TTTT

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

Part I: Whitey Bulger’s Case Demonstrates A Malign Media Mindset Involving Twisting Facts and Destroying Reputations

Whitey As A Young Robber

I sometimes have to wonder at the pap we get from our newspapers especially in stories relating to Bulger. I indicated yesterday that the mainstream media writers missed the point of Whitey admitting his role in some bank robberies back in 1956. He wasn’t ratting anyone out nor was he cooperating with the FBI. He admitted his role in a robbery that the FBI already knew about. It  had a witness who was with him during the robberies ready to testify against him.

Whitey did it to save his girlfriend from going to the can. The media points to this as him being some sort of informant but it was the opposite. He was stand up guy giving the FBI what they already had, taking the hit himself which turned out to be 20 years, so that his girlfriend, Jacqueline “Jacqui” McAuliffe who was with him on one or more robberies, was able to stay on the street and take care of her kid.

You get mixed up when you think everything is black. Nothing ever is.  As Somerset Maugham wrote in his book Summing Up: “I have known crooks who were capable of self-sacrifice,  . . . and harlots for whom it was a point of honor to give good value for money.”  It’d be too much for the local press to ever think Whitey had any good in him yet many in South Boston saw that side of him.

I’m not saying by any means he was a good person. That’d be succumbing to the mentality of someone like Murderman Martorano who says referring to himself: “It’s my belief that good men can do bad things.” (Yuk! , Murderman murdered 20 people and thinks he is a good man.) Whitey was mostly black but even then he was capable of doing some good acts but that doesn’t change his basic character.

I’m not coming anywhere close to saying Whitey seems anything but evil.  He was from what I can see bad to the bone.  I’m sure at times he thought of others. It wasn’t often, but once in a while. His episode keeping Jacqui McAuliffe on the street was one of those times. The women he lived with had nothing but good to say about him. Catherine Greig is doing an absurd amount of time in prison for her belief in him.

Even Whitey’s gangster understudy, Brutalman Kevin Weeks, acting like a reformed drunk when it comes to Whitey in his new role as toady to the media, can’t seem to figure out what Whitey did back then. It is beyond Weeks to understand how a guy can go to jail for a long rap to protect someone else. It’s nothing he could ever have done as was shown by his willingness to turn state’s evidence after two weeks in jail.

Aside from wanting us to see nothing but limpid black when we think of Whitey, the media just loves to take what we know about Whitey today and juxtapose it back forty or fifty years to suggest that at that time people should have realized that Whitey was going to become what he turned out to be.  We are supposed to think that in the mid-Fifties people knew Whitey was going to be the personification of everything evil and anyone who had the slightest association with him back then must have been involved in his evil cabal.

We can see this in two articles I came across that were written during last summer. These are about a letter Whitey wanted to send from prison. We first heard about the letter in Howie Carr’s book the Brothers Bulger which was written in 2006. But the summer news articles presented the letter as something recently discovered and as a startling revelation.

It seems that when 26-year-old Whitey was sent to prison in July ’56, three months later he attempted to reach out to Father Robert Drinan. This is known because that letter was found  in Whitey’s personnel file from his time in prison. It is dated October 26, 1956.  It never left the prison. Fr. Drinan never received it.

This indicated to me that any letter Whitey wrote to Fr. Drinan never flew over the walls. But I’ll assume, as the media people do, that some letters got out and Whitey and Father Drinan had correspondence.  Tomorrow I’ll write about how the media interpreted the letter and the events around it in such a nonsensical way that it gives one pause to believe anything that it puts out.

 

If Whitey Bulger Doesn’t Want His Enemies Writing His Story He’d Better Act Now: Time is Running Out.

William Barchard

I know you’ve heard this before but during the lull in the action on Whitey’s trial I’m catching up on putting together the material I have gathered on Whitey’s brother Billy. It has always puzzled me that a guy could serve so long in public service with an unblemished record and have people start saying he was corrupt. I’m taking a hard look at the evidence as a career prosecutor to see what I think. I’ve spelled out my relationship to Billy in my book Don’t Embarrass The Family. It isn’t close. I know the guy and have talked with him but not for twenty or so years. I never contributed to him or attended his fund raisers. I grew up in the same neighborhood. I’m not ready to start writing about him at this point.

One reason for the delay is that doing this blog so many other issues come up that intrigue me, things I never previously gave a second thought to blindly following the newspapers stories which then become the gospel. I’ve pointed this out in my discussions about Sheila Burgess.

One of the things I’m doing is organizing myself and putting things into different three-ring notebooks. I’ve done this once but the first system I set up is not working well. It reminds me of the times when I’d get ready for trial. I’d have set up one system for handling the evidence and then I’d rearrange it and probably do it a third or fourth time. If you’ve ever read the book Who Am I? which I recommend having just done it you’d see how the unconscious had a role in what I was doing. I realize that what would be wasting time to some people was a way that I used to prepare and learn my case.

As I put things in order I came across an article in the newspaper saying Whitey “cooperated with the FBI as early as ‘50s” written on May 30, 2012 by Kevin Cullen and Shelley Murphy in the Globe.  The article wasn’t clear.  It said he “verbally identified his accomplices” but persuaded his girlfriend “Jacqueline “Jacqui” McAuliffe, to formally identify them to the FBI.” Does that make sense to you?  Doesn’t it make less sense when you read the following line, “Bulger pleaded guilty to the three [bank robbery] jobs and got 20 years; McAuliffe got a pass.”

