- The FBI used murderers as informants in Boston for three
decades, even allowing innocent men to be sentenced to death to protect
the secret operation, a government report has found.
- The FBI's policy "must be considered one of the
greatest failures in the history of federal law enforcement" and had
"disastrous consequences", the report by the House Committee
on Government Reform said.
- More than 20 people were murdered by FBI informants in
Boston from 1965, often with the help of FBI agents, it said.
- But no FBI agent or official has ever been disciplined,
the report said.
- Separately, it said that William Bulger, then the president
of the University of Massachusetts, gave "inconsistent" testimony
to the committee last June about whether the FBI had contacted him in its
search for his fugitive gangster brother, James Bulger, who is on the bureau's
most wanted list.
- James Bulger, known as Whitey, headed an underworld gang
in Boston and was one of the FBI's star informants before he fled in 1995
after being tipped off by a bureau agent that there was a secret indictment
- While critical of Mr Bulger, the report stopped short
of saying he had committed perjury.
- Mr Bulger's lawyer, Thomas Kiley, said the committee's
findings were "a total vindication on everything that matters"
for his client.
- The bureau, in a written statement, said: "While
the FBI recognises there have been instances of misconduct by a few FBI
employees, it also recognises the importance of human source information
in terrorism, criminal and counterintelligence investigations."
- To avoid future problems, the statement said, "the
FBI has taken significant steps in recent years regarding the management
and oversight of human sources of intelligence".
- The FBI's policy of using murderers grew out of a belated
effort by a former director, J. Edgar Hoover, to go after the Mafia, which
Hoover had earlier denied even existed, the report said. So, in the early
1960s, the bureau began recruiting underworld informers in its new campaign.
- The report focuses heavily on one episode, the 1965 murder
of Edward Deegan, a small-time hoodlum who was killed by Jimmy Flemmi and
Joseph Barboza, who had just been recruited by an FBI agent in Boston,
- The FBI knew the two men were the killers because it
had been using an unauthorised wire tap and had heard Flemmi ask the Mafia
boss, Raymond Patriarca, for permission to kill Deegan. A few days later,
Deegan was shot dead.
- The FBI was so intent on protecting its new informants,
the report said, that it passed up a chance to try Patriarca for his involvement
in the killing.
- Instead, four men who had nothing to do with the killing
were tried and convicted, with two sentenced to death and two to life in
- Two of the men died in prison and two had their sentences
commuted and were freed after serving 30 years behind bars.
- Hoover was kept fully informed about this murder and
the wrongful convictions, the report said.
- Copyright © 2003 The Sydney Morning Herald.