Obviously Whitey Bulger committed far more than ten, and which are more horrific than others is somewhat subjective to those not directly affected. He was indicted for 19 murders and found guilty in 11, but others with direct knowledge of his career speak of many more. The FBI holds documented evidence that Bulger was a long time informer, but he denied ever giving information of any value to the FBI or any other law enforcement organization. He was near the top of the FBI’s Most Wanted list for most of the 16 years he remained on the run, though he was never really in hiding.
James J. Bulger – who reportedly always hated being called Whitey – used his ties with the FBI to eliminate competition and control organized crime in south Boston for decades. While working with the FBI he controlled extortion rackets, laundered money, oversaw the sale of narcotics, and enforced his will through intimidation, kidnapping and murder. His arrest and eventual trial revealed corruption deep within the Boston office of the FBI and the Massachusetts State Police. In at least one instance, another confidential informant’s identity was revealed as part of the FBI’s dealings with Bulger, leading to the murder of the informant.
Here are ten facts about Whitey Bulger, which with many others led to him being on the FBI’s most wanted list for over a decade.
He was a lifelong criminal familiar with prison life.
Whitey Bulger was a criminal seemingly from the day he was born. He was known as a thief and bully in childhood, and at 14 he began building his juvenile record, which led to his eventual incarceration for armed robbery. Sent to a juvenile detention center, Bulger polished his already considerable skills at forgery, strong armed robbery, and assault. He continued to demonstrate his contempt for the rights of others during a subsequent stint in the Air Force, in which he enlisted in 1948. During his four year enlistment he spent multiple periods in custody for criminal assault and other crimes. After his enlistment was up he returned to south Boston in 1952.
For the next several years Bulger practiced the art of truck hijacking. Bulger was not above the use of violence when seizing a vehicle, and the use of a firearm was part of his standard operation when stealing a truck. In 1956 he was charged with and convicted of three bank robberies and sent into the federal prison system. Originally sent to Atlanta, he would spend parts of his sentence at Fort Leavenworth, Lewisburg, and Alcatraz before he was released in 1965. Much later he returned to Alcatraz as a tourist, and he later told a reporter that he had enjoyed his stay there.
Bulger claimed that while he was in the federal prison in Atlanta he joined a group of prisoners who volunteered to be test subjects for the MK-Ultra program in return for reduced sentences and additional privileges while in custody. The MK-Ultra program was conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency to research mind control through the use of drugs, and included the administration of several hallucinogenic drugs, one of which was LSD. Bulger claimed that the program and its effect on the volunteers was misleading and dangerous. For the rest of his life, according to Bulger, he suffered from insomnia.
Bulger later told his associate Kevin Weeks that the prisoners had been told that the experiments were to research a potential cure for schizophrenia, and that the CIA involvement was never revealed to the inmates. He learned of the CIA involvement in the experiments years later, when Congressional hearings into CIA activities revealed them to the world. According to Weeks Bulger was infuriated when he learned of the government’s experiments and the damage which they had done to many of the victims of the program, some of whom had been unaware of being used as participants.
Bulger later claimed to have had brain scans which revealed damage that he attributed to the experiments. He told reporters after his arrest that he would never allow the sale of LSD in south Boston, and that he threatened to kill any one he learned to be engaged in the sale of the drug. He told Kevin Weeks that he wanted to find the administrator of the program at Atlanta, Dr. Carl Pfeiffer, and personally assassinate him. Dr. Pfeiffer was a specialist in the treatment of schizophrenia, but according to records the prisoners who volunteered at Atlanta were informed that the experiments were for the study of mind control.