This is a transcription of this speech made for the convenience of readers and researchers. One text of the speech, in the form of a carbon of the reading copy, exists in the speech files of the John F. Kennedy Pre-Presidential Papers at the John F. Kennedy Library. Page images of the speech can be found here.
The testimony given before the McClellan Rackets Committee, of which I was a member, has convinced me that there is a highly organized criminal syndicate operating in America today. It is powerful. It is dangerous. And, worst of all, it seems to be growing. This criminal conspiracy has operated for many years, but only rarely has it been subjected to the bright glare of publicity. Usually it operates at a level well below the mainstream of American life.
In order to destroy it, we need more knowledge - better organization of law enforcement efforts - and greater cooperation between state and federal officials. Ten years ago, a special committee of the Senate studied this problem and came to a similar conclusion. It is time we did something about it.
Certainly the brazen meeting of 58 top hoodlums in November 1957 at Apalachin, New York, points to the urgent need for action. It was only by a series of fortuitous circumstances that this meeting was even detected. It should not be necessary for us to rely upon chance to break up these gatherings.
The task of investigating and disseminating information about these racketeers is a key law enforcement problem. Since the network of criminals is nationwide, it is a federal responsibility. I believe we should have an organization in the Federal Government whose sole duty would be to investigate and gather information about underworld activities - and then disseminate it to appropriate local authorities. It would be a permanent National Crime Commission, with full power of subpoena and investigation. It would not have law enforcement powers. This is a job for local police. But it would serve a valuable function in gathering intelligence about criminal syndicates, furnishing this information to local jurisdictions, and coordinating the efforts of the various states in this direction.
I know that the establishment of an agency like this raises problems with regard to its relationship to other federal law enforcement activities, but the Department of Justice and the other federal law enforcement agencies direct their efforts toward apprehending persons guilty of federal crimes. The new agency would begin its work before the crime was committed. It would inquire into the relationships between known criminals and maintain a watch over attempted operations by a syndicate of criminals.
Of course, we must guard against any infringement of personal and private rights by any governmental authority, no matter how meritorious the purpose. But I am sure that we can so frame the legislation that the Commission will not invade any personal rights.
Because we are dealing with a clandestine group - because they are well organized and highly disciplined - because they have vast resources - they present a formidable problem. But I am sure that the cooperative effort of the federal and state governments can stamp them out. Our law enforcement agencies need only the information and the tools.