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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Gangster Whitey Bulger and FBI Special Agent John Connolly / an Unholy Alliance

Whitey Bulger


John Connolly, the disgraced FBI Agent, now serving a 40 year sentence in a Massachusetts State Penitentiary (for Second Degree Murder), entered the Bureau a few years before I did.  I just finished reading the book, Whitey Bulger, America’s Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt That Brought Him to Justice, by Kevin Cullen and Shelley Murphy.  John Connolly plays a significant role in the life and career of Whitey Bulger, including facilitating murder.

This book was, for me, hard to put down.  I recommend it.  However, it is not very flattering of the FBI – and that’s an understatement.

Connolly received many commendations from his superiors during his 20 plus years in the Bureau.  However, after his retirement his career and his life began to unravel.  Raised in the same Boston neighborhood as the notorious gangster Whitey Bulger, Special Agent Connolly later developed Bulger as a criminal informant for the Bureau.  At least that is the way he might describe it.  Actually, Connolly and Bulger became, in many respects, co-conspirators involving extortion, bribery and murder – an evil alliance belatedly uncovered after Connolly left federal employment.  Furthermore, there were other Agents including supervisory personnel involved to one degree or another in facilitating or covering-up crimes by Whitey et al.  It was a sad and disgraceful period for the FBI.

Besides recommending the book, I have a few comments to make based on my experience as a Special Agent during the approximate referenced time frame.

  • Some of the best people I have ever met were Special Agents – including war heroes, celebrated athletes, scholars, just quality people.  However, some of the biggest knuckleheads I’ve ever met were also Special Agents.  I suppose the same could be said of almost any large organization, but there was something a little different about the FBI – and the type of people it attracted.
  • I came in under Hoover (he died about six months after I entered on duty).  At the time, the rules governing appropriate conduct of a Special Agent were voluminous and often idiotic – some were downright bizarre.  I had been a deputy sheriff and a military officer prior to that, and I couldn’t believe much of the Bureau’s requirements.  I’d never experienced any place of employment that was so ludicrously restrictive.
  • That said, I don’t recall any early training that incorporated ethical conduct, personal integrity, and honesty.  I suppose those qualities in an Agent were just expected.  However, what evolved was a conspiracy of silence, in recognition of some of the absurdity inherent in the job.  You quickly learned this lesson upon reporting to your first assignment.  So, everyone, and I mean everyone, bent the rules a little just to survive.  Some Agents, the vast majority, knew there was a limit beyond which you could not venture; their personal integrity would not allow it.  Some Agents, a few, felt they could play the system, even break the law with impunity.  I should point out that this personal condition or failing is not within the sole purview of the FBI.  It is evident, to some degree, in almost every law enforcement agency.  There is a certain heady, for some intoxicating, feeling of power or superiority associated with law enforcement work.  Some, many, do not have the maturity or the personal foundation to cope with the nature of the work demanded and the opportunities it sometimes presents.

To be continued…

True Nelson