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THE MAFIA MAKES ‘POLITICAL CORRECTNESS” FASHIONABLE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on July 5, 2016 at 12:07 am

In 1970, New York Mafia boss Joseph Columbo declared war on the FBI.

The Bureau had arrested his son, Joseph Columbo, Jr., for melting silver coins down into silver ingots.  So Columbo, Sr., created the Italian-American Civil Rights League to “combat prejudice against Italian-Americans.”

Columbo appeared at fundraisers and speaking engagements for the League, and gave interviews on talk-shows–such as the one hosted by Dick Cavett.

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Joseph Columbo

His message: There was no Mafia–only an FBI slander against decent, hard-working Italian-Americans.

And he sent hundreds of members of the League to picket the East Side offices of the FBI.  

His actions generated a massive response from many law-abiding Italian-Americans who felt themselves the victims of prejudice.

During the 1950s and early 1960s Congress had held hearings on the Mafia, making Italian and Sicilian criminals like Vito Genovese and Albert Anastasia household words.

Even more enraging had been the depiction of Italians as the villains on the popular ABC TV series, “The Untouchables.” Each week, Eliot Ness and his squad of Treasury agents wiped out a new batch of Prohibition gangsters–who had Italian names like Al Capone and Frank Nitti.

On June 29, 1970, 150,000 people attended an Italian-American Unity Day rally in Columbus Circle in New York City. Several prominent entertainers and five members of the House of Representatives attended.

Under Colombo’s guidance, the League grew quickly and achieved national attention, establishing chapters in 17 states with over 50,000 members. 

Shortly after the Columbus Circle rally, then-U.S. Attorney General John N. Mitchell banned the words “Mafia” and “Cosa Nostra” (“Our Thing”) from FBI and Justice Department press releases.

“There is nothing to be gained by using these terms,” said Mitchell, “except to give gratuitous offense to many good Americans of Italian-American descent.”

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Seal of the Justice Department

In Albany, New York, then-Governor Nelson Rockefeller instructed the state police to likewise ban such terms.  

And the Ford Motor Company, which sponsored the popular ABC-TV series, “The FBI,” also fell into line. While the Bureau’s real-life agents fought the Mafia, its fictionalized agents couldn’t say “Mafia” on TV.

In the spring of 1971, Paramount Pictures began started filming The Godfather, which was to become the most influential movie ever made about the Mafia.

Facing the threat of strikes and violence from the League, the film’s producer, Albert Ruddy, met with Columbo. Ruddy promised that “Mafia” and “Cosa Nostra” would not appear in a film in which almost every major character was a member of the Mafia.

TV’s “Mission: Impossible”–having moved from deposing overseas despots to stateside criminals–similarly referred to organized criminals as “The Syndicate.”

But Columbo was now facing increasing pressure from two sets of enemies.

The first was the FBI–whose agents seethed as they strode through League picket lines near their headquarters at Third Avenue and 69th Street. They were waging war on gangsters, and they resented being called liars and racists.

The second was the Mafia itself. Its older leaders knew there was an all-out Federal drive to destroy the organization. And they feared that Columbo’s in-your-face tactics were goading the FBI and other law enforcement agencies into greater efforts against them.

Of those older leaders, Carlo Gambino, boss of the largest and most powerful Mafia family in New York and the country, was the most important.

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Carlo Gambino

Gambino had set Columbo up in his own family in 1964. This after Columbo had raced to Gambino with the news that his own boss, Joseph Bonanno, planned to “whack” Don Carlo and the other four New York Mafia bosses and become the “boss of all bosses” himself.

Bonnano was thus deposed and sent into exile in Arizona, and Columbo found himself a new boss.

Gambino had always lived in the shadows. As Columbo built up the League, Gambino feared that the publicity and attacks on the FBI would rebound against himself and his brethren. 

As the date–June 28, 1971–for the second Italian-American Unity Day rally approached, Gambino quietly put out the word: Stay away.

On that morning Columbo posed for photographers at the rally. Suddenly one of them–a black man–exchanged his camera for an automatic pistol and shot Columbo three times in the head and neck.

Joseph Columbo, after being shot

Seconds later, the shooter was covered by an avalanche of men–one of whom pumped three bullets into him.

The shooter was Jerome Johnson, an ex-con who was linked to mobster Joseph “Crazy Joe” Gallo. The NYPD and FBI believed that Gambino had given Gallo permission to whack Columbo. And that Gallo had used a black man as the ultimate insult to a man he had long hated.  

Columbo remained in a vegetative state until May 22, 1978, when he died of cardiac arrest.

There was no third Italian-American Unity Day rally. And the Italian-American Civil Rights League died with Columbo.

Eventually, the Justice Department and FBI went back to using “Mafia” and “La Cosa Nostra.”

And when Francis Ford Coppola made The Godfather, Part II, in 1974, he inserted both words into a scene where Mafia boss Michael Corleone is interrogated by a Senate committee.

For the Mafia, at least, the era of Political Correctness was over.

THE MAFIA MAKES “POLITICAL CORRECTNESS” FASHIONABLE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 4, 2016 at 12:52 am

On June 12, Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old former security guard, slaughtered 49 men and women and injured 53 more inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Mateen was then shot to death by Orlando police after a three-hour standoff.

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Omar Mateen

It was the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in American history–and the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States since the Al Qaeda attacks of September 11, 2001.

The massacre was widely decried as an act of Islamic terrorism. But many others insisted it was simply a hate crime.

Among those opting for the latter: Officials at the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

During his three-hour slaughterfest, Mateen made a call to 9-1-1, pledging his allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

On June 20, the FBI released an edited version of the transcript of that call. All references to ISIS were removed.

The Justice Department claimed that it was withholding some details to avoid putting the victims through any more pain–and to not further the propaganda efforts of ISIS.

