Boston.com chat with the Globe's Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill
Globe reporters Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill chatted with Boston.com readers about "Whitey" Bulger and the New England Mob on June 7, 2000. Following is a transcript of the chat. Lehr and O'Neill are the authors of Black Mass: The Irish Mob, the FBI, and a Devil's Deal.
Welcome to the chat room. Gerard O'Neill is here, and he'll
be answering questions in a moment.
Gerry oneill here. our book has been out a week or so and
we're into a 2d and 3d printing. we're happy to answer
questions about how we started on this story and how we
Rick in North Andover, MA
I'm afraid I haven't read your book yet but I'm wondering
what your opinion is on why the FBI hasn't been able to
capture Whitey Bulger?????
Good question, rick. there is some concern about how hard
the FBI is looking for Bulger, given that it's been five
years and that his capture would mean more embarassment for
the bureau. IF captured, Bulger could be expected to argue
that he had the bureau's permission to commit crimes as one
of their informants.
What exactly was FBI's true envolvement in the case?
Hey Roman: The FBI's true involvement is huge, and it's all
in the book, which is, bottom line, a history of the FBI's
ties to Bulger and Flemmi. In summary, a core of FBI agents
provided cover for the rising crime bosses -- tipping them
off to other investigations by other police agencies against
them, tipping them off to the names of other informants who
were ratting on them, and much more.
what is your relationship to Whitey? How did you get your
did you have someone from the inside fill you in on some of
We have been researching the story about bulger and the FBI
off and on since 1988. We got our infomration from police
sources in the beginning and court documents from a year's
worth of testimony in 1998.
Is Whitey Still alive
jload: i believe he's still alive -- somewhere, out there.
he's got cash stashed around, he's disciplined and he's used
to traveling. there are some, however, who speculate that
he's dead, but it's hard to believe that if that were true
it would not have surfaced and become widely known. i
believe he's out there.
When you came up with the idea for the book - where did you
start your research and where you surprised at some of the
findings you came across?
hi PJ. WE were most surprised when we got confirmation that
whitey bulger was a protected FBI informant from FBI
supervisor John Morris. It allowed us to pursue what was
unthinkable at the time (in 1988)-- that whitey bulger, the
ultimate stand up southie guy was really a police snitch.
I went to high school with John McIntyre. So, I feel like I
am a little vested. My question concerns the legal fund
supposedly being funded by former FBI agents for John
Connolly. Do you think there is any truth to it? I
question the Globe's article because one supposed "venture
capitalist" was described as a former FBI agent, and he was
with the FBI for only about a year in the mid 70's. It made
me think the whole thing was a scam. What do you think?
interesting question, friend, but i found the story
fascinating in that he described a fund that was not a fund
-- it reported that there were people out there trying to
bluff others into donating to a fund. it revealed, to me,
the smoke and mirrors that are part and parcel of the whole
fbi/bulger affair....so the dance/spin goes on. for that
reason, i think it was good the globe was reporting this
sort of hustle on the street.
Are you ever concerned about your safety, because other mob
members might think you know where Whitey is, therefore
helping them get to Whitey?
hi caologinaud. we don't think that gangsters would approach
us to find Bulger. We don't know where he is and gangsters
would use their own sources to hunt down bulger. but no one
has had much luck finding him. he's been successfully on the
lam for five years.
we were most concerned when we made the original revelation
about bulger being an informant in 1988. we received veiled
threats to our safety from an FBI agent who warned us about
how dangerous bulger could be. it was more a threat than a
What does the Whitey Bulger scandal imply for exisiting
Boston organized crime? Or is there even organized crime in
Boston to speak of?
james, it's hard to measure the impact of the whitey scandal
for existing boston organized crime. there is surely still
organized crime in the region, but it seems to be a bit
unorganized at present, a mix of leftover mafia and bulger
gang members. sources say there's a lot of vying for turf
and action between various factions. occasionally this
erupts into violence and gets into the news.
Did Whitey have pull in other cities or was he just a Boston
hi joeleia. Whitey bulger operated exclusively in the boston
area, though his long and lethal reach extended to Tulsa
where a businessman that crossed him was murdered in 1981.
