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FBI to cast Net over fugitive

Web portal Terra Lycos donates ad space for a virtual dragnet in a bid to capture alleged Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger.

The FBI on Wednesday said it plans to launch an online manhunt for an alleged Boston mob boss, in a novel crime-fighting experiment in partnership with Web portal Terra Lycos.

As part of the effort, Terra Lycos has agreed to donate advertising space on its network carrying a likeness of James "Whitey" Bulger and messages alerting people to the $1 million reward for his capture. Bulger is on the FBI's list of the 10 most wanted fugitives. Bulger's photograph sits directly below that of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Previously, the FBI had carried information regarding its most wanted list only on its own Web site.

In a release, the FBI said Bulger is a major organized crime figure in the Boston area. He is wanted for his alleged role in numerous murders committed from the early 1970s through the mid-1980s. He is also wanted for alleged drug dealing, extortion, money laundering and other mob-related activities.

The FBI said the Web initiative will help cast a global net for Bulger, who has been a fugitive since 1995. The pop-up wanted posters will be distributed in English across the Lycos Network and will be distributed in Spanish on Terra.com.

Lycos was the fifth most-visited Web property in October with about 37 million unique visitors, according to a report from online traffic measurement company Nielsen/NetRatings.

Free Web-based publicity could become an important tool for law enforcement, which has already turned the Net into an invaluable resource for investigations. Authorities now routinely subpoena Web records of suspects from Internet service providers. Law enforcement agencies have also pushed to extend surveillance technology such as the Carnivore e-mail monitoring system onto the Internet. In addition, the FBI has reportedly developed computer keystroke-tracking technology known as Magic Lantern to compile evidence against suspects.