Trekking Toward The Truth – A Journey With Others Over The Road Less Traveled

Originally dedicated to the vagaries of matters involving Whitey Bulger and the FBI but now expanded into more general topics.

TTTT - Trekking Toward The Truth – A Journey With Others Over The Road Less Traveled

The FBI Recruits Murderers, Shuts Its Eyes To Their Murders, And May Commit Murders Itself

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.

There is little doubt the Top Echelon Informant (TEI) program makes the FBI and murderers partners; that its TEI partners continue to murder people after they get on the FBI’s boat; and that the FBI considered it to be its job, as expressed recently by an FBI agent in Boston to a Mafia TEI, to keep the TEIs safe, in other words to protect murderers.

The FBI plays a little game of deliberately not seeing what is in front of its eyes.  This was expressed by FBI Supervisor James Ring who said the FBI “considered it inappropriate to ask an informant for the details of his own criminal activity.”  Therefore it can always say that “none of its agents knowingly allowed their informants to commit murders.”  

My answer to the question of whether the FBI would give a green light to future murders is:  qui cum canibus concumbunt cum pulicibus surgent (loosely: – if you lie down with dogs you get up with fleas.)  There should be no reasonable doubt the FBI knew the killers it joined forces with would continue to kill people.

Frank Salemme said John Connolly knew in June 1989 that one of his TEIs, Angelo “Sonny” Mercurio planned to have him gunned down and did nothing to stop him. Salemme was shot at the IHOP in Saugus but survived. The feds in 1997 charged Enrico M. Ponzo and Vincent Michael Marino with doing the shooting.

There’s little doubt Agent Paul Rico knew Flemmi was killing people and there’s evidence to believe he set up the hits of Ronnie Dermody for Buddy McLean and of Roger Wheeler for Martorano. There were many right up to the top level of the FBI who believed TEIs Whitey and Stevie were involved in the Wheeler/Halloran/Callahan trilogy of murders.

The next matter to consider is whether FBI agents would commit murder themselves — a somewhat different proposition than knowing a protected TEI partner was engaged in murder.

Jesse Trentadue mentioned above said he has “one advantage, especially when I’m dealing with the FBI. It is a weakness the bureau has. That weakness is it will always lie. The FBI will lie, even when the truth would serve it better.”

That’s a pretty serious assertion to make against a federal agency.  Yet it fits nicely into the first commandment the FBI agents are taught: — “Don’t Embarrass The Bureau”. It also fits nicely into the abandoning of John Connolly by its big lie that he was a rogue agent and its failure to insist that the DOJ invoke the Supremacy Clause to prevent him from being tried by a state for actions he committed while working as a federal agent.

If Jess Trentadue, a lawyer, is to be believed the FBI killed his brother and then tried to cover it up by seeking to have his body cremated.  That is once instance of FBI agents murdering a person by severely beating and torturing him. They might not have intended that he die but had anyone else done a similar thing they would be charged with murder.

With my limited knowledge, the FBI being a secret police force and only responsible to itself, my sense at this point is that FBI agents would not deliberately kill anyone but they would set in motion events that could lead to a person being killed.

The FBI had a program called COINTELPRO.  Its purpose was to undermine so-called enemies of the United States such as radicals, communists, the new left, the NAACP and Martin Luther King by spreading disinformation about them.  The result was many people  in America were set up to be killed by the FBI and some were killed.   To my way of thinking setting a trap for a person to be murdered is the same as participating in a murder.  It’s called being accessory before the fact.  It’s the theory the government used to charge John Connolly in Florida.

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.

Relying on people who are betraying their friends is always a bad idea. If they’ll betray their friends they’ll certainly betray you. You have no way of knowing when they are telling the truth. They’ll tell you what they think you want to hear but no more.

Into this corrupt program the FBI created and still maintains it recruited John Connolly. His job was to bring as many TEIs as he could into his FBI boat.  He had a knack for doing it and was patted on the back repeated by his bosses for his skill in recruiting them.  He had so many coming on to row in his boat that he had to hand some of them off to boats being rowed by other FBI agents.

