Top Echelon Informant: The FBI Program

(1) BarbosaPat Nee is alleged to have been involved in several murders. He has never been charged with any. He self-described himself as a partner of Whitey Bulger.

A member of the Mullen Gang it is alleged he was one of the group that gunned down Billy O’Sullivan and Donald Killeen of the rival Killeen Gang. Born in Ireland he was highly involved in supporting the Irish terrorists. He arranged for a shipment of arms to be transported by sea to them by a small crew of seamen including the master mechanic John McIntyre. That shipment was intercepted by the police. Investigations followed and McIntyre was giving evidence to Quincy Detective Richard Bergeron and others.

Nee invited John McIntyre to a house in Southie and drove him there. When they entered we are told McIntyre was immediately bound and tortured by Whitey. After several hours of questioning he was murdered.

McIntyre never dealt with Whitey relative to the shipment. He could not implicate him in it. He could implicate Nee. Nee would say he left the house after delivering him but came back in time to help bury him in its basement.

Some have suggested Nee was never charged because he was a Top Echelon informant (TEI) for the FBI. Like Whitey Bulger and Stevie Flemmi, he was given protection by the FBI in exchange for helping them out. It is said Nee felt so protected that recently he was on a reality TV show bragging how he controlled the gaming rackets in South Boston. Nothing happened to him.

It is said Nee has in his wallet a TEI pass from the FBI. That is the same one Whitey and Stevie Flemmi carried. It means he can engage in criminal activity and the FBI will protect him and keep him safe.

Whether he is a TEI and his criminal activities are being protected by the FBI is something that we cannot find out. The FBI will not disclose the identities of those TEIs they are protecting. We only know of Whitey and Stevie and a handful of others because Judge Mark Wolf of the Boston federal district court forced the FBI’s hand.

Well, that’s true in part. I should say we officially know that is the case because of Wolf. We may have learned it had we been more alert when FBI agents John Morris and Robert Fitzpatrick betrayed their job and identified to reporters for the Boston Globe that Whitey was one. We probably missed it because we did not know of the FBI’s TEI program until Judge Wolf blew the lid off of it. It was supposed to be a secret. No one was to know that FBI agents had become partners with vile and vicious criminals for the purpose of getting information against other criminals especially those connected with the Mafia.

I bring up Nee because we don’t know how many guys like Nee are being protected by the FBI nor do we know how many people they have murdered. The weird thing about the TEI program is that we only hear about one side of it. I’ll get more into its history as I go along. It was established by J. Edgar Hoover after he decided to target the Mafia. Again that’s another story for another day. Being a secret program its origins are somewhat obscure.

It came about during the time the FBI was doing illegal black bag jobs and planting electronic bugs into whatever location it wanted without a warrant. The FBI had bugs sitting in the offices of many of the Mafia leaders for month after month. Its agents were scooping in all types of information and tracking most of the movements of the mob. When LBJ put a halt to it after the FBI almost caught one of his close associates doing something he shouldn’t have been doing, the FBI relied more heavily on TEI’s assuming they could give them what the now silent bugs had done in the past.

The TEI program required FBI agents to seek out high-ranking criminals with access to other high-ranking criminals. They were to convince these top criminals to come and work with the FBI agents to provide information against their criminal associates. What the program left somewhat vague was what the FBI would give the top criminal in exchange for the information he would provide.

This was not just a program for Boston. It was a nationwide program. In fact, Boston was not one of the first offices where it was instituted. So throughout the nation FBI agents were joining hands with the most vicious of criminals. They had convinced them to betray their buddies. They had to have something good to offer them in exchange for their information.

The Boston office has been held up as a rogue office for its actions with Whitey and Stevie. The reasons for that are several but the main one is that Judge Wolf required it to open its files concerning them. He did not require it to open the files against all their TEIs nor has any other judge in the country required such a thing from any other office. It seems probable that there are thousands of Whiteys who have entered the TEI program and are receiving whatever it is the FBI gives in exchange for the ratting out their friends.