A firestorm of protest erupted from Republican Congressional leaders, most notably Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Since Mateen’s pledge to ISIS had become widely known, they demanded, what was the point of censoring it in the transcript of his phone call?

An additional reason for the fury aimed at the Justice Department: On June 12, ISIS had, through its news agency, Amag, claimed responsibility for the massacre: 

“The armed attack that targeted a gay night club in the city of Orlando in the American state of Florida which left over 100 people dead or injured was carried out by an Islamic State fighter.”

Finally, buckling to pressure, on the afternoon of June 20, the FBI released the full, uncensored transcript of Mateen’s call to 9-1-1.

This was definitely not the finest hour of an organization whose motto is: “Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity.”

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Seal of the FBI

It was not, however, the first time the Bureau caved in to the demands of Political Correctness.

This occurred almost 50 years earlier–in 1970.

And the man who was responsible for this was not a member of ISIS. Instead, he belonged to another, equally deadly organization: The Mafia.

Joseph Anthony (“Joe”) Columbo was the boss of the Columbo crime family, one of the “Five Families” of the Cosa Nostra in New York.

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Joseph Columbo

At 45, Columbo was one of the youngest Mafia bosses in the United States.  He was also the first American-born boss of a New York crime family.

But, unlike his fellow bosses, he didn’t hesitate to court publicity–or confront law enforcement.

Summoned for questioning about the murder of one of his “soldiers,” Columbo appeared–without a lawyer–at the office of NYPD detective Albert Seedman.

“I am an American citizen, first class,” he blasted Seedman. “I don’t have a badge that makes me an official good guy like you.  But I work just as honest for a living.”

Naturally, Columbo denied having anything to do with the death of his subordinate.

In the spring of 1970, Columbo decided to raise his sights. He moved from attacking the NYPD to taking on the FBI.

Throughout most of the tenure of its director, J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI had avoided tackling the Mafia. From the 1920s until the 1950s, mobsters had operated virtually untouched by the most powerful Federal law enforcement agency.

To this day, Hoover’s reasons for avoiding mob enforcement remain unknown. Theories for this include:

  • He feared his agents would be corrupted by Mafia bribes.
  • He preferred flashy, easily-solved cases like bank-robbery and stolen car rings.
  • The Mob blackmailed him with compromising photos of a homosexual relationship with Clyde Tolson, his second-in-command at the FBI.

Then, in 1961, Robert F. Kennedy became Attorney General. As former chief counsel for the Senate Labor Rackets Committee (1957-59) Kennedy had investigated the Mafia’s infiltration of the nation’s labor unions. He had focused especially on its ownership of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Unlike Hoover–who denied the Mafia existed–Kennedy was convinced that it did.

J. Edgar Hoover and Robert F. Kennedy 

And as the brother to President John F. Kennedy, RFK had the power to needed to force Hoover to attack the crime syndicates.

Throughout the country, the Mafia felt a new heat as FBI agents planted illegal electronic microphones (“bugs”) in their innermost sanctums. Agents openly tailed mobsters–and sent them to prison in large numbers.

Most old-time Mafia bosses decided to take a low profile to avoid the new Federal pressure. They remembered how Al Capone had flaunted his wealth and power–and had fallen victim to the IRS for it.

In April, 1970, Columbo’s son, Joseph Jr., was arrested by the FBI for melting down coins for resale as silver ingots. The Mafia boss decided to retaliate.

He publicly declared there was no such thing as the Mafia. This was a fiction created by FBI agents taking out their prejudice on law-abiding Italian-Americans.

Then he sent members of his newly-formed organization–the Italian-American Civil Rights League–to picket the East Side offices of the FBI.

48 YEARS LATER, A LOST LEGACY

In History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on June 6, 2016 at 12:01 am

Today, America has two major candidates running for President: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Trump is a billionaire businessman. Clinton is a former First Lady, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State. 

Despite the great differences in their backgrounds, they both share one thing in common: Extremely high negatives among voters.  

Trump’s hate-filled rhetoric has deliberately or unintentionally offended almost every major American voting group, including: 

  • Mexicans: “They’re bringing drugs.They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” He’s also promised to “build a great, great wall on our southern border and I will have Mexico pay for that wall.”
  • Prisoners-of-War: Speaking of Arizona U.S. Senator John McCain, a Vietnam POW for seven years: “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.”
  • Women: “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband, what makes her think she can satisfy America?”

These insults delight his white, uneducated followers. But they have alienated millions of other Americans who might have voted for him.  

As for Clinton: She continues to be dogged by charges that she used her position as Secretary of State (2009-2013) to enrich herself.  

Countries that made large contributions to the Clinton Foundation got an increase in State Department-approved arms sales.  

For example: In 2011, the State Department green-lighted a $29 billion arms deal to Saudi Arabia, despite its dismal record on human rights.  

Years before Clinton became Secretary of State, Saudi Arabia donated $10 million to the Clinton Foundation. And Boeing, the biggest defense contractor involved, donated $900,000 to the Clinton Foundation just two months before the deal was finalized.

But 48 years ago, Senator Robert Francis Kennedy aroused passions of an altogether different sort.  

Kennedy had been a United States Attorney General (1961-1964) and Senator (1964-1968). But it was his connection to his beloved and assassinated brother, President John F. Kennedy, for which he was best known.

Robert F. Kennedy campaigning for President

Millions saw RFK as the only candidate who could make life better for America’s impoverished–while standing firmly against those who threatened the Nation’s safety.  

As television correspondent Charles Quinn observed: “I talked to a girl in Hawaii who was for [George] Wallace [the segregationist governor of Alabama]. And I said ‘Really?’ [She said] ‘Yeah, but my real candidate is dead.’  

“You know what I think it was?  All these whites, all these blue collar people who supported Kennedy…all of these people felt that Kennedy would really do what he thought best for the black people, but, at the same time, would not tolerate lawlessness and violence.  

