Interview of Herbert J. Miller, Jr.
December 9, 1996
Mr. Willens: This is Howard Willens speaking. This is the third interview of
Herbert J. Miller, Jr. as part of the Oral History Project of the District of Columbia Circuit
Historical Society. The date is December 9, 1996. Mr. Miller and I completed two previous
interviews in November of 1995, and my commitments have precluded our getting together at an
earlier date. Jack, thank you for being available again for this project. On reviewing the two
previous transcripts, I notice that we were up to the point at which you joined the Department of
Justice in the early months of 1961 as part of the Kennedy administration. I wonder if we might
concentrate on those years for a short time and get some of your recollections of the personalities
and events that were so memorable during those critical years. You mentioned earlier the name
of Ed Silberling who became head of the Organized Crime Section of the Criminal Division.
What, generally, were your objectives with respect to the Organized Crime Section after you
came into your position as Assistant Attorney General?
Mr. Miller: I think one of the main objectives was to obtain whatever
information we could about the workings of organized crime. When I went in, there was a
dispute among federal investigative agencies as to whether there did exist what in newspaper talk
has been called the Mafia The Bureau of Narcotics strongly believed and argued that there was a
Mafia in existence operating in the United States. The Federal Bureau of Investigation conceded
that there was in fact organized groups operating in the United States but had never gone on
record outside the Department declaring that the Mafia did in fact exist.
Mr. Willens: You mentioned earlier on the role that Mr. Valachi played in
stimulating agency interest an!] public interest in the Mafia
Mr. Miller: Yes. I don’t know if we covered it before. I remember receiving a
phone call from an Assistant U.S. Attorney down in Atlanta telling me that he had an individual
by the name of V alachi who had killed another inmate in an altercation in prison and, in order to
enter into a plea agreement, agreed to disclose his knowledge of the Mafia — of which he claimed
to have been a member for many, many years.
Mr. Willens: You did describe that briefly. One thing I was interested in upon
reviewing the transcript was that you were convinced that public testimony was a very important
step in bringing about a change in federal enforcement efforts directed at the Mafia
Mr. Miller: Well, the only way that we could get unanimity of the 26-plus
federal investigative agencies as to whether the Mafia existed as a major organized crime force in
the United States was to be able to prove its existence. My word against the FBI would have
been of little value in achieving that. So when this Assistant called with this story, I agreed that
we should enter into the plea agreement. Then I called the Bureau of Narcotics and asked if they
would take Mr. Valachi and debrief him, which they did over a period of many months.
Mr. Willens: Do you remember any discussions with either the Attorney General
or the Deputy Attorney General when you first learned of this prospect and what it might mean to
the federal effort against organized crime?
Mr. Miller: You know, after all these years I cannot remember discussing it
with either Byron White or Bob Kennedy, but I can guarantee you that I did, because both of
them were very interested. Of course, Byron may have left by then. I don’t think so. But I would
definitely have discussed the matter with them and reported to them I’m sure the files will
demonstrate that once the Bureau of Narcotics had completed their debriefing of Mr. Valachi,
there were memoranda prepared and of course they were made available to the Federal Bureau of
Investigation. Then they came to me and wanted very much to interview this individual. And, of
course, I agreed.
Mr. Willens: Was that decision within your discretion to make?
Mr. Miller: Yes, it was in my discretion to make, but I’m sure I discussed it
with the Deputy and the Attorney General before I did.
Mr. Willens: Was the FBI upset because you had authorized the Bureau of
Narcotics to do the initial debriefing?
Mr. Miller: Knowing how things operated, they probably felt that they were the
ones who should have originally interviewed V alachi. I was worried about doing that, because I
knew the Bureau’s public position as to the existence of the so-called Mafia. I knew what the
Bureau of Narcotics position was. I had learned that maybe 6 months or a year before I had
arrived at the Department, the Bureau had sent over a long memorandum called “The Mafia: Part
1” in which they had spelled out, or had started to spell out, the existence of the Mafia That
publication was retrieved from the Department, and I never saw another copy, and the Criminal
Division did not have a copy. So I was interested from my own standpoint as to whether the
Mafia existed, because it has a direct bearing on how you attempt to mount an organized crime
Mr. Willens: Did you ever learn what had precipitated the FBI preparation of
that paper and why it had been retrieved from the Department by the Bureau?
Mr. Miller: I don’t know that I ever learned why it was retrieved. My vague
recollection is that there had been some public hearing or incident which had caused the Bureau
to prepare such a report. I connect with it some hearings up in New York — I just don’t
Mr. Willens: Well, I guess during the 1950s was the time of the Apalachm
Mr. Miller: Well, the Apalachm meeting actually was a little later in the 1950s.
But the case based on the Apalachm meetings was eventually reversed in the Court of Appeals
for the Second Circuit. But that to me was clear evidence of the existence of an organized group,
just from the fact that all of these individuals would come together and, by hearsay evidence at
least, there was knowledge withm local police departments and other federal investigative
agencies that they were the heads of the various parts of the Mafia.
Mr. Willens: In what respects did you believe that —
Mr. Miller: That was 1962 when it was reversed, by the way.
Mr. Willens: So the particular meeting may have occurred in the late 1950s.
Mr. Miller: Yes, it was either 1968 or —
Mr. Willens: 1958?
Mr. Miller: 1958. I think it had been reversed when I got to the Department.
