Politics, Narcotics Control, & the Mafia
In 1952 Anslinger, a Republican, was approached to run for Vice President on the Democratic ticket by a group of Democrats who were against what they saw as the elitism of Adlai Stevenson. Anslinger declined, citing his unlikely chance of getting the nomination.
Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) Goes Overseas
With more and more investigations connecting the mafia to drug trafficking, and with the start of investigations that would lead to the famous “French Connection,” Anslinger re-opened FBN’s first overseas post in Rome, Italy that had been closed with the outbreak of World War II.
Chaired by Senator Estes Kefauver (D-TN), the hearings examined the existence and role of the mafia in America. The Committee’s investigators were two FBN Agents who testified that “organized crime smuggled into and distributed enough narcotics to supply one-fifth of the addict population in America.” Anslinger’s FBN prepared a list of some 800 individuals with suspected ties to the mafia and drugs.
Post-WWII: The Communist Scare and Drugs
Following World War II America’s attention turned toward the Cold War and the spread of communism. China, a source country for opiates, became a target for a so-called communist narcotics offensive. The McCarthy scare reinforced Anslinger’s worries that the communists were “flooding the world with dope to corrupt the youth of America.”
“When the Russians land on the moon, the first man they will meet will be Anslinger, searching for narcotics.”
— Mob Boss Charles “Lucky” Luciano
Narcotics Control Act
The Narcotics Control Act, passed in 1957, was developed after hearings involving more than 340 witnesses, including Anslinger. Hearings took place across thirteen cities and gathered 8,600 pages of testimony. The Act significantly increased penalties for drug trafficking. These included mandatory sentences for certain offences and the death penalty for selling heroin to a minor.
The Act also provided for greater enforcement activities for the FBN, and created the first narcotics training school.
Formally referred to as the “Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor and Management Field,” these hearings delved further into organized crime in America. Anslinger testified in front of the Committee whose members included John F. Kennedy, Joseph McCarthy, and Barry Goldwater. Robert Kennedy was chief counsel for the Committee.
Accolades Roll In
Presented to Anslinger in honor of the 25th Anniversary of his being named Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. The Drug, Chemical and Allied Trades Section of the New York Board of Trade represented more than 700 firms from the drug, chemical, cosmetic, and related commodities fields from across the country.
“No-one since he [Anslinger] was appointed U.S. Commissioner in 1930 has exerted brain and energy more doughtily to mobilize world resources, both in terms of law and police or custom’s surveillance, to clear the whole, vast, complicated and shuddering canker of illicit drug dealing from the earth.”
— Interpol, A.J. Forrest, London, 1955
Letter from John R. Steelman, Assistant to President Harry S. Truman, 1952
Anslinger appeared on many television programs over the years, helping to explain to the public the importance of drug regulation and the efforts needed to end its smuggling. Those efforts were often coordinated with the Administration. The position of Assistant to the President of the United States is now known as the White House Chief of Staff.