WHITEY & THE FBI
The myths of 'Whitey' Bulger
By Dick Lehr, Globe Staff, 7/19/1998
Back in the 1970s, Whitey Bulger became an FBI informant.
Until the FBI acknowledged that fact a year ago, the notion of Bulger the
Rat was unthinkable. But with the release of once-secret FBI files, two
decades of Bulger mythology have unraveled.
Myth: Bulger was the ultimate stand-up gangster who not only demanded loyalty
from his own but viewed snitches as the lowest form of life. Indeed, a Bulger
soldier, John ``Red'' Shea, once described what he would do to an informant,
starting with a bat. ``I'd take my best swing across his head,'' Shea said.
``I'd watch his head come off his shoulders . . . Then I'd take a chainsaw and
cut his toes off.''
Reality: Bulger was an informant for nearly 20 years.
Myth: He wasn't really an informant. His FBI handler, John Connolly, says that
when he and Bulger got together in 1975, ``He told me, `I will not be called
an informant. I will be your strategist.' ''
Reality: Wordplay aside, Bulger was an FBI informant.
Myth: Even if it has turned out he was a longtime FBI informant, Bulger only
ratted on the Mafia, not his own. For instance, Connolly repeatedly has told
others that Bulger set the terms for his cooperation, quoting Bulger: ``I'm
never hurting any of my friends or [IRA members] . I'll only consult with you
on these [expletive] people -- the LCN [La Cosa Nostra].''
Reality: Though Bulger did concentrate on the Mafia, he also provided
information about his own associates.
The Bulger informant reports included mention of such non-Mafiosi as Howie
Winter, Joe McDonald, Jimmy Sims, and Johnny Martorano, all members of
Bulger's Winter Hill gang. He said that automatic weapons held by Joe McDonald
were for the IRA. There is even information about his partner, Stephen ``The
Rifleman'' Flemmi. Bulger reported in 1979 that Flemmi was so incensed about a
beating his daughter suffered at a nightclub in Kenmore Square he ``may whack
out'' the owner and burn down the club.
Myth: Bulger was unequivocally against drug dealers, a poster boy for antidrug
efforts, especially in Southie. In a 1980 FBI report, a self-serving Bulger
told the FBI he ``is not in the drug business and personally hates anyone who
does; therefore he and any of his associates do not deal in drugs.''
Reality: The only drug dealers Bulger despised were the ones who had not paid
him a fee; Bulger reputedly extorted huge profits from dealers, including in
Myth: Prior to his 1995 indictment, Bulger had not been arrested in three
decades -- proof of a charmed life and his legendary savvy in outfoxing
Reality: Though cunning, the lucky charm in his life was the protection the
FBI provided him. Because he was an informant, the FBI did not target him. It
also warned Bulger about bugs and investigations other agencies were mounting
against him. In sworn affidavits, Flemmi last year cited more than a dozen
leaks he and Bulger received from the FBI over the years.
This story ran on page A18 of the Boston Globe on 07/19/1998.
© Copyright 1998 Globe Newspaper Company.