Lawsuit Alleging FBI Misconduct Reinstated

by TChris

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has reinstated a lawsuit against the federal government brought by the family of John McIntyre, alleging that "the FBI contributed to McIntyre's death by giving ... two gangsters free rein to commit crimes because they were also federal informants who provided the FBI with information on the Mafia." McIntyre disappeared in 1984. His body was found in 2000.

During 1984 interviews with agents of the FBI, DEA, and Customs Service, McIntyre provided information implicating James Bulger in arms and drug smuggling operations. McIntyre disappeared six weeks later. His family suspected that Bulger played a role in the disappearance but didn't know how Bulger had learned about McIntyre's cooperation with the government. The family also wondered whether the IRA -- the recipient of Bulger's arms shipments -- had been involved with McIntyre's death.

Eventually, the Boston Globe reported that Bulger was an FBI informant and suggested that FBI agents leaked information to Bulger about informants within his criminal organization. The FBI responded that its "leadership remains outraged at the suggestion that any of its own would engage in that type of treachery." When the Globe ran stories in the mid-1990's about McIntyre's disappearance and his connection to Bulger, the government claimed it was "ludicrous" to speculate that a government agent negligently allowed McIntyre to be killed.

In fact, FBI Agent John Connolly was later convicted of revealing the identities of informants to Bulger in order to protect Bulger's ongoing criminal activities and status as a high-level FBI informant.

Although the government did its best to keep the information from becoming public, an associate of Bulger (also an informant) filed an affidavit in a criminal prosecution stating that Connolly's supervisor, John Morris, had assured him that he and Bulger could commit any crime short of murder and receive FBI protection from prosecution. In June 1998, at a hearing in that case, the government made a point of arguing that the evidence was too speculative to permit the court to infer "that there was some lead from the FBI that led to Mr. McIntyre's disappearance." The government's lawyer argued that "dozens" of people could have ratted out McIntyre to Bulger.

In September 1999, the judge in the criminal prosecution opined that there was "reason to be concerned that Connolly may have told Bulger" that McIntyre was an informant, but concluded that the issue could not "be resolved on the present record."

In May 2000, McIntyre's family filed a claim against the government, alleging that the government caused McIntyre's death by revealing his informant status to Bulger. The Justice Department responded with unsurpassed cheekiness by claiming that McIntyre's family waited too long to file suit. The family had two years after they learned about the government's complicity to file their claim, and the government argued that they should have realized before May 1998 that Connolly and Morris had betrayed McIntyre. Never mind that the government did everything it could to conceal that fact. Never mind that it repeatedly dismissed suggestions of FBI wrongdoing as "ludicrous" and "speculative." Apparently, the family should have known that the government was lying.

The First Circuit saw through the hypocrisy of the government's argument. The court held that the family's claim did not arise until it had reason to know of the government's role in McIntyre's death, and it could not have acquired that knowledge in light of the government's efforts to conceal the truth. Because the family filed their claim soon after they learned of facts to support it, the claim was timely. The family now has a chance to persuade a court that it is entitled to compensation for the FBI's scandalous behavior.

To read the opinion, go here and search for case 03-1823, released 5/10/04.

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