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Posts Tagged ‘FBI’

Treating Amnesia in the William Bulger Era

In Uncategorized on August 12, 2013 at 6:53 pm

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The preceding post on this blog is entitled, “The Pursuit of Journalistic Truth and Justice.”  That pursuit is elusive at times, as Scot Lehigh’s article about William Bulger in the August 9, 2013 issue of The Boston Globe attests.  To illustrate, allow me to address its substance.

The article rejoices in how “Both Bulgers Can Soon Be Forgotten,” joining together the name of James Bulger, whose trial formally ended today with the jury’s guilty verdict on 31 of 32 counts, with that of his younger brother, William Bulger.

Lehigh proclaims that the end of the trial will “…help push the Bulger era further into Boston’s past.”

Yet, what is “the Bulger era”?  That question will be answered last.

First, let us address Lehigh’s assertions.  He blames Whitey Bulger for how he “managed to corrupt the FBI, turning the once-proud bureau into an enabler of his criminal reign.”  Yet during the series of congressional hearings by the House Committee on Government Reform, it was determined that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover himself was aware of impending murders and not only took no action, but also approved affirmative steps to ensure that the true murderer was protected while innocent men served decades in prison, some of whom died there.

Testimony from U.S. Representative John Tierney (D-MA) is excerpted below.

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In short, James Bulger did not “manage to corrupt the FBI.”

As Tierney noted in 2002, it was an endemic problem — all the way to the very top.  Is it possible that the FBI used James Bulger and, by its failure to prosecute or act far earlier, had a hand in enabling him?  If J. Edgar Hoover himself knew of impending murders and failed to act — and subsequently protected those responsible, and even allowed innocent men to serve time, how did Whitey Bulger manage that?

Lehigh is simply wrong.  He misinforms us all.  The FBI was proud once, before the public knew what really went on behind its closed doors.  Why else would more than one member of Congress seek to remove the name of J. Edgar Hoover from its headquarters?  How much of that pride was an illusion?  Even U.S. Representative Dan Burton (R-IN), to his credit, lamented how his perception of the FBI was forever shattered due to facts which emerged during the Committee’s work:

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Next, Lehigh calls William Bulger “dishonorable.”  This comes after the facts establish that members of Congress called J. Edgar Hoover dishonorable and call for the FBI headquarters to be scrubbed of his name.  Somehow Lehigh neglects to mention that.

Instead, he opines that William Bulger is dishonorable, because he told the truth to a grand jury and candidly stated in one random excerpt The Boston Globe chose to publish in December 2002, that “It’s my hope I’m never helpful to anyone against him.”   There was no context for when this was uttered, or what else William Bulger uttered during that testimony.

He also hoped “the worst of the charges would be proved groundless,” an unrealized hope as today’s jury verdict indicates.  Having a hope is not a statement of fact or even of intent; it is an emotion.  Imputing wrongdoing to a person’s feelings is a wrong unto itself.   Contrary to what The Globe assumed, that expression of hope was no refusal to cooperate.  Throughout life, a person hopes for many things, as much as the reality may be otherwise.

Importantly, omission is a common modus operandi of The Globe.  Beginning on page 222 of his memoir, While the Music Lasts: My Life in Politics, William Bulger describes one anecdote in which he sat for an in-person interview with none other than Dick Lehr and Gerald O’Neill from The Boston Globe‘s “Spotlight Report Team.”

Described in the first person, it was in the Fall of 1988 that William Bulger agreed to sit for an interview and respond to questions even though he was about to leave for vacation in Europe.  On that occasion, Bulger was also asked about the 75 State Street matter, which was investigated exhaustively by five levels of state and federal review.  Bulger also promised to provide follow-up information when he returned from vacation, and O’Neil promised not to print anything until continuing the interview upon Bulger’s return in twelve days.

Yet, it was a day or so later, while William Bulger was in Belgium, that Lehr and O’Neil authored a front page Globe report proclaiming, “Senate President William M. Bulger has benefited from a trust bankrolled with money that a Boston real estate magnate claims was extorted from him in 1985…”

In short, Lehr and O’Neil lied to Bulger and waited until they knew he would be out of the country to publish their report; are not lying and deceit dishonorable?