“They were willing to gamble…because they knew in their hearts that the country was not right. They were willing to gamble on this man who would try to keep things within reasonable order; and at the same time do some of the things they knew really should be done.”

Campaigning for the Presidency in 1968, RFK had just won the crucial California primary on June 4–when he was shot in the back of the head. His killer: Sirhan Sirhan, a young Palestinian furious at Kennedy’s support for Israel. He died at 1:44 a.m. on June 6.    

On June 8, 1,200 men and women boarded a specially-reserved passenger train at New York’s Pennsylvania Station. They were accompanying Kennedy’s body to its final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery.  

As the train slowly moved along 225 miles of track, throngs of men, women and children lined the rails to pay their final respects to a man they considered a genuine hero.

Little Leaguers clutched their baseball caps across their chests. Uniformed firemen and policemen saluted. Burly men in shirtsleeves held hardhats over their hearts. Black men in overalls waved small American flags.  Women from all levels of society stood and cried.

A nation says goodbye to Robert Kennedy

Commenting on RFK’s legacy, historian William L. O’Neil wrote in Coming Apart: An Informal History of America in the 1960′s:  

“…He aimed so high that he must be judged for what he meant to do, and, through error and tragic accident, failed at….He will also be remembered as an extraordinary human being who, though hated by some, was perhaps more deeply loved by his countrymen than any man of his time. 

“That too must be entered into the final account, and it is no small thing. With his death something precious disappeared from public life.”  

The Kennedy family never again roused the same passions among voters as it did during RFK’s short-lived run for the Presidency.  

And America has never again since seen a Presidential candidate who combined toughness on crime and compassion for the poor.  

Republican candidates have waged war on crime–and the poor. And Democratic candidates have moved to the Right in eliminating anti-poverty programs.  

RFK had the courage to fight the Mafia–and the compassion to fight poverty. At a time of rising rates of income inequality and corporate crime, his kind of politics are sorely missed.

DROP THAT CAMERA AND COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS UP!

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on May 4, 2016 at 4:09 pm

For decades, Americans have been told by police at local and Federal levels: If you have nothing to hide, you shouldn’t worry about giving up your privacy.

The FBI, for example, has lobbied Congress for an electronic “key” that would allow it to enter a cyber “back door” to eavesdrop on even those emails protected by encryption systems.

Of course, the FBI has long found ways to circumvent the efforts of criminals to remain anonymous.

Decades ago, Mafiosi learned to assume their phones were being wiretapped and their rooms bugged with hidden microphones by agents of the FBI or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

And law-abiding Americans have grown used to being under camera surveillance every time they enter a bank, a State or Federal agency, a drugstore or supermarket.  Or even walking down a street.

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So it must seem ironic–if not downright hypocritical–to such people when police complain that their privacy is being invaded.

And this “invasion” isn’t happening with taps placed on cops’ phones or bugs planted in their police stations or private homes.

No, this “invasion” is happening openly in public–with video cameras and cellphones equipped with cameras.

And it’s happening in direct response to a series of controversial incidents involving the use of deadly force by police.

The most famous of these was the shooting, in August, 2014, of strong-arm grocery store robber Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.  Ironically, this was not captured on video.

But a number of other incidents were. Among them:

  • The shooting of Walter Scott, a black motorist, on April 4, 2015. Scott was stopped for a non-working third tail light.  When North Charleston Police Officer Michael Slager returned to his patrol car, Scott exited his car and fled.  Slager gave chase, firing first a Taser and then his pistol.  He hit Scott five times–all from behind. Slager later claimed he had “felt threatened.” Unluckily for him, the shooting was caught on a citizen’s cellphone camera. On June 6, a grand jury indicted Slager on a charge or murder.
  • On April 9, 2015, San Bernaradino sheriff’s deputies, after an exhaustive chase, kicked Francis Pusok twice–including a kick to the groin–as he lay facedown on the ground with his hands behind his back.  About five minutes after Pusok was handcuffed, hobbled and rolled onto his side, another deputy also kicked him. Three deputies have been charged with felony assault. The footage of this came from an NBC News helicopter.
  • In February, 2015, Orlando police officer William Escobar was fired after cell phone footage emerged of him punching and kicking a handcuffed man.

Addressing a forum at the University of Chicago Law School on October 23, FBI Director James B. Comey spoke of rising crime rates in America.  And he offered a series of possible reasons for it.

Click here: FBI — Law Enforcement and the Communities We Serve: Bending the Lines Toward Safety and Justice 

“Maybe it’s the return of violent offenders after serving jail terms.  Maybe it’s cheap heroin or synthetic drugs. Maybe after we busted up the large gangs, smaller groups are now fighting for turf.

“Maybe it’s a change in the justice system’s approach to bail or charging or sentencing. Maybe something has changed with respect to the availability of guns….”

Then Comey offered what he thought was the real villain behind the rise in crime: Cellphones aimed at police.

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FBI Director James B. Comey

“But I’ve also heard another explanation, in conversations all over the country. Nobody says it on the record, nobody says it in public, but police and elected officials are quietly saying it to themselves. And they’re saying it to me, and I’m going to say it to you….

“In today’s YouTube world, are officers reluctant to get out of their cars and do the work that controls violent crime? Are officers answering 911 calls but avoiding the informal contact that keeps bad guys from standing around, especially with guns?

“I spoke to officers privately in one big city precinct who described being surrounded by young people with mobile phone cameras held high, taunting them the moment they get out of their cars. They told me, ‘We feel like we’re under siege and we don’t feel much like getting out of our cars.’

“I’ve been told about a senior police leader who urged his force to remember that their political leadership has no tolerance for a viral video.

“So the suggestion, the question that has been asked of me, is whether these kinds of things are changing police behavior all over the country.