Mr. Willens: I see. Why did you believe that knowledge of such an organized
criminal endeavor was important to the development of a federal strategy for dealing with the
Mr. Miller: Well, there are two ways to operate in law enforcement. One is
what I call the reactive way; namely, if a murder is committed, you investigate it. ff a car is
stolen, you investigate it. Another way is that an incident occurs, and you then ascertain who
was involved and was there a violation of law. In many of the so-called consent crimes like
gambling and narcotics, I guess you could throw in the white slave traffic, you really don’t have a
complaining witness, in large part. And these things will operate by consensus with the user and
with the criminal organization, and the misconduct will never surface unless there is an inside
leak or somebody happens to take a look. The only way you get into and put a stop to that type
of an organization’s operation is to go out and investigate before you even know the existence of
a crime — to see in what areas they’re operating, what the operation is, are they engaged in loansharking,
are they engaged in other illegal activities. For example, just recently in the Court of
Appeals you had them taking over and controlling the concrete industry. Every major high-rise
in New York was in effect controlled by way of financial levies by the Mafia itself. So if you are
going to assume there is an organized crime problem and you want to have an effective program,
you cannot sit back and wait for a crime to be committed. Crimes are going on without anybody
complaining, and it is necessary to go out and ascertain what the situation is. That’s why public
knowledge of the existence of the Mafia as such was, I thought, a very necessary part of any
program. Because if the public realized what the problem was and how it had been operating,
then they would insist that their own local police department and State Attorney General get
involved to attempt to eradicate this problem The federal government in those days had quite
limited resources with respect to this issue. We could not possibly do it all. And you had one of
the major (and probably the absolutely best) investigative agencies, the FBI, taking the position
that this criminal hierarchy and operation did not exist. So that it was absolutely essential, in my
view, to ( a) find out if there was a Mafioso controlling sections of organized crime and then (b) it
was necessary to publicize that fact and that in turn would and did generate the Federal Bureau of
Investigation to begin looking into that area. The other thing we did as part of Robert Kennedy’s
organized crime legislative package was to get the Bureau into certain areas that they had not
been in before. They had always enforced the so-called White Slave Act, interstate
transportation of women for immoral purposes, but they had not been involved in gambling, nor
had they been involved in narcotics investigations. So in terms of gambling, for the first time,
their investigative jurisdiction by reason of legislation passed was fixed in the FBI. Then there
was the Travel Act that you’re very familiar with, if an individual crossed state lines and
thereafter committed a crime, that then became a federal felony, and the Federal Bureau of
Investigation was given investigative jurisdiction over that particular statute. So it’s like anything
else in life — if you have a problem, the first thing you’ve got to do is know what the problem is if
you’re going to attempt to resolve it.
Mr. Willens: Did the Attorney General come into bis position in 1961 with any
view one way or the other as to the existence of an organized crime machinery like the Cosa
Nostra or the Mafia?
Mr. Miller: Robert Kennedy definitely knew that there were different types of
organized criminal elements. I guess the one that had the most publicity was Jimmy Hoffa and
the Teamsters Union and the type of conduct that various locals of the Teamster Union engaged
in. And that’s a good example, too, because the local officials will tell you that a major local -local
777 out in Chicago — was controlled by the Mafia. You had Corallo up in New York. You
had a guy who just recently died, the one who the FBI (I think) believes murdered Hoffa, Tony
Provanzano, whom we convicted of extortion in the 1960s, who controlled one of the major
unions there. Mafia control was certainly not in every Teamsters Union throughout the United
States, but it was in major Teamster Unions in some metropolitan areas. And of course whether
he believed that was the Mafia or not, I don’t know if we ever sat down and talked about it, but
we sure as hell believed that that was organized crime that had invaded the labor movement. No
question about that. Of course, as he would travel around as he did, he would go to Chicago, for
example, and meet with the FBI, U.S. Attorney’s office, and other investigative agencies. He
would then get at ground level with the investigative agencies, and learn what the prosecuting
official felt as to what the organized crime problem was in these various jurisdictions. I can’t
remember ifhe ever proclaimed there was the Mafia Ifhe had, I don’t know what the Bureau
would have done. But the whole thing became moot because Senator McClellan, having heard of
the existence of V alachi and having become aware of what his information was, wanted him to
appear before a Senate Committee. And it created, I won’t say a major confrontation, but there
was a strong argument in the Department, should he appear or should he not. I argued strongly
that he should appear, because I thought that law enforcement across the country and that people,
citizens of the country generally, legislative officials and all those worrying about crime, should
have the knowledge that we in the Department had. The FBI strongly opposed his being a
witness, and the decision was made by Robert Kennedy that he would be a witness, and he was.
Mr. Willens: After his public testimony, was there any debate within the
Department as to the strategy that ought to be followed, or was there a consensus that the strategy
that you outlined earlier was the one that ought to be pursued?
Mr. Miller: Well, I’m trying to think, in effect we had been going down that
path. Now it became easier. I remember that J. Edgar Hoover almost contemporaneously with
the testimony of Mr. Valachi came out with a law review article, I forget whether it was
Northwestern Law School or what it was, in which he outlined the organization of the Mafia as
Valachi had already given to us in private. I think it was just prior to his testimony, as a matter
of fact. So then that major investigative organization was publicly embracing the fact that the
Mafia existed and was a very serious law enforcement problem, and in so doing it also had to
admit that it had existed since the 1920s if not before. The question is what had been done with
respect to it and what steps had been taken. I think it was these disclosures eventually that led to
the broadening of the scope of wire tap legislation. We tried to get it through and did not; it
crune later. And then, of course, the even more controversial step of permitting law enforcement
officers to trespass in order to plant recording devices. This latter step, if you go back and review
the history of the prosecutions of the major Mafia leaders, in every one of those cases the proof
crune not from mouths of live witnesses, all of whom ( or many of whom or most of whom) are
too afraid to talk for fear they’ll be killed, but it crune from these listening devices wherein the
various schemes that the Mafioso leaders and their subalterns had put together as to what crimes
they were going to commit. It’s one case after another. I mean the Gotti case (I suppose) is one
of the most recent ones. We had another one up in Rhode Island. So that ability to listen in to
the actual planning of the various crimes turned out to be just a spectacular breakthrough and
proved conclusively that the Mafia had existed for years, and still existed. But its power has
been greatly diminished because of this law enforcement activity.
