WASHINGTON -- Critics of the President's Commission on Organized Crime say despite a three-year, $5 million study, the panel found little new information and some of its findings are wrong.
While the chairman, appeals court Judge Irving Kaufman, said the commission succeeded in its chief goal by placing organized crime in the spotlight, other law enforcement officials, as well as nine panel members, criticized its management and several of its conclusions.
In Boston, law enforcement officials said the commission's final report -- detailing the scope of organized crime in the United States and devoting several pages to Boston alone -- contained outdated or erroneous information about that city's underworld.
One district attorney, Kevin Burke, said the report was 'absolutely worthless' to authorities and contained facts that in at least one case were off by 20 years.
On Tuesday, when the commission released its final chapter and officially disbanded, half the 18 members signed an unusual dissent saying, 'The true history of the President's Commission on Organized Crime is a saga of missed opportunity.'
Although it held seven public hearings across the country, the $5 million commission will probably be best remembered for recommending that 'suitable drug testing programs' be set in place for all federal employees -- a notion that created a public uproar and that several commission members were never made aware of.
President Reagan introduced the panel at a Rose Garden ceremony July 28, 1983, saying it would 'redeem this administration's promise to do all in our power to break apart the organized criminal syndicates.'
Almost three years later, neither Reagan nor Attorney General Edwin Meese was on hand to receive the final report.
'While the commission has, in our view, made a significant contribution to public understanding of some key aspects of the problem of organized crime in America, we feel the commission's potential was not fully realized,' the dissenting commissioners said.
One of them, Eugene Methvin, a senior editor at Reader's Digest who has written extensively on labor racketeering, accused the commission of failing to prod the Justice Department.
'Poor management of time, money and staff has resulted in the commission's leaving important issues unexamined,' the dissenters also said, suggesting the panel should have reviewed the roles of black and Jewish groups and the effectiveness of federal and state efforts to combat organized crime.
The commission recommended stepped up actions against money laundering by financial institutions, more vigorous efforts to stem domestic demand for illicit drugs and increased investigations of corrupt unions and businesses that conspire with criminals. Members of Congress have introduced legislation based on many of the commission's recommendations to stop money laundering.
But the final report -- which said organized crime grosses more than $100 billion a year and emphasized that new groups are emerging -- also contained errors.
Authorities in Boston pointed out that several names of criminals and their areas of influence were wrong, causing them to question the overall accuracy of the report's findings.
Jeremiah O'Sullivan, chief of the Justice Department's New England Organized Crime Task Force, said the report distorted the influence of Irish gangs in Boston. 'The commission wanted to find new bogeymen,' but La Cosa Nostra is still predominant, he said.
The report named three Irish mob factions in Boston as the McLaughlin gang, the Winter Hill gang and another gang controlled by James (Whitey) Bulger of South Boston. Burke said the McLaughlin gang has been out of operation for two decades. Testimony at the trial of reputed Mafia boss Gennaro Angiulo, who was sentenced Thursday to 45 years in prison for racketeering, indicated the Winter Hill Gang dissolved in the late 1970s.
Said Burke: 'It's very interesting, if not incredible, that they're so outdated. Groups they talk about are not even in existence and don't represent the most serious problem we face with organized crime,' which is drug conspiracies that are largely Hispanic.
'They just missed the boat,' he said.
But six other commissioners defended the panel's work, saying it 'is unrealistic for anyone to believe that any commission in just 32 months, and with limited resources, can complete all of the president's mandates.'