FBI-SPEAK – The Art of Saying Nothing in a Pompous Manner

Remember the old ditty, “Who Takes Care of the Caretaker’s daughter while the Caretaker’s busy taking care?”

Did you ever wonder, “Who Takes Care of the FBI?”  In theory, it is the U.S. Department of Justice or perhaps Congress.  In truth, the Bureau takes care of itself with little oversight.  It does have a group that is called the OPR (Office of Professional Responsibility) that is supposed to investigate FBI misdeeds but it has shown itself to be inept.

In 1997 it investigated the Boston FBI office.  It found “no evidence of continuing criminal conduct within the statute of limitations” by Connolly or his supervisor at the FBI, John Morris, in their relationships with Bulger and Flemmi.

Can you figure out what that statement means?   Continuing means according to Merriam-Webster “to be steadfast or constant in a course or activity : keep up or maintain especially without interruption a particular condition.”  The idea of “continuing criminal conduct” means something that is ongoing at the present time.

Using that standard I suppose it would be fair to say about  Whitey that there is “no evidence of continuing criminal conduct.”  He’s been in jail for the last year or so.

Even the idea of a statute of limitations is vague.  We do not know what it refers to.  Is there a statute of limitations with respect to the OPR’s investigations.   If it has evidence an agent molested some children  ten years ago is it estopped from addressing it?

The statute of limitations relating to criminal acts varies in time.  For most crimes it is five years yet for some acts it is eight or even ten.  There is no statute of limitations on murder which can be prosecuted at any time.   For discussion, I’ll assume it means no continuing criminal conduct occurred within the statute of limitations applicable to most crimes, five years.

If FBI agents engaged in a criminal conspiracy in 1993 that ended in 1996 within the statute of limitations going back from 1997 did the fact it was not continuing in 1997 mean it wasn’t considered?  The difficulty is that we don’t know the answer.

In light of Judge Wolf’s finding two years later that the Boston FBI office was overflowing with corruption, it seems clear that the OPR was engaging in FBI speak, the equivalent of double talk, when it cleared its fellow agents.  A statement like “we found no evidence of criminal activity within the past five years” is beyond the FBI.  First, they’d have to explain why they limited their inquiry to five years.  Second, it’d open the door to the question, “if you found criminal activity six years back does that mean you’re not going to do anything about it?”

The FBI always needs to have an escape hatch to fly out of in the case it is shown that it was wrong or engaged in a cover-up.  The OPR’s real purpose is to make sure no one knows anything that will embarrass the FBI.  Like all police agencies, it wants to keep things in house.

The OPR investigated the leak of secret information to the Boston Globe.  It interviewed Connolly’s supervisor John Morris.  He filed two separate affidavits under oath containing lies.  (Morris under a grant of immunity would later admit he did this.)  Despite this, the OPR figured he was the leak.

Morris had to be punished for this leak and his lies.  (It’s a crime to lie to an FBI agent.  The penalty is five years in prison.  Connolly was convicted of that.) Morris received three week suspension without pay.  He was transferred to Washington, DC to supervise other agents.  He then was promoted to ASAC in Los Angeles.  The matter was kept in house, the FBI was not embarrassed, so Morris was hit with a feather-like punishment and then promoted.

No one can investigate himself.  No agency can investigate itself.  Yet the FBI pretends to do this.

(A well written book by Dick Lehr of Black Mass fame presents a black disturbing picture of the inside operations of a police agency and how difficult it is for one to investigate itself.  It is called The Fence.  Dick’s a good writer.  For me the book started slowly but once I got past being introduced to the protagonists  it flew.)

One other thing about the OPR’s statement issued in 1997.  Connolly retired from the FBI in 1990 and Morris left the Boston office in 1991.    If the statute is five years then OPR was investigating Connolly’s and Morris’s activities in the Boston FBI office between 1992 and 1997 a period when they were no longer there.  I wonder if the OPR ever figured that out?