Mr. Willens: Were those various steps to increase investigative authority
opposed by civil rights organizations and others?
Mr. Miller: Oh, yes. No question about it. I remember going up and testifying
on the attempt to expand and change the 1934 Communications Act which, while supposedly
prohibiting wiretapping, actually had language which permitted (at least in the view of the
Bureau and other investigative agencies) them to tap anyone they wanted to as long as they didn’t
divulge it. And providing the information to the Criminal Division was not a divulgence by their
interpretation of the law. So you had widespread wiretapping going on that was not subject to
regulation. And our thought was to expand the scope of wiretapping but have it subject to
judicial review, i.e., at the outset when you were going to install it, have it be a requirement that
the government agencies prove that its continuation was absolutely essential based on
information that they had derived. But it met with strong opposition from civil rights groups. I
can remember The Washington Post was violently opposed initially. I don’t know where they
stand now. But I think the results demonstrate that it was an invasion of privacy, to be sure, but
one which has paid substantial dividends in terms of law enforcement.
Mr. Willens: Do you think the debate on issues like that is different today than it
was 30 years ago in light of public concern about crime in the United States?
Mr. Miller: The situation today is (I would say) 180 degrees turned around
from where it was when I was running the Criminal Division. It is one of the most dangerous
situations that I can imagine from an individual liberty standpoint. Because crime now has
become a major concern to the citizenry of the United States, it is necessary for those who seek
public office to adopt a very hard line in terms of passing statutes and punishing offenders. In
my day in the Department of Justice, if we wanted to expand the federal criminal jurisdiction,
which was very limited, there was a long series of careful dehberations by the Senate
committees. We had to convince the members of that Committee that the legislation was
absolutely essential. Nowadays, if you talk to the Department of Justice or talk to people on the
Hill, you’ll find legislators are calling in to find out what law they can propose to expand the
federal criminal jurisdiction. And it has created a situation where it is exceedingly dangerous
from a civil rights standpoint, because there are now statutes on the book that we never (a) would
have proposed and (b) would have gotten the Congress to agree to, which are impossible for the
ordinary citizen to understand. Indeed, I like to think of myself as having experience in the
criminal law, since I now practice it. It’s impossible for me to understand where the limits of
these statutes are. I mean the money laundering statute is Exhibit A It is the most blatant
expansion of federal criminal jurisdiction that you can imagine. And it ensnares innocent people
(I hasten to say of course they’re not innocent because they violated the law) engaged in innocent
conduct that become ensnared, and they are now guilty of money laundering. It’s a national
disgrace as far as I’m concerned. But who in public office has the power to say, my God, we
should go back and revisit these issues and make sure that we haven’t gone beyond what was
intended and have given the prosecutors and the investigative agency tools that can put almost
anybody in the United States in jail if they spent enough time on it. Does that answer your
Mr. Willens: Yes, it certainly does. Going back to the subject of resources
available to the Criminal Division in the Justice Department in the 1960s, what were your
directions from the Attorney General, if any, about enlarging the Criminal Division and utilizing
resources as effectively as possible?
Mr. Miller: Well, not the first thing but one of the major steps, was to increase
the Criminal Division, the number of lawyers we had. The other thing that was vitally important
was to try to coordinate in this organized crime area the investigative activities and knowledge of
the over 26 federal investigative agencies. In furtherance of that step, we started an intelligence
unit in the Organized Crime Section, which would see what the various investigative agencies
were doing in particular areas or involving some particular individuals who we knew were
engaged in organized criminal activities. That way, if we couldn’t see that an individual had
committed a gangland murder, for example, because the witnesses were all dead, we might very
well find that he had submitted an application for federal financing in buying his house and his
alleged source of income and amount of income was false, which would be a§ 1001 violation.
Also we would in the course of investigation turn up information that would suggest tax
Mr. Willens: You will recall that that particular strategy was the subject of some
debate in the public arena and within the Department. Is that your recollection?
Mr. Miller: There was a strong feeling voiced by some that going from (as I
said before) a reactive type of law enforcement to going out and actually trying to find if certain
organizations or individuals had committed crimes, the latter was absolutely a wrong and
improper approach I think that whole argument focused pretty much on the Teamsters Union
and Jimmy Hoffa Despite the fact that many of the Teamster locals we knew privately (and I
think it has been proved since then) were controlled by Mafia leaders. And in fact, not too long
ago, I remember when the National Commission on Organized Crime was holding hearings or
submitted a report, a later President of the Teamster Union, I can’t remember his name,
Fitzgerald, was it? No, Fitzsimmons? I’ve forgotten. He actually testified in one or more trials
that the head of the Teamsters Union was controlled by the Mafia
Mr. Willens: But so far as you were concerned, if you could find a federal law
violation based on falsification of an application for a federal housing loan by a person believed
to be a member of organized crime, it was appropriate and necessary for the federal law
enforcement machinery to pursue that violation?
Mr. Miller: Absolutely. I mean (a) we would pursue some widow who’d done
the same thing, hopefully not, but it has happened unfortunately. But where you have an
individual that’s engaged in criminal acts as a way of earning a living, it’s a very appropriate way.
In those days it was exceedingly difficult because of the Code of Omerta to get one member of
the Mafia to testify against another.
Mr. Willens: Do you remember approximately the size of the Criminal Division
when you took office in 1961.and its size when you left in 1965?
