The Boston Herald

Congress to launch new FBI probe

by Maggie Mulvihill and J.M. Lawrence
Thursday, October 23, 2003

Congress is intensifying its probe into FBI misconduct, with the powerful House Judiciary Committee now planning its own national examination of the way FBI agents handle criminal informants.

The decision follows intense lobbying by U.S. Reps. William Delahunt and Martin T. Meehan, (D-Mass.), who have pushed for a deeper congressional probe into corrupt relationships FBI agents in Boston developed with informants such as fugitive Winter Hill Gang boss James J. ``Whitey'' Bulger.

``Any reasonable person would say that with the agent-informant relationship, corrections need to be made and I think the Judiciary Committee is the best committee to try to force changes,'' said Meehan.

Bulger's handler, FBI agent John J. Connolly Jr. is serving a 10-year prison sentence for aiding Bulger and his organized crime pals. Bulger disappeared in 1995 after being indicted for racketeering. He is now charged with murdering 19 people.

Connolly has also been implicated in murders by Bulger cohort Stephen J. ``The Rifleman'' Flemmi, who pleaded guilty last week to 10 slayings.

``I think it's not a secret that there have been problems raised with the Boston case. The chairman and the committee's interest is what policies are in place for the way the FBI handles informants and how they are being followed across the country,'' said Jeff Lungren, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) - the committee chairman.

A retired San Francisco agent faces criminal charges for his dealings with an FBI informant and alleged Chinese double agent, while a former Kentucky agent served 13 years in prison for strangling a pregnant informant who was his lover.

The committee will ``build on'' information already developed by the House Government Reform Committee, whose televised grilling of Bulger's brother, William M. Bulger, in June added to the public pressure forcing his resignation as University of Massachusetts president in August.

``It will be a much broader look. It won't be a couple of months. I wouldn't be surprised if we are talking about this issue a year from now,'' Lungren said of the new probe.

Delahunt expressed particular concern about the way the Department of Justice has reacted to lawsuits against the FBI filed by four Bay State men wrongly convicted of the 1965 mob execution of Edward ``Teddy'' Deegan after FBI agents withheld exculpatory information they got from their confidential informants.

The department's latest defense to the suits is that because Congress did not pass a law allowing such lawsuits until 1974, well after the FBI agents' alleged misconduct, the suits should be dismissed.

``I think the average person just finds this so offensive,'' Delahunt said of the department's tactics.

Victor Garo, who represents Joseph Salvati, freed after 30 years in prison, said the department is misrepresenting what Congress meant when it enacted the 1974 law.

Police/Prosecutor Misconduct
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