The FBI Hierarchy Knew and Approved FBI Agent Connolly’s Action With Whitey Bulger

It follows from the theme of the last two days dealing with former agent John Connolly that we should discuss the book of an ASAC who was his boss from 1981 through 1986, Robert Fitzpatrick, who wrote Betrayal.  I’ve written about it previously suggesting Fitzpatrick on occasion has the same relationship with the truth as Bram Stoker’s Dracula had with the wreath of garlic around Lucy’s neck.  Speaking of Dracula, when Fitzpatrick  tells of his meeting with Billy Bulger you’d think he was describing a meeting with a vampire and his escape from his office unharmed a miracle of the first order.

Fitzpatrick tells how much he loved the Bureau but how his love was unrequited.  It reduced him in rank and eventually made him drum himself out.  The reason he gives seems less than candid judged by the severity of the FBI action against him.  Shortly after he left as an angry ex-agent, Fitzpatrick admitted in his book that he gained his revenge on the FBI by publicly disclosing to the Boston Globe that Whitey was an informant.  When he wrote of others doing this in his book he said that revealing an informant’s name  is “an unethical, if not illegal, breech of policy”.

I’ve written of his books foibles.   Today, since it is book  Sunday, I want to show how FBI ASAC Fitzpatrick, no friend of Connolly, shows clearly that Connolly was acting in handling his informants pursuant to his duties as an agent and what he was doing was continuously approved of at the highest levels of the FBI.

Fitzpatrick said his first mandate in coming to Boston was to find out how valuable Whitey was as an informant because FBIHQ (FBI head quarters in DC) wanted Whitey to stay as an informant.  He writes how he met with Colonel John O’Donovan of the state police and other agents who all told him Whitey is worthless and should be targeted.  He then has what he described as a distinctly unpleasant meeting with Whitey.  He returns to his office and writes a two page memo saying Whitey should be closed as an informant.  (The two page memo does not seem to exist anymore.)  He discusses it with the SAC.  He writes they agree to tell Washington they were closing him.  Then he writes he was busy with other cases in the office and drops the subject.  We are left wondering what happened.

The initial urgency, his first mandate, seems to have vanished.  As I understand it an FBI supervisor can close out an informant.  The ASAC who is above the supervisor certainly can do it, especially if he has the agreement of the SAC.  Fitzpatrick doesn’t tell why this isn’t done.  He never writes another memo on the subject or seeks a meeting with the higher ups in the Bureau, if he had to do that before closing out an informant, to discuss the matter.  Instead he writes that he went into a self imposed cocoon and that he was going to go it alone.  He’s the second highest FBI agent in the Boston office and he tells us he’s going to strike out on his own to close out Whitey.

Was it he had no backing anywhere in the FBI to close out Whitey?  If that were the case, how does going it alone do anything?   At this point I’m confused.  At a minimum it seems if everyone in power in the FBI refuses to close out Whitey then Connolly was under enormous pressure to continue using him.

Fitzpatrick negates the idea Connolly is off on a lark of his own.  As I read on in his book you either assume Connolly had Hoover-like powers over everyone else in the FBI or that he was doing what they wanted him to do.  Fitzpatrick tells us he was “officially undercover” in the Boston FBI office reporting secretly to FBIHQ.   He writes that if he closed Whitey and made him a target he would undermine the investigation being led by Jeremiah O’Sullivan, the assistant US Attorney in charge of the Organized Crime  Strike Force against the Mafia head Gerry Angiulo.  In the next sentence he writes that Whitey had given O’Sullivan nothing of substance.  It doesn’t make sense.  If he gave him nothing how could closing him affect O’Sullivan’s investigation?

We then learn what happened to his memo to the SAC.  Connolly and Morris wrote memos opposing Fitzpatrick’s suggestion Whitey be closed.  (I had previously read those memos came in response to another situation.)  The SAC decided not to close him.  After this he said it became clear to him that “everyone involved wanted to take down the Boston mafia using whatever means necessary.”  This again shows there was great pressure on Connolly by the FBI to keep Whitey.

Fitzpatrick said he was in secret communication with the “top echelon HQ people.”   Some of these who were mentioned were Sean McWeeney, head of the organized crime section, the Bureau’s number two man John Otto, and the assistant to the director Oliver Revel.  He said because of these men “Whitey Bulger’s crucial status as an informant made him untouchable as the subject of a criminal investigation, lest the house of cards O’Sullivan and others had built got blown down.”   He then writes that he began to worry that his transfer to Boston was to, “Provide cover . . . for those at HQ who were afraid of the blowback when and if things turned.”

The more you see through Fitzpatrick’s eyes what was going on in the FBI the more you understand that from the highest levels of the FBI to the lowest Connolly’s relationship with Whitey was fully understood, encouraged and protected.  That the second in command of the Boston FBI office is in a tussle with a agent who will have trouble becoming a supervisor shows that agent was doing what the bosses in the FBI wanted him to do.

Fitzpatrick doesn’t believe the HQ people were involved in the corruption but they were “enablers, complicit in their unwitting facilitation of that corruption.”  It is hard to square that.  If Fitzpatrick saw corruption and was reporting it to them and they let it continue, then they were involved in it.  The problem is Fitzpatrick throws around the term corruption like Tom Brady tosses a football.  The difference is we know what a football looks like, but we don’t know Fitzgerald means by corruption.

Here’s an example.  When Halloran got gunned down by Whitey Fitzgerald said Jimmy Flynn got arrested for doing it because “Whitey had framed him with the help of his police and Bureau sychophants.”  He doesn’t mention that Halloran was still alive when the first Boston cop arrived at the scene.  Halloran told the cop that he had been shot by Jimmy Flynn.  Is this part of the corruption Fitzpatrick writes about?  This is the trouble with relying too much on Fitzpatrick’s book, as I said he recoils at the truth, he becomes a Don Quixote type figure thrusting out at windmills, making his case by omission, and too easily throws around the term corruption.

There are enough examples in the book to show clearly that the Connolly/Whitey relationship was well known and encouraged from the director down the hierarchy of the FBI.  Whitey, as a top echelon informant, was involved in top level criminal activities.  What is less clear is what that relationship should have entailed.  This was deliberately left vague by the FBI bosses as Fitzpatrick says to provide protection to them from any blowback that may come from his dealings.

To cut to the chase, the FBI director and the upper echelon of the FBI put Connolly on the front line, liked what he was doing with his informants, encouraged and protected him from interference in the Bureau and elsewhere.  When his association with these top echelon informants became known they washed their hands of him.   It is not something that should be tolerated.  If these top brass want to hide their involvement then they can do so, as the FBI brass has always been able to do when it decided to keep things quiet.  But if they want to close the books on this no one who was an intimate part of it should be left imprisoned for life.

 

2 thoughts on “The FBI Hierarchy Knew and Approved FBI Agent Connolly’s Action With Whitey Bulger

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