The way Black Mass is written it seems the authors had an agreement with the FBI to pretend that its Top Echelon Informant program did not operate as it does; or else they were oblivious that what the FBI puts on paper for show is not how the FBI operates.
Back in the early 1960s the FBI was under pressure to go after the Mafia. This was something that it had never considered a priority. Its god-like leader J. Edgar Hoover who controlled everything it did had focused his thoughts on the Reds and other people he believed were a threat to America and he never thought the Mafia reached that level. He assumed it was a local problem the locals could handle; his concern was national threats. When in November 1957 the New York State Police broke up a meeting of over 100 Italian criminals at Apalachin, New York.
Hoover was probably taken by surprise by this but given the huge publicity it received he felt it necessary to look like he was doing something against it. He took some pro forma steps but never was keen to bust the Mafia up because he believed that was not part of his job. It was after Bobby Kennedy became attorney general Hoover found himself in a difficult position. Prior to John Kennedy being elected, Hoover could ignore the attorney generals and go to the presidents. He could not do this with the Kennedy’s. Feeling the pressure, he came up with the Top Echelon Informant (TEI) program which was supposed to be top secret.
The idea behind the program is that the FBI would try to find people who were highly placed in organized criminal groups, in this case the Mafia, and recruit those people to become TEIs for the FBI. These TEIs would be criminals with the highest access to others in the criminal hierarchy. The TEIs were brought on board so that they could give the FBI information on what other criminals at their level were doing. In order to induce these criminals to give this information, the FBI had to promise to do something in return for them.
No one seems to want to go there. No one wants to ask “what was it the FBI was doing to keep their TEIs happy.” Or, “what was it the FBI offered the TEIs to turn on their friends?” We were privy to one FBI agent’s conversation with his TEI. He said his job was to keep the TEI safe. What is that supposed to mean? No one seem to want to know. FBI Agent John Connolly said his job was to protect his TEIs which is another way of saying it was to keep them safe.
Let us explore this. How then is the FBI agent (handler) going to keep his TEI safe. I assume it is to pass information on to the TEI. If the handler learns that Mobster Phil is planning to plant a bomb in TEI’s house is he allowed to tell his TEI that? If the handler learns that Mobster Phil has put out a contract on TEI can he tell him that? What if the handler learns that Mobster Phil is giving information to the cops hoping to jam his TEI in, can he tell him that?
These are questions that we have to answer when we learn that the FBI has a TEI program and the type of people who are in the program. These are the questions that Black Mass, and for that matter the federal prosecutors and federal courts, have not even considered.
To be more blunt about it and to use a term some find distasteful, how far into bed can the FBI climb with a top level criminal? You cannot put anything into context in the matters involving Whitey Bulger unless you decide upon that.