It seems to me you don’t get 20 years if you are cooperating. Seems to me Jacqui ratted out the whole group. But that doesn’t make a good story so the reporters allege Whitey is ratting people out back then.

The Globe article note that “WBUR first reported” the story.  That meant David Boeri. I dug that story out. That headline read: “’Whitey’ The Kid: Bank Robber, Fugitive And Snitch In The ‘50s”  The FBI report in July 1956 said “Bulger, after his apprehension, cooperated with the Bureau.”  Dick Lehr said of this, “He made these oral admissions but insisted that it not be put in writing.”  This report is the same report Howie Carr used in his 2006 book,  No one gives him credit for this. The talk about it is as if it has just come to light.

Lehr mocked Whitey to Boeri because Whitey was involved in hijackings by saying, “Whitey’s in his mid-20s and tailgating is the stuff of teenagers.”  You can see from that statement that neither Lehr or Boeri grew up in neighborhoods where tailgating was a fine art.  It wasn’t the teenagers who did the best of it but those in their twenties and thirties.

Which brings me back to the problem of having people without an understanding of these criminals and the neighborhoods writing about them. They don’t know what’s really going on. The certainly got everything wrong about what happened in ’56.

For Whitey to be arrested for the bank heists the FBI had to have already had someone telling them who was involved in them. Whitey had warrants out on him from the bank robbery in Hammond, Indiana on 1/4/56 and Pawtucket, Rhode Island on 2/8/56.  It was obvious to him that Carl G. Smith, Jr. had given him up.  Carl was the one connection to both robberies. Whitey was arrested on 3/4/56.

The FBI report says this about Whitey that he “cooperated with the Bureau to the extent of admitting his participation in three bank robberies. He reduced his admissions to signed statements and named his two accomplices in the Rhode Island Bank robbery.” These were Smith and Dermody. He gave the FBI what it already had.

Then it notes “He persuaded [Jacqui] to cooperate . . . ”  She gave up Barchard and Billy O’Brien, who they probably already knew about from Smith. Bulger later confirmed Jacqui’s information.

Apparently Boeri, Murphy and/or Cullen telephoned to Florida to talk to Barchard, pictured above, and told him wrongly that Whitey had given him up. Barchard had to know it was Smith and Jacqui and not Whitey. The FBI report specifically notes Whitey only gave up the Rhode Island names which he knew were already out.

Because Bulger has to be the personification of all evil and cowardice, the reporters totally misread what happened.  When Whitey’s arrested he knows he’s in the jack pot. Whitey’s concern is saving Jacqui who has a young kid she has to take care of. He knows Smith has given everyone up so he tells Jacqui to do the same thing. It’s the only way she can stay on the street. Rather than being a “snitch” Whitey outwits the feds and saves his  girlfriend.  However, he ultimately outsmarted himself because he got 20 years. None of the others got close to that time.

Which brings me to my final thought.  Boeri says that Gerry O’Neill and Dick Lehr are writing a biography about Whitey. I really can’t believe it because these guys hate Whitey and Billy. Aren’t biographer’s supposed to come to their subjects with an even handed view?  Their book will be another repeat of Black Mass where they vilify Whitey and Billy.

If I were Whitey and had a story to tell, I’d get it out like he tried to do when he saw Martorano on 60 Minutes. If he doesn’t he’s letting his enemies write his and his family’s history. That’s not too wise.

 

While Waiting For Movement In Whitey’s Case We Can Watch As Massachusetts Slowly Unravels

 

I wrote  how the newspapers like to follow up on stories.  The Sheila Burgess story of a driving record involving 7  (minor? her fault?) accidents, 4 speeding, 2 failure to stops for a police officer and 3 other minor incidents (we don’t know the outcome of any criminal charge) which happened in her early driving years has in another article turned into “a driving record longer than some college chemistry books” according to Brian McGrory.  Then he repeats the false “no transportation or government experience” mantra which I noted is not needed for the job she held.

I point to this because the paper uses it column writers to justify its first stories by repetition and hyperbole so that the public never considers the original story’s lack of factual basis for the subsequent conclusions.  (I’ve come upon this because I’m intrigued about how effectively this worked against Billy Bulger. It turned a man with an impeccable record of public service into a corrupt official. You’ll hear more on this.)

McGrory’s story is mainly about Governor Deval Patrick.  McGrory concludes he has “lost control, lost interest, or both” over the situation in Massachusetts. This is called the William Weld syndrome.  It happened also to Mitt Romney. These governors get bored quickly. They seek something else like a higher office or more influential position. When that happens, you’ve all heard the old saw: “when the cats away the mice will play.”

You and I know Governor Patrick has “Gone Grey.” He’s lost his courage. Had he spent the time doing his job rather losing interest in it, the state would be in much better shape. But he’s looking at greener pastures as the grass he stands on turns begins to burn and turn yellow.

