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Democratic Senator John L. McClellan (far right) from Arkansas sponsored the OCCA in Congress as the bill passed both houses within months.

Forty-four years ago today, President Richard Nixon signed the “Organized Crime Control Act” (OCCA) into law at the Justice Department in Washington, DC. This piece of legislation would prove to be highly useful for the Justice Department and FBI when prosecuting entrenched leaders of organized crime, especially the so called Mafia. Over time, this legislation would provide the federal government with the adequate enforcement abilities to prosecute criminals engaged in terrorist activities and provide the basis for the modern witness protection program.

The path to the OCCA began when President Nixon signed Executive Order 11534 on June 4, 1970 establishing the National Council on Organized Crime to investigate the issue in depth and begin pushing for appropriate legislative remedies through Congress as soon as possible. The Council was chaired by the Attorney General, John Mitchell and also included the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor as well as a score of other top executive branch officials.

The goal of the Council was to find a way to realistically consolidate the various Justice Department Strike Forces that were tasked with combating different areas of organized crime into one comprehensive framework.

View a talking points memo for President Nixon on reasons for creating NCOC:

The major accomplishments of the OCCA was that it gave the federal government a more far reaching ability to crackdown on organized crime syndicates and racketeering shell schemes, which as a by-product, gave the federal government better insight and control into drug trafficking and acts of terrorism, in particular bombing which were prevalent at the time. In addition, the act gave grand juries wider powers to detain witnesses deemed unmanageable and the witness protection clause also gave the Attorney General wider authority to freeze assets connected to racketeering scams. The OCCA was a success in significantly curtailing “mafia” activities through its “Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act” article, which made it possible to prosecute someone who had told others to commit criminal activity in his or her stead.

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Upon signing he OCCA into law at the Justice Department on the morning of the 15th, the President visited the Washington Metro Police.

On June 13, 2011 at the University Club in Washington, D.C., the Nixon Foundation and the National Archives presented a Nixon Legacy Forum on RN’s work with Congress to enact sweeping anti-crime legislation and how he gave the Justice Department the tools to more effectively fight organized crime. The panelists — all Nixon era legal experts from the White House, Justice Department, and Congress — spoke about the spirit of bi-partisanship exemplified by the officials who spearheaded the administration’s initiatives and about the substantial, lasting changes they brought to America’s criminal justice system. The Archivist of the United States David Ferriero gave introductory remarks and supplemented the presentation with original documents from the era. Participants included G. Robert Blakey, Wallace H. Johnson, Richard “Pete” Velde, and Geoffrey C. Shepard.

Watch the entire legacy forum below: