As Attorney General John Ashcroft tries to expand the FBI’s power in the so-called war on terror, the FBI has come under fire for framing innocent citizens in the 1960s.
Last week the Bureau was sued for $300 million for knowingly allowing an innocent man to be sentenced to death.
This is not about COINTELPRO operations against the American Indian Movement or the Black Panthers but because of FBI involvement in the Boston mob underworld.
The case revolves around a man nicknamed "The Animal," a man who was considered "the most dangerous individual known" in New England. Joseph Barboza was also an FBI informant, approved by J. Edgar Hoover himself.
Government records show that at a 1968 trial, the FBI withheld evidence in order to shield Barboza’s identity. As a result, four innocent men were sentenced to death. The sentences were later reduced to life, but two of the men, Henry Tameleo and Louis Greco, have died in prison. Peter Limone served 34 years, and Joseph Salvati served 30 years. Salvati is now suing the FBI for hundreds of millions of dollars.
Congressional leaders have strongly condemned the FBI’s role. Right wing Republican Dan Burton of the House Committee on Government Reform recently introduced legislation to strip J. Edgar Hoover’s name off the FBI building in Washington, and he has bipartisan support.
But Attorney General John Ashcroft has publicly praised the Justice Department’s unorthodox investigative methods in the 1960s to crack down on the mob underworld.
He said in October, "Investigators focused on function, not form they focused on doing what was necessary to get the job done rather than what was dictated by the organizational chart."
To fight the so-called war on terror, Aschcroft has sought to restore the FBI’s ability to conduct domestic surveillance and to enhance its investigative powers.
- Ralph Ranalli, reporter for the Boston Globe and author of "Deadly Alliance: The FBI’s Secret Partnership with the Mob", the only book on the FBI program set up to employ organized crime figures as government informants.