McGrory also wrote about the scandal at the State Drug Lab with Annie Dookhan and how the governor’s senior officials let that fly out of control.  You may recall that nothing was being done about that until a day or two after I wrote stating the matter is going to cause huge problems for the state.  In reply to one question I said it will remind someone of the Big Dig when the final bill came in.

There’s an article today saying the public defenders want $332,000,000.00 to represent the people it believes are entitled to have their records cleared of these offenses. What public defenders want will be echoed back by the prosecutors.  Then the court system will want its share which will bring us up over a billion.  (Of course if these things were handled right none of these amounts would be justifiable but rather than doing it right lawyers and judges manage to make things much more complicated than necessary.) Don’t think that’s the end of it. If a person is wrongfully incarcerated or lost a job or suffered any harm because of a deprivation of his or her civil rights that person may be entitled to be compensated for that. Every case that is thrown out has a potential for being a civil action against Massachusetts.

And it is not just the fault of Annie Dookham.  She’s the one who will take the hit but when you open the gate to the hen yard and let a wolf in then you don’t blame the wolf for the carnage.  Annie was a low-level chemist. The people above her had the responsibility for insuring she did the right thing. DA Morrissey is not going to get off the hook if a young assistant DA is brooming all the cases she handles in the district court.  It’s his responsibility to set up a system whereby that can’t happen.

So too was it the responsibility of Governor Patrick to hire a commissioner who would set up such a system.  You may recall the Commissioner of Public Health, John Auerbach, when the scandal first broke said the buck stopped with him. But then when he realized the magnitude of problem, he washed his hands of the whole episode and resigned to take a better job.

Speaking of paying money for those wrongfully convicted, Kevin Cullen had an interesting opinion article yesterday.  He writes that Governor Council-elect, Michael Albano is going to request the governor to give posthumous pardons to two gangsters, Louie Greco and Henry Tameleo who were wrongfully convicted of being involved in the murder of Teddy Deegan.  They already had their conviction vacated because they were framed by the FBI; they’ve already received a big cut of 101.7 million dollars handed to four of them by Judge Nancy Gertner for the time they spent in jail or about 33 million dollars each, a cool million a year.

Cullen wrote an earlier column in November noting that posthumous pardons are rare event, only two have been given in the history of the Commonwealth, both by Governor Dukakis to people executed by the Commonwealth. In 1977 he pardoned Sacco and Vanzetti and in 1984 a couple of Irish immigrants no one ever heard about who were hung in 1806. (Probably in preparation for his presidential run.)

Henry Tameleo was a consigliere in the Patriarca Mafia family. He worked with Mafia leaders Raymond Patriarca and Gerry Anguilo to run their criminal enterprise. Greco was asssociated with them. Cullen thinks it is a good idea to give them a pardon.  He says it should be a “no brainer”.  Suffolk DA Dan Conley seems to agree.

I’d suggest the no brains are involved in supporting this request. The convictions were vacated. You cannot pardon someone for a crime that he has not been convicted of. But even if you could, pardoning Mafia guys seems to be a little over the edge. If Patrick does that, which he will because he fears not following the newspapers, he’ll soon have a ton of requests from all the drug dealers who are freed under the Annie Dookham debacle.

You know things are a little out of kilter when Massachusetts economy is struggling, tax collections are down, unemployment up, scandals are breaking out relating to a compounding lab and the drug lab, and we are reading about pardons for dead hoodlums.

 

 

Shades of Whitey Bulger’s Winter Hill Gang: Law Enforcement Taking Lessons from the Gangsters in Running Their Operations

I understand a prosecutor has the absolute discretion in whom to charge with a crime. We see this in the case of a person who some allege was involved in the murder of Brian Halloran, Michael Donovan and John McIntyre. The U.S. attorney refuses to charge that person because it appears a deal has been made with a witness Kevin Weeks. Weeks will testify against Whitey Bulger as long as he need not disclose the identity of and testify against that person.  All murderers are equal but some murderers are more equal.

I understand the prosecutor has the total discretion in deciding the type of offense that person will face. John O’Brien who was the Massachusetts Commissioner of Probation didn’t take any money for himself. His crime was that he hired people recommended to him by politicians who controlled his budget and doing that he was able to increase his budget. It’s an unusual crime because you’d think if it were a criminal offense to hire such persons then both the politician and the O’Brien would be involved in a conspiracy and the politician would have to be charged.  But no politicians were charged with “recommending” persons for jobs. Only O’Brien was charged for taking their recommendations and hiring the persons.

Which brings me to the some Massachusetts district attoneys.  I wrote a while ago about district attorneys being in violation of the federal racketeering law, called the RICO act. I assumed at that time that these were district attorneys from out in the West or down in the South or somewhere up in those Mountain States.  A week or so ago I learned that four Massachusetts DAs were also involved in these activities. Given the attitude of the US Attorney in Boston toward public officials in Massachusetts, I wonder whether they are wise to persist in their actions.

As I understand RICO from my study of the case against former Commissioner O’Brien and two of his associates is that a person who is a member of an enterprise that commits any two of specific type crimes within a ten-year period can be charged with racketeering.  (The crime in the probation case was O’Brien wrote letters telling applicants they were rejected.) An enterprise consists of members of an association linked closely by a specific common purpose. Where there seems to be instances of fraud, the members must share a common purpose to defraud which seems to be the case here. Like with the probation officers’ case the fraud involves the use of mails.