Lehigh lies to us, too.  Below is an affidavit submitted by HAROLD BROWN himself, expressly noting the “five levels of state and federal review” — investigations — and even his own statement sworn under penalty of perjury declaring once and for all (or so one would think) as follows: “The truth is simple: Mr. Bulger played no role in connection with my [75 State Street]  project.”  Instead of reading Scot Lehigh’s misinformation, go ahead and read the truth from Harold Brown himself:

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Whom do we believe?  Scot Lehigh invokes “the allegation that he and his law associate extorted $500,000 from developer Harold Brown during the mid-1980s…” but here, we have developer Harold Brown expressly stating that William Bulger was not involved at all.  Do we believe Lehigh reporting on Brown, or do we believe Brown?  That journalistic truth is self-evident.

In our pursuit, we have choices about which way to go.  Reader, I hope you tread where the light shines brightest; it may be hard to see, but it is there if you dare to open your eyes.

Lehigh further associates William Bulger with John Connolly, to whom he goes so far as to poetically refer as a “fawning acolyte.”  According to the dictionary, the primary definition of an “acolyte” is “one who assists a member of the clergy…”  So now John Connolly was William Bulger’s altar boy.  Without citing any source, Lehigh recounts an anecdote in which John Connolly purportedly advised William Bulger to cooperate with federal investigators and agree to be interviewed.  How is cooperating with an investigation somehow insidious or dishonorable?  How does that support Lehigh’s point?

Lehigh also mentions Jeremiah O’Sullivan’s role in “the second investigation” but fails to mention the third, fourth, or fifth investigation — or the sworn statement of Harold Brown himself.  If Lehigh really knew the facts, he would report that O’Sullivan participated in the “tertiary” investigative review.  We learn that directly from Harold Brown.

Finally, Lehigh notes how “It’s also long been whispered…” that the indictment and subsequent trial of Senate Majority Leader Joseph DiCarlo in 1977 paved the way for Bulger to become Senate President.  Of course, Kevin Harrington was still serving as Senate President at the time and he chose Bulger to be Majority Leader prior to his own resignation in 1978.

This investigation into construction contracts with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts actually prompted widespread ethics reform and led to the establishment of the first Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for any state in the United States, to oversee state business.  The Ward Commission was a big deal at the time and issued a substantial twelve volume report  by the end of 1980.

In his capacity as Senate President, William Bulger played a pivotal role in pushing this oversight reform bill through.  To suggest that Bulger somehow masterminded the indictment of DiCarlo is to similarly suggest that Gerald Ford was secretly responsible for the investigation of Spiro Agnew which led to his own selection as President Nixon’s Vice President.  To say that Ford had a hand in Agnew’s criminal indictment and that it “paved the way” for Ford to become President of the United States would surely draw curious glances from any rational person.  Yet this is exactly what Lehigh proffers here in regard to William Bulger.  Think about it.  Does it make sense, just because he says it does?

Wrongdoing is wrongdoing, no matter who commits it.  DiCarlo was indicted because there apparently was evidence of criminal culpability; why is that nefarious in any way?  This lopsided logic suggests that those “whispers” which Lehigh mentions are perhaps attributable to voices in his own head.  Hopefully this posting will offer some level of help to him in understanding the extreme depth of his deficiency.

Also mentioned by Lehigh is “the phone call” in January of 1995 by which “Whitey and William arranged for a secret telephone call at the home of one of William’s associates, where it would go undetected by investigators.”

William Bulger spoke to that during his 2003 testimony as well during questioning by U.S. Representative Marty Meehan (D-MA):

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Thus, the official record states that it was Kevin Weeks who arranged the call, without William Bulger having advance knowledge.  Given the central role which Kevin Weeks had in the Trial of Whitey Bulger, surely he could have spoken to that if asked; yet I am unaware of that question being raised by either the prosecution or Bulger’s defense attorneys.

William Bulger also explained the reason for his concern for his brother, drawing reference to his religious faith and “The Good Shepherd story” — that no one should be turned away; he also recalls “society’s right to protect itself and to impose severe penalties on anyone guilty of such deeds.”  Specifically, the story originates directly from John 10:11-12 in the New Testament in which Jesus Christ declares, “A thief comes only to rob, kill, and destroy. I came so that everyone would have life, and have it in its fullest. I am the good shepherd, and the good shepherd gives up his life for his sheep.”

There is no reason to believe his statement was not true, given his Catholic upbringing.  Where is the dishonor there?  The larger context of William Bulger’s statement follows:

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Taking the facts into consideration, it is clear that what Lehigh presents as fact in support of his opinion, is, in fact, fiction.  He is wrong on Harold Brown, on the phone call, on the “once proud FBI,” and he is also wrong about “the Bulger era.”  James Bulger and William Bulger are two separate people.

