How The FBI With It’s Top Echelon Informant Program Made Whitey Bulger Its Partner In Crime

Over the last week we’ve seen the FBI used criminal means to reach its goals, it finally discovered the Mafia, it lost its illegal method of investigating the Mafia in July 1965 and by November 1965 it hard started the ill-conceived Top Echelon Informant (TEI) program. TEIs are still being used as shown by the FBI agent’s recent remarks to TEI Mafia capo Mark Rossetti: “My Job Is To Keep You Safe.”

The development of TEIs was a very high priority for the FBI and considered an important achievement for an agent. Judge Wolf who perhaps had the most extensive look at the TEI program outside the FBI than anyone else tells us that the FBI looked upon a TEI as an ally in its fight against organized crime, that only serious criminals would be in a position to provided meaningful information on the LCN, and that TEIs were members of organized crime groups.  In other words the definition of a TEI is a person working at the highest level of a criminal enterprise with other criminals at that level in carrying out their criminal activities.  Or put more succinctly: a TEI is a top gangster involved in murders and other felonies.

These are the men the FBI planned to use to replace their electronic bugs. Like the bugs they were going to sit in the room at the headquarters of the LCN (Mafia) and listen to plans for carrying on their criminal endeavors. Unlike the bugs, they would have to participate in these activities if they were going to be allowed to continue to sit in that room. The LCN was not a book group discussing the latest historical novel; it was a gang of murderers — you needed to murder someone to get into it and it used violence including murders to maintain its power.

Agent Rico said TEIs were not to be treated like criminals but as allies in the common cause. These were to be the FBIs new partners.

Judge Wolf talked about the guidelines for the agents in developing TEIs. Agents were instructed that the success of the TEI program “depends on a dynamic and imaginative approach in developing quality sources who can assist the Bureau in meeting its investigative responsibilities.”  Their guideline was no guideline. It left it up to the agent to do whatever was necessary to do to get a TEI. Agent John Connolly who joined the FBI in 1968 following the orders of his superiors accumulated ten or more TEIs including Whitey Bulger and Stevie Flemmi.

Judge Wolf found over and over again that the Attorney General’s Guidelines were routinely ignored with regard to TEIs and “utterly ignored” in other instances by the FBI.  They were empty words as significant as the rights given the people under the USSR constitution. The agents followed the unwritten rules and approved customs of the Bureau and not what was written on paper

Judge Wolf summed up: “The FBI’s highest priority was combating the LCN. Agents were encouraged to be imaginative in recruiting TOP ECHELON informants who by definition were involved in serious criminal activity themselves. It was natural that such informants would seek protection from the FBI, particularly including immunity for information they provided or helped obtain. It was also foreseeable that their handlers’ supervisors, in order to secure their services, . . . .  and their colleagues knew the character of Flemmi and Bulger’s criminal activities. They were not defrauded in deciding to make them allies in the FBI’s war against the LCN  . .  . . “

Wolf also noted that Agent Ring testified that TEIs “were necessarily involved in serious criminal activity; they had to be in order to have the intimate knowledge of the LCN that the FBI was seeking. The FBI considered it as inappropriate and counterproductive, however, to ask an informant for the details of his own criminal activity because to do so might suggest that the FBI was investigating him and, therefore, cause him to cease serving as a source.”

Wolf said:  “The FBI as an organization . . . rather than isolated aberrant agents, authorized Bulger and Flemmi to engage in loansharking, gambling, and related activities in order to permit them to perform as confidential informants.  The FBI promised that Flemmi and Bulger’s identity as confidential informants would never be disclosed and that if necessary cases would be dismissed to avoid doing so . .”

To cut to the chase, Hoover and the top bosses at the FBI developed a program where agents were encouraged and rewarded for recruiting murderers who were engaged in murderous activities to climb into the government’s boat and row aside its agents to get evidence against other murderers.