“And the answer is, I don’t know. I don’t know whether this explains it entirely, but I do have a strong sense that some part of the explanation is a chill wind blowing through American law enforcement over the last year. And that wind is surely changing behavior.”

Apparently, it’s OK for police to aim cameras–openly or concealed–at citizens, whether law-abiding or law-breaking.

But if citizens aim cameras at cops–even without interfering with their making arrests–police feel threatened, to the point of refusing to carry out their duties.

A CLASH OF TITANS: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 25, 2016 at 12:10 am

The 1983 TV mini-series, Blood Feud, chronicles the decade-long struggle between Robert F. Kennedy (Cotter Smith) and James R. Hoffa (Robert Blake), president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Union.  

With Kennedy as Attorney General and facing relentless pressure from the Justice Department, the Mafia despairs of a solution. At a swanky restaurant, several high-ranking Mafiosi agree that “something” must be done.

On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

Blood Feud clearly implies that the Mafia was responsible.

[The House Assassinations Committee investigated this possibility in 1978, and determined that Carlos Marcello, the Mafia boss of New Orleans, had the means, motive and opportunity to kill JFK. But it could not find any conclusive evidence of his involvement.]

Even with the President dead, RFK’s Justice Department continues to pursue Hoffa. In 1964, he is finally convicted of jury tampering and sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment.

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U.S. Department of Justice

Hoping to avoid prison, Hoffa phones Robert Kennedy, offering future Teamsters support if RFK runs  for President. To prove he can deliver, he tells Kennedy that the Teamsters have even penetrated the FBI.

[In March, 1964, Kennedy met with Hoffa on an airfield at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. He was accompanied by two Secret Service agents from the detail assigned to ex-First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

[FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, no longer afraid to cross RFK, had withdrawn the agents previously assigned to guard Kennedy.

[Accompanying Hoffa were two muscular bodyguards–at least one of whom was packing two pistols in shoulder holsters.

[While the Secret Service agents watched from a respectful distance, Kennedy spoke quietly with Hoffa. The Attorney General showed a document to Hoffa, and the Teamsters leader at times nodded or shook his head.

[The agents drove Kennedy back to Washington. During the ride, he said nothing about the reason for the meeting.  

[David Talbot, in his book, Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years, speculates that it could have been to discuss Hoffa’s conviction for jury tampering.  

[But Gus Russo–author of Live By the Sword: The Secret War Against Castro and the Death of JFK–writes that the reason might have been Dallas.  

[Perhaps, he speculates, RFK had wanted to look into Hoffa’s eyes while asking him: Did you have anything to do with the assassination? RFK had, in fact, done this with CIA Director John McCone almost immediately after his brother’s death.]

In Blood Feud, Kennedy confronts J. Edgar Hoover (Ernest Borgnine) and accuses him of illegally planting wiretaps in Mob hangouts all over the country.

J. Edgar Hoover and Robert F. Kennedy 

Hoover retorts that this had been the only way to obtain the prosecution-worthy intelligence Kennedy had demanded: “You loved that flow of information.  You didn’t want it to stop.”

Kennedy: Why did you keep the FBI out of the fight against the Mob for decades?

Hoover: “Every agency that came to grips with them got corrupted by their money.”

[So far as is known, Hoover never made any such confession. Historians continue to guess his reason for leaving the Mob alone for decades.]

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Ernest Borgnine as J. Edgar Hoover

RFK then mentions the CIA’s plots to employ the Mob to assassinate Cuban dictator Fidel Castro

[The agency had wanted to please President Kennedy, and the Mafia had wanted to regain its casinos lost to the Cuban Revolution. The role the Kennedy brothers played in the CIA’s assassination plots remains murky, and has been the subject of endless speculation.]

“The CIA, doing business with the Mob,” says Kennedy. “The FBI, leaking information to its enemies [the Teamsters].” Then, sadly: “I guess it’s true–everyone does business with everyone.”

[So far as is known, the FBI did not pass on secrets to the Teamsters. But during the 1970s, the Mafia  penetrated the Cleveland FBI office through bribes to a secretary. Several FBI Mob informants were “clipped” as a result.]

In 1967, Hoffa goes to prison.  He stays there until, in 1971, President Richard Nixon commutes his sentence in hopes of gaining Teamsters’ support for his 1972 re-election.

Kennedy leaves the Justice Department in 1964 and is elected U.S. Senator from New York. In 1968 he runs for President. On June 5, after winning the California primary, he’s assassinated.  

In Blood Feud, just before his assassination, RFK asks: “How will I ever really know if the Mob killed Jack because of my anti-Mob crusade?”

Hoffa schemes to return to the presidency of the Teamsters–a post now held by his successor, Frank Fitzsimmons.  He runs the union in a more relaxed style than Hoffa, thus giving the Mob greater control over its pension fund.

And the Mafia likes it that way.

On July 30, 1975, Hoffa disappears from the parking lot of the Machus Red Fox Restaurant near Detroit.  He had gone there to meet with two Mafia leaders.

Almost 41 years after the death of James R. Hoffa, and almost 48 years after that of Robert F. Kennedy:

  • Labor unions are a shadow of their former power.
  • The threat they once represented to national prosperity has been replaced by that of predatory  corporations like Enron and AIG.
  • The war RFK began on the Mafia has continued, sending countless mobsters to prison.
  • Millions of Americans who once expected the Federal Government to protect them from crime now believe the Government is their biggest threat.
  • The idealism that fueled RFK’s life has virtually disappeared from politics.

A CLASH OF TITANS: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 22, 2016 at 12:10 am

The 1983 TV mini-series, Blood Feud, chronicles the decade-long struggle between Robert F. Kennedy and James R. Hoffa.  