Here’s what these Massachusetts DAs are doing according to my sources.  They are participating with collection agencies (an enterprise) in order to scare people who may have bounced checks.  How does the fraud come into play? They are letting the collection agencies use their stationery to deceive the people who receive the letter into thinking the DA is sending the letter. In exchange for committing this deception on an individual, the collection agencies kick back some of the money they recover for the DAs.

Here’s how it works. Eileen Sanchez is shopping at a big box store. She writes out a check for $52.00 for some item. She forgot that she wrote out another check to Joy Lee earlier in the week that pushed her balance down under the $52.00 amount. Eileen committed no crime when she wrote the check. She did not intend to defraud the store. The check bounces.

The big box store notifies Smiley Collection agency. Smiley takes out a piece of DAs stationery and writes to Eileen telling her what the criminal penalties are for larceny by check even though they do not apply to her. Eileen as we know is being deceived.

Eileen believes the DA has her in his sights rather than a collection agency. She thinks she committed a crime. She’s frightened into thinking she might go to jail. That, of course, is the intent of the letter to scare people into paying.  Why else would the collection agency want to perpetuate this ruse.

Eileen calls the number given in the letter thinking she is talking to the DAs office.  Here’s where it gets real dirty. She is then treated like a criminal. Eileen is no longer able to pay the $52.00. She’s got to pay a lot more. She has to pay a fee to the collection agency and pay a fee to take lessons in financial management which she doesn’t need. Her final costs are well over $250.00 which is in a sense being extorted out of her by her fear of going to jail. One woman who received such a letter said she felt terrorized.

I’d be embarrassed if I were a DA and I was doing this. I don’t think DAs should get involved in an enterprise with collection agencies to extort money from the members of the public. I believed a DA was supposed to protect those people against these type acts. I only have hearsay information on which DAs are doing this but you may want to check with your DA. My concern is to suggest they stop the deceit and to remind them that their actions are even worse than those charged against the three probation officers.

Then again, maybe U.S. Attorney Ortiz won’t be too interested in this. We see how she is trying to take a million dollar motel away from an innocent guy who rented one room each year to people who used it for drug activity of which he had no knowledge. So she may not think there’s anything wrong with deceiving some of the hoi polloi.

In fact it seems there’s sort of a pattern here. It looks like the federal and state prosecutors are ganging up on the little guys and gals to take their money from them.  Isn’t that what the Winter Hill Gang used to do?

The Attempt by US Attorney Carmen Ortiz to Commit A Million Dollar Heist from A Hard Working Guy: Shades of Whitey Bulger

A person from out-of-state who comments here off an on asked me what I thought of a story he came across.  It related to the Caswell Motel owned by 69-year-old Russ Caswell.

After looking into it I’d suggest that rather than chasing after people like Sheila Burgess who committed no crime or caused any injustice, if the media is looking for something to do perhaps it could give thought to having a discussion of the Caswell Motel affair.  The trial relating to it just ended in federal courthouse that overlooks Boston harbor in South Boston. It was a jury waived trial in front of Magistrate Judith Dein who prior to becoming a judge worked for two major law firms in Boston doing civil work.

The Caswell Motel Affair hasn’t received much media coverage in Boston even though on May 8 of this year George Will wrote about it in the Washington Post under the headline “When The Looter Is The Government.”

The Caswell Motel was built in 1955 by Russ Caswell’s father. It sits on a 4.5 acre property in Tewksbury’s main street.  Russ has been running it for 30 years working hard, supporting his family. Like anything that was constructed in the Fifties it has become long in the tooth. The 56 rooms according to some rent for $56 a night or $285 a week but when I Googled Motel Caswell, Tewskbury, I learned rates start at $43.00 a night for two. It rents to tourists, workers on extended stays and some elderly. Six people who stayed there reviewed it for Trip Advisor. One rated it “poor”, the other five “terrible.”

It has fallen a long way since the days Annette Funicello and the Mouseketeers checked in. Now it’s sort of a dump where those down on their luck find a refuge.   Russ says that he had an average of 14,000 daily room rentals each of the last fifteen years. He knows he’s not renting to the Beacon Hill crowd but under the law he can’t turn anyone away with a good reason. He takes from it a salary of about $75,000 a year for the long hours he puts in.  He hopes to use it to support his retirement.

Russ’s problem began when a DEA cop (probably at the suggestion from the Tewksbury police) was looking for things to seize. This cop found out that the Caswell Motel had no mortgage and that the property was worth between a million and a million on a half. He figured if the feds could take that property from Russ then they could keep 20% of it and give the Tewksbury police 80% or around a million dollars. The DEA cops had no investigations going on there but they figured if they could somehow show that Motel Caswell was being used to facilitate the distribution of illegal drugs they could take it from Russ Caswell.

Recently U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz through her spokesperson Christina DiIorio-Sterling said: ‘‘The government believed that this was an important case, not only for the town of Tewksbury, which has been plagued for decades by the criminal activity at Motel Caswell, but because of the important deterrent message it sends to others who may turn a blind eye to crime occurring at their place of business.  The purpose of the investigation was strictly law enforcement-related and in response to the ongoing criminal activity at Motel Caswell that spanned nearly 30 years without any effort by the owner to be addressed.’’

