Judge Mark Wolf of the federal district court in Massachusetts would not agree to be interviewed by the FBI unless it agreed to allow him to review the 302, the report of an interview filed by an FBI agent, and make changes where necessary. That is a clear indication that this experienced jurist who is the main hero in blowing open the sordid world of Whitey and his friends knew 302s do not accurately reflect the statements of a person being interviewed.
AUSA Jeremiah O’Sullivan, a valiant prosecutor who for years did a top-notch job prosecuting the Mafia and other organized crime groups, went before a Congressional Committee. He was confronted with a 302 that had been written by the special agent in charge (SAC) of the Boston office. He said the 302 had set out the opposite of what had occurred at the meeting he had with the SAC. He went on to suggest that 302s are unreliable since no one knows what the agent is putting down. I have my problems with some things done by O’Sullivan in his quest to please the FBI, but his inside view of the FBI’s use of 302s is important.
In my career as a prosecutor I probably did more wiretaps and prosecutions off of wiretaps than any other prosecutor in the Commonwealth. I was familiar with Title III the federal law authorizing these as well as the Massachusetts statute. One of the basic mandates of the law is that all conversations that are intercepted must be recorded. You may have heard the expression that the best evidence is a person’s words. It’s hard to deny you said something when confronted with your own words showing that you did. Congress knew it was important to preserve the actual words. It did not allow the law enforcement people doing the interception to summarize a conversation and put it in their words. Why do you think that is?
Gerry Callahan in his column today writes about the strange case of Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito. (The name Incognito is so apt in this little drama.) He demonstrates how putting out parts of a conversation can totally distort its meaning. As a good reporter, he went beyond the surface to listen to the total exchanges between the men.
The New York Daily News today has an article on the newly wed Jordan Linn Graham who is in federal court answering charges that she pushed her 8-day-old spouse off a 200 foot to his death. She allegedly confessed to doing it according to a transcript of her interview with FBI agents. Her attorneys have said according to the Daily News that: “parts of her police interrogation were not recorded and that her words were twisted by FBI investigator Stacey Smiedala.”
MSFreeh whose comments can be read on this site referred me to this article on the killing of Todashev 174 days ago in Orlando Florida. Its authors spell out in detail the circumstances surrounding his killing by FBI officers. It is well worth reading to get an insight into the FBI’s actions. The article notes:
“After Todashev’s slaying, the FBI claimed—though it produced no evidence—that he had been “about to” sign a confession to the triple murder in Waltham, Massachusetts. Incredibly, no one had taped the interrogation—or, if anyone did, the Bureau is neither admitting it nor offering it as evidence to back up its assertions. “
We know they didn’t tape record it.
In my book Don’t Embarrass The Family which I wrote after sitting through the trial of FBI Agent John Connolly and thinking back on my experience I made recommendations for improving the FBI. My most important one was that interviews be recorded. Wouldn’t it be nice to know what was said by Todashev and the woman who allegedly tossed her newly minted hubby off the cliff? Why is it when a person’s words are the best evidence we’re left with the words of the FBI agent in the notoriously incorrect 302s?
We can do better as a nation if we are going to have the massive secret police apparatus. Why won’t Congress protect us by making the FBI record all its interviews as it does when it allows it to make secret interceptions? Why won’t the FBI do it on its own? Is it because it is embarrassed at the way its agents interact with people or would it prefer to have the agent’s version of the person’s words over the truth.
When you come down to it, it is stunningly simple to record an interview. Is the reason tape recordings are not done is because the FBI is not following the law? What kind of society do we have if the law enforcers are law breakers? What is it that the FBI is seeking to hide?