THE BLOG
07/30/2013 12:35 pm ET Updated Sep 29, 2013

FBI's Bulger Poison Still Potent

Boston law enforcement authorities' bitterness and mistrust of past FBI actions, on view at Whitey Bulger's ongoing trial, have bubbled to the surface in the aftermath of Boston Marathon terror bombing.

We know the outlines of the Bulger case: how FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, having failed for decades to recognize the existence of organized crime, sought in the early 1970s to destroy its Italian part, La Cosa Nostra. Enter FBI agent John Connolly from Southie, Bulger's home turf, and Connolly's organized crime squad supervisor John Morris.

The two agents allowed Bulger and his Winter Hill Irish gang to kill not just the Italians but civilians with no connection to organized crime. While Bulger and his associates were allegedly committing 19 murders, Connolly and Morris tipped Bulger to investigations of him by the Boston Police, the Massachusetts State Police and the Drug Enforcement Agency, ultimately allowing him to take it on the lam for the next 16 years until his capture two years ago.

Meanwhile, the FBI hierarchy went along in lockstep and protected both Bulger and his two FBI handlers.

A dozen FBI agents -- many of them supervisors, both in Boston and in Washington, were so fearful of short-circuiting their careers by rocking the Bureau boat that they lacked the courage, honesty, moral outrage and common sense to stop both Bulger and the Bureau's betrayal of its law enforcement partners.

Small wonder, then, that the Boston law enforcement community's distrust of the Bureau continues to this day.

Although it is unclear how he might have used the information, Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis has publicly cited the Bureau's failure to inform local authorities of the terrorism-related tip it received from the Russian government via the CIA of the future Marathon bombers, Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev, who are now suspected of an unrelated Massachusetts triple homicide in 2011.

Last month, according to NYPD sources, top officials of the Boston Police Department and the Massachusetts State Police came to New York to meet for three days with top NYPD officials of its Intelligence Division and Counter Terrorism Bureau.

As this column has documented for the past decade, both NYPD units have been at odds with the FBI over the same terrorism-related issues. (Not that the NYPD are necessarily the good guys. As this column has also documented in the case of subway bombing terrorist Najibullah Zazi, the NYPD did an end run around the Bureau and nearly blew the case.)

While NYPD spokesman Paul Browne told the in-house press that the Massachusetts authorities were meeting with their NYPD counterparts about security preparations for July 4, sources told NYPD Confidential that the true purpose was to discuss how top NYPD officials dealt with the FBI over these terrorism issues -- specifically with the FBI-run Joint Terrorist Task Forces that exist in major cities.

Whether their concerns were legitimate or a residue of the mistrust engendered by the Bulger case is also unclear.

"The Boston authorities were so unhappy and frustrated when they realized the FBI had investigated the two brothers and didn't do anything about that they asked the NYPD in effect: 'How do we prevent this in the future?'" said the NYPD source.

The answer, the source said: "A much more robust presence on the Boston Joint Terrorist Task Force, on which by their own design the Boston and Mass. State police had a minimal presence because they saw no value in it. Second, a demand that they not play second file. Third, the realization that the FBI will not share anything unless you scream bloody murder."

Cheryl Fiandaca, a spokeswoman for the Boston Police Department and the ex-third wife of former Boston and NYC Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, did not respond to a phone call or email.

David Procopio,a Massachusetts State Police spokesman, was said to be on vacation. His office did not respond to an email and phone call from this reporter.

People say that much has changed in the FBI since the Bulger revelations. Among other things, its outgoing Director Robert Mueller has pushed the Bureau to become more inclusive in sharing information with local authorities, including on Joint Terrorist Task Forces.

Apparently, he has not been fully successful in Boston.

In addition, the lack of FBI accountability in the Bulger case seems to be continuing in the Marathon bombing aftermath.

Take the questioning of the Tsarnaev brothers' friend in Florida, Ibragim Todashev, who was also a suspect in the 2011 unrelated triple homicide in Massachusetts.

While interviewing him, an FBI agent shot and killed him.

The Bureau has given conflicting explanations about what happened.

"They've offered several explanations," says the NYPD source, "all of which are preposterous. They debrief someone and end up killing him?"

According to news reports last week, the Bureau has also refused to allow Florida authorities to release Todashev's autopsy report.

Their actions are fodder for Russian propaganda.

In Moscow last week, Todashev's father displayed pictures of his son's body and told reporters that this indicated his son had been shot several times in the body and once, at point-blank range, in the head.

He also announced he would travel to the U.S. to seek an independent investigation of his son's death.

Just think. Is this what the FBI has come to? That it is being held to account not by the United States government or its citizens but by the father of a friend of the Boston Marathon bombers?

That's about as pathetic as Attorney General Eric Holder's promising Russia's President Vladimir Putin that the U.S. will not torture NSA leaker Edward Snowden if Putin agrees to return him.