Widely recognized as one of the nation's leading experts on organized crime, Ralph Salerno investigated the mafia's link to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
After working in the New York City Police Department for 20 years, Salerno rose to the position of supervisor of detectives. Following his retirement in 1967, he served as a consultant to the U.S. Department of Justice and to the House Select Committee on Assassinations.
The following is an excerpt of ABCNEWS' interview with Raplh Salerno, who offers his insight regarding the mafia's rumored involvement in the assasination of John F. Kennedy.
ABCNEWS: Did the Mafia kill President Kennedy?
Salerno: I would have given a great deal when I was working with the [House Select] Committee [on Assassinations] to come up with any kind of evidence that would indicate that. I felt that would have been a singular event which would have raised the hackles of the entire nation against organized crime. So I would have loved to have found something. But in the work that I did, and the work that I saw the committee do, I didn't find that. And if you look very carefully at the report of the committee itself, they don't say that.
I reviewed for the Committee the electronic surveillances that the FBI had on organized crime figures all over the country at that time — high-ranking members of organized crime. And there was no indication at all of their involvement. Since that time, since that time, up to the current day, you have had a large number of high-level members of organized crime, have made a deal with the government and testified against their fellows. None of them has ever suggested that they knew of, or even heard of involvement by organized crime in the death of President Kennedy.
ABCNEWS: Robert F. Kennedy's biographer, Evan Thomas, has written that after the assassination, RFK feared that his fight against organized crime as attorney general might have gotten his brother killed.
Salerno: I don't think so. On the electronic surveillances that I reviewed, we even came across a few sympathetic remarks about the president. "No, they killed the wrong one." "They should have shot his brother." "That little SOB." "He's the guy who's giving us a hard time." I listened to thousands of pages of electronic surveillances of organized crime leaders all over the United States. Over 360 volumes. I read more electronic surveillances that the FBI had than anyone who is not in the FBI, and I doubt if there were 10 people in the FBI whose job required them to read as many as I had read.
ABCNEWS: What about the idea that the Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana was behind the Kennedy assassination. What do the surveillance tapes of Giancana suggest about this theory?
Salerno: The FBI had very extensive coverage on the leaders of organized crime in Chicago, with Sam Giancana and others. They tape recorded him in the Armory Lounge, which he sort of made his own personal headquarters. Sam Giancana doesn't show any foreknowledge at all. After the fact, in a discussion, he's talking with one of his accomplices about Oswald, and they said "What kind of guy was he?" And Sam says "I don't know what kind of guy he was, but he was a pretty good marksman." Now that doesn't sound like the comment of a man who had retained the man he was surprised to find was such a good marksman.
ABCNEWS: What about Professor Blakey's theory that Carlos Marcello was behind the assassination?