Sleeping with enemy, againConsider this: The FBI gets into bed with a suspected killer, on the dubious premise that he can give it information on other criminals, even though he is, by deed and reputation, far worse than any of the people he’s supposedly informing on.
Sound familiar? It should. It’s Whitey Bulger all over again. Except this time Mark Rossetti is Whitey Bulger. And this isn’t ancient history. It was going on until just last year, and is only now coming out.
Rossetti is a reputed caporegime in the Boston faction of the Mafia. He is a convicted armed robber and is awaiting trial on charges that he ran a loan sharking and heroin ring. He is considered a suspect in at least six unsolved homicides, according to multiple law enforcement officials.
Despite his record and reputation, Rossetti was recruited as an informant by the FBI. The FBI won’t say when. Spokesman Greg Comcowich declined to say whether the FBI was aware that Rossetti was a suspected killer when it recruited him.
A couple of years ago, the Massachusetts State Police targeted Rossetti. But even before the State Police began that investigation, they asked the FBI if Rossetti was an informant. The FBI categorically denied it, according to state law enforcement officials familiar with the exchange.
The State Police went ahead and got the legal authorization for electronic surveillance of Rossetti’s phones, and soon they were listening in as Rossetti talked to his FBI handler, a young agent named Jesse.
Now, this isn’t about Jesse. He is by all accounts an earnest, honest agent who merely inherited Rossetti as an informant. This is about people in pay grades above Jesse’s. Supervisors who are supposed to know better. People who are supposed to know that the FBI shouldn’t be playing footsie with people like Mark Rossetti.
I know State Police officers, the workers - not the ones who make policy or are required to play nice with the FBI - who were furious after reading the joint statement of their commander, Colonel Marian McGovern, and FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard DesLauriers, which asserted that the FBI assisted the State Police in nailing Rossetti last year.
That statement, issued Friday after the Globe reported that Rossetti was an informant, is a case study in parsing words and deflecting attention. It said that when the State Police told the FBI they had Rossetti on a wire “the FBI was prepared to cease its association’’ with Rossetti.
“However,’’ the statement continued, “the Massachusetts State Police specifically requested the FBI continue its association with the individual for logical strategic reasons.’’
In other words, maintain the status quo so Rossetti wouldn’t become suspicious if his FBI handler suddenly closed him out or acted differently. But that statement ignores the reality that the FBI initially denied Rossetti was working for it. And while accurate as far as it goes, the statement is mendacious and misleading by implying that the issue at hand is when Rossetti should have been terminated as an informant, while the real, screaming issue here is that Rossetti should never have been an FBI informant.
This goes to the very heart of what the FBI was supposed to have learned over its craven and criminal coddling of Whitey Bulger. This wasn’t supposed to happen again. The FBI should have been trying to put Rossetti in prison, not paying him and giving him a cellphone.
The extent of the FBI’s corruption in its handling of Whitey Bulger was exposed only after a courageous federal judge named Mark Wolf convened a series of extraordinary hearings, forcing the FBI to publicly explain itself. The FBI’s courtship of Mark Rossetti suggests it didn’t learn the lessons it claimed to have after Whitey Bulger. It got into bed with a guy it should have been trying to put into a prison bunk.
This is history repeating itself. Time for more hearings.