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Monthly Archives: September 2012
A person who comments on my blog called a web site to my attention. It has a story told by Jesse Trentadue, a lawyer in Salt Lake City, Utah. It revolves around the April 19, 1995 bombing of the federal office building in downtown Oklahoma City.
In August 1995 Jesse’s brother Kenneth, a Vietnam veteran with a heroin addiction, was arrested coming into the United States from Mexico for a parole violation. He fit the description of an American terrorist sought by the FBI. He was taken to Oklahoma City where he arrived on a Friday. Two days later the FBI notified Jesse’s mother that Kenneth had committed suicide while in FBI custody. The FBI wanted to have the body cremated. Jesse’s mother refused. When the family finally received Kenneth’s body it was heavily made up. Removing the makeup they discovered that “he had been beaten head to toe. He had been struck in the skull, in the head. Kenny had received three massive blows to his head that ruptured the skin, the skull. You could see his skull. He was beaten front to back, head to toe, even on the soles of his feet, and his throat had been cut. And the FBI said it was suicide by hanging.”
Another person commenting on my blog said: “To imply the FBI condoned, sanctioned or gave a green light to future murders is untenable and inconceivable.” One commentator suggests the FBI beats, tortures and murders people; the other suggests the FBI would never do that but even more it would never condone any murders. Both comments appearing so close to each other gave me pause.
I had just gone through a week of spelling out how the FBI went from denying the Mafia’s existence to partnering with some of its members. I did not consider the question about the FBI’s involvement in murders.
The FBI Was Pleased as Punch When John Connolly Had Whitey Bulger In Its Boat But Then Threw Connolly Overboard
Needing to replace the information it had been gathering through the use of electronic bugs(EB), the FBI under intense pressure developed a Top Echelon Informant (TEI) program that Judge Mark Wolf told us about in his 661 page findings.
The FBI discovered the Mafia in the late 1950’s and put up to 1,000 EBs into Mafia locations by breaking into them. The use of EBS was of questionable illegality although the breakings and enterings were clearly illegal. In July 1965 the FBI was told to stop using EBs. It panicked. To replace them it came up with the TEI program by November 1965.
The difference between an EB and a TEI was quite significant which the FBI seemed not to grasp. EBs had no criminal background, did what the FBI asked, asked nothing in return, and gave unfiltered information about the Mafia leaders. TEIs were mostly murderers who were going to continue murdering people (some suggest that because they became allied with the FBI they would stop their murderous ways — I happen to believe the opposite would happen), they did what they felt like, they wanted a great deal in return such as protection from other law enforcement agencies, and they gave the FBI some information but certainly not all they knew and there was no way to guarantee its correctness.
The TEI program was corrupt from its inception. When the FBI joined with gangsters it became a gangster. J. Edgar Hoover never wanted to investigate the Mafia. He feared what would happen when the FBI did this. His fears were realized. During the panic time he let down his guard and invited the criminal element to get into the FBI boats so they could all row together toward the goal of defeating the Mafia.
Over the last week we’ve seen the FBI used criminal means to reach its goals, it finally discovered the Mafia, it lost its illegal method of investigating the Mafia in July 1965 and by November 1965 it hard started the ill-conceived Top Echelon Informant (TEI) program. TEIs are still being used as shown by the FBI agent’s recent remarks to TEI Mafia capo Mark Rossetti: “My Job Is To Keep You Safe.”
The development of TEIs was a very high priority for the FBI and considered an important achievement for an agent. Judge Wolf who perhaps had the most extensive look at the TEI program outside the FBI than anyone else tells us that the FBI looked upon a TEI as an ally in its fight against organized crime, that only serious criminals would be in a position to provided meaningful information on the LCN, and that TEIs were members of organized crime groups. In other words the definition of a TEI is a person working at the highest level of a criminal enterprise with other criminals at that level in carrying out their criminal activities. Or put more succinctly: a TEI is a top gangster involved in murders and other felonies.
These are the men the FBI planned to use to replace their electronic bugs. Like the bugs they were going to sit in the room at the headquarters of the LCN (Mafia) and listen to plans for carrying on their criminal endeavors. Unlike the bugs, they would have to participate in these activities if they were going to be allowed to continue to sit in that room. The LCN was not a book group discussing the latest historical novel; it was a gang of murderers — you needed to murder someone to get into it and it used violence including murders to maintain its power.
