Talk about the power of advertising — they got “Whitey” Bulger

Well, that was quick. Earlier this week, I read in the WSJ that the FBI was trying something it had never tried before — a major ad campaign aimed at a Ten Most Wanted fugitive. Or rather, at his moll. Or frail. Or whatever they say now.

Fitting, given James “Whitey” Bulger’s pop-culture profile — he was the inspiration for Jack Nicholson’s character in “The Departed.”

Somebody got the bright idea — based upon the belief that Whitey’s girlfriend, Catherine Greig, was not being as reclusive as he was — of advertising where women would see it. Women who just might have seen her at the beauty parlor or something. From Tuesday’s paper:

On Tuesday, the agency will begin airing public-service announcements in 14 U.S. cities during shows such as “The Dr. Oz Show” and “The View,” focusing not on Mr. Bulger but on his girlfriend, Catherine Elizabeth Greig. Images of the couple also are featured on digital billboards in New York’s Times Square.

The FBI says the advertising campaign is the first of its kind in hunting a most-wanted figure.

The duo went underground just before Mr. Bulger’s 1995 federal indictment for his alleged role in 19 murders during the 1970s and ’80s, according to the FBI. Ms. Greig isn’t implicated in those crimes, but was indicted in 1997 for harboring Mr. Bulger….

While the FBI has sought Mr. Bulger all over the world, it says the new publicity campaign explores the possibility that clues to his whereabouts may lie with friends or co-workers of the 60-year-old Ms. Greig. The agency believes she may carry on a relatively normal routine of frequenting beauty parlors, visiting the dentist and caring for or spending time with animals.

“Have you seen this woman?” asks the 30-second TV spot…

The focus on Ms. Greig is “part of a unique initiative” aiming to reach women her age, said Special Agent Greg Comcowich, an FBI spokesman in Boston. “Our hope is that a friend, or co-worker, or someone she goes to the beauty salon with or interacts with on a daily basis will see it,” he said.

And it worked. Really, really fast.

First bin Laden, now Bolger. The feds and the military are on a roll.

9 thoughts on “Talk about the power of advertising — they got “Whitey” Bulger

  1. Brad

    By the way, did you notice? They still haven’t replaced bin Laden on the top ten. And now the top ten is only a Top Eight.

    The WSJ reported the other day that bin Laden “technically remains on the list pending the choice of a replacement, an FBI spokeswoman said.”

    I wonder what the holdup is. It’s not like there aren’t plenty of crooks out there. They certainly didn’t waste their time marking Bulger as “captured.” So what’s the holdup with bin Laden?

    Actually, bin Laden was kind of an odd one to be on the list. Yeah, part of the Bureau’s job is counterterrorism. But the $25 million offered for bin Laden was offered by the State Department. And in the end, it was a joint effort of the CIA and the military, specifically SEAL Team 6, that got him. And you know, SEAL Team 6 isn’t going to be sent after the likes of Whitey Bulger.

    So “Usama” bin Laden, as the FBI called him, sort of stuck out…

  2. `Kathryn Fenner

    Well, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is fear, surprise… two, two, our two….Three three–among our many weapons…

    Among our Most Wanted are …..

  3. Doug Ross

    “I wonder what the holdup is.”

    Uh, it’s a government agency. There’s probably 85 forms that have to be filled out and approved by the Undersecretary of Most Wanted Lists – Positions 1:3.

    Weren’t these the same agencies that missed the connection between the 9/11 terrorists learning to fly but not land airplanes?

  4. Brad

    Not exactly… the problem was more that agencies weren’t talking to each other… and for reasons once considered good.

    One agency knew these guys were in the country. Another knew it was worth ringing the alarm bells if these guys were in the country…

    As for WHY the info was compartmentalized. Couple of reasons. One, compartmentalization is a standard principle of security. Another… people who were paranoid about the power of the government wanted to make sure the CIA and FBI weren’t collaborating. It was considered a big, important deal that the CIA never spy on U.S. citizens… because that was the FBI’s job. So they kept each other at arm’s length.

    I always thought that was a bad thing. It’s much better for them to work together, as long as they don’t compromise sensitive intel sources (the thing about security is, the more people who know, the more likely it is that your agent will be compromised)…

  5. bud

    Brad worries about compromising sensitive intel sources but doesn’t care a thing about basic rights as citizens. I’m just the opposite. I find most government secrets are really just a fancy way bureuacrats use to cover their sorry backsides. Secrecy cost us dearly on 9-11. Doesn’t that speak volumes about the value of keeping so many secrets?

  6. Brad

    No, Bud, just because I disagree with you doesn’t mean my views are the opposite of yours. (Man, if there is one single thing that this blog is most about, it’s trying to convince people of THAT.) Just because I don’t think we have a “right” to know absolutely everything doesn’t mean I don’t “care a thing about basic rights as citizens.”

    It’s actually possible to care about “basic rights” AND care about national security. It’s possible to do both. In fact, it’s essential to do both in dealing with reality.

    There are tradeoffs to everything. That’s why it’s not good either to keep everything secret, or to keep nothing secret. Absolutes are problematic. Dealing with harsh reality requires trying to maintain a balance between all sorts of considerations, some of them mutually incompatible.

    As I said, I think that it’s best that agencies share information. I also see the danger in it. It’s a tradeoff, something to be balanced.

    Let me ask you something: Do you or do you not think it’s a good thing that people involved in the bin Laden raid planning — which went on for months — kept their mouths shut about it? Do you think the country would be better off if the fact that we thought we’d found bin Laden’s hideout appeared in The New York Times in August 2010, when the original intelligence break came?

    Do you think it would have been a good thing if WikiLeaks had broken it the week before the raid?

    You have to think about these things…

  7. bud

    Of course there should be some secrets that are legitimate. I did say “most” in my previous post. But I think the government goes way too far. Why in the world was the FBI keeping secrets from the CIA, and visa versa, before 9-11. Heck why was information about the 9-11 terrorists a secret at all. Had the information been written up in the National Enquirer then maybe that would have discouraged the tragedy in the first place. I just don’t buy all this secrecy stuff. At least not to the extent that the government takes it. Heck they wanted to keep Abu Ghraib pictures a secret. Wasn’t that something the public needed to know?

  8. Doug Ross

    Interesting that both Bulger and Osama both worked for the U.S. government at one point.

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