Globe Editorial

Pakistan: Channeling Bulger's Boston?

(File 1994/The Boston Globe)
May 12, 2011

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Pakistani Ambassador Husain Haqqani, who was a Boston University professor from 2004 to 2008, chose the wrong analogy for his country’s ostensibly innocent failure to realize Osama bin Laden was hiding in plain sight. “If Whitey Bulger can live undetected by American police for so long,’’ Haqqani asked The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, “why can’t Osama bin Laden live undetected by Pakistani authorities?’’

In fact, Bulger got away because a person in the FBI tipped him off, just as US officials feared Pakistani authorities would tip off bin Laden. And Bulger’s support network of family and trusted friends seems a bit like the one that appears to have sustained bin Laden in Pakistan, much to the outrage of some Americans. So rather than establish Pakistan’s innocence, Haqqani sketched a picture of what his country’s complicity might look like — by comparing it to Bulger’s Boston.

It would be wrong, of course, to suggest that all of Boston bears responsibility for enabling Bulger, just as it’s too harsh to blame all elements of Pakistan’s complicated power structure for harboring bin Laden. Meanwhile, the FBI might do well to check out any walled compounds on the South Shore, just to be sure.