I’ve lived in the Boston area all my life. I, therefore, have read a lot of news stories about the Bulger brothers—Billy, a once powerful politician, and Whitey, the fugitive mobster who had been “evading” capture by the FBI since 1995. Both my husband and I were astonished when we heard the news that Whitey Bulger had finally been arrested by the FBI in Santa Monica, California, a few days ago. We have doubted for a long time that the FBI seriously wanted to find Whitey. After all, agents at the Bureau had once looked the other way when the mob boss committed serious crimes–including murder–while he was serving as an informant for them.
Kevin Cullen, who writes for The Boston Globe, put my feelings about the Whitey/FBI story into words in his piece FBI shame casts a long shadow, which appeared in today’s edition of the paper. Quoting Cullen:
Richard DesLauriers, the special agent in charge of the FBI in Boston, could be forgiven for sounding a bit miffed the other day, when he was forced to respond to the inescapable reality that a lot of people don’t necessarily buy the FBI’s version of how Whitey Bulger’s 16 years on the lam came to an end.
After all, DesLauriers has been in town for just about a year, not nearly long enough to be infected with the cynicism that is virulent when it comes to anything involving the FBI and Whitey.
“Any claim that the FBI knew about Mr. Bulger’s whereabouts prior to the FBI’s publicity efforts this week are completely unfounded,’’ DesLauriers said in a remarkable statement issued Friday, just hours before Whitey flew in from the Left Coast. “When we learned his location, he was arrested promptly.’’
OK. If you say so. But then, nothing in this case has ever been as it first appears.
DesLauriers seems like a decent, sincere guy, so I hate to break the news to him, but the FBI has little credibility in these matters with many people, including me, because in this town, the only things that last longer than winters are memories.
The FBI never told the truth about anything involving Whitey Bulger, so it’s not really surprising that so many of us don’t necessarily believe the FBI now.
We love our history in Boston, so maybe I can fill DesLauriers in on some history that might explain the skepticism he finds so exasperating.
In 1988, the Globe’s investigative unit, the Spotlight Team, published a four-part series about the Bulger brothers, Whitey the gangster and Billy the politician, which included the bombshell revelation that Whitey Bulger had a relationship not just with the FBI, but with FBI agent John Connolly, a self-acknowledged Billy Bulger protege.
According to Cullen, the FBI denied that Whitey Bulger was an informant for it when the Spotlight series appeared in The Boston Globe and wanted the paper to publish a retraction. Whitey had actually been an informant for the Bureau since 1975. His FBI handler John Connolly is now serving time in a federal prison. Connolly recently lost an appeal of his conviction in a 1982 Florida murder.
From the 1988 Boston Globe Spotlight Series on the Bulgers:
And the Federal Bureau of Investigation has for years had a special relationship with Bulger that has divided law enforcement bitterly and poisoned relations among many investigators, the Spotlight Team has learned.
“Isn’t he a great guy?” said an FBI agent about Bulger, according to another agent who feels the FBI should bust Bulger, not be beguiled by him.
Some people—including Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr—believe the current generation of FBI agents has wanted to find Whitey “very badly.” I hope that’s true—and that the arrest of this fugitive mob boss is a sign that things have changed for the better in regard to the FBI and its cozy relationship with this criminal—who is allegedly responsible for the murder of nineteen people.
Howie Carr talking about the FBI’s shady relationship with Whitey Bulger on CNN:
Rachel Maddow did an informative segment on Whitey Bulger on her program recently:
Here’s a link to the Globe’s Spotlight Team’s 1988 four-part series The Bulger Mystique and to its 1998 five-part series Whitey and the FBI: http://www.boston.com/news/packages/whitey/special_reports.htm
Videos from The Boston Globe:
Boston Globe Sources
The Departed Movie Trailer