Having “helped” Kennedy (Cotter Smith) to oust corrupt Teamsters President Dave Beck, Hoffa (Robert Blake) believes that Kennedy should now be satisfied: “He’s got his scalp.  Now he can move on to other things while I run the union.” 

But Hoffa has guessed wrong–with fatal results. Realizing that he’s been “played” by Hoffa, a furious Kennedy strikes back.  

He orders increased surveillance of Hoffa and his topmost associates. He subpoenas union records and members of both the Teamsters and the Mafia to appear before his committee in public hearings.  

And he tries to enlist the aid of legendary FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover (Ernest Borgnine). But Hoover wants no part of a war against organized crime, whose existence he refuses to admit.

Meanwhile, Kennedy’s confrontations with Hoffa grow increasingly fierce. In open hearings, Kennedy accuses Hoffa of receiving kickbacks in the name of his wife. Hoffa damns him for “dirtying my wife’s name.” 

Kennedy secures an indictment against Hoffa for hiring a spy to infiltrate the Senate Labor Rackets Committee. He’s so certain of a conviction that he tells the press he’ll “jump off the Capitol building” if Hoffa beats the rap.

But Hoffa’s lawyer, Edward Bennett Williams (Jose Ferrer) puts Kennedy himself on the witness stand.  There he portrays Kennedy as a spoiled rich man who’s waging a vendetta against Hoffa.

Hoffa beats the rap, and offers to send Kennedy a parachute. But he jokingly warns reporters: “Hey, Bobby, you better have it checked. I don’t trust myself!”

By 1959, Robert Kennedy’s work as chief counsel for the Senate Labor Rackets Committee is over. But not his determination to send Teamsters President James Hoffa to prison.

Cotter Smith as Robert Kennedy

Throughout 1960, he manages the Presidential campaign for his brother, John F. Kennedy (Sam Groom). By a margin of only 100,000 votes, JFK wins the election.

Hoffa thinks that his troubles are over, that “Bobby” will move on to other pursuits and forget about the Teamsters.

Hoffa is partly right: Kennedy moves on to another job. But it’s the office of United States Attorney General.  

JFK, needing someone in the Cabinet he can trust completely, browbeats Robert into becoming the the nation’s top cop.

For Hoffa, it’s a nightmare come true.

As Attorney General, Kennedy no longer has to beg J. Edgar Hoover to attack organized crime. He can–and does–order him to do so.

Throughout the country, the Mafia feels a new heat as FBI agents plant illegal electronic microphones (“bugs”) in their innermost sanctums. Agents openly tail mobsters–and send them to prison in large numbers.

And Kennedy sets up a special unit, composed of topflight prosecutors and investigators, to go after just one man: James Riddle Hoffa. The press comes to call it the “Get Hoffa” squad.

Hoffa continues to beat federal prosecutors in court. But he believes he’s under constant surveillance by the FBI, and his nerves are starting to crack. 

Convinced that the FBI has bugged his office, he literally tears apart the room, hoping to find the bug. But he fails to do so.

What he doesn’t know is he’s facing a more personal danger–from one of his closest associates. 

He tells a trusted colleague, Edward Grady Partin (Brian Dennehy) how easy it would be to assassinate Kennedy with a rifle or bomb.

Later, Partin gets into a legal jam–and is abandoned by the Teamsters. Hoping to cut a deal, he relays word to the Justice Department of Hoffa’s threats against the Attorney General.

Now working for the Justice Department, Partin sends in reports on Hoffa’s juror-bribing efforts in yet another trial. Hoffa again beats the rap–but now Kennedy has the insider’s proof he needs to put him away for years.

Meanwhile, the Mafia despairs of the increasing pressure of the Justice Department. At a swanky restaurant, several high-ranking members agree that “something” must be done.

[Although this scene is fictional, it’s clearly based on an infamous outburst of Carlos Marcello, the longtime Mafia boss of New Orleans. 

Carlos Marcello

[In 1961, Marcello was deported to his native Guatemala on orders by RFK. After illegally re-entering the country, he swore vengeance against the Attorney General.  

[In September, 1962, during a meeting with several mob colleagues, he flew into a rage when someone mentioned Kennedy.  

“Take the stone out of my shoe!” he shouted, echoing a Sicilian curse. “Don’t you worry about that little Bobby sonofabitch. He’s going to be taken care of!”

[When one of his colleagues warned that murdering RFK would trigger the wrath of his brother, President John F.Kennedy, Marcello replied: “In Sicily they say if you want to kill a dog you don’t cut off the tail. You go for the head.”

[Marcello believed that the death of President Kennedy would render the Attorney General powerless. And he added that he planned to use a “nut” to do the job.]

On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas.  

Blood Feud clearly implies that the Mafia was responsible. 

A CLASH OF TITANS: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 21, 2016 at 12:37 pm

Today, America has four major candidates running for President: Donald Trump, Rafael Edward Cruz, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

Trump is a billionaire businessman; Cruz is a U.S. Senator from Texas; Clinton is a former First Lady, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State; and Sanders is a U.S. Senator from Vermont.  

Despite the great differences in their backgrounds, they all share one thing in common: Extremely high negatives among voters.

But 48 years ago, Senator Robert Francis Kennedy aroused passions of an altogether different sort.  

Kennedy had been a United States Attorney General (1961-1964) and Senator (1964-1968). But it was his connection to his beloved and assassinated brother, President John F. Kennedy, for which he was best known.

Robert F. Kennedy campaigning for President

Millions saw RFK as the only candidate who could make life better for America’s impoverished–while standing firmly against those who threatened the Nation’s safety.  

As television correspondent Charles Quinn observed: “I talked to a girl in Hawaii who was for [George] Wallace [the segregationist governor of Alabama]. And I said ‘Really?’ [She said] ‘Yeah, but my real candidate is dead.’  