She’s right about one thing, it is an important case. Not for sending any deterrent message but for Russ Caswell who is going to lose his life’s savings and to Tewksbury police who have no qualms about robbing them from him.  But what exactly is the evidence that the government presented to show the decades by the criminal activity at Motel Caswell.”  

For that I turn to the ever reliable David Boeri of 90.0 WBUR who seems to be Johnny on the spot when it comes to happenings in our court system always producing reliable and trustworthy reports. He is a standout exception to the big yawn most of our media gives to what happens in our courts. He reports that between 1994 and 2008, a period of 15 years, the government produced evidence of fifteen drug crimes that occurred in the motel among the 210,000 room rentals.  These fifteen drug crimes, one incident a year, have “plagued” the town of Tewsbury and turned the motel into, as Assistant U.S. Attorney Sonya Rao said,  a “dangerous property” in the community.

Russ Caswell testified that: “he has never been fined, cited, arrested or told he could be in trouble for any third-party drug activity at his Tewksbury motel until 2009 when the federal government suddenly moved to seize his family owned business under a federal drug-forfeiture law.” 

I’ve written before about the duty of a prosecutor and the function of cops. They are not the same. The cops do the grubby, hard and under appreciated work of chasing the criminals; the prosecutor analyzes the work and decides what to do with it. The prosecutor is not supposed to be pushed around by the cops. A prosecutor’s job is to do the right thing regardless of the how much work a cop may have put into a case or how much the cops want to grab property from innocent people.

This case in my opinion is an outrage.  Attorney Ortiz has failed in her job when she lets the greed of cops tarnish a hard-working individual so that they can take his life savings. Where is her independent judgment?  How does she sleep comfortably trying to deprive a guy like Russ Caswell who worked hard all his life, saved for his future and never had one iota of criminal involvement of his life of his property when 1 out of 14,000 room rentals involved drug activity.

To defend himself Caswell already spent $100,000 dollars. Had not attorneys from the Institute for Justice intervened and worked for free he would have lost the motel by this time. His inability to fight back would have deprived him of his property without due process of law. This  is certainly not the America I though I lived in where innocent people are being robbed by the cops and prosecutors.

This is our present day America. The DEA cops are seizing properties when their relationship to drug activities are practically non-existent. The DEA cops and local cops want to deprive honest and upright citizens of their valuable property (the property has to be over $50,000 before DEA will try to seize it) by suggesting they should do the job DEA and the cops should be doing.  U.S. Attorney Ortiz lacks the courage to say no to DEA and openly misstates the evidence. A judge had to waste four days of court time listening to this travesty when it never should have reached her courtroom.  The media remains mostly silent in face of one of the biggest heists to occur in this area since the Great Brinks Robbery. It’s all pretty tragic.

The First Two Nominations for The “Got Guts” Award and “Gone Gray” Award Go To Politicians

As promised yesterday, I will make the nominations for this award from among those who are considered the leaders of the hacks, elected politicians. Keep in mind where some consider the word hack to be a pejorative indicating a loafer or idler; I happen to think it is a worthy title because it applies to all involved in politics or serving on the public payroll from the president of the United States, through our fighting men and women, to our teachers, pubic works employees, judges, police, fire, and other public officials and all those who support them and make our government operate. The hacks are the people who have maintained and preserved our democracy and keep us safe.

It’s easy to sit in a newspaper room or radio studio and criticize but it is hard to go out and interact with the public when one subjects oneself to the turmoil, invective and hurly-burly of running for public office. I have found that even those who hold positions totally opposite from me I nevertheless admire their fortitude and determination to do what it takes to leave one’s comfort zone and take a chance to work for their ideas. I could never do it but I don’t begrudge anything to those that do. When I hear the term hacks I think of people like  Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison who laid the foundation for our country.

You must be familiar with the name Sheila Burgess. She just recently got canned as the Massachusetts highway safety director by Governor Patrick. I know it is reported that she resigned but who resigns a good paying state job without have been told to hand in their resignation. It was pointed out in the article noting her resignation that: “Burgess was appointed to her $87,000-a-year position in July 2007, without any background in public safety, transportation, or government administration. Her experience was in Democratic Party politics. For almost two decades as a paid consultant and congressional aide, she had raised money and ­advised candidates for public office, including — according to her resume — Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray, who had taken office six months earlier as part of the new Patrick administration.

The original article that called our attention to the 48 year old woman was that she had: “ seven ­accidents, four speeding violations, two failures to stop for a police officer, one failure to stay in her lane, one driving without registration or license in possession, and one driving without wearing a seat belt.”

What is totally unremarkable and seems par for the course  is that a media frenzy followed. Like sharks being fed, the media rushed about tearing away at the flesh of Ms Burgess. The public greedily watched as TV trucks showed pictures of her modest house with the suggestion she was hiding in there afraid to come out and face the music as if she were public enemy number one. Not one media outlet stepped back nor did one commentator stopped to ask what the woman had done wrong. The original story came back to us over and over again like words uttered in an echo chamber.

