June 23, 2011. The news of the notorious gangster Whitey Bulger’s capture—after sixteen years on the FBI’s Most Wanted list—swept the nation. Many breathed a sigh of relief. But for Thomas J. Foley, a former Massachusetts state police colonel and the investigator who sparked Bulger’s flight from Boston, the moment was bittersweet. The FBI may have caught Bulger, but as Foley had painfully discovered almost two decades before, they were also responsible for his escape.
It has been known that Whitey Bulger was a secret informant for the FBI, but it has never been revealed—until now—that the FBI was actually actively protecting Bulger from Foley, effectively derailing Foley’s efforts to stop Bulger’s horrific crime sprees time and again. At one point, the FBI even presented Foley with a plaque at a holiday party that read “the Most Hated Man in Law Enforcement,” a not-so-subtle suggestion that he and his team should lay off their investigation.
Most Wanted is a true-life thriller, and Foley is the hero at its center. His investigative efforts resulted in criminal convictions of a half-dozen of Boston’s most notorious thugs and also led to the conviction of John Connolly, one of the FBI agents who abetted Bulger; Connolly is now serving a forty-year prison sentence. In this book, Foley, a cop’s cop, honestly recounts how his wide-eyed admiration for the nation’s top law enforcement agency was gradually transformed by dark realities he didn’t want to believe.
When Whitey was captured, and flown back to Boston, he was the talk of the city, and much of the country, too. But it wasn’t for another month that I laid eyes on him myself. He was just a wisp of a guy shuffling around, his rough voice all that was left of the vitality that had once terrified an entire city. Just seeing how old Whitey was as he sat, his shoulders curved, on that chair—it reminded me of how long he’d been gone, and I remembered why he hadn’t been rotting in prison as he deserved. Why someone like Whitey Bulger had been able to stay in business for so long, killing, extorting, dealing drugs, terrorizing. How could it still fester, wrecking more lives, like those of the families of the victims sitting around me? I was pleased to see him captured, no question. But what kept coming back as I looked at this old man was the cold fury that had so often surged through me on this case.