One rower was already on the boat the FBI gave to Connolly when he came to Boston. That was Steve Flemmi who had been brought aboard by FBI Agent Paul Rico who would die in jail awaiting trial on murder charges in Oklahoma. Sort of poetic justice to Rico since he let some men be convicted of murder knowing they didn’t commit it and they died in prison.  (Some people suggest that is all right because they were bad guys anyway. It follows then we should do away with the inconvenience of trials and just lock up all the bad guys.)

Steve Flemmi had a friend Whitey Bulger who Connolly also brought into the boat. The FBI from the top to the bottom was pleased with Connolly for having brought on two strong rowers like Stevie and Whitey. For fifteen years they pulled mightily to the cheers of the FBI and brought the boat past the finish line which was the destruction of the New England Mafia family along with allowing the Boston FBI to do what no other FBI office had ever even dreamed of doing, recording a Mafia induction ceremony.

Connolly left the FBI in December 1990 surrounded by the praise of all.  TEIs Whitey and Stevie were retired.  No longer being protected by the FBI they became targeted by other federal, state and local agencies.

The US Attorney along with investigators started to find people who would start giving them information about Whitey and Stevie using the grand jury to squeeze them and giving them the old — “you’ll go to prison forever and lose all your earthly possessions unless you tell us what you know about X, Y and Z.” Obviously, their memories were jolted and they gave them what they wanted. Then miracle of miracles they learned what the paper boy knew, that Whitey and Stevie were gangsters. They were charged with RICO but were not connected to any murderers.

The RICO charge is the same type racketeering charge used against probation officers who sent out rejection letters to applicants for jobs. It seems as easy to charge a person with racketeering as it is to get an indictment which we know is quite easy from the old saw: “a prosecutor can indict a banana peel.”

Whitey and Stevie got tipped off about the indictments coming down. Whitey took off. Stevie hung around. In January 1995 Stevie got arrested. He asked the FBI to get him bail so he too could take off. No one seemed to remember he was on their boat. He got the cold shoulder.

Up to this time no one in the general public outside the Boston Globe really knew Stevie and Whitey had been on the FBI boat. Stevie sat in jail for three years sulking. Connolly who did remember tried to keep his spirits up — but he could only do so much to undermine the case against Stevie. When Stevie figured Connolly couldn’t help spring him he told the world that he and Whitey had helped row the FBI boat sitting in the TEIs seats.

Stevie thought this would get him out. Big mistake. The other gangsters  figured they now had an excuse to get out themselves by squealing on Stevie — the theory being it’s okay to rat on a rat — but in truth a rat is a rat no matter who he rats on because rats always find justifications for ratting. The other criminals were pushing, shoving and toppling over each other to tell stories about Stevie and Whitey, the more lurid the better, the better the story the better the deal.

It’s then we learned about their murders. Unlike what we are led to believe no one knew of most of these murders before that time. But things got jumbled up and we were all supposed to have known about them since 1975 and analyze the situation as if we did.

With all this going on everyone began to wonder how in the world could the FBI have given Stevie and Whitey a seat on its boat. The FBI was totally embarrassed. This was the one thing J. Edgar Hoover feared most — that his bureau would look like a bunch of fools which they were in creating a program to partner with murderers. Again panic ensued. The FBI got its propaganda machine going saying: “We were duped. We didn’t know what was going on. They were on Connolly’s boat! He is a rogue agent!”

They threw Connolly overboard — saying he was bad even though he did what they wanted him to do. It was a brilliant move. Connolly is still in prison.  The FBI is no longer embarrassed. The media agreed it was undone by one rogue agent. No other agents were charged.

The FBI could have its cake and eat it.  It could pretend it was duped and it could still keep partnering up with gangsters. The TEI program is very much alive and ongoing today.


How The FBI With It’s Top Echelon Informant Program Made Whitey Bulger Its Partner In Crime

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.

Agent Rico said TEIs were not to be treated like criminals but as allies in the common cause. These were to be the FBIs new partners.