Ask yourself, what is it these top criminals are getting in exchange for their information. No one wants to ask that question. Until you figure that out, you will never understand the Whitey saga.

22 thoughts on “Top Echelon Informant: The FBI Program

    1. Jerome:

      I am familiar with the matter. Keep two things in mind: those type documents were just used for cover like the FBI sheets on Top Echelon Informants saying they were warned not to engage in crimes. The other is that the FBI never followed what the Attorney General said. If you understand its history which has been written by guys who were in top positions in it you will see that it did not consider it bound by the AG’s opinions. It always felt it was its own operation. By the way have you seen that its new director Comey is taking a page out of J. Edgar Hoover’s book by lying – at the University of Chicago the other day he made a speech telling how crime has increased and police are backing off enforcing the law, He has nothing to back it up and others say he is lying. The people in the AG’s office feel he is undermining them.

  1. Very well written. Pat Nee out walking around free as a Jaybird is an insult to the Commonweath.For most people it is very hard to get their mind around the idea that FBI agents PROTECT top criminals if they are informers. Always interesting to read what you are writing. Your background is something that gives you real heft as far believing what you are writing. So much of what is written now is flashed up to make it sell.


    1. You should keep in mind that wiretapping/bugging (authorized—and encouraged— by Attorneys General including Bobby Kennedy) was considered legal or quasi-legal until the Supreme Court’s decision in Katz v. U.S. in 1967. (prior to that, what was considered verboten was unauthorized physical trespass was what rendered the listening-in illegal. So, if the intercept could be accomplished without a physical intrusion, it was OK. Katz said, No, a person’s “expectation of privacy” was the standard.

      The information from those techniques was considered OK to use for intelligence purposes—but not for criminal prosecution. The information itself was not usable in court. After Katz, the Congress passed what is known as Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control Act of 1968 that set up a statutory warrant requirement for wiretaps and bugs.

      And, btw, among the most eager consumers of bug/wiretap info concerning Martin Luther King, Jr. (authorized in writing by AG Bobby Kennedy and considered a “national security” matter) was none other than—LBJ.

      1. Chris:

        The electronic surveillance bugs agaisnt the Mafia had been justified by letter J. Edgar Hoover had in his file from the attorney general under FDR that authorized it during the WWII to protect the nation. He referred to it as justification for continuing to do this long after the war. One of the agents in Chicago, his name escapes me now, wrote about “Little Al” and other bugs they had placed in the office of the Mafia figures. That was before Kennedy arrived in office. All those were done by black bag jobs. He wrote the agents knew they were breaking the law when they were doing them as did the bosses at headquarters but they could do them as long as they didn’t get caught. If they were caught they were told they would be called rogue agents. There pretty much was no way to do them without breaking into places. One of the problems was that the information gained was not admissible into evidence. Another problem was that it had to be disguised if it were to be used in any other manner other than intelligence, for instance the bug could be considered as being an informant which is wasn’t.

        I think Hoover always knew that the bugging was illegal but also knew in order to combat the Mafia that it had to be done. I say this because he never asked other attorney generals for written authorization and depended upon the earlier one. About Bobby Kennedy there is a dispute about what he knew or didn’t know. The Chicago agent referred to previously talked about him coming to Chicago and seeing the operation there and knowing all about “Little Al.” It seems to me clear Kennedy knew what was going on but perhaps thought it best to give himself some space for denial later.

        I do believe LBJ would have been very interested in hearing what Martin Luther King was doing and saying. There were real concerns in Hoover’s mind about King because he knew two of his close associates were probably Communists. Hoover probably knew more about the Communist threat to America than any other man – prior to him becoming director he did an extensive study of the movement. At the time he did this there was an existential threat to this country from the Soviets and their world wide movement. He more than any other man is responsible for that movement having any significant innfluence in the country.

        1. Matt: I researched this for our book–although a lot did not make it into print. I am pretty sure the mafia bugs/taps were separately authorized by RFK or top deputies. The national security electronic surveillance was always considered a separate matter within the Presidents Article II powers until the post-Watergate institution of the FISA Court.

