And that, in the end, was what the American populace was left with -- a vacuous story that kept the FBI from having to deal with an even bigger scandal. Many of Airlift's most prolific smugglers, including Krugh and Combs, were spared time in prison for cooperating with the feds. Sandini met the end he most feared: He was convicted of drug charges and died in prison in 1990.
During the following decade, more corruption would be exposed -- this time among those assigned to investigate Mitrione. Morris admitted to accepting bribes of wine and cash from murderous Boston mobster Whitey Bulger in exchange for ignoring the now-infamous fugitive's crimes. He was taking gifts even as he was in Miami heading the Mitrione investigation. In the end, Morris was spared prosecution for testifying against a lower-level agent named John Connolly, who was sentenced to ten years in prison for taking bribes.
Attempts to reach Buttino -- who received a commendation and a cash award for his work on Airlift -- failed. But a call was answered by Lou Buttino, the former agent's brother and co-author of A Special Agent. The professor at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington had startling news. "The book was a lie, and my brother is in hiding," he explained.
The lie, Lou Buttino said, wasn't about Airlift. Rather, it involved the central theme of the book, that the agent was drummed out of the agency because it was discovered by his superiors that he was gay. Though it made the former agent a hero in the gay community, Lou Buttino said that the book was full of fabrications designed to help his brother win a settlement from the Justice Department. When he realized A Special Agent was fiction, he says he sued his brother, whom he now is convinced is a "sociopath," for fraud and won a judgment of $300,000. "[Frank Buttino] went underground, I guess to avoid paying me, and nobody knows where he is today," the professor explained. "It broke my heart and destroyed my family."
Of the bureau, he added: "The FBI is almost like the Mafia. They adhere to omerta, the code of silence. They don't reveal the things that are going on."
Donna Weaver suffered in that silence for years. But the cover-up of the attempted bombing, the widespread corruption within the FBI, and the criminal nature of Mitrione convinced her that someone at the bureau knew what had happened to her husband. Particularly terrifying to her was the revelation that Mitrione's father had been accused of torturing people in the family's basement. She wondered if Gary had been tortured before he was killed, and the thought of it was almost too much to bear.
"They are supposed to help me, but they won't," she says of the FBI. "And all I can wonder is, 'Why? Why won't they do their jobs? Why won't they help me?'"
The stone wall extends to BSO as well. Donna tried for weeks to contact Brennan to glean some clues about Krugh. He ignored her calls. When contacted by New Times, BSO officials refused to discuss the case.
Without the help of the authorities, Donna was forced to conduct her own investigation, which led to a chief suspect and, ultimately, to the Bahamas, the place where her husband had disappeared.
Next week: Will Donna's case stand?