Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Statement by the President Upon Signing Bill Prohibiting Obstruction of Criminal Investigations.

November 04, 1967

ORGANIZED CRIME is the shame of a modern nation.

It mocks every concept of an ordered and just society.

It is a disgrace that hobbles our progress, as its influence spreads into businesses and threatens the home of private citizens.

The files of our Federal law enforcement agencies document a series of incidents which should shock all Americans:

--Citizens brutally beaten with baseball bats.

--Men and women burned and maimed by blowtorches.

--Families terrorized, homes invaded, and lives threatened. Why?

Because these citizens gave Federal officials information to expose suspected criminals.

These outrages obstruct our system of Federal criminal justice.

They frustrate our efforts to root out the underworld.

But because the Federal Government did not have the necessary Federal law, the Government has been powerless to act.

Today there are strict Federal penalties for those who coerce, intimidate, harass, or attack a witness once court action has begun.

But it is not a Federal crime to commit these same brutal acts during the investigation preceding trial.

Last February, in my message on crime in America, I urged the Congress to promptly correct this omission in our laws.

The bill I signed last night--S. 676--corrects this omission and closes that loophole.

Now, for the first time, it will be a serious crime to obstruct a Federal criminal investigation through bribery, intimidation, force, or threats of force.

This measure will impose strict sanctions against all who hamper the work of Federal law enforcement.

But its chief impact will fall on organized crime--those corporations of greed and corruption that infect our society.

This bill will not banish organized crime.

That will not happen until all Americans roll up their sleeves in righteous anger, determined to remove this blot from our midst.

But this bill will help.

It will help break the racketeer's grip of fear which forces citizens to remain silent and permits crime to go unpunished.

S. 676 is an important part of our continuing work to improve the machinery of law enforcement.

This vital work will be furthered when the Congress enacts two other bills I proposed last February in my crime message. These measures are essential to the control of crime in America. I again urge the Congress to join me in the war against crime by making these bills the law of the land. They are:

--The Safe Streets and Crime Control Act, the most comprehensive measure ever devised to strengthen the power of local communities across America in enforcing the law and administering criminal justice. For in our system law enforcement has always been--and must remain--a local responsibility.

--The State Firearms Control Assistance Act--to keep deadly and dangerous weapons out of the wrong hands so that our homes and families and children can be protected.

Violations of law and order--in whatever form--erotic the roots of society.

All Americans must recognize that it is not enough to complain about the fact of crime, or lament its statistics.

For we know that crime will yield not to cries of woe--but to responsible action.

The work of fighting crime ranks as one of the most pressing responsibilities of the Nation's communities.

We are committed to the cause of preventing crime where it can be prevented.

We are committed no less to the task of bringing to justice--fairly and swiftly-those who break the law.

The measure I signed helps move us closer to these goals.

Note: As enacted, the bill (S. 676), approved on November 3, 1967, is Public Law 90-123 (81 Stat. 362).

The Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 was approved by the President on June 19, 1968 (Public Law 90-351, 82 Stat. 197).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Statement by the President Upon Signing Bill Prohibiting Obstruction of Criminal Investigations. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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