The FBI Was Pleased as Punch When John Connolly Had Whitey Bulger In Its Boat But Then Threw Connolly Overboard

Needing to replace the information it had been gathering through the use of electronic bugs(EB), the FBI under intense pressure developed a Top Echelon Informant (TEI) program that Judge Mark Wolf told us about in his 661 page findings.

The FBI discovered the Mafia in the late 1950’s and put up to 1,000 EBs into Mafia locations by breaking into them. The use of EBS was of questionable illegality although the breakings and enterings were clearly illegal. In July 1965 the FBI was told to stop using EBs. It panicked. To replace them it came up with the TEI program by November 1965.

The difference between an EB and a TEI was quite significant which the FBI seemed not to grasp. EBs had no criminal background, did what the FBI asked, asked nothing in return, and gave unfiltered information about the Mafia leaders. TEIs were mostly murderers who were going to continue murdering people  (some suggest that because they became allied with the FBI they would stop their murderous ways — I happen to believe the opposite would happen), they did what they felt like, they wanted a great deal in return such as protection from other law enforcement agencies, and they gave the FBI some information but certainly not all they knew and there was no way to guarantee its correctness.

The TEI program was corrupt from its inception. When the FBI joined with gangsters it became a gangster. J. Edgar Hoover never wanted to investigate the Mafia. He feared what would happen when the FBI did this. His fears were realized. During the panic time he let down his guard and invited the criminal element to get into the FBI boats so they could all row together toward the goal of defeating the Mafia.

Relying on people who are betraying their friends is always a bad idea. If they’ll betray their friends they’ll certainly betray you. You have no way of knowing when they are telling the truth. They’ll tell you what they think you want to hear but no more.

Into this corrupt program the FBI created and still maintains it recruited John Connolly. His job was to bring as many TEIs as he could into his FBI boat.  He had a knack for doing it and was patted on the back repeated by his bosses for his skill in recruiting them.  He had so many coming on to row in his boat that he had to hand some of them off to boats being rowed by other FBI agents.

One rower was already on the boat the FBI gave to Connolly when he came to Boston. That was Steve Flemmi who had been brought aboard by FBI Agent Paul Rico who would die in jail awaiting trial on murder charges in Oklahoma. Sort of poetic justice to Rico since he let some men be convicted of murder knowing they didn’t commit it and they died in prison.  (Some people suggest that is all right because they were bad guys anyway. It follows then we should do away with the inconvenience of trials and just lock up all the bad guys.)

Steve Flemmi had a friend Whitey Bulger who Connolly also brought into the boat. The FBI from the top to the bottom was pleased with Connolly for having brought on two strong rowers like Stevie and Whitey. For fifteen years they pulled mightily to the cheers of the FBI and brought the boat past the finish line which was the destruction of the New England Mafia family along with allowing the Boston FBI to do what no other FBI office had ever even dreamed of doing, recording a Mafia induction ceremony.

Connolly left the FBI in December 1990 surrounded by the praise of all.  TEIs Whitey and Stevie were retired.  No longer being protected by the FBI they became targeted by other federal, state and local agencies.

The US Attorney along with investigators started to find people who would start giving them information about Whitey and Stevie using the grand jury to squeeze them and giving them the old — “you’ll go to prison forever and lose all your earthly possessions unless you tell us what you know about X, Y and Z.” Obviously, their memories were jolted and they gave them what they wanted. Then miracle of miracles they learned what the paper boy knew, that Whitey and Stevie were gangsters. They were charged with RICO but were not connected to any murderers.

The RICO charge is the same type racketeering charge used against probation officers who sent out rejection letters to applicants for jobs. It seems as easy to charge a person with racketeering as it is to get an indictment which we know is quite easy from the old saw: “a prosecutor can indict a banana peel.”

Whitey and Stevie got tipped off about the indictments coming down. Whitey took off. Stevie hung around. In January 1995 Stevie got arrested. He asked the FBI to get him bail so he too could take off. No one seemed to remember he was on their boat. He got the cold shoulder.

Up to this time no one in the general public outside the Boston Globe really knew Stevie and Whitey had been on the FBI boat. Stevie sat in jail for three years sulking. Connolly who did remember tried to keep his spirits up — but he could only do so much to undermine the case against Stevie. When Stevie figured Connolly couldn’t help spring him he told the world that he and Whitey had helped row the FBI boat sitting in the TEIs seats.

