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The FBI's unholy alliances

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It seems fitting that the case against alleged Mob capo Mark Rossetti gets thrown into doubt over a long holiday weekend dominated by speculation about the FBI’s Icelandic Whitey Bulger tipster: The two cases share unnerving similarities, but those connections have largely been left to veterans of the Whitey beat.

On Sunday, the Globe ran an exhaustive portrait of Bulger’s life on the lam in Santa Monica, California. The piece led with the identity of Bulger’s tipster -- Miss Iceland 1974, an expat who bonded with Bulger and Catherine Greig over cats.

The tipster, Anna Bjornsdottir, had declined to speak with the paper; a sidebar noted that the paper “relied on sources familiar with the circumstances of the tip as well as Bjornsdottir’s friends and people who knew her in Santa Monica to reconstruct her relationship with Bulger and Greig.” This disclosure prompted a pair of screaming Herald front pages, one accusing the Globe of putting Bjornsdottir in harm’s way, and the other wondering aloud whether the FBI fed her identity to the Globe. According to the Globe’s Shelley Murphy, the FBI never objected to the paper naming Bjornsdottir; Murphy also said she believed Bulger and Greig already knew where the tip came from. The paper says it revealed Miss Iceland’s identity because the feds’ insistence that the tip came from Iceland had been repeatedly mocked, and held up as evidence that the agency was covering up the true source of the information that brought down its former prized informant.

Amid all that noise, on Monday, the Globe reported that the lawyer for two players in Rossetti’s alleged crime ring want key evidence in the case against them overturned. Their rationale: Both the FBI and the State Police allegedly knew Rossetti was working as an informant, but that information wasn’t relayed to the state judge who approved the wiretap that brought Rossetti down. According to an attorney representing two of Rossetti’s co-defendants, if the State Police knew Rossetti was informing for the FBI but didn’t disclose this information to the state Superior Court, the state obtained its Rossetti wire under false pretenses; losing the wire would likely endanger the entire Rossetti case, the state’s largest Mafia crackdown in years.

Rossetti’s relationship with the FBI has drawn parallels to Bulger since it was first disclosed. Rossetti allegedly worked for the FBI while running the New England mob; Bulger allegedly murdered and extracted protection money under the FBI’s watch while informing on the Mafia. Both walked into their informant’s position with allegations of extreme violence hanging over them. Cases against both men melted inexplicably when they came into contact with FBI personnel.

In August, when Rossetti’s relationship with the FBI was revealed, the Globe’s Kevin Cullen wrote, “The FBI’s courtship of Mark Rossetti suggests it didn’t learn the lessons it claimed to have after Whitey Bulger. It got into bed with a guy it should have been trying to put into a prison bunk. This is history repeating itself.” On Friday, Cullen noted, “the FBI’s embrace of a murderous informant 29 years ago got Michael Donahue killed. Its more recent embrace of a suspected murderer named Mark Rossetti has imperiled the criminal charges against Rossetti and a host of other reputed criminals.”

                                                                                                                                                        --PAUL MCMORROW

OCCUPY BOSTON

Police moved in early this morning on demonstrators who have been camped out at Dewey Square in downtown Boston and began arresting protesters. About 100 arrests were made of people who have been part of the protests, inspired by the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in New York that are protesting huge income disparities and the unfair share of burden of the recession that demonstrators say is being borne by ordinary Americans. NECN has a detailed report on yesterday’s protests and the standoff leading up to the arrests. Jon Keller, meanwhile, just returned from a week in San Francisco, home of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and says her efforts to embrace the movement will be for naught because they are not her friends. Meanwhile, some Mount Holyoke College students share their reasons for joining the New York protests. The New York Daily News reports protesters there plan to visit some of the city’s richest tycoons, including Rupert Murdoch. In contrast to the city’s decision here to evict demonstrators from their encampment on the Rose Kennedy Greenway, Mayor Michael Bloomberg says the New York protesters can stay in Zuccotti Park indefinitely. CBS News pegs the cost to New York of the Occupy Wall Street protest at $1.9 million, mostly in police overtime.

Protesters on the Cape turn out for a mini “Occupy Falmouth.” The Berkshire Eagle says if the protesters want to have a permanent impact, they have to come up with some answers for the nation’s economic problems and forge alliances with like-minded people and Democratic leaders in Washington.