Judge Wolf talked about the guidelines for the agents in developing TEIs. Agents were instructed that the success of the TEI program “depends on a dynamic and imaginative approach in developing quality sources who can assist the Bureau in meeting its investigative responsibilities.”  Their guideline was no guideline. It left it up to the agent to do whatever was necessary to do to get a TEI. Agent John Connolly who joined the FBI in 1968 following the orders of his superiors accumulated ten or more TEIs including Whitey Bulger and Stevie Flemmi.

Judge Wolf found over and over again that the Attorney General’s Guidelines were routinely ignored with regard to TEIs and “utterly ignored” in other instances by the FBI.  They were empty words as significant as the rights given the people under the USSR constitution. The agents followed the unwritten rules and approved customs of the Bureau and not what was written on paper

Judge Wolf summed up: “The FBI’s highest priority was combating the LCN. Agents were encouraged to be imaginative in recruiting TOP ECHELON informants who by definition were involved in serious criminal activity themselves. It was natural that such informants would seek protection from the FBI, particularly including immunity for information they provided or helped obtain. It was also foreseeable that their handlers’ supervisors, in order to secure their services, . . . .  and their colleagues knew the character of Flemmi and Bulger’s criminal activities. They were not defrauded in deciding to make them allies in the FBI’s war against the LCN  . .  . . “

Wolf also noted that Agent Ring testified that TEIs “were necessarily involved in serious criminal activity; they had to be in order to have the intimate knowledge of the LCN that the FBI was seeking. The FBI considered it as inappropriate and counterproductive, however, to ask an informant for the details of his own criminal activity because to do so might suggest that the FBI was investigating him and, therefore, cause him to cease serving as a source.”

Wolf said:  “The FBI as an organization . . . rather than isolated aberrant agents, authorized Bulger and Flemmi to engage in loansharking, gambling, and related activities in order to permit them to perform as confidential informants.  The FBI promised that Flemmi and Bulger’s identity as confidential informants would never be disclosed and that if necessary cases would be dismissed to avoid doing so . .”

To cut to the chase, Hoover and the top bosses at the FBI developed a program where agents were encouraged and rewarded for recruiting murderers who were engaged in murderous activities to climb into the government’s boat and row aside its agents to get evidence against other murderers.

When Connolly came to Boston in the early 1970′s Stevie Flemmi had already been part of that program. Agent Rico was able to pass Stevie onto Connolly. They had to have gotten Stevie’s approval to do this. Connolly had to have been told about Stevie’s background and what Stevie wanted. Connolly knew the LCN was the top priority of the FBI and he was to use a “dynamic and imaginative approach” in achieving the FBI’s investigative responsibilities which at the time was the destruction of the LCN. After Flemmi, or about the same time, Connolly added Whitey to his stable of TEIs.

Electronic bugs aside not being murderers also could not demand anything for their use. The TEIs were different. They wanted something for what they were going to do.  It doesn’t take a Rhodes Scholar to figure out what they wanted in return for providing information against their friends. It was one of two things: they’ve already been jammed up and wanted a pass; or they feared being jammed up and wanted a future pass. A future pass meant they could do what they wanted to do but the FBI would protect them (keep them safe) in exchange for being a walking electronic bug.

Oh, and I should mention, one other thing. The FBI in developing this program never considered that a TEI could never truly replace an electronic bug.  The bug gave it unfiltered information; the TEI told it only what he thought it should know whether it was the truth or not.

I’ll finish my FBI week tomorrow.

Apology To Those on My Email List

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?

One person who should know better, as well as defense counsel and other pundits, has advocated for a “one shoe fit for all” approach to these cases.  I hope the DAs don’t fall for that. There is a need to be expedient but there is also a need to be thorough and to review each case to determine whether related charges can survive or some other charges can be brought. Now when everyone is hurrying to address the problem it is time to call for a team back.

Here’s what I’m talking about.  Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 94C provides the punishment for a person being involved in drug dealings. The particular problem facing the DAs is their inability to prove that the item which was seized was a controlled substance because it has been tainted by Annie. But there are other provisions of that chapter that must be considered. If the substance is seized during a sale to an undercover cop is alleged to be cocaine and it turns out the state cannot prove it is cocaine, can the state then say that it was a counterfeit substance which is a violation of Section 32G.  Charge both and let a jury decide.  It would seem given the circumstances surrounding the sale it is either one or the other, and both are punishable by incarceration, although a counterfeit substance offense is a misdemeanor punishable by only a year in jail.

DAs ingenuity can come up with other type of creative approaches to insure that many of these individuals do not walk.

They should ask whether Section 32I which relates to drug paraphernalia applies. That says “no person shall sell, possess .  . . with intent to sell drug paraphernalia, knowing . . . that it will be used to . . .  pack, repack, store, contain . . . or otherwise introduce into the human body a controlled substance.”   These people cannot sell their illegal wares without violating this section in some manner.  This is again a misdemeanor but it can keep the person locked up for two years.

Finally there is Section 40 which reads,  “Whoever conspires with another person to violate any provision of this chapter shall be punished by imprisonment or fine, or both, which punishment shall not exceed the maximum punishment prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the conspiracy.”   It seems to me that you don’t need the analysis from the drug laboratory if you can show from the words of the person that he or she conspired with another (aside from a cop or his agent) to do what is prohibited like sell pills, cocaine or heroin.  This evidence can be gained from other people (using aggressive grand jury tactics) who participated in the venture, from cops working undercover, or from admissions made after the people were apprehended.

I expect the DAs know all this. I’m hoping that given the overwhelming job ahead of them they don’t throw in the towel and treat every case alike. This means they need to be provided additional funds and staffing to go through each case thoroughly to prevent Massachusetts from being inundated with people who may rightly belong in jail or prison. The factual situation of each case has to be closely scrutinized to determine whether other charges can be brought.  Cops have to be interviewed again to gain a complete understanding of the situation. Usually this has not been done because it was not necessary when you assumed the lab reports were legitimate. All that was needed then was to show the substance and the immediate circumstances around the state gaining possession of it to secure a conviction.

Every effort must be made prior to releasing a person to determine whether additional charges can be brought.  If so, immediately after his case is dismissed on the charges stemming from the tainted evidence, bring forth the new charges and impose high bail on the person. Governor Patrick made a good first step in appointing David Meier.  Now he must start giving the DAs the money and manpower they need. It is better to spend the money on insuring justice is done rather than making it available to the criminals.


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 was desperate indeed to have gone along with this.  He had to know that to institute it he would be putting his cherished agents in harm’s way.  He knew, instinctively, that his men were no match one-on-one with these hardened criminals. That is why for so many years he denied the existence of their organization. He sensed that his agents associations with mafia-types would put them perilously close to committing crimes themselves. The radicals, Commies, spies, youthful conspiracies were easy picking for his trained men; but organized crime murderers weren’t motivated by ideals, they had learned about life in the murderous back alleys of the cities. They were a different breed who survived in a violent society. They could have FBI agents for breakfast.

Hoover with his back against the wall and against his better judgment took the chance. They would deal with this type of criminal. The orders went out to recruit them. Unlike the electronic bugs, these TEIs could talk back. They would want something.

Ralph Ranalli in his book Deadly Alliance said the first reference to Top Echelon Informants (TEI) began to appear sometime between 1963 and 1965.   He noted that the FBI’s Manual of Instructions (MOI) had by December 1964 a class of informants called Top Echelon. The people to be recruited were described as “Madams, prostitutes, pimps, fences, con men . . . ”   These people were useful in supplementing electronic bugs which were ongoing at the time.  They were not the kind who could replace electronic bugs.

Ranalli points out that by 1971, the year before Hoover died, the Manual of Instructions stated that a TEI was a “member of La Cosa Nostra” and those closely associated with them.  Ranalli leaves open what happened between December 1964 and 1971 which was the July 1965 shutting down of the bugs and the FBI response to it.