Mr. Miller: I might ask you for your recollection, but what did we have — 56
Mr. Willens: I recall it being significantly under 100 at the time I arrived which
was a few months after you were there and I think it grew to about 160 at some point down the
Mr. Miller: Now I have no idea what it is, but it’s a lot bigger now than it was
Mr. Willens: The Organized Crime Section of the Criminal Division used to
have the principal function of coordinating and supervising from a distance the prosecutions
actually initiated and staffed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Is that generally your recollection of
what the practice was?
Mr. Miller:- That’s what the practice was.
Mr. Willens: Now in what respects did you try to provide a new mode of
operation for the Organized Crime Section that would give those lawyers under your direction a
more active role in implementing the strategy you have descnbed?
Mr. Miller: Because the main law enforcement officer in the various districts is
the U.S. Attorney, an individual who is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate,
not necessarily shall we say employed by the Attorney General as such, whereas the people in the
Department of Justice have the Attorney General as their boss. So you had then and still have
this dichotomy in the authority to determine what you’re going to look at in terms of violations
and how you’re going to handle various cases. And when you have 92 (I think it was) U.S.
Attorneys around the country, you’re going to get various ideas as to whether going after
organized crime is important or not. It may be that there are other types of crime, like housing
fraud and the like. And there was no strong line of control from the Department of Justice over
the U.S. Attorney. You could get the Deputy or the Attorney General to call, and I could call, but
the U.S. Attorney was a markedly independent individual. So that you could by persuasion and
argument try to get them to adopt certain plans and follow certain investigations and be a part of
the program, but if there was a facial agreement and an underlying refusal to go along, it was
very difficult to have a nationwide program. So the way we tried to resolve that was by utilizing
lawyers from the Organized Crime Section who became expert in the operation of various
organized crime ideas and people and have them stationed around the country, or at least make
visits to confer with the investigative agencies in each jurisdiction to make sure that they were
following through on their commitments. That way you maintained a centralized control that led
right up to the Attorney General on the major organized crime cases around the country. We
found that to be very significant and very helpful because it permitted a focus on organized crime
where it would otherwise be a varying focus going from one U.S. Attorney’s Office to another.
Mr. Willens: How did you and the Attorney General maintain some degree of
control over what the Organized Crime Section and other lawyers were doing out in the field?
Mr. Miller: Well, Bob Kennedy used to meet on a regular basis with the
Organized Crime Section lawyers, find out what each was doing and what the problems were,
was legislation needed, new regulations needed? And then on other occasions he would go out
and meet in the field with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the investigative officers and the like. So
he was able to keep a very close eye on what precisely was going on in the organized crime field.
And of course his presence both in the Department and in the U.S. Attorney’s Office out in the
field had, shall we say, an energizing effect not only on the investigative agencies but also on the
attorneys that he met with
Mr. Willens: Did you have to ask him on occasion to intervene so as to resolve
any differences that might have existed between you and your attorneys and the U.S. Attorney’s
Mr. Miller: I’m sure that that occurred. I tried to handle as many of those as I
could with varying degrees of success.
Mr. Willens: How would you assess your relationship in those days with the
United States Attorney in the Southern District?
Mr. Miller: Oh. Bob Morganthau. There’s a history involving the Southern
District that goes back long before my time. The U.S. Attorney in the Southern District
historically, and I assume it’s still going on, was backed by the federal judiciary up there with the
concept that the Southern District was going to be run as almost a separate independent
organization. That the U.S. Attorney there would make the decisions, and he would decide what
investigations were going to go on, and any attempt to interfere could be met with displeasure
from the judiciary. Plus the fact that he had an excellent staff and excellent people. They could
get top-flight lawyers to join the U.S. Attorney’s Office. That’s always been a very fine legal
organization. I know that I would spend a fair amount of time, I won’t say every day but almost
every day, on the phone with Bob Morganthau, and that was his way of ensuring that I didn’t
come up to the Southern District. But by the same token, I was then able to get a handle on what
was going on, and if something was going wrong, I would hear about it through the investigative
agency. He was dedicated to moving on organized crime, so that one worked out fine. In other
areas we would sometimes come to an impasse, and then either Byron or Bob would have to step
Mr. Willens: .Did you come away from that experience having any reservation
about the way in which U.S. Attorneys are selected and given the broad discretionary authority to
enforce federal laws in their jurisdiction?
Mr. Miller: It is a problem In the first place, I remember Senator Eastland,
who was then the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who would never hold hearings to
confirm the nomination of a U.S. Attorney unless he received (they called it) a “blue slip” from
each of the two Senators from the jurisdiction involved, which obviously permitted (shall we say)
a strong influence to be exerted on the selection process by those two Senators. Sometimes that
was very, very good and excellent people came up. Sometimes that was not a good influence.
And then particularly, once the U.S. Attorney was confirmed, in some instances you would find
that the U.S. Attorney allegiance leaned more to the one or two of the Senators from his own
State than to the Attorney General. It still worked out quite well, and I long pondered as to
whether the independence of U.S. Attorneys isn’t something of a safeguard as distinguished from
an overall 100% control by the Attorney General and his subalterns in Washington. And I think
at this stage, because of my experience, and I have seen good U.S. Attorneys and I’ve seen bad
U.S. Attorneys. I’ve seen good Attorneys General, and maybe some not so good. And I’m not
convinced that the situation should be changed. In fact, if I were to testify today, I think I would
recommend it be continued the way it is. The problem is you get a new guy in, it takes him a
while to learn how to be a prosecutor, because many of them have no criminal experience
whatsoever, and then there always used to be (which has changed recently) almost 100%
turnover in the assistants. Now you’re getting more a career cadre around the U.S. Attorney
Offices in the country. So with that change, I think I would strongly recommend we keep the
same system we have now.