BEACON HILL

A Boston Herald editorial criticizes the decision by newly-minted AFL-CIO head Steve Tolman to hang on to his state Senate seat until after the union’s much-coveted casino bill passes. State Sen. James Timilty wants to use the pending casino bill as an opportunity to revisit the state’s happy hour ban.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A former Westport selectman says 64 town employees and members of boards and committees have not filed the proper paperwork to hold their jobs, including mandated state ethics conflict of interest disclosures..

A new campaign is underway to recall Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua.

Abington officials will ask voters to approve spending $10,000 to dispose of Christmas trees now that the state Department of Environmental Protection has banned curbside pickups.

Eastern Bank opens Lawrence’s first new retail bank branch in 20 years.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

US Reps William Keating and Stephen Lynch oppose the Obama administration’s plan to cut heating assistance for low-income people.

Defense industry lobbyists who are trying to head off budget cuts to that would affect major defense contractors are turning away from warnings about national security issues and playing what may be even stronger card, pointing out the critical importance of defense spending to the economy and jobs, especially in Massachusetts.

States are adding drug tests as preconditions to welfare benefits.

ELECTION 2012

Elizabeth Warren has raised more than $3 million for her US Senate bid, twice the amount raised in the last quarter by Republican incumbent Scott Brown, the Globe reports. Brown still has a huge fundraising lead, with more $10 million on hand. Meanwhile, Alan Khazei, who looks to be Warren’s the most serious competition for Warren to the Democratic nomination, raised $365,000 in the most recent quarter, or roughly one-tenth of Warren’s haul, and has a total of $750,000 in his campaign account. Joe Battenfeld says the state’s Democratic Party apparatus is Warren’s biggest liability right now.

The Globe editorial page urges state lawmakers to ignore incumbency protection when redrawing new congressional district boundaries.

Flips and flops: The Democratic National Committee launches WhichMitt.com , while Mitt Romney’s GOP opponents try to tar and feather him with the dread flip-flop label. Rick Perry, in particular, absolutely savages Romney over health care in a new attack video. Meanwhile, Perry’s much-touted economic development fund gets a critical eye from the Wall Street Journal.

The Atlantic says Herman Cain is right on track to becoming the next Michele Bachmann. Cain’s recent inquisition on MSNBC has Margery Eagan squirming.

Joe the Plumber runs for Congress in an Ohio House district that’s been gerrymandered to lean heavily Democratic. Good luck with that.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Massachusetts low-income and rural residents get few benefits from federal phone surcharges that were designed to improve their access to telecommunications networks.

The Globe travels to Dallas for a glimpse of a Walmart Neighborhood Market, the more modest-sized offering from the discount behemoth, which may make its Northeast debut in Somerville. Opposition to the Somerville store softens.

New York’s financial services sector is shrinking, again.

CommonWealth’s Paul McMorrow explains how the Navy has unfairly thrown a wrench into plans for redevelopment of its former base in South Weymouth.

EDUCATION

The mother of a Lynn Vocational Technical High School student who was suspended for five days for creating a “Hot or Not” Facebook page is angry that administrators haven’t taken action against students behind other Facebook pages targeting her daughter and other students, the Lynn Item reports.

HEALTH CARE

The Lahey Clinic, which is preparing to merge with Northeast Health System, files a document saying it plans to maintain essential services at Beverly and Addison Gilbert Hospitals for three years and keep all employees for at least one year, the Salem News reports.

TRANSPORTATION

Marshfield voters are being asked to approve $200,000 to help build a larger and quieter runway at the municipal airport, a $10 million project paid mostly by federal funds.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Researchers and commercial fishermen have developed a scallop dredge designed to avoid injuring loggerhead turtles who live in the areas where the boats drag and inadvertently get swept up.

Scientists in New England consider whether global warming has anything to do with the delayed fall foliage season.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

The Lowell Sun, in an editorial, praises Ayer residents for pushing for tough restrictions on where sex offenders can and can’t live.

MEDIA

NECN interviews Northeastern University criminologist Jack Levin and former US attorney Michael Sullivan about the Globe’s decision to name the woman from Iceland who tipped police off about Whitey Bulger’s whereabouts in this 6,000 word Sunday Globe take-out. The Globe’s Scott Allen goes on Radio Boston to defend the paper’s decision. And the disclosure has become so much of a story that the Globe covers the issue itself in this morning’s paper.

Paul Levy takes exception to the tone of a New York Times story about attitudes toward the economy, saying the front page piece blurs the line between commentary and news.

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