The understanding of the events surrounding the James Whitey Bulger saga must first start with the FBI. How was it that he became an asset of the FBI? We know he was made a Top Echelon Informant (TEI) by the Bureau. The question that is open and I’ve asked you to consider is what did the FBI offer TEIs to induce them to join with it.
In the Limone decision Judge Gertner talked about the TEI program. This was necessary because she was dealing with the murder of Teddy Deegan on March 12, 1965. The FBI had prior knowledge a hit was planned on him from an electronic bug planted at the office of Raymond Patriarca the head of the Patriarca Crime Family in New England. She noted after Deegan was killed the FBI knew who did it which information was “confirmed by Top Echelon informant reports after its commission.”
She noted in addition to using electronic bugs the FBI developed the TEI program to go after the Mafia. She wrote it was “officially inaugurated by J. Edgar Hoover on June 21, 1961” citing footnote 21. That footnote reads: “Hoover described the program in a signed memorandum: “To insure that the Bureau meets its responsibilities in connection with the Criminal Intelligence Program, it is mandatory that the development of quality criminal informants be emphasized and the existing program be implemented and greatly expanded.” “
I’m not sure she is right there but for the time let’s go on. She pointed to three aspects of the program that were significant: “First, the informants . . . . would be able to provide high-level information on a major scale. (The corollary – – apparently acceptable to the FBI – – was that these informants might well continue to commit serious crimes.) Second . . . [t]heir relationship with the FBI was supposed to be a lasting one, providing information on a continuing, long-rang basis. Third, the program was strictly confidential – – which not only meant that its existence would be kept secret from the general public and other divisions within the federal government, but also from state law enforcement agencies.” She noted “special care [had to be taken] . . . so that the informants’ identities would not be disclosed”
Here again she pointed to footnote 28 a letter from Washington to the FBI SACs dated April 10, 1962, which said: “It is mandatory that our highly confidential informants and techniques are afforded complete protection at all times . . . . It is of paramount importance in preparing material which is disseminated to other agencies that meticulous care be taken to afford these informants maximum protection by appropriately paraphrasing the material contained therein.” She added in the footnote that this policy was still ongoing as of 2007. She said she changed that policy and ordered that all the records relating to that case be turned over to defense counsel without redacting. This would expose the identity of the informants.
I’m not sure how wise that is turning over to Mafia lawyers the names of people working under an agreement of confidentiality. Perhaps because the information dealt with matters 40 years old that it caused no harm but it makes a bad precedent. It should serve as a warning to any TEIs that there is a potential for their true identities to be disclosed at some point.
You note Judge Gertner said the purpose of the TEI program was to get informants with high level information, develop a long-term relationship with them, and protect their identities. What she didn’t talk about was what the FBI would do for them in the relationship. She suggested the FBI accepted the fact that the TEIs may continue to commit crimes. They would have done that whether they had the relationship with the FBI or not.
So the question remains open, what was the FBI offering these top-level hoodlums in order to induce them to inform on their buddies and provide it with the valuable information it sought.