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Thu, 23 Jan 2014
American history talks much about the Kennedys but Robert F. Kennedy was never known as just the brother of a president. During his brother's time in office, then Attorney General Robert, sometimes called RFK, was credited as being the "doer" in the administration. Robert F. Kennedy's crusade against the Mafia is one of the most celebrated parts of his career
His Early Years
In 1951, Robert F. Kennedy started out as an ordinary lawyer working in the criminal division of the USA Justice Department. After six years, he headed the Senate Rackets Committee and exposed corruption in labor unions all around the country. He was considered an authority on labor racketeering and was generally regarded as an outstanding investigator.
RFK was appointed as Attorney General in 1961. He knew that organized crime was alive and running and that the so-called "big bosses" were looking to make their place in criminal history. Gambling, prostitution, and narcotics: these were just a handful of illegal practices that a group called the Cosa Nostra was involved in. They were also involved in protection rackets and shakedowns as well as murders and other petty crimes.
In 1961, organized crime was a new and foreign concept. Regular Americans weren't familiar with its history and even the FBI doubted its existence. Robert Kennedy, however, what it was all about.
When he started, RFK focused on the Crime and Rackets Section of the Justice Department. They didn't have any investigations regarding organized crime at all. Seeking to inform the public, RFK wrote a detailed history and made speeches warning the USA of the existence of a private government that ran on human suffering and had billions of dollars in annual income.
He did not want the history of the USA to be blighted by this organization. Through his leadership, he started the first coordinated effort that involved all Federal law enforcement agencies to attack and take down organized crime.
Also during his time as Attorney General, Congress was able to approve 7 laws that were anti-crime. Several illegal establishments were shut down in direct relation to those laws, like a nationwide betting system and a prostitution and gambling den in Detroit.
1963 saw the closure of several illegal gambling organizations in several parts of the country. If in 1960 only 24 racketeers were indicted, RFK managed to indict more than six times the original figure. During his term, convictions against members of organized crime rose by 800 percent.
In what was considered his most well-known victory in history against the criminal underworld, RFK was able to persuade Joseph Valachi to testify in court. Valachi was a member of the syndicate known as the Cosa Nostra. He requested for government protection and once it was granted, he became the first person in American history to ever testify against the organization. These hearings were broadcast live on television to a shocked American people who had to face the reality of a group like this existing in their country.
With the prevalence of the Mafia in popular culture, the general public isn't as fearful as they used to be. Now, organized crime is relegated to the small screen and a handful of films. Most people born in the later generations don't know that just a few decades earlier, the threat was very real. If not for Robert F. Kennedy's crusade against the Mafia and organized crime, the threat could have been much graver.