“You know what I think it was?  All these whites, all these blue collar people who supported Kennedy…all of these people felt that Kennedy would really do what he thought best for the black people, but, at the same time, would not tolerate lawlessness and violence.  

“They were willing to gamble…because they knew in their hearts that the country was not right. They were willing to gamble on this man who would try to keep things within reasonable order; and at the same time do some of the things they knew really should be done.”

Campaigning for the Presidency in 1968, RFK had just won the crucial California primary on June 4–when he was shot in the back of the head. His killer: Sirhan Sirhan, a young Palestinian furious at Kennedy’s support for Israel.  

On June 8, 1,200 men and women boarded a specially-reserved passenger train at New York’s Pennsylvania Station. They were accompanying Kennedy’s body to its final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery.  

As the train slowly moved along 225 miles of track, throngs of men, women and children lined the rails to pay their final respects to a man they considered a genuine hero.

Little Leaguers clutched their baseball caps across their chests. Uniformed firemen and policemen saluted. Burly men in shirtsleeves held hardhats over their hearts. Black men in overalls waved small American flags.  Women from all levels of society stood and cried.

A nation says goodbye to Robert Kennedy

Commenting on RFK’s legacy, historian William L. O’Neil wrote in Coming Apart: An Informal History of America in the 1960′s:  

“…He aimed so high that he must be judged for what he meant to do, and, through error and tragic accident, failed at….He will also be remembered as an extraordinary human being who, though hated by some, was perhaps more deeply loved by his countrymen than any man of his time. 

“That too must be entered into the final account, and it is no small thing.  With his death something precious disappeared from public life.”

Eleven years earlier, as a young, idealistic attorney, Kennedy had declared war on James Riddle Hoffa, the president of the Mafia-dominated International Brotherhood of Teamsters Union.

As chief counsel for the Senate Labor Rackets Committee, Kennedy was appalled at the corruption he discovered among high-ranking Teamster officials. As he saw it, under Hoffa’s leadership, the union was nothing less than “a conspiracy of evil.”

Robert Francis Kennedy as Chief Counsel, Senate Labor Rackets Committee

Hoffa, in turn, held an equally unflattering view of Kennedy. “A rich punk,” said Hoffa, who didn’t know or care about “the average workingman.”

In 1983, Blood Feud, a two-part TV mini-series, depicted the 11-year animosity between Kennedy and Hoffa. Although it took some dramatic liberties, its portrayal of the major events of that period remains essentially accurate.

Today, labor unions are a rapidly-vanishing species, commanding far less political influence than they did 50 years ago. As a result, young viewers of this series may find it hard to believe that labor ever held such sway, or that the Teamsters posed such a threat.

James Riddle Hoffa testifying before the Senate Labor Rackets Committee

And in an age when millions see “Big Government” as the enemy, they may feel strong reservations about the all-out war that Robert F. Kennedy waged against Hoffa. 

Blood Feud opens in 1957, when Hoffa (Robert Blake) is a rising figure within the Teamsters. Kennedy (Cotter Smith) is chief counsel for the Senate Labor Rackets Committee. 

At first, Hoffa tries to ingratiate himself with Kennedy, telling him: “I know everybody who can help me and anybody who can hurt me.”

Robert Blake as James R. Hoffa

A wily Hoffa decides to parley Kennedy’s anti-corruption zeal into a path to power for himself. Via his attorney, Eddie Cheyfitz, he feeds Kennedy incriminating evidence against Dave Beck, president of the Teamsters. 

Confronted with a Senate subpoena, Beck flees the country–paving the way for Hoffa to assume the top position in the union. Hoffa believes he has solved two problems at once. 

A REMEDY FOR BLACKMAIL

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 18, 2016 at 12:06 am

On May 28, 2015, Hastert, the former Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives (1999-2007) was indicted for violating Federal banking laws and lying to the FBI.  

He had tried to conceal $3.5 million he had paid since 2010 to a man whom he had molested as a high school student. The student had been on the wrestling team that Hastert had coached.

The relationship had occurred while Hastert was a teacher and wrestling coach at Yorkville High School in Yorkville, Ill. 

Later, in 1981, Hastert entered Congress. 

On October 28, 2015, Hastert pleaded guilty to structuring money transactions in a way to avoid requirements to report where the money was going.  

Dennis Hastert

“I felt a special bond with our wrestlers,” Hastert wrote in his 2004 memoirs, Speaker: Lessons From Forty Years of Coaching and Politics. “And I think they felt one with me.”

Apparently that “special bond” extended to activities outside the ring.

In the pre-sentence  report, Justice Department prosecutors charged that Hastert had abused four young boys when he was their wrestling coach.  One was only 14 years old.  

Hastert had claimed that a coach should never strip away another person’s dignity.  

But, said federal prosecutors, “that is exactly what defendant did to his victims. He made them feel alone, ashamed, guilty, and devoid of dignity.”  

Hastert’s sentencing, delayed because of health problems, is now scheduled for April 27.

Thus, irony: By giving in to blackmail, Hastert:

  • Lost $3.5 million;
  • Unintentionally engineered his arrest and indictment; and
  • Ensured that his darkest secret would be revealed.

There is a lesson to be learned here–one that longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover well understood: Giving in to blackmail only empowers the blackmailer even more.

As William C. Sullivan, the onetime director of the FBI’s Domestic Intelligence Divison, revealed after Hoover’s death in 1972:

“The moment [Hoover] would get something on a senator, he’d send one of the errand boys up and advise the senator that ‘we’re in the course of an investigation, and we by chance happened to come up with this data on your daughter.

“‘But we wanted you to know this. We realize you’d want to know it.’ Well, Jesus, what does that tell the senator? From that time on, the senator’s right in his pocket.”

“Boy, the dirt he [Hoover] has on those Senators!” John F. Kennedy–a former Senator now President–gushed to his journalist-friend, Benjamin C. Bradlee.