When Connolly came to Boston in the early 1970’s Stevie Flemmi had already been part of that program. Agent Rico was able to pass Stevie onto Connolly. They had to have gotten Stevie’s approval to do this. Connolly had to have been told about Stevie’s background and what Stevie wanted. Connolly knew the LCN was the top priority of the FBI and he was to use a “dynamic and imaginative approach” in achieving the FBI’s investigative responsibilities which at the time was the destruction of the LCN. After Flemmi, or about the same time, Connolly added Whitey to his stable of TEIs.

Electronic bugs aside not being murderers also could not demand anything for their use. The TEIs were different. They wanted something for what they were going to do.  It doesn’t take a Rhodes Scholar to figure out what they wanted in return for providing information against their friends. It was one of two things: they’ve already been jammed up and wanted a pass; or they feared being jammed up and wanted a future pass. A future pass meant they could do what they wanted to do but the FBI would protect them (keep them safe) in exchange for being a walking electronic bug.

Oh, and I should mention, one other thing. The FBI in developing this program never considered that a TEI could never truly replace an electronic bug.  The bug gave it unfiltered information; the TEI told it only what he thought it should know whether it was the truth or not.

I’ll finish my FBI week tomorrow.

9 thoughts on “How The FBI With It’s Top Echelon Informant Program Made Whitey Bulger Its Partner In Crime

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  2. My unaddressed point was this: Connolly investigated and concluded Bulger and Flemmi were not involved in these murders. No one in the police, state or local, or in the press, Globe, Herald, Patriot Ledger,etc. wrote an article prior to Connolly’s retirement in 1990 that linked Bulger and Flemmi to specific murders. As I worked out daily at L-Street throughout the 1980s and 1990s, I heard the rumors and speculations. Bodies were turning up everywhere; every year or so. Who, among the many killers in Boston, were doing the killings? Who knew? I agree that the FBI had a duty to keep a tight leash on its informants and failed it that duty. However, the same duty to investigate and tie loose ends together fell on the DAs,state and local police, and the press and they did not in the 1980s tie these loose ends together and indict anyone.
    2. From the NewYorkPost and Daily Mall: “Angela Clemente, a New Jersey soccer mom who has been investigating the FBI’s mob informants for Congress for the last 10 years, presented her findings to lawmakers last week, including Sen Chuck Grassley.
    “Clemente concludes that the FBI looked the other way as mobsters who were giving them information about New York’s organized crime families continued to gun down mob rivals, as well as innocent bystanders who got in the way.” “The FBI said none of its agents knowingly allowed their informants to commit murder while on the taxpayer dole.”
    3. I reject the novel Black Mass’s view that the FBI gave gangsters “a license to kill.” 4. I accept the view that the FBI was and still is negligent in its management of informants. 5. In the killing of Randall Terry, the border gaurd, as a result of the Fast and Furious Progam, the FBI/CIA are said to have used an assassin informant inside the Mexican cartels who the FBI/CIA knew continued to assassinate people.
    The bottom line: Since the CIA’s assasination of Vietnamese president Diem in the 1960s until today, people have rightly questioned the FEDS involvement in murders. To question is not to indict and not to convict. John Connolly after an exhaustive investigation by overzealous federal prosecutors was fully tried in Boston and acquitted in Boston of all charges relating to murder. It is unfair to turn a blind eye to the acquittal of Connolly by a jury of his peers in Boston and to retry him for crimes for which he was acquitted. We all know the trial in Miami was a sham. I know the trial in Boston was a sham, too, but I’ll concede it was a lesser sham than the trial in Miami! Known perjurers were put on the stand in both trials; Salemme in Boston; Flemmi in Miami. Need I say more than this: “The terrible sad sack, the unscrupulous moral lecher, the truly pathetic Mr. Morris, was put on the stand in both trials.” Contrast those witnesses for the prosecution with the Federal judge, Harrington, the one hundred retired FBI agents who worked with John Connolly and the hundreds of John Connolly’s friends (many lifelong friends) who attest to his innocence. I rest my case.
    P.S. Keep up the good work! No one else in the press allows these issues to be aired out!