Mr. Willens: .What was the impact on attorney morale of these meetings
periodically with the Attorney General?
Mr. Miller: It had an incredibly good effect on the morale of the lawyers. In
fact, more than one lawyer would come up to me after one of the meetings and say that he’d been
a lawyer in the Department of Justice for 20, 25 years and had never once met the Attorney
General, much less participated in a meeting. It just galvanized the entire cadre of lawyers and
other people in the Department of Justice to fulfill their individual obligations as lawyers. It was
just an unbelievably wonderful place to work. Everybody was enthusiastic. Everyone was trying
to do their job, and it was because of the leadership of Robert Kennedy, pure, plain and simple.
Mr. Willens: Do you have any recollections of specific instances where the
Attorney General personally engaged one of the staff lawyers in a debate about the merits of a
particular investigation or proposed prosecution?
Mr. Miller: I can’t remember any specifics at the moment, but I’ve been in
meetings where the Attorney General would vigorously cross-examine the lawyer in charge of a
proposed criminal case, vigorously interrogate another lawyer as to why certain investigative
leads had not been carried out, review why a particular case had ended in a verdict of acquittal,
one that looked like it was a sure conviction.
Mr. Willens: Were other Assistant Attorney Generals or officials within the
Department, like the Deputy Attorney General or the Solicitor General, invited from time to time
to participate in these meetings?
Mr. Miller: Oh, the answer is yes. Well, Ed Guthman, who was the public
information officer, wrote a book and he called it We Band of Brothers. But there was no
jealousy or jurisdictional arguments between the Assistant Attorney Generals. We were all part
of the same team If Burke Marshall had a problem, everybody went to work on it. If I had a
problem, the same thing. It was really a unified effort by all of the Assistants regarding what
division they were the head of. And that again is the leadership of Robert Kennedy.
Mr. Willens: There’s been a book written recently that features considerable
detail about a case involving George Ratterman in Covington -Mr.
Mr. Willens: Newport.
Mr. Miller: Covington- Newport.
Mr. Willens: Covington- Newport, Kentucky —
Mr. Miller: Newport – Covington yes.
Mr. Willens: — area Do you recall any particular cases like Ratterman or
Marcello that come to mind in the non-labor area that you recall as being particularly interesting
or is that —
Mr. Miller: Were you suggesting the Ratterman case because you suggested it,
Mr. Willens: I just —
Mr. Miller: That was a civil rights case, as you well know. Because
Ratterman, a former quarterback of renown, was running for sheriff over in an area where
gambling was quite heavy, and they slipped him a mickey, planted a nude prostitute and sent the
cops in to arrest him And his lawyer when called had enough sense to get an immediate blood
test and found he was heavily overdosed with a knock-out drug. From that sprang the
investigation into a violation of his civil rights, ending in a conviction (I think) of Tito Carinsi,
who was the nightclub owner. April Flowers or April Showers testified. But it brought to the
attention of local law enforcement that, if they’re going to play games and misuse their trust, then
the federal government is going to step in. And we did.
Mr. Willens: You mentioned the Teamsters Union on a few earlier occasions.
Was it your understanding as you came into the Department that there was going to be a group of
lawyers with which Walter Sheridan was associated that would be concentrating on the
Mr. Miller: And labor racketeering generally, yes.
Mr. Willens: But was there some reason why that was singled out from
organized crime generally?
Mr. Miller: I think it was singled out because there was no unit then existing in
the Criminal Division which had sufficient lawyers or sufficient time to look into that particular
area. And of course Robert Kennedy was very interested in it, because he’d seen the
improprieties, if you want-to put a nice word on it, that organized crime had visited on labor
unions, controlling them, taking them over and the like, using union funds for something other
than the betterment of the union members, and indeed using improperly large amounts of money
out of the pension fund to further pals of the labor leaders rather than trying to invest the money
so it would ensure there would be sufficient funds when the workers retired. This is an area
which really had not been focused on until the McClellan Committee start. I think one of the
reasons is because it was not popular, indeed it wasn’t a popular mission to see whether labor
unions were being operated properly and in furtherance of the purpose for which they were
Mr. Willens: Why was it not popular at the time, in your opinion?
Mr. Miller: Well, it was obviously not popular because they had a hell of a lot
of votes for one thing, and any hearings into the Teamsters Union would make (I assume) a
substantial percentage of those Teamster members quite upset.
Mr. Willens: Was there any resistance to a non-lawyer like Walter Sheridan
serving in the Division to help supervise the work of the lawyers dealing with labor racketeering?
Mr. Miller: Yes, I’m sure there was, simply because I don’t think it had ever
been done before. But on the other hand, when you stop to analyze it, if you are going to try to
locate crimes that were being committed rather than being reactive, is a lawyer better qualified to
decide what avenues to investigate than one whose whole career had been spent in investigation
and knew how to investigate, how to interrogate, and how to ascertain the facts?
Mr. Willens: What was Walter Sheridan’s relationship with the FBI?
Mr. Miller: I don’t know that. My guess is it was not very good, simply
because he was a former FBI agent. I think the FBI thought if there’s any investigation to be
done, we are the investigators and we should do it. And I think they, to a certain extent, really
objected to having an investigator who was not a part of their organization deciding what should
Mr. Willens: What is your assessment in retrospect of Mr. Sheridan’s
contribution to the law enforcement effort of the early 1960s?
Mr. Miller: In the first place, he was very knowledgeable, much more
knowledgeable than some of the existing federal investigative agencies, about the criminal
element and the areas that needed attention in law enforcement. There’s no question in my mind
that he performed admirably and made a great contribution.
Mr. Willens: What do you remember about the discussion within the
Department that took place before the Department filed its first criminal case against Mr. Hoffa?
