A new report from the House Committee on Government Reform details the FBI’s use of murderers as informants in Boston for three decades and its protection of them to the point of allowing innocent men to be sentenced to death, says the New York Times. The practice “must be considered one of the greatest failures in the history of federal law enforcement” and had “disastrous consequences,” the committee said.
More than 20 people were killed by FBI informants in Boston starting in 1965, often with the help of fedeal agents, it said, but no agent or official was disciplined. It said William M. Bulger, then the president of the University of Massachusetts, gave “inconsistent” testimony to the committee last June about whether the F.B.I. had contacted him in a search for his fugitive gangster brother, James Bulger.
The FBI said that while it “recognizes there have been instances of misconduct by a few FBI employees, it also recognizes the importance of human source information in terrorism, criminal and counter-intelligence investigations.” The bureau added that it had “taken significant steps in recent years regarding the management and oversight of human sources of intelligence.”
The policy of using murderers grew out of a belated effort by longtime Director J. Edgar Hoover to go after the Mafia, which Mr. Hoover had earlier denied even existed. In the early 1960’s the bureau began recruiting underworld informers in its campaign.