Today’s jury verdict may speak to the legacy of James Bulger, but the era of William Bulger will not end.  Whether Scot Lehigh likes it or not — and true to the spirit of public service — the shadow of William Bulger is a part of the Boston landscape, from Hynes Convention Center and Symphony Hall, to the Public Gardens and Boston Common, to the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993, to the JFK Library in his own South Boston district, the Boston Public Library, the preservation and restoration of Castle Island, to the Massachusetts Office of the Inspector General.  That era extends to new generations of leaders through the William M. Bulger Presidential Scholarship and William M. Bulger Classics Award at the University of Massachusetts.  On the national level, there is also the William M. Bulger Award for Excellence in State Leadership from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

Like the story of his own life, the William Bulger Era is more than a name, and his living vision for the City on a Hill and its good people proves how that era is not a name at all.

In the Massachusetts State House on Beacon Hill, a portrait hangs in the Senate Reception Room depicting a bust of President Abraham Lincoln looking over William Bulger’s shoulder.  It is altogether fitting and proper that he has the last word here:

“I am glad I made the late race. It gave me a hearing on the great and durable question of the age, which I could have had in no other way; and though I now sink out of view, and shall be forgotten, I believe I have made some marks which will tell for the cause of civil liberty long after I am gone.”  — Abraham Lincoln, Letter to Anson G. Henry, November 19, 1858

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When Howie Carr Looked Over Bill Bulger’s Shoulder

In Uncategorized on June 27, 2013 at 8:05 pm

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It was ten days ago that Howard “Howie” Carr published a scathing article attacking the Bulger family entitled, “Whitey In the Dock.”  He is a talented scribe, no doubt about that.  He also fails to disclose that he is scheduled to testify in the trial of James “Whitey” Bulger.

In this article, Carr employs dramatic and biting language, noting how “…the 83 year-old Alcatraz alum isn’t the only one on trial in the federal courthouse…” He asserts that this is not only the Trial of Whitey Bulger but instead, “The local FBI office, which aided and abetted Whitey’s reign of terror, is also in the cross hairs.”  He also suggests that “on trial in the federal courthouse” is another surprise defendant: “the state’s Democratic political establishment…”

Previously, I pointed out the flaws in Jeff Jacoby’s argument that, “Political Elite Should Shun Bill Bulger,” as well as the false headline stating that William Bulger is a “mob boss” currently standing trial, and suggesting that he is a “ruthless murderer.”  Now, Howard further claims that the Massachusetts “Democratic establishment” is something which William Bulger “ruled with an iron fist in his almost two decades as the state Senate president.”  Then, Carr asks the Reader to play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon: William Bulger worked with John McCormack, and John McCormack was in Washington, DC because he happened to be Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Like former Boston Mayor and U.S. Ambassador to Vatican City, Ray Flynn, McCormack was from South Boston.  Like William Bulger, McCormack was also an army veteran.  Next, Carr reveals that J. Edgar Hoover was the FBI Director who also had his own office  headquarters in Washington, DC.  Please note that Carr does not appear to go so far as to suggest that Pope John Paul II was involved with Whitey Bulger.  However, Carr has made connections  between Whitey and Georgetown University Law School Professor, former U.S. Representative, and former Dean of Boston College Law School, Father Robert Drinan.

McCormack also allegedly “kept close watch over Whitey during his 1956-1965 stint in prison.”  Now, if we just established that McCormack was based in Washington, DC, how did he keep “close watch” over Bulger, incarcerated in San Francisco’s infamous Alcatraz Island?  On top of that, Howard also points out that while Whitey was serving time there, “he took massive amounts of LSD in the CIA’s infamous drug experiments.”  Now if McCormack and Director Hoover had this “close watch” over him, why was Bulger subjected to these types of experiments?  Or perhaps that was why he had the great privilege of being fed acid like candy, as Carr depicts here?

Then Carr starts talking about convicted FBI agent John Connolly but refuses to refer to him by name; instead, he calls him “Zip” — not to be confused with the song from Mary Poppins.  Like a page taken right out of his nonfiction books, Howie gives us “Whitey,” Stevie “Rifleman” Flemmi, and John “Hitman” Martorano, as Carr entitled his book about Martorano’s life.  Published last year, the full title is: Hitman: The Untold Story of Johnny Martorano: Whitey Bulger’s Enforcer and the Most Feared Gangster in the Underworld.  On the cover, Bill O’Reilly even wrote his own enthusiastic endorsement declaring, “Howie Carr weaves a frightening tale of unlawful conduct, and it’s all true!”

