Author T.J. English’s Ill Advised Foray into the Great Whitey Myth: 1 of 2

I’m reminded of the Patriot Song Yankee Doodle when I think of T.J. English’s coming into Boston with his New York background having swallowed all the snake oil being sold by the Boston media: “T.J. English came to town thinking of a story, stuck a pencil on some paper and wrote a lot of baloney.”

English had written an article about the case on June 18, 2012, because he was able to score a telephone interview, which he said was the first public interview since James “Whitey” Bulger was arrested, with John Connolly his former FBI handler. Connolly is incarcerated in Chipley, Florida, located on the Florida panhandle. In the article English has several Connolly quotes about his involvement in the Great Whitey Myth.  Connolly was naive in giving the interview. When the prison keepers found out about it they were not too happy. I heard Connolly ended up in solitary confinement  Being in Florida I guess that was lucky considering the alternative. A a 72-year-old guy would not last too long on the chain gang in that heat. He’s no Cool Hand Luke.

English’s article showed he had read some of the books written about Whitey and took his information about the case from them. He did not put up any safeguard walls to inquire whether those authors had an ax, or is it axe as my friend John would suggest, to grind. It seems to me before jumping into one side of a fight or the other it is due and right to inquire, as a former president of the Massachusetts state senate would say, he said it in Latin, even though I took 6 years of Latin those words now escape me, as best I can remember though they translate to “for whose benefit.” Who are the authors? What is their relationship to the people they are writing about? For instance you would not read a book or article by Alice Roosevelt Longworth and expect to get a neutral picture of Teddy Roosevelt.

English’s 2012 article ended with this paragraph: “Amid the uncertainty, one thing is clear: as the U.S. Justice Department prepares to put on trial one of the most murderous gangsters in the last half century, it is in no position to claim the moral high ground.” Hardly was Whitey one of the most murderous gangsters. At least three, if not more, of the people who would testify against him just from the Boston area far exceeded him in that field.  English did limited it to the second half of the 20th century. Being from New York he did not want to get into the first half of it when Murder Incorporated existed; nor did he want to begin the “last half century” until after Whitey got out of prison in the mid-1960s. That allowed him to conveniently overlook the sixty to eighty murders committed while Whitey was in prison during the misnamed “Irish Gang War.”

As far as the other part of his statement that the Department of Justice (DOJ) cannot gain the moral high ground he basis that on statements by Whitey’s enemies. Harvey Silverglate who contradicts himself in his statement to English saying “the prosecution in Boston is being carefully orchestrated.” English said Silverglate said there is a “cover-up.” He then points out the DOJ could have charged Whitey with the gun charges out in California and put him away quickly since they had an “open-and shut case.”

Reading that I thought well if the Justice Department wanted to cover-up something wouldn’t doing an open and shut case be the way to do it? Why go through all the nonsensical circus that it did if it wanted to hide anything? Why not bury it ab initio? (I did remember some Latin.) Silverglate talked about the Boston U.S attorney’s office wanting to keep control because of “a pattern of secrecy and cover-up going back generations.” I thought, “come on Harvey, if that was the case, why didn’t your former law partner Nancy Gertner who was a federal judge in Boston do anything about it.” 

English’s problem, and that of many others, is confusing the FBI with the DOJ. He quotes Connolly who has the same problem who said, “The Justice Department is going to do everything within its power to try to make sure the full story never comes out.”  Connolly went on that the DOJ, “put a hit on me back in 2000. They decided I would be targeted to take the fall for this whole arrangement. And they’ve stuck it to me ever since.”

I’ve written before that the FBI was embarrassed when it was revealed that Connolly had Whitey and Steve Flemmi as informants in its Top Echelon Informant (TEI) program. The Boston media was beginning its role in creating the Whitey myth. The FBI then propagandized that Connolly was a rogue agent to throw its embarrassment onto his shoulders. The overall purpose, which it successfully accomplished, was to take people’s eyes of the abomination which is its TEI program.

Asked about his arrangement with Whitey who was involved in ongoing criminal activity, Connolly said: “I didn’t ask about that. My role was to protect Bulger and Flemmi so we could make cases based on information they gave us. That was my job. Everyone knew that they were top criminals and murderers.” (my emphasis since some suggest the FBI was not in the business of protecting informants)  In other words once someone was in the TEI  program they were to  be protected, no questions asked.

This is not a DOJ problem, it is an FBI problem. It set up the program that Connolly accurately describes. It kept the program secret from most people. The only implication possible of the DOJ is that the FBI is part of it; but I’m hard pressed to put any blame on the prosecutors in the DOJ for what the FBI did and kept from it.