Kennedy soon came to know that even Presidents could be targeted for blackmail.

In May, 1962, Hoover privately informed Kennedy that the FBI had learned that Judith Campbell, the mistress of Chicago Mafia boss Sam Giancana, had another bedmate: JFK himself.

John F. Kennedy, J. Edgar Hoover and Robert F. Kennedy

Hoover had feared being retired by the President’s brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. It had been RFK who had ordered Hoover to attack the Mafia as he had long attacked the Communist Party USA.

Now, as a result of that anti-Mob effort, the FBI had picked up evidence linking the President with the mistress of a top Mafia boss.

Hoover’s tenure as FBI director was thus assured–until his death on May 2, 1972, of a heart attack.

Narcotics agents have their own methods of blackmail in dealing with informants.

When a drug-abuser and/or dealer is coerced into becoming a “snitch,” the narcotics agent orders him to call another user/dealer he knows.

The agent then tapes the call–and makes sure his new informant knows it.  From that moment, the “snitch” knows there’s no way out except cooperating with his new master.

The only effective way of handling blackmail was demonstrated by Arthur Wellesley, known to history as the Duke of Wellington.

The Duke of Wellington

In 1815, he had defeated Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo, ending France’s longstanding threat to England.  With that victory came the honors of a grateful nation.

Then, in December, 1824, Wellington found himself the target of blackmail by Joseph Stockdale, a pornographer and scandal-monger.

“My Lord Duke,” Stockdale write in a letter, “In Harriette Wilson’s memoirs, which I am about to publish, are various anecdotes of Your Grace which it would be most desirable to withhold….

“I have stopped the Press for the moment, but as the publication will take place next week, little delay can necessarily take place.”

Wilson was a famous London courtesan past her prime, then living in exile in Paris.  She was asking Wellington to pay money to be left out of her memoirs.

From Wellington came the now-famous reply: “Publish and be damned!”

Wilson’s memoirs appeared in installments, naming half the British aristocracy and scandalizing London society.

And, true to her threat, she named Wellington as one of her lovers–and a not very satisfying one at that.

Wellington was a national hero, husband and father. Even so, his reputation did not suffer, and he went on to become prime minister.

Click here: Rear Window: When Wellington said publish and be damned: The Field Marshal and the Scarlet Woman – Voices

Dennis Hastert, former Speaker of the House, might now wish he had followed the example of the Duke of Wellington.

His reputation might have been trashed, but he wouldn’t now be facing prosecution.

“A TEAM PLAYER”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 11, 2016 at 12:04 am

In 1959, J. Edgar Hoover, the legendary director of the FBI, declared war on the Mafia.

He set up a Top Hoodlum Program and encouraged his agents to use wiretapping and electronic surveillance (“bugging”) to make up for lost time and Intelligence.

But Hoover also imposed a series of restrictions that could destroy an agent’s professional and personal life.

William E. Roemer, Jr., assigned to the FBI’s Chicago field office, was one of the first agents to volunteer for such duty.

In his memoirs, Man Against the Mob, published in 1989, Roemer laid out the dangers that went with such work:

  1. If confronted by police or mobsters, agents were to try to escape without being identified.
  2. If caught by police, agents were not to identify themselves as FBI employees.
  3. They were to carry no badges, credentials or guns–or anything else connecting themselves with the FBI.
  4. If they were arrested by police and the truth emerged about their FBI employment, the Bureau would claim they were “rogue agents” acting on their own.
  5. Such agents were not to refute the FBI’s portrayal of them as “rogues.”

 

If he had been arrested by the Chicago Police Department and identified as an FBI agent, Roemer would have:

  1. Definitely been fired from his position as an FBI agent.
  2. Almost certainly been convicted for at least breaking and entering.
  3. Disbarred from the legal profession (Roemer was an attorney).
  4. Perhaps served a prison sentence.
  5. Been disgraced as a convicted felon.
  6. Been unable to serve in his chosen profession of law enforcement.

Given the huge risks involved, many agents, unsurprisingly, wanted nothing to do with “black bag jobs.”

Related image

The agents who took them on were so committed to penetrating the Mob that they willingly accepted Hoover’s dictates.

In 1989, Roemer speculated that former Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North had fallen victim to such a “Mission: Impossible” scenario: “The secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions….”

In 1986, Ronald Reagan’s “arms-for-hostages” deal known as Iran-Contra had been exposed.

To retrieve seven Americans taken hostage in Beirut, Lebanon, Reagan had secretly agreed to sell some of America’s most sophisticated missiles to Iran.

During this operation, several Reagan officials–including North–diverted proceeds from the sale of those missiles to fund Reagan’s illegal war against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.

In Roemer’s view: North had followed orders from his superiors without question. But when the time came for those superiors to step forward and protect him, they didn’t.

They let him take the fall.

Roemer speculated that North had been led to believe he would be rescued from criminal prosecution. Instead, in 1989, he was convicted for

  • accepting an illegal gratuity;
  • aiding and abetting in the obstruction of a congressional inquiry; and
  • ordering the destruction of documents via his secretary, Fawn Hall.

That is how many employers expect their employees to act: To carry out whatever assignments they are given and take the blame if anything goes wrong.

Take the case of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., the world’s biggest retailer.

In March, 2005, Wal-Mart escaped criminal charges when it agreed to pay $11 million to end a federal probe into its use of illegal aliens as janitors.

Agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided 60 Wal-Mart stores across 21 states in October, 2003. The raids led to the arrest of 245 illegal aliens.

Federal authorities had uncovered the cases of an estimated 345 illegal aliens contracted as janitors at Wal-Mart stores.

Many of the workers worked seven days or nights a week without overtime pay or injury compensation. Those who worked nights were often locked in the store until the morning.