Stevie thought this would get him out. Big mistake. The other gangsters  figured they now had an excuse to get out themselves by squealing on Stevie — the theory being it’s okay to rat on a rat — but in truth a rat is a rat no matter who he rats on because rats always find justifications for ratting. The other criminals were pushing, shoving and toppling over each other to tell stories about Stevie and Whitey, the more lurid the better, the better the story the better the deal.

It’s then we learned about their murders. Unlike what we are led to believe no one knew of most of these murders before that time. But things got jumbled up and we were all supposed to have known about them since 1975 and analyze the situation as if we did.

With all this going on everyone began to wonder how in the world could the FBI have given Stevie and Whitey a seat on its boat. The FBI was totally embarrassed. This was the one thing J. Edgar Hoover feared most — that his bureau would look like a bunch of fools which they were in creating a program to partner with murderers. Again panic ensued. The FBI got its propaganda machine going saying: “We were duped. We didn’t know what was going on. They were on Connolly’s boat! He is a rogue agent!”

They threw Connolly overboard — saying he was bad even though he did what they wanted him to do. It was a brilliant move. Connolly is still in prison.  The FBI is no longer embarrassed. The media agreed it was undone by one rogue agent. No other agents were charged.

The FBI could have its cake and eat it.  It could pretend it was duped and it could still keep partnering up with gangsters. The TEI program is very much alive and ongoing today.


7 thoughts on “The FBI Was Pleased as Punch When John Connolly Had Whitey Bulger In Its Boat But Then Threw Connolly Overboard

  1. Very informative. One question. The FBI did continue with bugs well into the 1980s (the bugging of the gangster’s restaurant in the Prudential center, for example, where the FBI apparently did break and enter and plant bugs pursuant to Flemmi’s tip)and still use them today. I think your point is that prior to 1965, they broke and entered and bugged places without explicit judicial authorization. 2. You’ve written previously that Morris and Fitzpatrick leaked the names of Bulger and Flemmi (as informants)around 1988. Morris’s apparent intent was to out Bulger and Flemmi as “rats” so the gangsters would kill them. Then he’d cover his tracks. So, Morris no doubt intended to kill. Morris also stabbed Connolly in the back for years, writing letters to his FBi superiors opposing Connolly’s promotion. He wanted to keep Connolly underfoot and under his control. Morris was a real slime who was in it for himself. But what was Fitzpatrick’s motive in leaking Bulger’s and Flemmi’s informant status to the Globe? Was Fitzpatrick unaware that publicizing an informant’s name was tantamount to a death sentence?

    1. 1. You are correct. Any EBs (electronic bugs) and B&Es the FBI did after July 1965 like Vanessa’s in the Prudential were done pursuant to court oversight and with court orders complying with the Fourth Amendment. Before that they were boys gone wild — they just willy nilly put them wherever they wanted with no judicial involvement. Hoover justified it saying it was a national security matter, and as you know you can make anything a national security matter.
      2. Morris did give the names to the Globe hoping to have them killed – my memory is he admitted this. He always was jealous of Connolly. He tried to stop him going to the Kennedy School of Government and from becoming a supervisor while at the same time professing they were great friends. As they say with friends like Morris who needs enemies. I don’t think he so much wanted to keep him under foot or under control since he never had him in that position. It was a plain old case of unrelenting jealousy that Connolly was what he couldn’t ever become.
      3. Fitspatrick is a head case. He was a man on a mission guided by a voice in his head which had as much sense as Crazy Red. He said he was Irish but not Boston Irish. For that we can be thankful. He was an ASAC who claimed to have taken down Angiulo which he didn’t and nastily wrote about Billy Bulger who was nice to him. He truly was mixed up suggesting to FBI headquarters that his boss the SAC was leaking names of informants to Marty Boudreau, a good guy, former Marine from Vietnam, who was a former AUSA turned defense counsel, based wild speculation. He got jammed up supervising an incident that happened on the Cape and got some type of discipline action, was reduced in rank, shipped off to Rhode Island and then resigned. He considered himself the only honest guy in the FBI and blamed his troubles on Connolly who he hated. He was Connolly’s boss and could have taken action against him at any time but he also was afraid of him. Anyway he had a bag full of hatred for the FBI which he formerly loved. He was a scorned man. He claimed to have discovered the 75 State Street case and he was mad because O’Sullivan investigated it and found nothing there. He got a call from Dick Lehr at the Globe. Morris probably told Lehr to call him. I’ll let him tell his story after he says he was abrasive with Lehr because he intimated he got his name from someone who said he knew the whole story. (Morris) He invites him to his house and they are walking the beach on this muggy, overcast July day in 1988.
      He said “I’ll tell the truth. So I spent the next several hours laying things out for Lehr, about how Whitey Bulger was a liability who’d never given the FBI any information of substance especially regarding the Angiulo mob my squad brought down.” Of course he’s lying there because he was not in Boston when the FBI took down Anguilo except to participate in the arrest a couple of years after the evidence had been gathered so he knows nothing of Whitey’s participation. (He uses the term “my squad.” He took over the squad after the evidence was gatherer. If he’s claiming success for the squad and not himself you could say maybe he is not lying but other parts of the book he indicates that it was his leadership that brought down Angiulo. Using his type of loose language he could claim credit for capturing John Dillinger.)
      He goes on to explain that the whole Boston FBI office was corrupt as was Washington, DC. They elected not to go with him. After all the years he suffered of frustration and betrayal he felt by disclosing the identity of Whitey he was not abandoning or reneging on his oath when that was exactly what he was doing
      Two other things: He Alan Dershowitz agrees with him over 75 State Street, and, a minor point as to his credibility, he suggests he was a good friend of John O’Donovan the colonel in the state police and he writes he never saw him out of uniform. I dealt with O’Donovan over fifteen years or so and never knew he owned a uniform – he was in charge of the investigative unit of plain clothes state troopers.