I’m new to blogging. When I set up my blog I made a lot of categories and few tags. I plan to utilize the rest of the day trying to organize myself. I am going to cut my categories down to five (six with the uncategorized) and include tags under them. I believe this will make things more orderly.
If you are going to receive an email every time I update I apologize for any inconvenience I am causing you. Anything you receive from me for the rest of the day, if you do, you should delete because it is old stuff. I thank you for your understanding and regret the inconvenience I am causing.
Off Topic: Throwing the Baby Out With The Bath Wash — Are We Surrendering Too Quickly To The Criminals Because Of Annie?
Over the last days the pace of addressing the problems caused by the drug laboratory has picked up steam. It seemed to have done so after I noted no one seemed to be paying attention. The authorities knew about if for many months but just let it fester. Finally we see action, but are we now running ahead without proper consideration of the circumstances like lemmings.
The best move to date was Governor’s Patrick’s appointment of David Meier to take over the gathering of the facts about the individuals affected. He quite rapidly identified over eleven hundred people whose incarceration was somehow connected to Annie Dookhan’s actions in the laboratory. He handed this list out to the DAs. He’s got a long road ahead of him identifying the other cases but he is highly capable and will do this. His job is that of identification and notification.
The job of the DAs and the courts is to decide what to do with these cases.
I’ve spoken of the potential financial liability Massachusetts faces which could be very high or much less depending on how the situation is managed. I’ve expressed my surprise that the Supreme Judicial Court which oversees our judicial system has remained quiet during this time. I would think that it would be organizing a response to the expected headaches that will beset the justice system.
Some of the affected persons have already been released from jail. Some of those have bad criminal records. One in Suffolk Country was released by a judge who seemed to ignore he was also convicted of a gun charge. I did not understand that one. She could have thrown out the drug charge and still imprisoned him for the gun charge. This worries me. Is there too much of a rush to a find a solution?
The Dire Need of The FBI Caused Hoover To Agree To Do The Unthinkable And Partner Up With Whitey Bulger
I’ve written how the FBI did much good but involved itself in criminal acts, how J. Edgar Hoover was out of his comfort zone chasing organized crime people, but when he was forced to do so he did it well again violating the law by doing break-ins and planting electronic bugs to secretly listening to conversations. I noted how LBJ in July 1965 stopped him from doing this. Hoover was at his wit’s end having had his most effective tool for combating organized crime taken from him.
Imagine the despair. With the electronic bugs the FBI agents could sit in the comfort of their offices and listen to the Mafiosi talk all day, cull out the important information, and pass it out among other agents. Nothing could have been easier. The information gained could be disguised and used in making future arrests or raids. Little Al, the name the Chicago FBI gave to their most prolific bug, could be turned into Informant A in an affidavit and described as one who has provided reliable information in the past.
Desperate times (having to get out of the office and walk the bricks) required a desperate remedy. The FBI did not take long in coming up with it. They would recruit surrogate electronic bugs, namely people who could listen in to the conversations of the Mafia leaders and report to the FBI what was being said. They called a person who could do this a Top Echelon Informant. (TEI)
Hoover’s first act after the roof fell in on his denial of a Mafia was to institute a Top Hoodlum Program. Each office in the country was supposed to come up with the names of the ten top hoodlums in their jurisdictions. It was an ill-conceived program. Some of the field officers had dozens to pick from, some had only one or two, and others couldn’t figure out how to tell if someone was a Mafia guy or just a member of an Italian social club.
Hoover had dealt with the famous gangsters back in the Thirties on a targeted basis. In and out, get the publicity and get away. He and his men went after “Pretty Boy” Floyd, “Baby Face” Nelson, “Ma” Barker, Alvin “Old Creepy” Karpis and John Dillinger. Hoover referred to the gangster type criminals as “scum,” “rats,” “vermin,” and “vultures.” He believed they might infect his men if they got too close to them so he took a hit and run approach at big names leaving most of the hoodlums to the local cops. But now under pressure Hoover had to push his field offices to start learning more about the LCN.