However, it was also ten days ago that Martorano, who openly confessed to killing 20 people, “…testified that he split a $110,000 advance with Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr, who wrote on Martorano’s life. The killer testified that the title — “Hitman” — was Carr’s idea, not his.”  Martorano said that he was no hitman and merely murdered people free of charge to help out his friends, noting the following about Carr choosing the title, Hitman: “He thought it would sell better.”

The following day, Carr penned a reply, declaring, “And by the way, Johnny was absolutely correct on the witness stand yesterday. I did name the biography about him “Hitman” — actually, it was one of my neighbors in Florida. And yes, it is named ‘Hitman’ because I thought that title would sell more.”  Not to judge a book by its cover, but when its cover isn’t even true, what else is in a book with its higher purpose being to “sell more” and “sell better”?

Of course, Carr had to support Martorano, or else he could be on the hook for perjury, which could even taint his entire testimony.   Some may know about one expression used by the courts: “Falsus in unum, falsus in omnia.”  In other words, false in one thing, false in all.  So Howard proudly announced that his book title was just a big marketing strategy.  What does this suggest about his other books?  In the beginning, there was Brothers Bulger: How They Terrorized and Corrupted Boston for a Quarter Century, which suggests that William Bulger somehow conspired with James to “terrorize” Boston.  Now, was that title worded to “sell more,” too?

Bear in mind that this is in spite of the gentle and welcoming reception of Bill Bulger at former Governor and U.S. Ambassador Paul Cellucci’s funeral service recently.  Perhaps Mayor Menino was frightened of Bill Bulger, and that’s why he was seen on camera with him?  The view which Carr espouses suggests as much.  Most recently, Carr also published Rifleman: The Untold Story of Stevie Flemmi, Whitey Bulger’s Partner, released just over a month before the James Bulger trial began.

As the facts indicate, William Bulger hardly “ruled with an iron fist” and disagreed with his Democratic colleagues on many issues.  Readers of his memoir, While the Music Lasts, will be given a tour of numerous episodes in which William Bulger disagreed with his colleagues.  For example, he disagreed with then-serving U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) on the issue of forced busing in the 1970’s.  Democrat William Keating (D-MA), who once served in the State Senate and now serves in the U.S. House of Representatives, even attempted a coup against Bulger on another occasion.

In addition to his book earnings and advances, Howard Carr reportedly secured a $7 million five-year contract with WRKO, his radio station.  Yet he wanted more money by 2010 and began to act out before he was suspended by his employer, WRKO, for “publicly and repeatedly using his program to bad-mouth the station.”  Ultimately, Carr even filed a lawsuit claiming he was a victim of “indentured servitude” and sought to be released from his $1 million annual contract.  Yet, he has often criticized William Bulger’s $900,000 severance package and $200,000 annual state pension.  As noted above, Carr’s WRKO yearly salary alone was more than 7 times what William Bulger ultimately collected after his own nearly four decades in public service, when he chose to leave his position as UMass President.

When did this all begin?  It was one rainy morning in Room 2154 of the Rayburn Office Building in Washington, DC.  The date was June 19, 2003 – a decade ago.  That was the day that William Bulger appeared before the House Committee on Government Reform and answered questions about the whereabouts of his brother.  Video footage of the hearing shows what appears to be Carr signaling and mouthing phrases to members of Congress during the hearing, particularly when William Bulger was being questioned by U.S. Representative Dan Burton (R-IN).

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On that occasion, William Bulger unequivocally stated that he did not know where his brother was, as noted in a prior entry.  His words were, “I do not know where my brother is. I do not know where he has been over the past 8 years. I have not aided James Bulger in any way while he has been a fugitive. Do I possess information that could lead to my brother’s arrest? The honest answer is no.”

During more than one somber dialog about murders committed by members of the Winter Hill gang, drug dealing, and “gun running,” Carr’s face wandered from smirking gleefully, to what appeared to be signalling to members of the Committee, to sticking out his tongue, to vainly trying to reposition his combover.

It was that hearing which launched Howie Carr’s crime author career, and one cannot help but wonder what else he would do to “sell more.”  The motive is obvious: Money.

Is that why he couldn’t stop smiling?

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