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Collusion: Whitey Bulger and the FBI’s international trade off for domestic information

Mon 25 February 2013, 10:42am

Fascinating piece by Ed Moloney on Whitey Bulger, an Irish Boston gangster who was ‘turned’ by the FBI relatively early in his long career of domestic crime, was later allowed a little international sideline:

In 1975, Bulger agreed to become an FBI informer and was largely left alone by the authorities, who were mostly interested in what he knew about rival Mafia gangs. In 1994, his FBI handler tipped him off about an impending indictment and he fled Boston.

For 12 of the next 16 years Bulger was on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list. In June 2011, Bulger, by then 81 years old, was recaptured in Santa Monica, California, and returned to Boston, where he now faces charges of involvement in 19 murders.

His FBI handler, John Connolly, acceded to Bulger’s precondition not to investigate his IRA activity when he signed him up as an informer, but this wasn’t, according to the authors, the only example of the FBI being soft on the IRA.

In the early 1980s, another FBI agent gave Bulger more than 18kg of powerful C-4 plastic explosives for the IRA, which were then smuggled to Ireland in a van.

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Comments (10)

  1. derrydave (profile) says:

    I read a book all about the Bulger story – called ‘Black Mass’ I think – fantastic book which reads like a thriller. Amazing story overall about how one man (Connolly) who grew up in South Boston with Bulger, managed to assist Bulgers criminal career and ensured he rose to the top of organized crime in Boston (using the excuse of info supplyed on the Mafia).
    In truth this story has very little to do with the IRA or any help Bulger gave them (as it was very very limited and in fact I think Bulger himself may have provided the info which led to the capture of the Valhalla), although it does have a link to NI in the similarities between how some protected species were allowed to rise to very high levels of the loyalist paramilitaries (and were allowed to get involved in all sorts of crimes up to and including murder) on the basis of information provided.
    Would highly recommend the book – a fantastic read.

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  2. Pete Baker (profile) says:

    Mick

    Just don’t ask Martin Ferris, TD, about any of it…

    “I don’t know Whitey Bulger,” Mr Ferris said. “I never met him. I never had anything to do with him, ever. “I never met him in my life. You can get the transcripts of the trial and look at them. There’s nothing about him.”

    It was reported that Bulger, an Irish American now aged 81, helped organise the operation but that the IRA later blamed him for scuppering the plan and making off with the cash.

    Mr Ferris dismissed this as “media speculation”. “I know nothing about it, really,” he told the Irish Daily Mail. “It is history. We will leave it all to history. I have no memories and I know nothing about him.”

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  3. Ulster Press Centre (profile) black spot says:

    derrydave: …although it does have a link to NI in the similarities between how some protected species were allowed to rise to very high levels of the loyalist paramilitaries (and were allowed to get involved in all sorts of crimes up to and including murder) on the basis of information provided..

    Only Loyalists???

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  4. galloglaigh (profile) says:

    That must have been some van…

    Yawn…

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  5. Kevsterino (profile) says:

    Amphibious vans hauling plastique across the cold north Atlantic. I can’t believe Tom Clancy missed such a story idea.

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  6. galloglaigh (profile) says:

    I was friendly with Connolly’s cousin at one time. He was the State Trooper who was run over by Clinton’s Cavalcade. There’s something you didn’t know!

    No doubt Bulger was doing favours for the Provos, but he’d sell his own mother for geenbacks. It was more likely a case of keeping Southie Provo’s happy. They were the one organisation he feared, and the huge numbers of Irish immigrants in Southie are proof of that. He left the Irish alone generally.

    Southie’s longshore men probably had more of a role, with the use of Whitey’s name for cover.

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  7. derrydave (profile) says:

    UPC – undoubtedly there were people within republican organisations who were also protected, however Connolys relationship with Bulger was more similar to the State’s relationship with loyalist informers (in that the State was more focused on the defeat of what it considered it’s real enemy) than that of the State’s relationship with republican informers.

    Doesn’t really get away from my main point that this was a very American Scandal or a very localised Boston scandal with very little relevance to NI or the IRA.

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  8. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    I clipped it because of the collusion angle tbh. And the fact the FBI was happy to trade off some business with an overseas group for information on a far greater and politically more pressing gangster problem at home..domestic.

    Isn’t this a common theme where collusion is concerned?

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  9. Ulster Press Centre (profile) black spot says:

    derrydave: UPC – undoubtedly there were people within republican organisations who were also protected, however Connolys relationship with Bulger was more similar to the State’s relationship with loyalist informers (in that the State was more focused on the defeat of what it considered it’s real enemy) than that of the State’s relationship with republican informers.

    But your point falls down when you realise the state had just as many ‘protected species’ inside the IRA and INLA as they did in the UVF and UDA.

    Scap, ‘The Fisherman’, the killer of Colin Abernethy, etc, etc…

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  10. Metacom (profile) says:

    Read All Souls for the truth about the impact sumbag Whitey had on Southie. His corrupt dwarf politician brother wasn’t much better. By the way Southie gets all the attention but back in the day Dorchester and Brighton were far more Irish and the Charlestown gangsters were way scarier.

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