Judge Wolf in his findings tells us about this. (He doesn’t relate it to the shutting off of the bugs.) He noted that “In November 1965 FBI Special Agent H. Paul Rico targeted Flemmi for development as a [TEI] . . . — the highest status a source can achieve in the FBI . . . At that time, a [TEI] was defined as an individual who ‘could provide a continuous flow of quality criminal information regarding the leaders of organized crime.’ ”  Rico wrote that if Flemmi survived the Boston gang wars he “would become ‘a very influential individual in the Boston criminal element’ and ‘be in a position to furnish information on  LCN members in the Boston] area.’ “

Flemmi had been giving information to Rico since the early 1960’s.  He was not accepted as a TEI until the program had been designed. Created in response to LBJ’s directive in July 1965 it was operational in November 1965. The 1964 MOI had been changed. This quick response told of the deep hurt the FBI suffered in its investigative ability and its dire need to come up with a solution, any solution, well thought out or  not, even if it paved the way for FBI agents to partner up with murderers.

Rico had plans to leave Boston and head to Miami.  He had to insure that Flemmi had an agent who could protect him.  He had picked out John Connolly as the one who would do it.  He also made arrangements for him to connect with Whitey Bulger.  Connolly would put Whitey up for membership in the TEI club in February 1976, almost 11 years later than Flemmi.  Connolly wrote that Whitey has “demonstrated ability to produce information regarding the highest levels of organize crime.” 

Whitey and Stevie Flemmi would remain as TEIs until the end of 1990 when the FBI closed them out. This was done because Connolly had retired and the FBI had no one to replace him that Stevie and Whitey would accept. Judge Wolf found that during the time Flemmi and Whitey were informants from 1975 to 1990 if Connolly were called to testify he would state they were “extremely valuable confidential informants who provided vital information [regarding] the government’s successful efforts to investigate and prosecute La Cosa Nostra in New England, the department of Justice’s top priority here.”

Judge Wolf seemed to agree with that assessment.  Judge Wolf told us how they recruited the TEIs and what they knew about the TEIs.  I’ll tell you next post what he said about that and what the TEIs expected as the quid pro quo.



Before Accepting Whitey Bulger Hoover Journeyed From Denial To Understanding To Desperation

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 facts on the ground show how well-informed Hoover had become.  Chicago had a group of young agents who were bored with doing background checks and arson investigations who jumped at the chance to get involved in the Top Hoodlum program by doing something about it.  At the end of July 1959 they had put a bug in a tailor shop which was the headquarters of the Chicago outfit which they would call “Little Al.”   For six years this bug taught the FBI more about organized crime than it would learn in all the other bugs it placed in other LCN meeting places throughout the country. Hoover received a daily report of its activities.

All the bugs were put in by doing black bag jobs (illegal breaking-ins) in order to secretly listen to the conversations of the people in the location another act of questionable legality.  It is estimated that Hoover had up to a thousand bugs in operation at the same time gathering evidence which was not admissible in court but extremely useful in setting the groundwork for getting admissible evidence.

With these bugs who needed informants?  The FBI certainly didn’t.  It could keep its hands clean and not associate with any of the people who Hoover disdained. More information on the Mafia came to Hoover in 1963 when Joseph Valachi started to tell his agents the story of life. There was so much information pouring in that Hoover had a solid grasp of the actions of the Mafia. Hoover wrote in September of 1963 that Valachi’s information “corroborated and embellished the facts developed by the FBI as early as 1961 which disclosed the makeup of the gangland hordes.”

That was Hoover’s stock-in-trade ever since he was a young man.  If he set his mind to finding something out he persisted until he had the answer. Bobby Kennedy may have thought little about Hoover’s knowledge of organized crime because Hoover might have purposefully deceived him. They weren’t friends and Hoover hung on to his job because he had the pictures. Objective facts show he was deeply knowledgeable about the Mafia by 1963,

William Roemer the famous FBI agent who wrote four books about the FBI’s war against the Mafia was in the forefront of the Chicago bugging operation.  He tells how all the information they had been gathering was proving helpful throughout the United States. They knew where every big gangster was going and who he was meeting with.

Like with the Apalachin meeting, again the roof fell in on the FBI.  It was on July 11, 1965 a day Roemer called “the fatal day!”  He said it “was a heinous slaughter, destroying our coverage of the mob.

