Tag: FBI


Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

May 8th, 2019 — 5:01pm

 

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

I always felt that I was fairly well educated in American history, dating back to the Revolutionary War. I had also studied World War I and World War II and of course the Holocaust. In recent years, I became more aware of the Japanese internment and over the years, I read a fair amount about the history of various immigrant groups in the United States. I must admit that I never thought too much about the history of the Native American Indians in this country nor was this topic covered in my schooling. Of course, I knew that the original explorers and settlers of the Western United States did take away the land of the Native Americans who were obviously here first. I have some vague awareness that there had been some reparations which I am reminded of when I would see advertisements for gambling casinos in California that I knew could only legally function because they were allowed to be run by the Native Americans.

This book was a game changer! It starts off as a real life “who done it”. It is of course a non-fiction book and the reader gets the feeling it’s going to be an interesting true to life mystery. There are a couple of unexplained murders which have occurred. The setting is the 1920s and the location is in the western United States. The victims happen to be Native Americans who are members of the Osage tribe. Suspects come and go. There are some more unsolved deaths which may or may not be accidents or perhaps crimes. Maybe there was a poisoning. There are some attempts at prosecuting possible murderers but the trials usually don’t work out.

It turns out that where the Osage tribe members have lived is on an oil-rich land. The Federal government has worked out a plan where every legitimate member of the Osage tribe gets “Head Rights” which turns out to be lots of money which makes them and their descendants quite wealthy. Of course, when they die, these “Rights” go to their heirs unless they assign them to someone else, perhaps a caretaker of their children, a white spouse or some other arrangement which the soon-to-be deceased member had decided to make. Over the years, all sorts of devious plots are suspected including bribery of juries, medical pathologists who did not quite find the bullet in the body, doctors who might have injected some substance that could have led to the death, undertakers who seemed to be involved in some way and just about everybody else. Families of the deceased became suspicious of the reasons for the deaths of their loved ones and how the inheritance was worked out. Numerous private detectives were drawn into these cases. In fact, these situations probably spawned the development of the occupation of private detectives and investigators in this country or at least was a major part of it.

Of course, the deaths and the suspected murders that were occurring over the years were taking place on the land of the Osage tribe, which is considered federal land, and therefore, federal investigators became involved in looking into these possible crimes. These were occurring at the same time that the new director of the soon-to-be named Federal Bureau of Investigation was trying to establish his new bureau. That man, of course, was J. Edgar Hoover and this story is also about the founding of this American institution and the ins and outs of that organization.

The author of this book literally spent years researching it. He spoke with many grandchildren and other descendants of the victims as well as some of the descendants of the suspected murderers. He traveled to many locations, studied archives and personal papers in addition to conducting many personal interviews. In fact, literally, one-tenth of the book are references, citations and summaries of newspaper articles and reports of personal discussions that the author had.

The end result is that the reader is left with an understanding of a piece of American history, which is as comprehensive and complex as any phase of American history. It is not only complicated, colorful, and as horrid as the story of gangsters in America during prohibition, or the tales of the various crime families about whom stories have been written and even equally outrageous as some of the infamous political scandals that have occurred in this country. On top of all of this is the amazing truth that you probably never heard of these events, that is, until you read this book.

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Whitey Bulger: American’s Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt that Brought Him to Justice by Kevin Cullen and Shelley Murphy

March 30th, 2013 — 11:56pm

Whitey BulgerWhitey Bulger: American’s Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt that Brought Him to Justice by Kevin Cullen and Shelley Murphy

As I write this book review, Whitey Bulger sits in jail after being on the run for than 15 years before he was captured with his girlfriend in Santa Monica, California where they had been living under assumed false names. Whitey is scheduled for trial in June of this year (2013) in Boston where he is accused of committing numerous murders plus other crimes which took place over more than fifty years. The statue of limitations is 20 years for all crimes except murder.  Even now prior to this long anticipated trial  there are numerous legal maneuvers taking place, the latest being the replacement of a federal judge who was ordered to step down from the trail because he was  federal prosecutor in Boston in the 1980s at the time Bulger was working as an FBI informant while allegedly committing crimes including murder.

This book which is written by two award winning   Boston Globe crime reporters who have researched book in great detail which is documented at the end of their work. The references include various books and articles as well as interviews with many  of criminals who were at one time confederates of  Bulger, federal and local law officers, as well as an assortment of other people whose paths crossed with Whitey Bulger.

