While probing organized crime in New England since the 1960s, the FBI used killers as informants, shielded them from prosecution and knowingly sent innocent people to jail, House investigators said Thursday in concluding a two-year inquiry.
The bureau's conduct "must be considered one of the greatest failures in the history of federal law enforcement," according to the report from the House Government Reform Committee.
"Federal law enforcement personnel tolerated and probably encouraged false testimony in a state death penalty case just to protect their criminal informants," said Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), who started the investigation.
"False testimony sent four innocent men to jail. They were made scapegoats in order to shield criminals," Burton said.
The FBI came under criticism for trying to stonewall investigators. Lawmakers complained that the bureau delayed giving them access to audio recordings involving New England crime boss Raymond Patriarca that provided vital information on the 1965 murder of Edward "Teddy" Deegan.
Lawmakers are pressing for more House hearings on the FBI's failure to cooperate.
"This is an unfinished project, and I think the report acknowledges that," said committee member Rep. John F. Tierney (D-Mass.).