Mental Bedlam – Book Sunday – Betrayal

Reading FBI Assistant Agent in Charge Fitzpatrick’s book, Betrayal, which is subtitled, Whitey Bulger and the FBI Agent Who Fought To Bring Him Down is really a scary experience.  That’s because it’s frightening to think that someone gave Fitzpatrick a badge, a gun and federal police powers.

Step back for a second and consider this.  You’re the boss of about a hundred or so investigators.  One asks you to  meet with a guy you are investigating.  You believe the purpose behind this is something sinister.  Do you agree to meet him?

Assume you overcome your fears and go.  When you come away you feel the person really bullied you.  Can you imagine what  happened at that meeting?

Fitzpatrick, the FBI’s Boston ASAC in charge of over 100 FBI agents, spins out this story of a 1981 meeting.  He’s doing “a corruption case against a Boston politician” the main target “was none other than Whitey Bulger’s brother Billy, president of the Massachusetts State Senate.”

He writes, “Connolly made overtures about bringing me to see Billy Bulger” who Connolly called “the power.”  Fitzpatrick said he was surprised Connolly knew such people (a political leader) as if the FBI agents lived in a bubble and despite it being common knowledge to everyone else in the office.

He goes on to say “Connolly’s story didn’t hold.  I knew he was bringing me to see Billy Bulger as the guy who posed a threat to [Whitey] and, perhaps him, by connection. Or, maybe, I thought, Billy had requested the meeting so that he could get a look at his nemeses.”   He said it was clear to him that Connolly taking him to Billy Bulger “carried with it an implicit threat in the form of the political connections I’d be up against if I continued to press my case against Whitey.”  (His case against Whitey is that after having an awkward meeting with him he said he wrote a memo suggesting he be terminated as a top echelon informant.)

Connolly’s a low level agent.  Fitzpatrick is second in command of the office.  Obviously feeling this way and being in the middle of an investigation of Billy he’s going to tell Connolly “no thanks” or “some other time.”   If you think that you’d be wrong.  The next thing we know he’s meeting with Billy.

I  guess this is will be when Billy lays it on the line and puts Fitzpatrick in his place.  Let’s read what Fitzpatrick says happened.  When Billy first met him he shook his hand.  Fitzpatrick said, “Shaking hands was just part of his con.”   He invites them to come into his office where Billy sits behind his desk and Fitzpatrick and Connolly sit before it in matching leather armchairs.  Fitzpatrick says they could have sat in the “office’s sitting area, but, from a body language perspective, Billy wanted me to know who was running the show here.  I was a guest, that was all. . . .”   (I can’t figure out who Fitzgpatrick thought he was if not a guest.)

He writes, “Billy couldn’t have been warmer or more gregarious.”  He told his assistant to hold his calls because he was “in an important meeting.”  Fitzpatrick went on,  “The specter of that arrogance never once rose in our carefully worded, yet cautious exchange.”

After about twenty minutes of small talk Billy indicated by checking his watch it was time to go.  Fitzpatrick extended his arm across Billy’s desk to shake his hand and Billy said, “Anything I can do for you while your in town, just call.”   It seemed like any other of thousands of ordinary meetings introducing one person to another occurring that day across the country.

Walking back to his office with Connolly they didn’t speak.  He says Connolly had a smug look on his face the whole time as if he made his point: “Whitey Bulger was not a man to be messed with and, thus, neither was he.”  He goes on to write, “I knew what it was liked to be bullied, pushed around, and that’s the feeling that grabbed hold of my gut.  Billy Bulger was a bully using power in place of his fists.  And he wanted me to know I was alone, helpless against powerful forces I could neither control nor fully comprehend.”

That’s the strangest story of a meeting I ever heard.  Nothing makes sense.  He’s got himself all worked up prior to the meeting as if he had no choice but to go.  He finds an outgoing Billy who treats him well.  At the end of the meeting  he reaches out to shake his hand at the same time demonic thought unrelated to the events are running through his mind.  It does make me question Fitzpatrick’s state of mind.

Oh, and a couple of other things.  He never mentions the outcome of that corruption investigation again.  I never heard anyone else mention a 1981 corruption investigation of Billy.  He seems to have made it up out of whole cloth.

But more importantly this is extremely telling.  Fitzpatrick never tells us why he agreed to meet with Billy.  He already thinks Billy looks upon him as his nemesis (persistent tormentor? long standing rival?) when there’s no showing Billy even knows him.

They shake hands which is a con.  Billy sits behind his desk so he’s running the show.  He’s friendly and courteous which is  bullying.  He does not point to one fact to justify his fears and feelings.

Fitzpatrick uses this episode to blacken Billy’s name for no other reason than he is Whitey’s brother.  It will be a pattern that occurs over and over again, FBI agents implying there is a sinister connection between Billy and Whitey without one iota of proof other than that one of their own, FBI agent John Connolly, openly let it be known he was on good terms with both of them.  This inexplicable conclusion of Billy’s corrupt relationship with Whitey will permeate the thinking of all federal people.  Did the seemingly irrational thought process of FBI agents like Fitzpatrick plant and nurture this seed?

Wait until a future Sunday to hear what Fitzpatrick did to Connolly because he believed his loyalties were not with the FBI.