There is no doubt that this man is one of most remarkable criminals of our time and yet on the other hand is a typical product of the south side of Boston for his generation. Not that most of the young men who grew up there at that time became criminals. Whitey’s own brother Bill Bulger became one of the most prominent and popular members of the Massachusetts state legislature. Others of the kids in his neighborhood became lawyers judges, doctors businessmen etc. Perhaps what characterized them was being children of immigrants (in this case Irish  whereas in other nearby locales it was Italian), poverty, hard working parents, competitiveness, being a street fighter when necessary and usually intense loyalty to one’s buddies. Why some kids would choose a life of crime, drugs or drug dealing, be gamblers, or run protection schemes and shakedowns is a complicated questions and even this insightful book couldn’t really figure it out. What is clear, is that Whitey Bulger grew up as very smart tough guy and served honorably in the US military, became up a budding criminal  and as a young man spent a lot of time  in federal prisons including Alcatraz. An interesting sidelight of his early years of incarceration in the 1950s and 60s, is that while in prison he volunteered, in exchange for some time off his sentence, to be subject in the infamous government sponsored research about LSD. He had no way of knowing about the resultant persistent hallucinations and periodic paranoia that he would have for several years before they faded into the background. This is not to suggest that LSD was responsible for his subsequent life of crime but it is an early  example of how his life became greatly impacted by the federal government.

Upon his release from federal detention after serving a substantial number of years, still in his 30s perhaps with some intention of going straight, he soon became very involved with the crime and the gangster world of the Irish gangs vs the Italian (Mafia ) gangs. He became enmeshed  in a life of crime which mostly included bank robberies, shakedowns and protection for the gamblers and drug dealers, as well as an occasional murder of another bad guy who from his point of view clearly deserved this fate. During the course of this life style he made the acquaintance of some FBI guys – one in particular who were interested in using him as an informant as was a common practice of the G-Men.  Whitey got drawn into this role along with one of his partners in crime , although they didn’t  take money for passing on information particularly info about their competitors in the Mafia. His relationship with the FBI is probably the most revealing aspect of this book and an area which has already been a fascinating subject for students of this era and are sure to be a focal point of the upcoming trial of Bulger. Some of the FBI agents grew up in the same home territory as Bulger. They themselves were seemingly fascinated and intrigued by the underworld of crime which they interacted with as they extracted information from their informers which allowed them to eliminate many of the leading criminals of that time. At least one of Whitey’s FBI handlers received great honors and commendations from his higher up in the FBI. Whitey on the other hand was often tipped off in ways that protected him from being caught and which also identified other criminals who were working against him . This led to Whitey having to eliminate some of them.  It seemed pretty clear that these FBI people knew of Whitey’s high crimes including many murders which on occasion even accidentally murdered the wrong person and at least two times killed  women for various reasons. Now that Whitey Bulger is coming up for trial and a new generation of agents and prosecutors appear ready to ask for whatever justice is possible for society and the families of these murdered victims, what will this now 83 year old man reveal about his life of crime and his relationship  with the FBI ?

The authors have done a very good job in documenting this man’s life and his relationships. At times,  I thought they overdid descriptions of his everyday mundane life in the name of being as complete as they could. Of course they were writing in the third person and they could only imagine his inner thoughts and feelings, based on all their sources which included people quoting Whitey and telling and even a few of his writings and letters. As interesting as the story and the life of this man is, I did not have any certainty that they really got inside of his head. I could not help compare this book to another story of a gangster criminal that I recently read, “I Heard You Paint Houses” which is the story of the man who says he killed Jimmy Hoffa and describes the details in a very believable fashion. That book was written by Charles Brandt, a former prosecutor based on interviews and the cooperation of the subject, another Irishman Frank Sheeran who was very close although not a full fledged member of the Mafia. It felt 100% genuine. Nevertheless the Bulger story is unique enough and one that is known to most Bostonians and should be known by anyone fascinated by crime in America. This is especially true  as the trial goes on  which is scheduled to take place June . It  will be certainly in all the  newspapers and featured on all those news magazine tv shows, and this book  will allow you to have a deeper understanding of one the most important criminals cases of the last century as it comes to it’s final conclusion.

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