FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The FBI and Its Lethal Informants

by

Lot of talk about bad guys being FBI assets recently.  Thanks to his lawyers, the Interwebs are a-hum with speculation that the FBI neglected to hoover up Tamerlan Tsarnaev a.k.a. the Elder before the Boston marathon bombing because the Bureau was already in touch with him and trying to turn him as an asset, not because the Russians withheld crucial information.

Yesterday it also transpired that Glenn Miller, the white supremacist linked to the shootings in Overland Park, had allegedly worked with the FBI as an informer.  In CounterPunch, James Ridgeway quotes an aggrieved white supremacist outlet that accused Miller:

“In the 1980′s Glenn Miller was a self-styled KKK leader in North Carolina.  He made contact with The Order, which was famous for armored car heists.  Apparently he convinced The Order to make him part of an “above ground/legal” wing of the group.  He then provided information to the FBI and testified against other members of the “legal” wing that were receiving money obtained from the armored car heists.”

This sort of risky business looks suspiciously like FBI standard procedure.

Reading Kevin Cullen and Shelley Murphy’s biography of Whitey Bulger, the notorious—and notoriously protected—Boston gangster who parlayed his FBI relationship into legal impunity and a municipal crime empire, one learns that this sort of arrangement spanned generations in the Bureau:

[Boston crime figure Frank] Salemme claims [FBI agent Paul] Rico’s animosity toward the McLaughlin gang stemmed from the McLaughlins’ typically careless and insulting ways—specifically their bawdy claims that Rico and FBI director J. Edgar Hoover were lovers…Rico…got even by helping [rival gang] Winter Hill pick off the Mclaughlin gang, one by one.  He helped Winter Hill set up the 1964 murder of Ronnie Dermody….But Dermody was small change.

It might be worth noting that Dermody, while being small change, was also Rico’s informant.  But in order to ingratiate himself with a higher level gangster, Rico set up the hit by booking a meeting with Dermody, but arranging for the gunman to show up instead…and then let the gunman lie low at his house for a couple days.

And there’s more:

Rico and [his partner Dennis Condon] wanted …”Punch” McLaughlin…in the grave…Rico followed Punch…then told [gangster Steve] Flemmi that Punch was taking the bus…Flemmi fired six times into Punchy’s chest as he was boarding the bus.  The next time Flemmi saw Rico, the FBI agent told him, “Nice shooting”.[Cullen and Murphy Whitey Bulger W.W. Norton & Co., 2013 pp. 78-79]

This was several years before Flemmi became an FBI official informant and his case would presumably subject to some kind of formal supervision.  Before then, apparently, orchestrating gang hits off the books was simply part of the creative, improvisational side of Paul Rico.

After Rico and Condon retired, John Connolly took over as the FBI Boston office go-to guy for handling informants.  He gave Whitey Bulger free rein in return for suspiciously meager tips and suspiciously large handouts, a combination that landed Connolly in federal prison for racketeering and, in 2011, confinement in Florida state prison to serve the rest of a 40-year sentence for second degree murder as an accessory to a Bulger rubout.

In Boston, the justification was always that the FBI was using “good” (or not-as-bad) gangsters to take down worse gangsters—the McClaughlin gang for Rico and Condon, and the New England Mafia for John Connolly.

If this reminds you of something, well it should.  For the edification of readers, here is the Wikipedia entry for Tsarist Russia’s Department for Protecting the Public Security and Order, colloquially known as the Okhrana:

The Okhrana used many seemingly unorthodox methods in the pursuit of its mission to defend the monarchy; indeed, some of the Okhrana’s activities even contributed to the wave of domestic unrest and revolutionary terror that they were intended to quell…The exposure of Yevno Azef (who had organized many assassinations, including that of Plehve) and Dmitri Bogrov (who assassinated Stolypin in 1911) as Okhrana double agents put the agency’s methods under great suspicion…

And, in the category of Nobody Could Have Foreseen:

Just as the Okhrana had once sponsored trade unions to divert activist energy from political causes, so too did the secret police attempt to promote the Bolshevik party, as the Bolsheviks seemed a relatively harmless alternative to more violent revolutionary groups. Indeed, to the Okhrana, Lenin seemed to actively hinder the revolutionary movement by denouncing other revolutionary groups and refusing to cooperate with them. To aid the Bolsheviks at the expense of other revolutionaries, the Okhrana helped Roman Malinovsky, a police spy who had managed to rise within the group and gain Lenin’s trust, in his bid to become a Bolshevik delegate to the Duma. To this end, the Okhrana sequestered Malinovsky’s criminal record and arrested others candidates for the seat.  Malinovsky won the seat and led the Bolshevik delegation in the Fourth Duma until 1914, but even with the information Malinovsky and other informants provided to the Okhrana, the police were unprepared for the rise of Bolshevism in 1917.