    1. 1. Connolly never investigate whether his informants were involved in murders. It was the FBI policy to turn a blind eye to that. Connolly suggested as much. He never filed a report on any such investigation. In fact, he obstructed investigations against his informants.
      2. True, no one on the state side could gather sufficient evidence to indict these guys to murders before those involved in the murders got deals and began to talk. The one charge in Halloran’s case was wrong. The state side didn’t know what the FBI was doing with these people like Halloran and Callahan. The press has no duty to investigate. It should have been obvious to the FBI but because it is a secret police force we have no way of knowing what else it knew. We did find out it had good evidence 9/11 was going to happen and didn’t follow up.
      3. I know about Clemente. The FBI will always deny the obvious.
      4. The FBI may not have given the gangsters a free pass but the gangsters knew once they were in the FBI boat they would be protected. As Connolly said it was his job to protect them and as Rossetti’s handler said it was his job to keep them safe.
      5. It’s more than negligence. The FBI put known murderers in its boat. It rowed along with them and shut its eyes to what they were doing. The TEI program was corrupt for the start. It still is. It has only shown how bad it is when the DOJ scapegoated Connolly who you said and he agrees was only doing his job. As he cries out — the FBI put me in bed with murderers and he should add “it was its policy to protect them because it wanted the LCN taken down so I did what I believed necessary to do that.”
      6. You can’t exonerate Connolly for his action in keeping his informants protected if you believe the FBI was negligent. The FBI intentionally established this progam that Connolly was following. The problem Connolly has is the FBI is falsely denying he did what it wanted him to do just like it says “none of its agents knowingly allowed their informants to commit murder while on the taxpayer dole.” Parse that sentence out closely. Look at all the escape valves in it – “knowingly” “taxpayer dole”. Learn to understand FBI speak. If you shut your eyes to the obvious you can claim you did not know. If you don’t pay your informants the week they kill someone they are not on the taxpayer dole that week. Connolly’s problem is he was abandoned. The FBI was embarrassed by what it had done. It turned on him to cover-up its actions.
      7. The CIA was told by JFK to assassinate Diem. Poetic justice was Kennedy was assassinated twenty days later. (Was it revenge by some in the intelligence community who knew once Diem was killed we’d eventually lose Vietnam.)
      8. The feds have the right to commit murder. I’ll write on this more. Today, they do it continually with the use of drones. We have been implicit in aiding and abetting the overthrow of leaders in other countries for years on orders of the president. The CIA does nothing that the president does no authorize.
      9. I disagree that the trials were shams. The juries heard the evidence and even the backgrounds of the people testifying and made the decision. That is the American way.
      10. One shams are: the failure of the DOJ to protect Connolly from Florida prosecution under the Supremacy Clause. I spoke to someone who suggested he was intimately involved in the case and he never heard of the issue. I’ve written on that and have stated it is unprecedented in US history for a federal prosecutor to participate in a state prosecution of a federal agent without first having the issue decided in federal court whether the federal agent was doing his job and is thus not liable to state prosecution. This issue was not brought up because it would open the door on the corrupt TEI program that the FBI knows is wrong. The TEI program is equivalent to partnering up with Hitler to get evidence against Mussolini.
      10. Tho other sham is the Florida Appeals court. Connolly had reversible error occur in his trial. Through attorney error he did not file the proper motion on time. Beyond that, there was no evidence introduced that the had a gun. You cannot take judicial notice that he was carrying a gun at the time of the crime. These are legal issues. The Florida appeals court refuses to give Connolly his day in court by not rendering a decision. His attorneys allegedly asked for an en banc hearing or for an order requiring a decision be issued. That was 18 months ago. Nothing has happened. His attorneys have not done more fearing to upset the appeals court for if they don’t act Connolly’s appeal is at a dead end. Two children could have been conceived and born in the time these attorneys (whoever they are) have been waiting. The worst reason in the world for sitting back and doing nothing is to think you’ll upset someone by telling them you want them to do their job.
      11. You mention all the people behind Connolly but that amounts to a drop in a bucket of those who are against him. I don’t see where that argument advances anything. It’s like playing football with Neal and suggesting he’s always right.
      12. I’m actually surprised at the few people, especially present and former FBI agents, who support Connolly. His whole organization should be backing him as it did the FBI agent in Ruby Ridge who wrongfully shot into Randy Weaver’s house killing his wife. Weaver was in trouble because he refused to become an informant. It reminds me of Naimovich’s case where everyone ran away from him even though he’d been on the state police for 23 years and had an unblemished record.
      13. Connolly is not going to get out of prison because I don’t see that he has effective legal representation. He’s now represented by public counsel in Florida. His friends and the 100 or so former FBI agents are loud in their support but for the most part have put forth little action. As you know I’m not a fan of Connolly’s, although the more I learn about his case the more I should not be a fan of the FBI than about him since he was doing what he was supposed to do. But I do believe, and have always said, that the matter of what Connolly could do and not do under the TEI program has never been decided. I also believe Florida has no right to try him which means he doesn’t belong in prison.
      14. You mention Fast and Furious. I’m sure there are a ton of ATF/CIA/FBI agents who were involved in that program where many people were killed in Mexico (and probably in the US) with weapons they provided to the Mexican drug cartels. Their actions were despicable and illegal. None will be charged with a crime because they were acting pursuant to the government’s direction. No state can indict them because of the Supremacy Clause.
      14. A word of advice. To help Connolly its best to look forward and not back. Accept things for what they are. Stop railing at the system for it is only through the system he can be helped. It’s time for all of Connolly’s friends, lawyers and supporters (I don’t think he is well represented by public counsel) to come together, start raising money for him and that way you’ll see who really cares for him (I would think everyone who knew the true facts of his situation would care – that is, yes he dealt with murderers and tipped them off about things but that was what he was supposed to do and the government had him do it and as a member of the executive he is protected.) and get some lawyers that will work full time on his case. He doesn’t have that and he needs it.
      15. I’ve gone on long enough. You get the idea. I’ve got to post on my blog.

  3. The FBI is capable of much, legal and illegal. Nothing to do with Whitey, this tale below is an amazing revelation to me of how the Buureau will lie to protect itself. Alleged informants and national security are convenient excuses. I guess I was brought up in a simpler time….we used to believe in them.

    1. Thanks. That is a frightening story. What could be worse than being told your brother killed himself while in FBI custody and to find out he was beaten to death. A similar story about using informants was just in the New Yorker, although not nearly as scary, about how young kids are used as informants and put in over their heads only to be killed by people they shouldn’t be dealing with in the first place. What’s so frightening about your story is the line the man (forgot his name) tells us. He said he had an advantage over the FBI — that was, he knew the FBI would lie and lie and lie. It’s seems so strange that he kept having to go to court to drag out the truth but there was no consequence to the FBI agents for their continuing lying. The idea the Oklahoma bombing could have been a sting gone wrong has the ring of truth because of all the things we see now that the FBI does dealing with young Muslim guys who foolishly get caught up with one of their undercover operatives and is provided with the suggestions and materials by the FBI informant to carry out an inane bombing attempt and just stopped before the incident is about to take place. I can’t believe how much is hidden behind the national security claim like the governments refusal to admit their is a drone program. I’d suggest anyone who wanted to take another view of what the FBI did with respect to this man they could click on the site you posted. I appreciate your adding to the debate.

