Ralph Ranalli takes part of the blame for luring me into this blog. It was his 2001 book “Deadly Alliance: The FBI’s Secret Partnership With The Mob.” that intrigued me. He said he was motivated in writing the book for two reasons.
The first because he requested from the FBI its Manual of Investigative and Operational Guidelines” for a project he had been working on. He put it away but years later became curious whether it had anything about Top Echelon (TE) informants. He dug it out of his attic and turned to Section 137 dealing with handling confidential sources of information. He found two sections headed Top Echelon Criminal Informant Program. Underneath all the text was obliterated with a black magic marker. Curious as to why he could not learn what this program was about he tried to follow-up but came up against the FBI’s wall of secrecy and never did.
The other reason he explained behind the writing of the book was sitting in court in front of Judge Mark Wolf in 1997 hearings listening to Retired FBI agent Edward Clark testify. Some of what Clark testified to mystified him especially since Clark was a supervisor in the Boston FBI office and explained his strange actions by saying according to Ranalli: “He had just been doing what his bosses at the FBI told him to do.”
When Clark finished testifying Ranalli waited in the corridor to grab him. Seeing him he said: “Ed wait.” Clark stopped and Ranalli asked him how he explains what he just testified to about his actions. Retired Agent Clark said: “You know I can’t talk to you about that.” Ranalli said: “C’mon, Ed. . . .the guy was talking about murders and no one followed up. I think someone’s owed an explanation.”
Clark explained: “I did what I was told to do. You weren’t there, you don’t know what it was like. You wouldn’t understand.”
Clark had been sent out with another supervisor to interview a guy named Joe Murray who wanted to cooperate with the FBI. He wanted to tell them about some murders. He also wanted to tell them about what he knew about the relationship between FBI agent John Connolly and John Newton and the gangsters. He told them about four murders (Barrett, Connor, Donohue, Halloran) that Whitey and Stevie Flemmi were involved in and said he knew about three others. Murray who was a treasure trove of information was treated brusquely, a five-page report of the interview was filed in such a way it could not be accessed through normal sources, and the matter was closed.
Ranalli concluded that was done because Murray was giving information against TE informants. Ranalli’s book goes into the matter of top echelon informants but suffers because much of it is guided by the biased hands of the federal prosecutors, gangster defense lawyers, ex-agent Robert Fitzpatrick and the usual media suspects so he misses the big picture.
Like them he suggests the TE program was “used and terribly abused in Boston” without seeming to recognize it is a national program in all 56 FBI office. Boston is singled out because it is the only office where the lid was lifted on it. I suggest that the program in Boston was replicated throughout the United States because different agents come and go into these offices and the Seat of Government as the FBI calls it headquarters knows what is going on in every office. To suggest it is limited to Boston does not comport with the manner in which the FBI operates.
Further proof of this is an article in the Guardian about Kirk Odom based on FBI false evidence concerning hair sampling. Reading it one can wonder why Annie Dookham is in prison and so many FBI agents were never prosecuted. The article also tells how one agent Fred Whitehurst back in 1990 started to complain within the Bureau about the problems in the FBI highly praised forensic lab including the giving of false testimony.
Whitehurst said of the over 200 letters he wrote trying to get things right: “It isn’t a good idea being a whistleblower at the FBI. They will crush you. They will send you to be psychiatrically evaluated as they did to me, just like in the old Soviet Union.”
The problem is we have a problem in the FBI but have no idea how extensive it is. Clark did what the bosses told him to do showing how fearful these agents are of doing the right thing; Whitehurst tried to correct the problem in house but he stepped on too many toes. Ranalli wrote the FBI hid the TE program “to avoid embarrassment.” I wrote my book “Don’t Embarrass the Family” because it was clear to me that John Connolly was prosecuted (and is still in prison since 2002) because the FBI was embarrassed.
When it was created back in 1924 the attorney general of the United States hesitated in doing it because he said, “There is always a possibility that a secret police may become a menace to free governments and free institutions because it carries with it the possibility of abuses of power that are not always quickly appreciated or understood.” We must ask ourselves if that possibility has not become a reality when a Bureau is more concerned about being embarrassed than doing right.