The article doesn’t point that while she held the job she had no driving problems. except for an accident in August, 2012, where she swung off the road to avoid being hit by an oncoming car shortly after noon. We don’t know how long it had been since her prior traffic violations occurred. The most recent problem mentioned was a 1999 an incident of speeding in New Hampshire.  ‘

Her record was examined from 1982 when she was 17 to the present. We have no idea of whether her bad driving was as a teenager or in her early twenties. We don’t know whether she was acquitted or convicted of these offenses. We know nothing of their circumstances.  We can see that the charges against her are minor misdemeanors or perhaps civil violations. We don’t know whether the accidents were her fault or someone else’s.

Nor does the article point out how she had performed her job since 2007.  It noted she had no background in “public safety, transportation, or government administration.” This was repeated over and over again. The newspaper apparently using its superior wisdom decided one of those were necessary qualifications.

Yet considering the job it seemed the background one would look for would be in public relations. She had plenty of background for that in running political campaigns for twenty years.  Further, as JJ Sullivan the irascible attorney who taught me how to be a lawyer would say, “she learned the best way – in the school of hard knocks.”

All the reports of her performance as director point to her having done a proficient and skillful job. The message her office was supposed to convey was getting out.  Ms Burgess is not accused of any crime, any deception, anything untoward in the performance of her job. Her resume had no problems. Her driving record was as available to the hiring party as to the newspaper.

She did nothing wrong yet she was pilloried for having a bad driving record during her youth and working for politicians prior to the time she got the state job.  In this tawdry media inspired rush to malign a woman we are to urged to condemn her for these things of the distant past and ignore her having done her present job for over five years in a well qualified manner.

In a job where what matters is the message we are told that because the messenger may not be pure it is wrong for her to send it out. Yet, today, in the same newspaper that reported on Sheila Burgess, in an analogous situation a man with a background much worse than hers is extolled for having turned his life around.  He is now preaching to high school kids.  Tell me the difference between the situations of Sheila Burgess and Cris Nilan.

In the context of the injustice in terminating her, I offer the nominations of  two persons for my newly created awards.

For the Got Guts I nominate US Representative James McGovern. He defended his recommendation of Ms Burgess as a “good person” and a “hard worker.”   He went on to say: “She wanted to make a career change, so we passed her resume along. I had every reason to believe she would be a good, decent, hard-working (employee). Not withstanding this controversy, she did a pretty good job.

The intrepid newspaper reporter then put it squarely to McGovern.  He was asked whether his recommendation of her for a position  gave “the appearance that he was doing a favor for someone who helped him raise money.” McGovern responded: “Just because somebody works for me in a political campaign, does not mean she should be disqualified from working in some capacity for other people. Good people get involved in political campaigns.”

McGovern got guts.  He stood up for what he did.  He did not back down in the face of the newspapers crusade.

This allows me also to give the Gone Gray award. This goes to Governor Deval Patrick. Rather than noting she did a good job as director, he ran through the briar and brambles faster than a rabbit. He first blamed McGovern for recommending her; then he said he was furious, he said it was a screw up. He then was going to reassign her but finally he terminated her. He didn’t have the courage to look at the facts. I hope he ends his political career here. We don’t look forward to having any Gone Gray nominees in positions where we need guts. 

(Tomorrow I’ll tell you where I think there should have been a media frenzy.)

 

Thoughts of Whitey Bulger Lead to the Creation of The “Got Guts” and “Gone Gray” Awards: Nominations Tomorrow

I’ve been thinking how we’ve become a nation of craven individuals crowding together and trying to blend into the massive grayness of anonymity, a nation of grays. We hide our real opinions in the face of those who speak the loudest. We shrink back from what we know is true subjecting our opinion to the voice of the media as if it is the impartial arbiter of good and evil and does not have an agenda. We take good people and throw them to the mob in order to hide our own foibles knowing deep down we are in many ways just like the people we point a disdaining fingers at. We have forgotten that it was not the grays who gave us this great country.

You know the founders of our nation who we call the Founding Fathers (with the backing of their women folk) really stuck their necks out. Back in those days when you went up against a king you were playing for keeps. When they signed that document stating “we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor” they weren’t speaking figuratively. They were actually putting their lives and money on the line. If they lost, they knew they probably would be hung, their estates confiscated, and their families impoverished. And by the way, their cause was not that popular.  It is estimated that at times less than 20% of the people supported them.

These men and women who set about to create a better nation had what we kids called: guts. That term applied to the kid who stood up when others would have run away. These kids weren’t necessarily the toughest or best fighters, often they were remarkably just like the rest of us ordinaries, but in times of need they didn’t shrink away but stood their ground. We’d say in admiration, “he (or she) got guts”.

The Whitey Bulger saga shows how few we could say “got guts.” Certainly shooting some unarmed person in the back of the head doesn’t show that. Whitey at times seemed to have them but at others it seems questionable. Maybe that is true of all those people with guts. In some situations they stand tall but in others they become like the rest of us part of the great grayness.