Mr. Miller: -Let’s see, when Robert Kennedy got there, if I recall, there was
already a pending criminal case, the so-called Sun Valley case down in Florida. Is that the name?
Mr. Willens: I think so.
Mr. Miller: Yes. And Dowd was in charge of it, a career guy. I think that
indictment had been returned prior to the election.
Mr. Willens: What happened to that case?
Mr. Miller: Was it Sun Valley?
Mr. Willens: All I remember is that there was a case as well.
Mr. Miller: Well, that was out of Detroit, tried down in Chattanooga or
Nashville. No, this Sun Valley case involved the alleged misuse of Teamster pension funds to
feather the pockets (if you feather pockets) or line the pockets of Teamster friends by the misuse
of Teamster pension funds.
Mr. Willens: What happened?
Mr. Miller: Well, I believe after Robert Kennedy got there, there was an initial
review made as to whether or not that case should be proceeded with.
Mr. Willens: Let’s go off the record .
Mr. Willens: What happened, Jack, to the Sun Valley case, as best you can
Mr. Miller: Well, I really can’t remember. I think we decided to dismiss it
because we were going to proceed with the case.
Mr. Willens: Was the case a misdemeanor case?
Mr. Miller: I guess it was at that time.
Mr. Willens: _Isn’t it a fact that the Test Fleet case had been declined previously
under the prior administration?
Mr. Miller: I believe it had in fact declined, but I think that, having conducted
further intensive investigations, we were able to demonstrate that it was a viable case. Indeed (if
my recollection does not disserve me), there was a conviction, was there not? But in any event,
we knew what was going to happen. We knew that if there was a trial, we didn’t know, we
expected that if there was a criminal trial where James Hoffa was a defendant, there would be an
attempt to reach the jury.
Mr. Willens: What was the basis for that suspicion?
Mr. Miller: The allegations proved or unproved that that may have taken place
in other Teamster cases around the country. In any event, we expected it to happen, and in fact
we were notified by (I think) the husband of a juror that he had met with a Teamster official and
an offer was made for money for his wife to vote for an acquittal.
Mr. Willens: How did the Department respond to these allegations of efforts to
tamper with the jury in view of its desire to maintain the integrity of the pending prosecution?
Mr. Miller: I think you decided that, didn’t you? I think what happened was
that there was a motion to disqualify the woman juror, which was granted, and I really don’t
remember. But it seems to me that’s what happened. Or was it a mistrial?
Mr. Willens: No, I think your recollection is correct. Some of this information
then came from Mr. Partin, isn’t that correct?
Mr. Miller: Yes. He testified. Well, he testified at the obstruction trial.
Mr. Willens: That’s right. But he was within the defense camp during the Test
Fleet case, and was the source of some of these allegations, as I recall.
Mr. Miller: -Yes. So that we were in a position where we knew that we could
prove that the approach had been made and that Partin was the Teamster Union leader who was
present at the time this was set up. So we have the event and then we have the steps leading up
to it. This is all very vague. I can’t say that’s precisely what happened, but I think that’s pretty
much it. Because I know Hoffa was convicted of obstructing justice, i.e., trying to buy a juror.
The really unfortunate thing about it subsequent thereto, one of his lawyers tried to approach the
jury in the obstruction case, as I recall. I remember we requested and obtained court approval to
put a listening device on this witness who had been approached, and it was on the basis of this
that a very fine lawyer was tried and convicted of obstructing justice. This case went all the way
to the Supreme Court and was affirmed.
Mr. Willens: Looking back on those Hoffa prosecutions, what do you remember
of the Attorney General’s involvement and the Department’s focus on those cases?
Mr. Miller: Well, obviously he was interested in what was going on. I had a
practice of sending a daily report to him of the various things going on in the Criminal Division,
and I’m sure that I would have a short paragraph in there of what transpired during the trial.
Mr. Willens: Was that practice of submitting daily reports common to all the
Mr. Miller: I don’t know the answer to that.
Mr. Willens: Do you know that the Attorney General in fact read the daily
reports that came up from the Criminal Division?
Mr. Miller: I obviously can’t testify that he did, but quite often I would receive
his copy back with a notation to do this or do that or check this out or what’s the further story on
this. And knowing his interest in the Criminal Division, it would take an extremely busy day that
he wouldn’t read what was going on.
Mr. Willens: Wasn’t it your practice more often than not to try to carry the daily
reports upstairs or otherwise to see the Attorney General at the end of the day?
Mr. Miller: Yes. I would always, sometime toward the end of the day, just try
to drop up and give him a brief resume of what was going on. Also sometimes as late as 8:00
p.m I’d go up to the Deputy’s office, Byron White’s office, and sit down and go over with him
some of the problems I had. He was exceedingly helpful.
Mr. Willens: There also was a group of lawyers working on what became known
as the Pension Fund case. What is your recollection of the process by which that case was
investigated and ultimately prosecuted?
Mr. Miller: Well, in the course of our investigation, we found out very clearly
that loans were being made from the Teamster pension fund to individuals of questionable
reputation and the so-called collateral was in many cases substantially less than the loan was for.
In other words, it was a means of funneling money to friends of the Teamster officials.
Sometimes I assume some of it probably went back to them But it was an egregious misuse of
the trust funds that were there to ensure the retirement pay of Teamster members.
Mr. Willens: Jack, you were recalling the development of the Pension Fund
case. Do you recall how long it took to develop that case?