          I will look through my research to give you something more solid documenting the criminal mafia bugs/taps authorities.

        2. According to one authoritative source, in May 1954 AG Herbert Browned authorized FBI bugs for “internal security and national safety” but in the late 50’s, the FBI on its own decided to employ bugs in certain criminal cases. In the Summer of 1959, Chicago agents bugged one of the Chicago Mob’s meeting places, a tailor shop on North Michigan Avenue. This bug remained in place for 5 years and produced a wealth of information about Organized Crime in the U.S. In a July 1961 meeting with Courtney Evans, Hoover’s liaison to the Dept. of Justice, AG Robert Kennedy pressured the FBI to use electronic surveillance in Organized Crime investigations. The AG lobbied Congress for passage of legislation in 1961 to legalize FBI wiretapping and empower the FBI to fight O.C. Alan G. Theoharis, “THE FBI: A Comprehensive Reference Guide” at 120-121 (1999).

          And below is from a footnote in the congressional report giving the chronology of the investigation of Raymond Patriarca, in reference to the bug covering his place of business between 1962 and 1965.

          4 Memorandum from Walter T. Barnes and Edward F. Harrington, Assistant U.S. Attorney, to Henry Petersen, Chief, Organized Crime and Racketeering Section (June 6, 1967) (document is retained by the Justice Department); see also Memorandum from J. Edgar Hoover, Director, FBI, to Acting Attorney General, U.S. Dept. of Justice (Dec. 22, 1966) (Exhibit 127) (‘‘The installationof the eavesdropping device placed in Jay’s Lounge was made under the general authority of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. By memorandum of May 12, 1965, Attorney General Katzenbach was advised that the device had been in operation since January 9, 1963, and he authorized its continuance. It was discontinued on July 12, 1965.’’)

  3. Matt; You get a lot of this right, in my humble opinion, but I do not think the Bureau’s TE program (as it currently exists) is what you may believe. Even in its early incarnation, I do not believe that any of these guys were ever given a free pass to hurt anybody. In my years as an agent, handling many informants (not TEs) (including a stint in the Criminal Division at FBIHQ) I never saw any evidence of this. Sure these high-value informants were trouble (just Google Jackie Presser, who btw was paid $$$ for his information). And they often were given explicit permission to continue (non-violent) criminal activity (now ONLY with the written blessing of DOJ and the United States Attorney). So sometimes, as with Bulger/Flemmi, they received permission to continue illegal gambling, etc. or, in other cases, no prosecution in a racketeering enterprise under investigation, or–as in Presser’s case–some of that and money.

    Nobody gave permission to any of these mobsters to commit murder. With my own informants, I let them know in no uncertain terms that if they got involved in something on their own, they wouldn’t get ANY protection from the FBI or me. Even “ordinary (otherwise) criminal activity,” for example, a controlled drug buy or purchase of stolen property to make a case, had to be authorized specifically in advance by field office officials and the prosecutor.

    1. Chris:

      I also dealt with informants through the investigators who worked with me. We operated as you did indicating that if they got into trouble on something other than they were involved with at the time that they were informants would not protect them from being prosecuted. I believe that was the general way things were done.

      The TEI program seemed to be different. I don’t suggest they were given permission to murder, rape or beat up anyone or that any agent knew for a fact they did that to any person. They may also have been told they couldn’t engage in violence but that had to be with a wink and nod because the agents dealing with these guys would have to know that was their stock in trade. I think Flemmi came closest to the understanding when he said they were told or they came to believe they could do anything they wanted except “hit anyone.”

      Connolly has stated that it was his job to protect them. That is what he did and would need to do if he were to have a long term relationship with them. Then we had the agent who was intercepted talking to his TEI Rossetti in 2011 (I assume under the present rules) who told him that his job “was to keep him safe.” Protection means something. That is what I am trying to figure out how far it extended and what it involved.

