Paul Jacob

James “Whitey” Bulger adamantly denies two of the 19 murders he’s accused of committing and for which he’s now on trial in a Boston federal court, along with facing a dozen lesser charges. Decades ago, the 83-year old reputed mobster allegedly ran much of the city’s organized crime.

Whitey may be just another hoodlum, but what makes his reign of terror unique, as the Washington Post reported, is that he “was aided and abetted by corrupt FBI agents.” A 2004 House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform investigation concluded that numerous informants working with the FBI — not limited to just Mr. Bulger — were “committing murders,” about which G-men were “no doubt” aware.

And yet . . . did nothing.

Something to consider: With the federal government assuming awesome new powers, could such powers ever in our wildest imaginations possibly be abused?

Tipped off by a crooked FBI agent (who is now serving his own 40-year prison sentence), Bulger went on the run in December of 1994, just ahead of the FBI’s plan to arrest him. That paced Bulger onto the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.

Nearly two decades later, in 2011, Whitey was found living in Santa Monica, California, with his girlfriend, guns, and $800,000 stuffed in the walls.

Quite a colorful story. Whitey Bulger exudes old-style gangster. He has a cool nickname that now fits at his age. And even the federal prosecutor complimented Whitey’s work ethic, noting, “He was no ordinary leader. He did the dirty work himself. He was a hands-on killer.”

Perhaps it was a simpler time.

Furthermore, the FBI’s role as Whitey’s accomplice creates an über-timely cautionary tale now that the IRS has been found blocking the civil rights of conservatives and when we discover the federal government has all our phone, credit card and internet-usage data. His story gains a sort of unnerving frisson when contrasted with the too-common suggestion that massive government surveillance is no big deal “unless you have something to hide.”

But the Bulger story contains yet another twist: Whitey Bulger had five brothers and sisters, including younger brother, William “Billy” Bulger. Longtime Massachusetts residents remember Billy Bulger — the 36-year legislator, who spent 18 years as Senate President, and was once arguably the state’s most powerful politician.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.