Don’t be surprised if the US government is keeping tabs on and, indeed, keeping in touch with bad guys.  And, I suppose, when a bad guy predictably does something bad, don’t be surprised if the US government isn’t particularly eager to reveal everything it actually knew.

It’s a long tradition.

Peter Lee wrote a ground-breaking essay on the exposure of sailors on board the USS Reagan to radioactive fallout from Fukushima in the March issue of CounterPunch magazine. He edits China Matters.

 

More articles by:

Peter Lee edits China Matters and writes about Asia for CounterPunch.  

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

July 26, 2017
John W. Whitehead
Policing for Profit: Jeff Sessions & Co.’s Thinly Veiled Plot to Rob Us Blind
Pete Dolack
Trump’s Re-Negotiation Proposal Will Make NAFTA Worse
George Capaccio
“Beauty of Our Weapons” in the War on Yemen
Ramzy Baroud
Fear and Trepidation in Tel Aviv: Is Israel Losing the Syrian War?
John McMurtry
Brexit Counter-Revolution Still in Motion
Ted Rall
The Democrats Are A Lost Cause
Tom Gill
Is Macron Already Faltering?
Ed Kemmick
Empty Charges Erode Trust in Montana Elections
Rev. William Alberts
Fake News? Or Fake Faith?
James Heddle
The Ethics and Politics of Nuclear Waste are Being Tested in Southern California
Binoy Kampmark
Slaying in Minneapolis: Justine Damond, Shooting Cultures and Race
Jeff Berg
Jonesing for Real Change
Jesse Jackson
The ‘Voter Fraud’ Commission Itself is Fraudulent
July 25, 2017
Paul Street
A Suggestion for Bernie: On Crimes Detectable and Not
David W. Pear
Venezuela on the Edge of Civil War
John Grant
Uruguay Tells US Drug War to Take a Hike
Charles Pierson
Like Climate Change? You’ll Love the Langevin Amendment
Linda Ford
Feminism Co-opted
Andrew Stewart
Any Regrets About Not Supporting Clinton Last Summer?
Aidan O'Brien
Painting the Irish Titanic Pink
Rob Seimetz
Attitudes Towards Pets vs Attitudes Towards the Natural World
Medea Benjamin
A Global Movement to Confront Drone Warfare
Norman Solomon
When Barbara Lee Doesn’t Speak for Me
William Hawes
What Divides America From the World (and Each Other)
Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
Was the “Russian Hack” an Inside Job?
Chandra Muzaffar
The Bilateral Relationship that Matters
Binoy Kampmark
John McCain: Cancer as Combatant
July 24, 2017
Patrick Cockburn
A Shameful Silence: Where is the Outrage Over the Slaughter of Civilians in Mosul?
Robert Hunziker
Extremely Nasty Climate Wake-Up
Ron Jacobs
Dylan and Woody: Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad
Dan Glazebrook
Quantitative Easing: the Most Opaque Transfer of Wealth in History
Ellen Brown
Saving Illinois: Getting More Bang for the State’s Bucks
Richard Hardigan
The Media is Misleading the Public on the Al-Asqa Mosque Situation
Matthew Stevenson
Travels in Trump’s America: Memphis, Little Rock, Fayetteville and Bentonville
Ruth Fowler
Fire at Grenfell
Ezra Kronfeld
The Rights of Sex Workers: Where is the Movement to Legalize Prostitution
Mark Weisbrot
What Venezuela Needs: Negotiation Not Regime Change
Binoy Kampmark
From Spicy to the Mooch: A Farewell to Sean Spicer
Wim Laven
Progress Report, Donald Trump: Failing
Weekend Edition
July 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Kevin Zeese
Green Party Growing Pains; Our Own Crisis of Democracy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Red State, Blue State; Green State, Deep State
Paul Street
“Inclusive Capitalism,” Nancy Pelosi, and the Dying Planet
Anthony DiMaggio
Higher Education Fallacies: What’s Behind Rising Conservative Distrust of Learning?
Andrew Levine
Why Republicans Won’t Dump Trump Anytime Soon
Michael Colby
Ben & Jerry’s Has No Clothes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail