Ahhh, the FBI. America's heroes.
FBI Handling of Mob Informants Condemned
LOLITA C. BALDOR
WASHINGTON - While probing organized crime in New England since the 1960s, the FBI used killers as informants, shielded them from prosecution and knowingly sent innocent people to jail, House investigators said Thursday in concluding a two-year inquiry.
The bureau's conduct "must be considered one of the greatest failures in the history of federal law enforcement," according to the final report from the House Government Reform Committee.
"Federal law enforcement personnel tolerated and probably encouraged false testimony in a state death penalty case just to protect their criminal informants," said Rep. Dan Burton, who started the investigation when he was committee chairman.
"False testimony sent four innocent men to jail. They were made scapegoats in order to shield criminals," said Burton, R-Ind.
The FBI came under criticism for trying to stonewall investigators. Lawmakers complained that the bureau delayed giving them access to audio recordings and logs of conversations involving New England crime boss Raymond Patriarca that provided vital information on the 1965 murder of Edward "Teddy" Deegan.
"The Justice Department made it very difficult for this committee to conduct timely and effective oversight," the report said. "The FBI must improve management of its informant programs to ensure that agents are not corrupted. The committee will examine the current FBI's management, security, and discipline to prevent similar events in the future."
Lawmakers are pressing for more House hearings on the FBI's failure to cooperate.
"This is an unfinished project and I think the report acknowledges that," said one committee member, Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass.
"I would like to continue to investigate why the Justice Department was so recalcitrant in getting us the information. We should not tolerate that kind of behavior," he said.
The FBI said in a statement that it has taken "significant steps" to improve the use of informants, who are vital to many investigations.
A senior FBI official, speaking on condition of anonymity, acknowledged that the bureau was not always as forthcoming as committee members wanted. The official said some information was withheld or delayed because it related to a court case involving FBI Agent John Connolly Jr., who was convicted last year of protecting his gangster informants.
The report concluded there is not enough evidence to find that former Massachusetts Senate President William Bulger used his political authority to punish those who investigated his brother, mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger.
Whitey Bulger, a former FBI informant who worked with Connolly, fled in 1995 and is on the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted" list. He is being sought in connection with 21 murders.
The report said there were some inconsistencies in William Bulger's testimony. His lawyer, Thomas Kiley, said the report exonerates his client, who was given immunity to testify.
"For any thinking person, this should end it," said Kiley. "But there is a cadre of Bulger bashers here who have spread these street legends for years and I don't harbor any illusion they're going to stop."
The report, while broadly condemning the FBI's practices, focuses on the Deegan murder and law enforcement efforts to protect informants, including Jimmy "The Bear" Flemmi and Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi.
Four men were wrongly convicted of Deegan's murder - two died in prison and two served more than 30 years in prison - all due to what officials concluded was false testimony and the FBI's efforts to protect informants.
Jimmy Flemmi died in prison while serving time for a different murder. Stephen Flemmi recently pleaded guilty to racketeering charges involving 10 murders. Former FBI agent H. Paul Rico, 78, was arrested near Miami last month on murder charges. He has denied he helped frame innocent men for the Deegan murder.
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House Government Reform Committee report: http://reform.house.gov/GovReform/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID1885