Ruminating on this over this holiday weekend I decided when I find an instance where someone stands out from the grayness I’ll nominate that person for the “Got Guts” award which will be given out on occasion.  I also thought I should have nominations for a “Gone Gray” award which I would give to people who showed a particular lack of character by mindlessly following what the people who write newspapers suggest or demand, a common folly especially by those who read the Gray Lady and its child in Boston.

Tomorrow I will make my first nominations. These will be given to people in what is commonly referred to as the community of hacks. These are people who work on the public payroll. The grays believe it is chic to look down on these people as some sort of inferiors.

Having been one of them I believe that is the proper starting ground. I knew I was a hack having been chastised for not contributing to the gross national product as if that was all that mattered in life. It is assumed that all the hacks are incompetent and received their jobs through patronage. The former is incorrect but the latter may be true with respect to many.

Our Founding Fathers devised this system that necessitates patronage.  If  people are to be elected to office it cannot be avoided. It is practiced from the highest level to the local town office. People give jobs to their friends or people who have helped them get elected. We’ve see it at the national level where President Obama appointed as Attorney General his friend Eric Holder; we saw it when President Kennedy appointed his brother Bobby to the same position.

It happens every time a new person is elected president.  At one time the busiest time of the year in our nation’s capital was inauguration day and the weeks that followed. Office seekers flocked there seeking jobs in the new administration carrying letters recommending they be hired because they knew one politician or another.

Politicians need to have help and money. Those who give it go to the front of the line when it comes to handing out jobs. When Sheldon Adelson is looking to get a friend’s kid an internship I don’t think there will be many Republican, or Democrats for that matter, who would not rush to please him. Patronage is as American as the Fourth of July parades.

It’s ironic though it is often suggested by the media that patronage is evil. We are supposed to accept the idea that Candidate X must not try to help Johnny get a job when a position is open because Johnny worked very hard for her over  the many months it took for her to win office.  We’re expected to believe that Candidate X should hire George who worked for her opponent, or someone who she didn’t know. The idea being that we have immaculate elections where the candidate without lifting a finger or depending on another person is magically thrust into office as a free being.

Tomorrow I will make my first nominations from those involved in the patronage business.

 

The FBI Is Still Operating Under The Rules of J. Edgar Hoover When It Comes To Gathering Statements of Witnesses

In my book, Don’t Embarrass The Family, I tell how I became involved with these matters involving Whitey Bulger. Dealing with them, especially having sat through the trial of FBI agent John Connolly, I began to fear that the FBI had become an untamed monster.  In the Connolly case it was embarrassed by the disclosure that it had been using top gangsters as partners in its fight against organized crime after it became public knowledge. To protect itself, it tossed one victim, Connolly, into the pit to be chewed on by the lions to sate the public’s appetite and continued with business as usual.

Connolly was convicted of some of the minor offenses but was sentence in a major way to eight or more years in prison.  Even though the knowledge and abetting of Connolly’s actions were widespread throughout the FBI somehow an agreement was made between the DOJ prosecutors and the FBI that only one person would take the hit.  An obviously more corrupt FBI agent John Morris, who had taken money from Whitey and his only other top echelon informant and who entered into a Machiavellian plot with the Boston Globe to see if he could have Whitey hit, was allowed to skate free as long as he cooperated and testified against Connolly.  No other FBI agents were charged with any crimes or disciplined despite the widespread knowledge and approval of Connolly’s actions.

I did a lot of thinking about these events after the trial and also looked back on what I knew of the FBI’s past dealings. This resulted in a section of the appendix to my book which I called “Self Accountability Is No Accountability.”  As part of that I made 15 recommendations where I thought the FBI could improve itself.

My first recommendation is “Record Interviews.”  Do you know if the FBI comes out to interview you the two agents will not do the interview if you insist on recording it. The FBI is afraid to have anyone record their discussions with individuals preferring to conduct the interview, take notes, and then return to their office where they will write up what they call a 302 form which sets out their impressions of the conversation. Obviously, that does not accurately reflect what is said. This has resulted in the perverse idea among the FBI agents that “if it is not in writing it does not exist.” Or, the reality of what happened is only what the FBI agents reduce to writing.

The FBI strongly resists any change in this procedure.  Recording a witness is the exception and not the rule. It is as if we are back in the 1930s. That is how it was done then and nothing will change it. The question that comes to my mind is why doesn’t the FBI want to use the best evidence available which are a person’s words.

We saw this in the recent trial of Bobby George the Boston criminal defense lawyer who was convicted after taking money from a DEA informant who set him up so that he could get a pass himself. When the informant testified, he had lied so often in the past, like the witnesses against Whitey, that it was impossible to believe anything he said.

The jury nevertheless convicted Bobby. It did so because the informant made secret tape recordings of their conversations. The jury did not believe the informant yet it felt compelled to believe Bobby’s words on the tape.

When I did wiretaps under Title III, and when the FBI does these wiretaps, the requirement mandated by Congress is that all the conversations intercepted must be recorded.  A person designated as a monitor will sit and listen to each conversation.  That person will make notes about the subject matter of the conversation and will decide whether the conversation is privileged, in the latter case it is terminated and not listened to.

Congress did not think it was all right that we rely on the notes taken by the monitor as evidence of the conversation. It wanted us to have available the full conversation and not the conversation as interpreted by another person.