      I appreciate your insights


      1. I would be willing to bet that the agent’s comment on the Rossetti tape referred to the responsibility not to extend protection from law enforcement but from other criminals.

        btw, I recall vividly how my heart sank when my informant knocked on my Las Vegas hotel room door to tell me he had just committed a crime. No, my heart sank NOT because he felt compelled to snort some coke in the back of a limo with some of the bad guys–I really did not care. I spent the next week writing this up to report it to FBI Headquarters, DOJ, and two separate U.S. Attorney’s offices! And, it turned out, THEY didn’t really care either.

        That was more than 10 years ago and I’m sure the reporting requirements and administrative controls are more strict today.

  4. Oops:
    “…and two, that the words of those who will shed a truthful light on related matters will not *reach* far, wide and deep enough to make any difference.”

    1. GOK:

      Thanks for those two points. I hope most of what is unknown will come to light but the people who were motivated by other than putting out a true story have jumped in putting out false versions of some things that it will be perhaps a little more difficult to bring them to light. The other problem is greater because so many people have made their minds up about things so asking them to look at things in another way is often difficult.
      I was reading the Congressional report the other day about the Deegan murder and the matters involving Whitey. I read something in it that I didn’t think was right so I looked at the footnote. There I found the basis for the statement was something said in “Black Mass.” Seeing that I recognized as you do that the wrong story is deeply ingrained.
      The question I pose about the other side of the dime, that is what was the FBI to give for the cooperation of the high level informant seems to have been ignored as I will show over the next few days. All who have written about it seem to assume it was getting the information and giving nothing in return which as you know would not work when dealing with these hoodlums who always were trying to get something. “Black Mass” in its fictitious Wollaston Beach meeting said the exchange was that Whitey would give information to take down the Mafia leadership (we know he had no ability to do that back in 1975 since he had no Mafia connections) and he could take over the Mafia business which made no sense because there were many other Mafia guys who would keep it operating and did after the Angiulos were arrested.

      1. The congressional report on this whole mess contains all kinds of misinformation and conjecture. An extremely good–and sourced–analysis of the FBI’s role in the Deegan murder investigation, etc. is, believe it or not, in the appellate brief filed by DOJ challenging Judge Gertner’s decision in the civil case.

        I can find it and send it to you if you want it.

        1. Chris:

          I agree about the congressional report since the congressmen were more interested in getting publicity than figuring out what was going on. With the Deegan case I have little doubt two of the defendants were properly incarcerated since Patriarca and Angiulo would have worked throught their underlings to give the OK to Barbosa and Flemmi.

          If you can get me that I would love to read it. I had the idea, mistakenly I see, that there was no appeal of the decision.

          1. The First Cir. decision on that civil case is a perfect example of some of what you have written in your blog. The court just bought the myths and Paul Rico and Dennis Condon had been transformed into what you refer to as POOFs. I downloaded the recorded oral argument and it is painful listening. The judges laughed when someone mistakenly said Rico (rather than Flemmi) had become a fugitive and one of the panel said “we’d all been better off maybe if he HAD become a fugitive.” The actual DOJ team that defended the civil case thought Flemmi was full of it and the behind-the-scenes battles they fought with Wyshak (trying to protect Flemmi’s “credibility”) were pretty interesting.

            1. Chris:

              Thanks. I’m out shopping for Thanksgiving so I’ve fallen behind. But do appreciate your insights.

          2. P.S. Elena Kagan personally made the decision, I was told, to forgo the appeal to the Supremes on the civil case, saying the “facts” were bad.

  5. “Ask yourself, what is it these top criminals are getting in exchange for their information. No one wants to ask that question. Until you figure that out, you will never understand the Whitey saga.”

    Matt, as I read your paragraph above, I am reminded of your comments elsewhere in your blog (and the comments of a former Globe reporter) about “Black Mass,” the many errors (lies?) in that book, and the large number of other misconceptions that are bandied about regarding Whitey, organized crime in Boston, etc.

    My concern is that such garbage, misleading information, half-truths and outright lies will prevail in the minds of the public for two reasons: one, that so much that is now unknown will remain unknown; and two, that the words of those who will shed a truthful light on related matters will not far, wide and deep enough to make any difference.

    Here’s hoping I’m very wrong about this. Keep writing. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

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