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Monday, August 29, 2011

NYTimes blasts FBI use of mafia capo Mark Rossetti as an informant


Cutting deals with criminal informants may, at times, be a necessary if unsavory part of law enforcement. But the benefits must outweigh the costs, and it is not clear the F.B.I.’s Boston office has mastered that balance.
A police wiretap referred to in documents filed in a Boston court shows the Mafia capo Mark Rossetti telling his F.B.I. handler that “he knows he will be protected for the crimes he has been committing with the knowledge of his handler.”
The crimes he was talking about include running a heroin and loan-sharking ring, for which Massachusetts indicted and locked him up last year. He is also being investigated for six murders. The Boston Globe reports that the Massachusetts State Police only learned about his link to the F.B.I. through its wiretaps of Mr. Rossetti.
The F.B.I. has long used confidential informants — and protected them when they committed crimes — on the justification that criminals in league with other criminals can help catch bigger fish. The Justice Department’s guidelines for managing F.B.I. informants, first issued in 1976, are supposed to keep the worst crimes in check.
They require the F.B.I. to “authorize” crimes to be committed by an informant and do an annual review to decide whether the informant has committed “unauthorized” crimes — including those that involve violence — and whether to end the relationship. In Mr. Rossetti’s case, it appears the F.B.I. either authorized worse crimes than the rules allowed or failed to figure out what he was doing.
The guidelines were tightened in early 2001 after the bureau’s epic mismanagement of the James (Whitey) Bulger case in Boston. He awaits trial for 19 murders committed during the 20 years he was under F.B.I. protection. The Rossetti case may be another Boston problem — or a warning of wider problems. The bureau needs to explain how it justified working with Mr. Rossetti and why it signed off on any of his crimes.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/29/opinion/didnt-they-learn-anything-from-whitey-bulger.html?_r=2


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