Mr. Miller: It took quite a while, which again points out the importance of the
advance in one of the investigative techniques that we utilized, which I forgot to mention earlier,
and that was an aggressive use of immunity statutes. We found that there were many immunity
statutes attached to regulatory statutes, i.e., the Connnunications Act has an immunity statute,
and we used that in many occasions to give immunity and then we could compel testimony as to
what had transpired. But it took time, but eventually we were able to demonstrate not only to the
Attorney General but also to me that there was substantial fraud being conducted on the
Teamsters pension fund. We returned an indictment in Chicago, and that case was tried, I don’t
know, it went 2, 3 months, and there was a conviction.
Mr. Willens: How did you obtain the services of the very talented prosecutors
who tried the cases against Hoffa and other major criminal figures?
Mr. Miller: Well, I think the major factor was the fact that Robert Kennedy
was the Attorney General. That fact alone was a strong impetus for talented lawyers to come to
work for the Criminal Division. The fact that he was the President’s brother was also very
helpful. I think that once there they saw in him a man who worked harder than they did, was
dedicated to law enforcement, and who really wanted to make a difference and to use the
Department for the purposes for which it existed — to have effective law enforcement, strong
civil rights, effective tax enforcement. So he was just a magnet attracting highly-talented people.
I remember one obvious example is Jim Neal who came to work for the Criminal Division as a
trial attorney and participated in the Test Fleet and in the obstruction case. And as you know,
now he’s recognized to be one of the best trial lawyers in the United States. He represented
Exxon in the Valdez case up in Alaska And he’s only one example.
Mr. Willens: There’s been a lot published about the Attorney General and his socalled
growth during his period at the Department of Justice. What is your assessment of the
changes in his ability or attitude as he served for several years as Attorney General?
Mr. Miller: Well, obviously when he left the Department of Justice his focus of
necessity had broadened. He wasn’t just concerned with law enforcement or cases brought by the
Civil Division. He became concerned with poverty and how government operated across the
board rather than the Department of Justice. I know that many of his detractors used to criticize
him because he was such a tough Attorney General when it came to law enforcement. They
found it very hard to square their position with the fact that he used the same energy with respect
to enforcing the laws relating to civil rights. But I know there was a feeling among part of the
electorate that he was very tough and had no heart and, of course knowing the man, that’s
Mr. Willens: You mentioned earlier the fact that you were a Republican being
asked to participate in a Democratic administration. There were some political corruption cases
that fell under your jurisdiction during your years as head of the Criminal Division. Do you have
recollection of any of those political corruption cases and how you made decisions with respect
to them in light of your responsibilities to the Attorney General?
Mr. Miller: I suppose the one upon which there was the most public focus was
the Judge Keogh case up in New York. Judge Keogh was the brother of Eugene Keogh, and it
was widely assumed or known that Congressman Keogh was the main instrumentality that got
the New York delegates to vote for John F. Kennedy at the Democratic Convention. So when
allegations came in from an individual that there had been a payment with respect to one of the
cases before Judge Keogh, it was a single witness, and it was a very, very close case, but it was
investigated. I don’t think we ever found the proceeds of the bribe. We were able to find some
corroboration. It was a very, very tough case. But after reviewing it with Hundley who was
handling it, and other lawyers, I became convinced that it was one on which we had to proceed.
And I know that Robert Kennedy was personally distressed with the thought that he would be
indicting the brother of a good friend of his, but in the last analysis, I told him that we were going
to proceed, and he said okay. He said I authorize it, and we went ahead, and Judge Keogh was in
Mr. Willens: Did you ever hear of what reaction there was in the White House to
Mr. Miller: At subsequent social engagements at Hickory Hill and elsewhere,
some of the staff members of the White House were not adverse to suggesting their displeasure.
I merely said that there were decisions that had to be made, and the right decision was made, look
at the result. In fact, now that you mention it, I remember Carey and I going to a wedding
anniversary party at Hickory Hill. I’d gotten a call on the way out the door from Bill Hundley that
the judge had been convicted, and I remember arriving at the party outside around the pool, and I
shall not name the two White House aides, who subsequently became pretty good friends of
mine, but if daggers could kill, I would not be here. But that was Robert Kennedy. If the case
was there, he’d go with it.
Mr. Willens: Do you remember attending a cabinet meeting with President
Kennedy with respect to an investigation involving someone called Billy Sol Estes from Texas?
Mr. Miller: I would never forget it. Because I was in the Cabinet Room of the
White House with the President of the United States. And the issue there was the publicity that
had arisen about Billy Sol Estes who was a very flamboyant character. And there were issues of
his relationship to Lyndon Johnson. But I explained to the President what the situation was, what
we knew and what we needed to do. This was after I’d had an evening meeting at Hickory Hill
with Bob and the then Secretary of Agriculture, where I outlined what I had seen the problems
were and what we had to do, and I thought we just really had to step in because it looked like
there’d been a major fraud that had been committed. And we stepped in; we did the
investigation; the McClellan Committee investigated alongside of us.
Mr. Willens: . Who did?
Mr. Miller: The McClellan Committee. And the upshot of it was we put
together the case, and he went to trial and was convicted.
‘ ., , ,
Mr. Willens: Was there an investigation started under your tenure with respect to
a colleague of President Johnson’s known as Bobby Baker?
Mr. Miller: There was indeed. I forget the genesis of that, but I think there
were Congressional hearings. But the issue came up as to whether or not Robert Baker had been
engaged in conduct that was not lawful. I remember we started an investigation and, to make a
long story short, after a thorough investigation, an indictment was returned. William Bittman,
who I had put in charge of the Chicago pension fund case when the lead prosecutor after 2 weeks
had suffered a heart seizure, I brought him down, and he tried the case against Ed Williams. And
as you know Bobby Baker was convicted. There were all kinds of press reports that the case
would never go, that the case would be fixed, because by the time we were getting down to the
trial, Jack Kennedy had been assassinated and Lyndon Johnson was the President.