  2. i can only imagine the frustation of the mass state police and other law enforcement as they chased whitey thru the years. the fbi back in 1980 had a different rep then it does now. the times were so different without cellphones , the internet etc. thanks again for this blog. it does clear up so many questions. raymond patriarca senior, john gotti, big paul c all of them pursued and caught as far as being brought to court. this did not happen with whitey after his release in 1965 and makes what happened behind the scenes so interesting. you are right so much of what happened with billy bulger is speculation. never seen anything like the boston fbi in the 1960s , 1970s and into the 1980s. never thought it possible. looking forward to the trial thanks again

  3. as always very good information. the globe did put out the series of articles by the black mass authors in 1988 writing that it appeared whitey had a special relationship with the fbi. why did the state police not hold a press conference after the lancaster garage bug leaks in 1980 and state publicly that they thought whitey bulger was being tipped off about state police bugs and an fbi agent was doing it? thanks again for you work on this blog, it brings so much information that can only come from someone like yourself who knew all the players. regards,

    1. You are right that the Globe wrote in 1968 about Whitey and Billy Bulger. I believe they used the term like special relationship to describe Whitey’s relationship to the FBI. The Globe had information from Agents Morris and Fitzpatrick (breaching an important obligation not to do that) that Whitey was an informant. I was called by Kevin Cullen of the Globe just before the article came out and he asked me if I thought Whitey was an informant for the feds. I said absolutely not. I could not conceive of that happening. Because of that I thought the Globe was just speculating on Whitey’s status. I was way off base, as we now know.
      You have to appreciate the law enforcement environment In 1980. The FBI walked on water. To make such an open allegation, if anyone in the state police dared (none did) would pretty much end the career of the person doing it. When O’Donovan who was in charge of the state police investigative unit learned from Suffolk DA Newman Flannagan that FBI Agent Morris to a Boston Police sergeant he knew there was a state police bug in at Lancaster Street he called for a meeting over at a hotel on Soldiers Field Road. The FBI ASAC, Jerry O’Sullivan, Flanagan, O’Donovan. Morris and some others attended. O’Donovan accused Whitey and Morris of the FBI of leaking it. The FBI interviewed Morris and he came up with a story as to how he knew. It made no sense. He would change it again and again. The FBI has tried to blame the state police for the leak saying Schneiderham was a leak to Flemmi, or the guy who put the bug in for the state police, an Israeli electronic expert (who also worked for me) who did work for Raymond Patriarca, Jr., somewhat later as the leak. I write about this in my book. The big thing the FBI is unable to explain is how the gangsters and FRI knew at the same time if the leak were from someone other than the FBI.
      Another reason O’Donovan would never have gone public is the same problem the gangsters have when they thing someone is a rat, unless you are 100% certain you hold your fire.

  4. Excellent post. Yes the media and the general public believe it all but people in the know and even the FIB know its all just smoke and mirrors.

    Thats why the trial of Whitey is the governments worst nightmare. They fear the truth might come out.

    1. Thanks. I’m sure the FBI is not too happy Whitey is going to trial. They’ve buried Connolly in Florida and want to go along with their idea of investigating organized crime by partnering up with hoodlums. If anyone was paying attention they’d be laughed off the stage.

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