Those who have closely followed these matters know that what happened in the Whitey case with John Connolly was supposed to be an outlier. We were told it was one in those once in a lifetime events. It was pointed out that one of the major things was the happenstance that both were boyhood friends. We were supposed to overlook the eleven years in age that separated them. You knew they grew up in South Boston, and you’ve heard all about that place, Southie, which the prosecutor said was one of the reasons for Connolly’s downfall.
You understand that the result of their working together was the reputation of the FBI was unfairly shredded. However we were comforted to understand that once this rogue agent Connolly was rounded up and corralled things would go back to normal. The fetid atmosphere of the FBI Boston office caused by Connolly having been exposed would be cleansed.
It was back in 2002 that Connolly was led out of court shackled. We felt happy knowing we’d never see such a thing again. Books were written to tell us about this. One exclaimed : “The Irish Mob, The FBI and the Devil’s Deal.”
I’ve suggested the above story which has been handed down to us from one newspaper reporter to another on Connolly is basically false. Start with the boyhood Southie stories. They didn’t know each other until Whitey was in his mid-thirties. Go on to the idea that what Connolly did was something unusual, it wasn’t.
What Connolly did was part of the FBI’s plan to fight organized crime. It was based on the idea that if you can’t beat them you join them, or as the FBI likes to think of it, they join you even though they are allowed to continue their criminal ways. The Devil’s Deal had nothing to do with Connolly. It was necessitated by the creation in the late 1960s of the FBI’s Top Echelon Informant program in response to being told it had to follow the law and not break into places and secretly plant electronic listening devices without court authorization.
In response the FBI came up with a harebrain idea to partner up with some gangsters in order to get other gangsters. Those gangsters and the FBI became pals. The FBI gave them special treatment such as making sure they were not prosecuted and were protected and kept safe. They were of no value to the FBI under indictment or in prison. They had to be free to provide information and to commit crimes as they had always done.
This historical part of the Connolly-Flemmi-Bulger relationship is basically ignored. Connolly is written about as if he created the Top Echelon Program. We were fooled into thinking that it was happening nowhere else.
The reason we were led to believe this is that only one FBI office in the nation has been compelled to disclose its Top Echelon informants. That is Boston. We know nothing about the deals done in other FBI offices throughout the nation.
That changed. Very recently we learned about the New York FBI and the Springfield Massachusetts FBI dealings with John Bologna. These FBI offices were not required to open up their files as in Boston. But because Bologna was implicated in serious criminal activity and charged, it had to set out some of his background in a sentencing memorandum in order to come to his aid.
John Bologna was a Mafia associate for many years and then an FBI informant; I assume he was a Top Echelon informant. At some point he became an FBI cooperating witness. The difference between those two categories is the identity of the informant remains a secret but that of the cooperating witness is disclosed.
That’s how the FBI classifies people who cooperate with it. It is an important distinction since the cooperating witness knows at some point she will have her identity revealed where an informant can depend upon the FBI keeping her secret forever. The FBI is good at doing that so we never know the identity of their informants which is as it should be. The problem is the FBI often joins up with the big fish to catch the little fish.
What is needed is some type of outside check on the type of people it uses to join its team. Even though the FBI has rules regarding the use of informant, it routinely ignores them. We need someone to insure that ceases
There are few documented times the FBI has gone back on its sacred promise to an informant who has worked with it. One notable exception occurred in the case involving Whitey Bulger. His status as an informant was first disclosed when two FBI agents, John Morris and Robert Fitzpatrick, turned their back on the long FBI tradition of honoring its promise of secrecy. They were lured by Boston Globe reporters into breaching their commitment and revealed that Whitey was an informant. The Boston Globe printed this in 1988 with the knowledge that it may have led to Whitey’s murder, something Agent Morris hoped would happen.
Unlike Whitey,John Bologna knew when he became a cooperating witness his informant status would be disclosed. I would not have known of him except for a comment by Alex McCoy. We could search high and low in the Boston media before we found anything about him. Maybe it is because Springfield in Massachusetts is west of the Connecticut River that it is difficult to find out what happens out there. Or perhaps, the John Bologna story gives such lie to the Boston media’s presentation of the happenings between Whitey and Connolly as being so unique and outre that it wants to keep the Greater Boston readers in the dark.
I’ll tell more about the light Bologna shines on this case tomorrow.