Apparently the FBI in DC had placed a bug on Fred Black who was a friend of Bobby Baker who was LBJ’s buddy and bag man.  LBJ a man who entered public life poor, spent his whole career there, and emerged with 43 million dollars felt the FBI was getting a little too close to him. As a result that July day LBJ entered an executive order requiring that the FBI stop using all the electronic bugs.

Roemer said the FBI “had three primary avenues of investigation — electronic bugs, informants and physical surveillance.  Mr. Hoover did not allow undercover work by his agents due to his belief that u.c. tended to corrupt agents.”   After the bugs came out, the FBI was left with no good way to investigate organized crime.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you what the FBI did in this desperate situation.

Off Subject: Amy Bishop Is Imprisoned For Life and Annie Dookhan’s Actions Are Beginning To Be Felt

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 hope the Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey recognizes that nothing will be accomplished by bringing her back here to face murder charges stemming from her shooting of her brother.  Even if she were convicted we have no death penalty so she is doing all she can do.  The victims in the case here, the parents, have suffered enough losing a son and seeing a daughter convicted of murder who will die in prison.  The victims in Alabama are content with the way in which their authorities handled the case.

Aside from that I would think DA Morrissey has already enough facing him with the Annie Dookhan drug laboratory matter.  He will have to concentrate a significant amount of his resources on unraveling that.

David Meier who was appointed to clean up this mess is wasting no time.  He has already identified 1,140  people who are presently in prison whose cases will have to be considered because Annie had some involvement in doing their drug analysis. He’s wisely brought together the players involved hoping to come up with a uniform game plan.  He will have to established a red line beyond which he will no longer consider Annie’s actions as affecting convictions.  (I use “red line” because it has gained some recent currency in usage.)  Does he have to assume they go back 9 years?  If so then there will be at least two or three times that many who have already done their time in prison or jail.

Massachusetts law gives each person wrongfully incarcerated for a felony the right to sue for up to $500,000 and the right to a jury trial to determine the amount of damages.  If there were 3,000 and each got the maximum that would be 1.5 billion. I’m not so much concerned about that because I think the Massachusetts courts can control those cases to insure the damages accurately reflect the harm done which for most should not come close to the five hundred thousand mark.

I worry more about the damages that may come from the violation of the person’s civil rights that may result from cases brought in federal court that will not only include those who are incarcerated but all others who were convicted and damaged, such as losing a job or not being hired, by the alleged intentional actions of Annie.

The remedy in the federal court exists under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, commonly referred to as “section 1983″ which gives a person who is deprived of any rights under color of law by the state and is injured a right to sue. That’s the statute that Michelle Kosilek sued under.  It is unclear whether the actions of Massachusetts will be considered shocking which seems to be required to prevail in such cases.  Because I have no expertise in 1983 actions all I’ll say is I’m sure someone’s going to see if the actions of Massachusetts in the Annie Affair give rise to such actions.    If they do, things will get very expensive.

Had J. Edgar Hoover Had His Way He Never Would Have Let His Men Get Involved With Whitey Bulger

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.”

The FBI’s enormous power is gained because it can investigate everyone and no one can investigate it.  It is our own secret police force.  The Patriot Act expanded its already vast powers. Its recent decision to allow its agents to investigate us without opening a file and with no indication we are engaged in criminal activities provides little comfort.

The present day FBI is a gift to us from J. Edgar Hoover.  A stern upright man who was considered by his men as “he who must be obeyed”.  He was in his comfort zone going after Radicals, Communists, Nazi Spies, and the various Sixties groups as the SDS, the Black Panthers and the Weathermen. Enemies, rightfully notes “he foresaw the apocalyptic threats we face today.”  He would have felt right at home in our War Against Terror.

He was never comfortable going after the Mafia which he referred to as a National Crime Syndicate.   The reasons for this were according to some his fear that his agents would be corrupted by the Mafia (Did he also foresee the mess that happened in the Boston FBI office?), others suggested he had some friendships with Mafia types who influenced his thinking, and others speculate that he did not see it as a threat to the foundation of America as he believed the other groups presented.