  4. Wolf says TEI’s were allowed to engage in “loansharking, gambling and related activities.” He doesn’t say the FBI allowed TEI’s to engage in murder. Flemmi circa 1998-99 testified that the deal with the FBI was that he and Bulger could continue criminal activities but “no violence.” Fom these two sources, I’d conclude TEIs were not allowed to commit murders. That many TEIs had committed murders in the past is a fact. The FBI knew they were dealing with murderers. To imply the FBI condoned, sanctioned or gave a green light to future murders is untenable and inconceivable. Remember, Connolly has stated (in Miami, I believe it was, in court, post-trial in his verbal exchange with Wyshak) that if he knew Bulger or Flemmi had committed a specific murder he would have arrested them. The fact is no one in the press or cops had definitively linked Bulger and Flemmi to specific murders prior to 1990 (when Connolly retired), as far as I know.

    1. The FBI recruited men it knew were murderers by the simple knowledge that Mafia men to become such had to be a murderer. The FBI knew or had good reason to believe Flemmi killed an FBi informant before it recruited him as a TEI. The FBI knew these men were to continue their criminal ways. If they had committed murders in the past it was probable that they would not be constrained from committing murders in the future. Do you think just because they jumped in the FBI boat they stopped?
      The FBI had good reason to believe Whitey and Stevie killed Castucci. The FBI intercepted discussions between Gerry Angiulo and Larry Baione that Whitey Bulger and Stevie Flemmi did or would do murders for them. The FBI continued to keep these men as TEIs. The FBI were told that Whitey and Stevie were complicit in the murder of Roger Wheeler in Oklahoma by Brian Halloran. When the Oklahoma FBI sought Boston FBI’s help in the case it was assigned to Connolly and he did nothing. The FBI knew Brian Halloran was informing on Whitey and that he was killed in broad daylight in South Boston and Whitey ran South Boston. The FBI knew that John Callahan was killed because he knew of Whitey and Stevie’s involvement in the Wheeler murder. The top brass of the FBI linked up these killings to Whitey and Stevie.
      A third grader at the Mitchell School with his Dick Tracey kit could figure it out. Connolly denied he knew this. What did he mean, that he was not there when the killing took place? No one accused him of that. Did he mean he had no suspicion that these men were murderers? I doubt that. It was his job to link these things together – forget what he said – look at the facts of the matter. Anyone can deny knowing something even in the face of uncontroversial evidence to the contrary. You want to believe everything John Connolly says and ignore what is out there I can’t stop you.

  5. In NY the FBI used Henry Hill and Gravano and they nailed the top guys in the Luchesse and Gambino families. In Boston the FBI used Whitey and Flemmi and they got the top guys in the Anguillo and Patriacha syndicates. Sounds like a good trade four felons for fifty LCN dons. Why are you quoting from Wolf’s opinion? It is fraught with errors and falsehoods ( Naimovich guilty and the Halloran lie).2. AG Coakley is denouncing Doohkan for destroying the criminal justice system . Is she ruining the criminal justice system in this state with her illegal actions against the Probation officials? Isn’t that malicious prosecution? The U. S. Supreme Court stated in an unanimous decision(St. Pats parade case)_that the Mass. judges acted ” without any lawful authority” thus illegally. The only judge in the state to follow the law was Gov. King’s appointee Judge Nolan. All the other judges acted as criminals without any lawful basis. No law was applied then only politics. The same can be said of the Federal Court in Boston. There is no law only politics. Ask Mrs. Tierney/

    1. 1. The question is not how many LCNs one gets but how you get them.
      2. You ask why I quote Judge Wolf. I’ll tell you. When I was a young boy and I went prospecting with my grandfather he told me that to get gold you had to go through a lot of dirt.
      3. I thought the feds went after the probation department and not Coakley.
      4. Poor Annie is lucky that the you are not working for the feds. She’d be facing about 9 counts of RICO for using the mail to send out false lab reports and the enterprise you’d have her associated with would be the the MA judicial system.
      5. Yes, it’s true, your favorite Governor Edward J. King appointed some of Massachusetts finest judges not least among them was Hiller Zobel.
      6. I think your take on the MA and federal judiciary is totally wrong.
      7. You seem to think one case was decided in the last two years in federal court that of Isabelle Tierney.
      8. Maybe I’m wrong, you did mention something about Mary Ann Gianelli.

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