Judge Wolf in his 661 page treatise said that when Bobby Kennedy arrived at the Justice Department Hoover did not believe there was a national crime syndicate. Wolf indicated that in 1962 Hoover was still being dragged to the altar of recognizing the Mafia’s existence when he stated, “no single individual or collation of racketeers dominates organized crime across the nation.” That quote did not support Judge Wolf’s conclusion. Hoover could very well have meant there were other organized crime groups aside from the Mafia. For by 1962 unlike what Wolf wanted to believe, Hoover had long since come around to accepting the Mafia’s existence and understanding its methods.
The last week or so I got distracted by things that happened in other areas of the criminal law and strayed from my main topic. I’ll do that on occasion but when I do from now on I’ll note that I’m going Off Subject so if you are not interested in those matters I won’t be wasting your time.
I noted significant developments in two areas that I have previously commented about. Amy Bishop (who I referred to in one of my columns as Amy Fisher – remember her?) has had her truncated trial and will spend the rest of her life in prison. You’ll note that she didn’t try to use some type of insanity defense. I’d have expected that given the uproar that occurred around here when it was learned that she was not charged with any crime as a result of killing her brother twenty years earlier. Many complained that she had a significant mental illness that could have been treated with some psychiatric help. They suggested the result would have been that she would not have later killed the three academics in Alabama as if twenty years had not intervened.
Amy did not have mental health problems that made her incapable of understanding her acts. What she seemed to have is an evil mind that planned out revengeful actions against others coupled with a rage complex. The killings in Alabama were planned as was the letter bomb she was alleged to have sent to another professor. The incident in the House of Pancakes was part of her inability to control her rage. We will never know what prompted the killing of her brother but I still believe it was an accident.
I think it is fair to say that the FBI has done much good and some evil during its existence. That is something we have accepted because the good outweighs the bad. It’s a weighing factor. If it reaches the point where it does more harm than good maybe it will be too late to do anything about it.
Yesterday I spoke about its use of illegal means to accomplish its ends. It didn’t and doesn’t play by the rules the rest of us have to obey. It has its own set of rules that sound good in the reading yet they are often drowned in the exceptions and execution. Judge Mark Wolf in his 661 page examination of its operations during the Whitey Bulger and Stevie Flemmi era noted how often it happened. The exception became the rule.
The FBI having no oversight in a democracy is a foul thing. The one time Congress dared to look into its doings was shortly after J. Edgar Hoover died on May 1, 1972. The Senate sensing its weakness found the gumption to examine what it had been doing over the years. It was at the time when as Tim Weiner in his 2012 book Enemies noted, “[Hoover] left behind an institution that almost died along with him.”
The Church Committee examined whether the FBI and the CIA threatened the “rights of American citizens.” In the introduction to its final report the Committee quoted Attorney General Harlan Fiske Stone, the man who appointed J. Edgar Hoover to his position, that “There is always a possibility that a secret police may become a menace to a free government and free institutions because it carries with it the possibility of abuses of power which are not always quickly apprehended or understood.” The Committee stated: “Our investigation has confirmed that warning.”
I have mentioned my concern in the past with aspects of FBI Agent John Connolly’s case in Florida. The overall concern is that duties and responsibilities of Connolly as an FBI agent handling top-level informants were and are murky. This has been a deliberate policy of the FBI. We’ve seen it most recently with Mafia Capo Mark Rossetti where his FBI handler said his job “was to keep him safe.” What did he mean by that?
This brought me to a consideration of the FBI culture which I have touched upon and what I will write about in the future. I’ve noted how in the organized crime area it was part of the FBI culture that an agent could commit criminal acts to gather evidence against organized crime members. It is now well known that during the late fifties and for twenty or so years after that the FBI set up processing centers where they secretly opened mail that came to people from overseas. I once had a letter sent to me opened which caused me a little bit of a problem.
Tim Weiner in his compelling book Enemies, A History of the FBI, shows both the FBI’s importance to America as well as the means it took to protect what it believed were America’s interest. He describes his book as “a record of illegal arrests and detentions, break-ins, burglaries, wiretapping and bugging on behalf of the president.” He says it shows how: “presidents, attorneys general, and FBI directors alike — have used and abused their powers in the name of national security.”