On November 17, 1957, a meeting of about 100 Mafia leaders from all over the country took place in Apalachin, New York.  Sergeant Edgar G. Croswell had been watching this location for a year.  When he picked up indications a meeting was planned and saw that the group had assembled, he and other members of the New York State police broke it up making up to 70 arrests.  (State Police Colonel Tom Foley who worked closely with the FBI wrongly gave the FBI credit for that raid writing it “had made a famous score in 1957, when it rounded up a slew of baffled Mafiosi at what was supposed to be their top-secret gathering in Binghamton, New York.’)

The Apalachin busts threw Hoover for a loop.  The outrage in the country and in Congress demanded he do something about it.  He scoured his offices around the country to see what they knew.  Bobby Kennedy said after Apalachin that the FBN (Federal Bureau of Narcotics) had something on everyone arrested at Apalachin but the FBI didn’t have any information on 40 of the 70 arrested.  The information which the FBI gathered on the other 30 consisted of newspaper clippings.

Hoover’s decision that there was no national crime syndicate (Mafia) required that his robotic police force put on blinders to its existence.  Now things had to change.  Hoover began to adjust to the idea that there may be a  National Crime Syndicate.  He would never let his men call it the Mafia.  He insisted it be called the LCN (La Cosa Nostra).  Some suggest he did this so he could continue to deny the existence of the Mafia.  It is more likely though that he was following what the Mafia guys called themselves, cosa nostra (our thing).  That was their generic term but in each city they referred to their group by local names.  In Chicago they called it the outfit, in  Kansas City the combination or the syndicate, in New England the office, in Philadelphia the big boys or Italian club and in Cleveland it was called the combination.  Some cities limited membership to Italians yet it seemed in other areas Mediterranean folks like the Jews and Greeks were let in.  I don’t think the Irish need have applied.

Tomorrow I’ll explain what actions Hoover took.



The FBI’s Use of Criminal Methods To Protect Us From Domestic and Foreign Enemies

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.” 

I’ll write more about his book as I go along.  Suffice it to say for now is that the FBI protected us from our enemies using both legal and illegal means.  Yet, it always presented itself as a model of propriety, a shining bureau on a hill hiding its inexplicable fear of bad publicity and concealing its commitment to do whatever was necessary to protect us Americans.  A fair judgment of the FBI is that it helped greatly to preserve our liberties but in doing so infringed upon the rights of some of us.

One of the wars the FBI waged was against the Mafia.  J. Edgar Hoover refused to admit its existence for thirty years as it roiled America’s urban areas building up enormous power.  When he finally was forced out of his self deception, the FBI took up the fight and between 1960 through 1990 turned the Mafia into a shell of its former self.  In fighting the Mafia,  Hoover and is predecessors used all the tools at their command.  Hoover in his 48 years  was  not constrained by laws that impeded his fight.

Into that war John Connolly was sent.  He used the tools then available to him.  The uproar of the public and the media when it discovered that he had used Whitey Bulger and Stevie Flemmi as informants caused the FBI to abandon him.  What he did as a special agent was known to all in the FBI.  How then was it criminalized by the organization whose history is to use criminal means to achieve its object?  How then did it fall upon the state of Florida to prosecute him for an action done while an FBI agent?

These are matters I hope to explore.  But let me give you a couple of quotes by people we should keep in mind when we think of the FBI.

The first I found in a book by Barry Denenberg titled, The True Story of J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI.  I recommend this book as an introduction into the story of the FBI because it touches on the highlights and low spots of Hoover’s years that is easy to read and is even-handed.  He set out a quote by Congressman J. Swagar Sherley a Democrat from Kentucky who served from 1903 to 1919.  He said:  “In my reading of history I recall no instance where a government has perished because of the absence of a secret-service force, but many there are that perished as a result of a spy system.  If Anglo-Saxon civilizations stands for anything, it is for a government where the humblest citizen is safeguarded against the secret activities of the executive of the government.”

The other I found in the book Enemies.  That was said in 1787 by Alexander Hamilton.  “Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct.  Even the ardent love of liberty will, after a time, give way to its dictates.  The violent destruction of life and property incident to wars, the continual effort and alarm attendant on the state of continued danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort for repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights.  To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.”