Charlie Knows Best
Have you guys worked on a screenplay or tried to sell the
movie rights to your book?
charlie: we have not worked on a screenplay. the book's
movie rights have, however, been optioned by Miramax. It's
in their hands for now, whether it's going to be made into a
Has the FBI made any reforms to prohibit further corruption
with handlers and informants?
Hi Rusty. Good Question. The department of justice has long
had adequate rules for supervising informants and their
criminal activities. The problem here was those rules were
treated as nuisances by the street agents. They were
ignored. The big reform will be uniform enforcement of the
rules by supervisors who watch the relationships between
agent and gangster closely.
I am looking forward to the book--do you beleive that the
FBI are not looking for Whitey are thoroughly as they would
like the public to believe? And, I have heard that Connolly
had a partner throughout most of his career. Is this true
and if so did he have any involvement?
to reader: i think that today those charged with trying to
catch whitey are earnestly doing so. that said, i also think
there are agents, ex agents -- in particular, john connolly,
who hope he is never caught. connolly has publicly said as
much. so there seem to agents at cross purposes which might
hamper the effort. on question number two: there were
several other agents who belonged to connolly's circle, but
i think the one you're referring to his connolly's
supervisor, john morris, who already has confessed to
extensive corruption, including taking bribes from whitey.
I actually just ordered Black Mass... on Monday and have
become extremely interested in the Southie "organized crime"
faction since the Globe articles a few months ago. Can you
recommend any other decent books regarding that topic?
tom joad: unfortunately i don't know of any others titles
that get into southie organized crime. but there is a great
memoir out by michael patrick mcdonald, title: all souls.
it's his family's story, and parts of it involved whitey and
Charlie Knows Best
Do you feel that John Connolly went too far with his
involvement with Bulger & Flemmi?
hi Charlie. That's an understatement. Connolly now is under
indictment for being part of a criminal racket with Bulger
and Flemmi and the case is far f rom over.
Are you working on any similar books or current projects? I
loved the book!!
Paul: glad you like the book, but, frankly, we in "recover"
-- it's a lot of hard work pulling the book together. so,
no, right now no new projects are planned.
Do you think Salemme has men looking for Bulger, or do you
think the New England mafia has lost too much power? Along
the same lines, how safe is Stephen Flemmi in prison?
shane: i have no idea if cadillac frank salemme and/or the
mafia is hunting for whitey bulger. some speculate that they
are. impossible to know. last i heard, flemmi had actually
been moved into a more secure setting in prison in plymouth,
mass, for his safety.
Does the book include any detail on his relationship with
Billy Bulger his brother and high ranking official. Do you
believe helped his brother out when possible?
hi dave. There is no evidence that bill bulger aided his
brother in any criminal matters. HOwever, the book does deal
with a problem bill had in the late 1980s when his law
partner was accused of extorting $500,000 from a prominent
real estate developer. Bill wound up with half the money but
claimed he returned it as a loan when he discovered where it
came from. The book reveals, however, that Bill Bulger
actually kept the money. The full account of this is in
Chapter 14 called "Shades of Whitey.''
How was whitey able to cultivate his "robin hood" image when
you point out that he was far from a "friend to the
neighborhood?" Did he actually perform acts of charity or
was it merely a brilliant way to market himself so as to get
the support of the people? I would imagine he would have had
to perform at least some token acts of benevolence, correct?
hey howiewinter: a couple of reasons for the robin hood
myth. first, yes, whitey was smart, like a pol, about
helping out a family here and there. perhaps more important,
however, was the local fbi office: agents like connolly
helped to brainwash the city and the neighborhood about the
bulger myth -- telling people in power, in the press etc
that whitey was a robin hood figure, a good bad guy, that he
hated drug and protected neighbrohood from them. all not
Thanks for taking part in our chat with Gerard O'Neill and
Dick Lehr. Their book, "Black Mass," is available at major
outlets, including amazon.com, the Boston Globe Corner
Bookstore, and local bookstores.