimited support.  Meanwhile, for the previous decade — since at least the “Suez Crisis” — Nasser had been courted by the Soviet Union and they were certainly not interested in his removal.  Does Williams have any knowledge about this that no real historian has ever noticed?  

  •  The Soviets were ready to unleash their military if Israel did not pull back from their offensive against Syria.

Then why didn’t they, when Israel did notpull back from their offensive against Syria?”  Does Williams not understand–half a century later–that Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria and still occupies that territory?

  •  “The U.S. was also opposed to the Israeli invasion into Syria.”

The U.S. tried to portray that position, but that was more the result of the diplomat’s attempt to deny reality; the U.S. under Johnson had preplanned the entire war for at least three years. How else did Israel manage to seize the Golan Heights from Syria, beginning the same day as the attack on the Liberty?  In fact, his aide Harry McPherson cabled him that very morning, before the attack, about the plans to invade Syria for that purpose, and it came as no surprise to Johnson or any of his highest level aides.

  •  “The American planes that were called back from aiding the USS Liberty were prepared to attack whomever was attacking the USS Liberty. The attack by Israel was deemed to be deliberate, and they (e.g. Moshe Dayan) knew that the ship was American. The Israelis also knew the ship was a spy ship, collecting information from both the Egyptians and the Israelis. In the Israeli view, they could not be sure whether the Americans were sharing information with the Soviets or Egyptians, justifying the attack, at least to them.”

Again, Williams states things so matter-of-factly that readers who don’t know any more about the attack than he does fall under the illusion that he has some kind of expertise in the subject, which he clearly does not. As stated previously, the U.S. and Israel planned that “spontaneous” war for at least three years and Israel knew they had Johnson’s backing for everything they did. During the enormous cover-up, of course both sides had to keep that little secret to themselves, thus the rigorous attempt to portray the Liberty’s spying on both sides.

After writing the “Colossus” book, I wrote—with the help of three of the survivors, Ernie Gallo, Phil Tourney and Ron Kukal—another more detailed book on the subject, “Remember the Liberty!” New evidence of Johnson’s treacheries and treasons is included in that book that I had not known previously.

I point this out for Mr. Williams benefit, so that he might learn a little more about the attack on the Liberty by reading that book, but in doing so I am not encouraging him to review it, or any more of my books.  His stilted, error-filled and perfunctory “review” of my first two books is the best demonstration that perhaps he should reallocate his time to other activities.


 End Notes:


[1] As summarized in the Epilogues of Mastermind generally (and specifically at pp. 596-600) and Colossus (pp. 495-498).

[2] See Caro, The Passage of Power, pp. 282-291 and Spartacus Educational website:

[3] See LBJ: Mastermind, pp. 589-590

[4] See LBJ: Colossus, pp. 47-48

[5] See LBJ: Colossus, pp. xxxvi, 141, 153-155. [In the first edition of the Mastermind book (Xlibris, 2010) Mary Margaret Wiley’s name and her sexual involvement with Johnson was noted. When Skyhorse bought the rights to it, they asked me to remove certain non-assassination-relevant information, and everything subsequent to the assassination (other than the cover-up itself) and plan to put it in a “sequel,” which became the second book, “Colossus.” At that point, I had already submitted the Index, with Mary Margaret Wiley’s name included. Unfortunately, the clerk employed by the publisher neglected to delete the name when no matches to the name appeared].


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