According to Federal officials, court-authorized wiretaps revealed that Wal-Mart executives knew their subcontractors hired illegal aliens.

Once the raids began, Federal agents invaded the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., seizing boxes of records from the office of a mid-level executive.

Click here: Wal-Mart Settles Illegal Immigrant Case for $11M | Fox News

Of course, Wal-Mart admitted no wrongdoing in the case. Instead, it blamed its subcontractors for hiring illegal aliens and claiming that Wal-Mart hadn’t been aware of this.

Which, of course, is nonsense.

Just as the FBI would have had no compunctions about letting its agents take the fall for following orders right from the pen of J. Edgar Hoover, Wal-Mart meant to sacrifice its subcontractors for doing precisely what the company’s executives wanted them to do.

The only reason Wal-Mart couldn’t make this work: The Feds had, for once, treated corporate executives like Mafia leaders and had tapped their phones.

Click here: Wal-Mart to review workers – Business – EVTNow

Which holds a lesson for how Federal law enforcement agencies should treat future corporate executives when their companies are found violating the law.

Instead of seeing CEOs as “captains of industry,” a far more realistic approach would be giving this term a new meaning: Corrupt Egotistical Oligarchs.

A smart investigator/prosecutor should always remember:  

Widespread illegal and corrupt behavior cannot happen among the employees of a major government agency or private corporation unless:

  1. Those at the top have ordered it and are profiting from it; or
  2. Those at the top don’t want to know about it and have taken no steps to prevent or punish it.  

That’s something to remember the next time a scandal hits a major corporation or government agency.

 

“A TEAM PLAYER”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 8, 2016 at 12:41 am

Recruiters for corporate America routinely claim they’re looking for “a team player.”

This sounds great–as though the corporation is seeking people who will get along with their colleagues and work to achieve a worthwhile objective.

And, at times, that is precisely what is being sought in a potential employee.

But, altogether too often, what the corporation means by “a team player” is what the Mafia means by “a real standup guy.” 

That is: Someone willing to commit any crime for the organization–and take the fall for its leaders if anything goes wrong.

FBI Chart of Mafia Families during the 1960s

Consider this classic example from the files of America’s premier law enforcement agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

On November 14, 1957, 70 top Mafia leaders from across the country gathered at the estate of a fellow gangster, Joseph Barbara, in Apalachin, a small village in upstate New York.

The presence of so many cars with out-of-state license plates converging on an isolated mansion caught the attention of Edgar Crosswell, a sergeant in the New York State Police.

Crosswell assembled as many troopers as he could find, set up roadblocks, and swooped down on the estate.

The mobsters, panicked, fled in all directions–many of them into the surrounding woods.  Even so, more than 60 underworld bosses were arrested and indicted following the raid.

Perhaps the most significant result of the raid was the effect it had on J. Edgar Hoover, the legendary director of the FBI.

J. Edgar Hoover

Up to that point, Hoover had vigorously and vocally denied the existence of a nationwide Mafia. He had been happy to leave pursuit of international narcotics traffickers to his hated rival, Harry Anslinger, director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN).

But he had been careful to keep his own agency well out of the war on organized crime.

Several theories have been advanced as to why.

  1. Hoover feared that his agents–long renowned for their incorruptibility–would fall prey to the bribes of well-heeled mobsters.
  2. Hoover feared that his allegedly homosexual relationship with his longtime associate director, Clyde Tolson, would be exposed by the Mob. Rumors still persist that mobster Meyer Lansky came into possession of a compromising photo of Hoover and Tolson engaged in flagrante delicto
  3. Hoover knew of the ties between moneyed mobsters and their political allies in Congress. Hoover feared losing the goodwill of Congress for future–and ever-larger–appropriations for the FBI.
  4. Hoover preferred flashy, easily-solved cases to those requiring huge investments of manpower and money.

Whatever the reason, Hoover had, from the time he assumed directorship of the FBI in 1924, kept his agents far from the frontlines of the war against organized crime.

Suddenly, however, that was no longer possible.

The arrests of more than 60 known members of the underworld–in what the news media called “a conclave of crime”–deeply embarrassed Hoover.

It was all the more embarrassing that while the FBI had virtually nothing in its files on the leading lights of the Mafia, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics had opened its voluminous files to the Senate Labor Rackets Committee.

Heading that committee as chief legal counsel was Robert F. Kennedy–a fierce opponent of organized crime who, in 1961, would become Attorney General of the United States.

So Hoover created the Top Hoodlum Program (THP) to identify and target selected Mafiosi across the country.

Since the FBI had no networks of informants operating within the Mafia, Hoover fell back on a technique that had worked wonders against the Communist Party U.S.A.

He would wiretap the mobsters’ phones and plant electronic microphones (“bugs”) in their meeting places.

The information gained from these techniques would arm the Bureau with evidence that could be used to strongarm mobsters into “rolling over” on their colleagues in exchange for leniency.

Hoover believed he had authority to install wiretaps because more than one Attorney General had authorized their use.

But no Attorney General had given permission to install bugs–which involved breaking into the places where they were to be placed.  Such assignments were referred to within the Bureau as “black bag jobs.”

So, in making clear to his agent-force that he wanted an unprecedented war against organized crime, Hoover also made clear the following:

Before agents could install electronic surveillance (an ELSUR, in FBI-speak) devices in Mob hangouts, agents had to first request authority for a survey. This would have to establish:

  1. That this was truly a strategic location;
  2. That the agents had a plan of attack that the Bureau could see was logical and potentially successful; and, most importantly of all
  3. That it could be done without any “embarrassment to the Bureau.”

According to former FBI agent William E. Roemer, Jr., who carried out many of these “black bag” assignments:

“The [last requirement] was always Mr. Hoover’s greatest concern: ‘Do the job, by God, but don’t ever let anything happen that might embarrass the Bureau.”

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