We all know how easy it is to record a conversation.  Everyone with a smart phone or ipod can do this. Yet the FBI refuses to do it.

I’ve wondered what is behind its desire not to produce the best evidence. Why does it insist that the only part of an interview that matter is what the agent puts down on paper at a later time in his office?

Federal Judge Wolf was asked by the FBI to be interviewed.  He agreed.  He set one condition. He wanted to preserve for himself the right to read the 302 before it was filed.  He did and made some corrections to it. He recognized the fallibility of agent’s memories.

Too bad this right is reserved for judges only. None of us could have this courtesy. One author wrote that when he read a 302 of his interview with the FBI, he didn’t recognize anything that he was alleged to have said as being something that he did say.

J. Edgar Hoover died 40 years ago. A lot has happened since he’s been dead. It strikes me that the FBI’s use of the same reasons for not recording interviews and witness statements that Hoover used is a pretense that we’re still back in 1972.  Isn’t it time the FBI came into the present and started collecting the best evidence? It won’t do it on its own. Why is Congress so afraid to require it to come into the 21st Century?

This Thanksgiving Day The FBI Deserves Profound Thanks From President Obama For Keeping A Lid On the Jill Kelley Affair

The Jill Kelley saga forced the highly ribboned David Petraeus to resign as head of the CIA. Whether that is a great tragedy or great benefit is being debated. It has also forced a four star Marine Corps General John Allen to have his confirmation to a more important position delayed. It has forced two young women, Jill Kelley and Paula Broadwell, into the public spotlight in a humiliating and possible marriage-destroying manner. It has forced hundreds if not thousands of other people who have communicated with Kelley, Broadwell, Petraeus or Allen to go back through their emails to try to determine what the FBI now has on them. It has made people who comment anonymously to my blog realize they too can be identified by the FBI.

In Jill Kelley’s affair we do not know what the FBI knows. All we know is it has gathered and examined  tens of thousands of emails from people who it has no probable cause to believe committed a crime. It is as if the FBI went into the City of Quincy and required every person to give it copies of all the emails they have received as well as all other personal mail. The violation of the Fourth Amendment is astounding.

What is more astonishing and incomprehensible is the silence of the mainstream media  It is either in mortal fear of the FBI, or partnered with the FBI in an information exchange program, or doesn’t quite understand the gravity of the invasion of privacy that occurred. Compared to the diligence of the media in the early Seventies when it closely screening government activities, today with the media’s parroting of government information it has become the infamous Ministry of Truth for the government. Perhaps now it has no choice since the government uses the criminal arena to limit free speech. Except for the openness of the internet, we are being poorly served as a people. Is there any chance we could see a repeat of the “Pentagon Papers” today?

I was spouting off about this silence at a lunch the other day and one of the people with me, JK, said “haven’t you heard of 9/11.”  He’s right. It’s a different world. In this post 9/11 world, no newspaper would dare to have such audacity as back then. In the Wikileaks affair the papers first cleared what they were going to write with the government. The presidential press corps can quote high government officials only if they first present any quote to the official for his approval. We have a Mimeograph Machine Mainstream Media that just lazily reproduces government copy to insure it keeps getting government  information and access and cuts down on costs.

I don’t go into politics on this blog. I have my political preferences. I keep them to myself. But I can’t see why the headlines in the Jill Kelley saga do not read: President Obama Thanks FBI For His Election.

That’s what happened. The FBI covered this affair up until election day. It ensured that none of the news about the information it had illegally gathered by the start of fall was released in such a way as to embarrass the president.

The investigation started in the spring. When the information was gathered a decision had to be made about what to do with it. We can assume in a CYA organization like the FBI this type decision was pushed right up the line to the top man which means either FBI Director Mueller or AG Eric Holder.

Mueller had his ten-year term which was supposed to be the ultimate time any one director could serve extended by Obama for two years giving us a J. Edgar Hoover redux. He is indebted to Obama and may be looking for a further extension. Holder is Obama’s close friend. One or both of them decided to sit on the investigation to protect the president. This was a political decision. If the information related to Romney, do you think they would have taken the same action?

Whether they would or not, it shows the FBI is involved in politics. Agent Freddy Humphries thought the bosses were covering up. He leaked the investigation to Majority Leader Eric Cantor on October 27.  Imagine what would have happened if after the first presidential debate on October 3 this information came out.

It would have totally occupied Obama, who had already suffered a blow in that debate, so that he’d have had enormous difficulty recovering. Romney would have had fodder for his next debates to follow up on. The whole picture would have been different.

Whether I’m pleased or unhappy that Obama won is not the point. It is just that decisions by our secret police on withholding information did have a dramatic effect on the presidential race. The FBI is a group of cops with extraordinary powers and no oversight. We see that their decisions can affect our politics. This is something that a democracy can not tolerate.

In my book, Don’t Embarrass The Family, I make 15 recommendations for making the FBI into a better organization. None will be followed unless the FBI is forced to change by outside forces.  Right now, there are none willing to take it on.

Least among them is the President. Tomorrow, when he cuts into his turkey, he’ll say a silent prayer thanking Holder and Mueller for their wisdom, that is, unless they are sitting at the table with him celebrating the feast. Then he will thank them aloud.