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Federal Bureau of Investigation: History

The Rise Of Organized Crime

The 1950s saw a decreasing concern with domestic Communism and an increasing concern with organized crime. As early as 1951, Senator Estes Kefauver had presided over a highly publicized U.S. Senate investigation of organized crime. The event that focused public attention on the problem most directly, however, was the discovery in 1957 of a gathering of major criminal figures at the home of gangster Joseph Barbara in upstate New York. Senate crime hearings were organized and the counsel for the investigating committee was Robert F. Kennedy. With his brother John F. Kennedy's election to the presidency in 1960 and his own confirmation as attorney general in 1961, Robert Kennedy was determined to increase law enforcement pressure on organized crime. Both Kennedys supported new crime laws that strengthened the bureau's jurisdiction in organized crime cases. Aggressive use of wiretaps continued unabated.

After President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 and Attorney General Kennedy resigned in 1964, the F.B.I.'s organized crime effort slackened briefly, and in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered a halt to all electronic eavesdropping not related to national security. But interest in the area was renewed in 1967 with the report of President Johnson's Task Force on Organized Crime. By this time, Hoover had gathered so much information on friends and foes alike, and was so well liked (or feared), that he was virtually untouchable. In fact, President Johnson signed an executive order allowing J. Edgar Hoover to serve as director of the F.B.I. indefinitely.

The administration of President Richard M. Nixon continued to maintain law enforcement pressure on organized crime. In 1970, Congress enacted the most far-reaching law ever directed against organized crime—the Organized Crime Control Act. This statute authorized special grand juries to investigate organized crime and provided for granting witnesses immunity for the use of their testimony.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawFederal Bureau of Investigation: History - Before The Beginning Of The F.b.i., The Beginning Of The F.b.i.