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Saturday, March 23, 2013

U.S. Senator blasts the Boston FBI's use of undercover informant

A top-ranking U.S. Senator is leveling harsh criticism against the Boston office of the FBI for its handling of local mob informant Mark Rossetti, saying the office needs a major shakeup.

"I thought it was pretty clear after Bulger as an example, now Rossetti coming out and not having learned any lessons. There needs to be big changes. I'm not running the FBI but this has been going on too long. There have to be big changes," Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told FOX Undercover.

Grassley launched his own investigation of the FBI's handling of Rossetti after his informant status was publicly revealed in 2011.

Rossetti is a mob captain and suspected murderer who was charged in 2010 with running an organized crime ring including heroin trafficking, loan sharking and extortion. A State Police wiretap on Rossetti that gathered evidence used to indict and ultimately convict him also recorded conversations with his FBI handler, showing he was committing crimes while acting as a paid informant.

"It's very difficult with the use of a Rossetti or a previous person that they wouldn't know it's going on and there wasn't some knowledge of it. And if there isn't knowledge of it there ought to be, otherwise the FBI is not doing its job," Grassley said.

The Boston FBI's office's use of Rossetti is particularly troubling because it was the office where corrupt former agent John Connolly dealt with former mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger.

"Going back a ways, don't you have an FBI agent that was convicted of some wrongdoing because he was involved in this process as well? Doesn't that tell you something about the local office probably being out of control?" Grassley said.

"Do the guidelines for dealing with informants need to be revised again?" Beaudet asked him.

"First of all, they revised them and then they work with Rossetti, and that's a conflict with the original guidelines. I don't know whether just a revision again is going to make any difference. There's something in the culture of the FBI in this particular part of the country that needs to be dealt with. I don't know whether another revision of guidelines would make much difference," Grassley replied.

The FBI in a statement said the internal review is still underway pending access to some state court documents.

"The review consists of thousands of documents, interviews with those directly involved in the matter, including members of the Massachusetts State Police, FBI, district attorney's office and the U.S. Attorney's Office," the FBI statement said.

The culture of the FBI office in Boston was also part of Grassley's investigation. He found that the FBI's relationship with the State Police organized crime section was still poisoned from the Bulger years.

Court records revealed that, early in the investigation, State Police asked the FBI if Rossetti was an informant, which the FBI denied.

"The FBI never communicated with authorities in Massachusetts, particularly with the State Police, that he was an informant, and there was information that was very clear to the FBI that he was involved in criminal activity," Grassley said.

After Rossetti's informant status was publicly revealed, the FBI and State Police issued a joint statement suggesting their relationship was just fine.

"The FBI cooperated for months with the Massachusetts State Police, assisting their organized crime unit until the investigation was complete," the statement said.

Grassley said the press release "was not true."

"There's a great deal of antagonism between the FBI and the State Police. The State Police does not trust the FBI," he said.

"All law enforcement in this country ought to be working together and the FBI is the granddaddy of them all in a sense of being national and federal and crossing state lines and all that. They should be setting the example for cooperation and see local police and state police as a helping hand rather than seeing them as somewhat of an enemy," he said.

The FBI statement says "(T)he FBI cooperated with the MSP in the manner requested by police officials. The FBI and the MSP work closely together on a day-to-day basis in furtherance of our mutual commitment to public safety."

Rossetti pleaded guilty last week to the last of his charges from the state police investigation. He won't be out of prison until he's in his sixties.

But Grassley says it shouldn't be case closed with the Boston FBI.

"I'm not saying just in this case in Boston, in Massachusetts, and I'm not saying it just with the FBI, I'm saying across government, if heads don't roll you don't get any change of behavior," he said.

But in the statement, FBI headquarters is standing by its Boston office.

"FBI leadership has full confidence in FBI Boston management and employees," the statement says.



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