Mr. Willens: Do you think it was advantageous to have the head of the Criminal
Division who was of a different political party than the Attorney General?
Mr. Miller: I think it’s a very helpful thing to the Attorney General, because
obviously there are a great number of criminal cases that have political ramifications, and if the
Attorney General and the head of the Criminal Division are of different political persuasions,
there’s less basis to charge that there’s some kind of political favoritism when the white collar
criminal cases are either brought or not brought.
Mr. Willens: Well, the device that now has developed to deal with this problem,
as you well know, is the independent counsel technique. What is your view of that mechanism?
Mr. Miller: . I just recently participated in an ABA conference on the so-called
independent counsel, and Earl Silbert was the chairman of the panel. Knowing what I was going
to say, he asked me what I thought of it, and I said I thought the law was an absolute
abomination, and then would gladly have spent 2 hours explaining why but he cut me off. I think
it’s an outrage. To take the awesome power of the Attorney General of the United States and
place it in the hand of some individual selected by a panel of appellate judges is to me one of the
most incredible things that Congress has ever done. I think it’s just stupid. If you don’t trust the
Attorney General, then impeach him It’s just an outrage. And now (as you know) what has
happened is that these independent counsel requests and everything else are all generated and in
effect run by Congress. And then Congress gets a special counsel and then they call all the guys
up to testify. It’s an outrage, pure, plain and simple. If you can’t trust the administration of
justice, the Attorney General, get a new President and start over.
Mr. Willens: Do you think this was attributable at least in part to the experience
with the Nixon administration?
Mr. Miller: Well, there’s no question that the Nixon administration problems
caused the enactment of the statute. That would be the one case where an independent counsel
might very well be justified — where the President himself was the subject of the investigation.
But you can’t take that concept and then run it up through all of his cabinet officers and, you
know, they just tried to get it to apply to people on the Democratic National Committee, which, I
gather, which was turned down. Even assuming that — and it is looked upon as one of the major
constitutional crises in the history of our country — you can’t equate that with this current
independent counsel chasing after everybody that the Secretary of Agriculture Espy ever knew. I
mean that case is unreal. The damnedest example I’ve ever seen — they take the same transaction
involving a corporate check charged as an election campaign violation in the indictment in the
District of Columbia and it’s charged as an interstate transportation of stolen property in a case
down in New Orleans. Same check, same transaction. I mean it’s unbelievable.
Mr. Willens: Are you involved in that matter?
Mr. Miller: I am fleetingly on the outside of it. I wouldn’t have known about
this had I not been. But no professional prosecutor would do a thing like that.
Mr. Willens: Going to another subject of some personal emotional content to us
both, what do you recall about your first hearing about the assassination of President Kennedy?
Mr. Miller: We (and you were there) were meeting with Robert Kennedy, the
Attorney General, and the Organized Crime Section. I think he’d brought in Morganthau and
some other U.S. Attorney. We were meeting in his office, the Attorney General’s office, and we
broke for lunch– Bob and Morganthau and Melody Miller and others went out to Hickory Hill.
And I went to lunch I remember just outside of the Department when I returned, one of the
lawyers from the Criminal Division ran over and told me of the assassination. I went up to Bob’s
office and Angie Novello, his secretary, was in tears. So I went back to the office and started
calling to try to find out what had happened, who was involved, and what the governmental
Mr. Willens: Were you able to learn at that early point what was known to the
Mr. Miller: Barefoot Sanders was then the U.S. Attorney in Dallas and had
been in the Department. He was an assistant to Ramsey Clark, who was head of the Lands
Division. And I’d gotten to know him fairly well. He was the U.S. Attorney, and I talked with
him, and we had an assistant who went over to the FBI office. I can’t tell you exactly at what
stage. Then he was in a position that he was finding out what was going on and the like. Then as
soon as I found out the name of the alleged gunman we tried to find out what we could on
Oswald through our intelligence unit. And I’m sure I went and talked to Nick Katzenbach and
some of the others. Was it the next day that Ruby did the shooting? I’m trying to get my
Mr. Willens: I think that happened 2 days later. I think the arrest was on a
Friday, and I think the Ruby action was on the following Sunday. Did there come a time after
that weekend when you were asked to go down to Texas?
Mr. Miller: Oh, yes. I’m just trying to refresh my recollection on the
chronology. I’m trying to remember. Several of us went over to the White House. I know the
date, but what day was it?
Mr. Willens: It was a Friday, November 22.
Mr. Miller:· It was a Friday? That’s right, it was the preceding night we’d been
over to the White House for a judicial reception. I still have hanging on my wall at home the
invitation to the White House on the one date and then the invitation to the funeral. But I
remember several of us went over to the White House when the body was lying I guess it was the
East Room, I’m not sure. Whenever it was that Ruby pulled the trigger, we very quickly found
out who he was and his ties to some union in Chicago. We knew a little bit about him, not much,
and I was getting information from the assistant in the FBI office through Barefoot Sanders.
Then Nick called and told me that somebody had to get down there, so I picked up one of the
lawyers in the Criminal Division and went to the airport. They had a Lear jet and flew us down.
I remember getting on the earphones as we approached the Dallas Airport. Barefoot (I think) had
been a pilot in the war, and he was telling us that there was an absolute mob scene of reporters at
the main terminal. So there was a Customs slot someplace off the main part of the airport, so we
landed there and were able to get in a car and go up to Barefoot’s office. I remember Jim Loftus
of The New York Times and two or three other reporters were just sitting on the floor outside of
the office waiting for something to happen. So we went in and talked to Barefoot and decided
that one of the major things we had to do was to get the District Attorney off the television set,
because if there was ever going to be a trial of anybody, we had to take care of the publicity. So
we went out, I have forgotten his name, and I suppose we were out at his home by 10 o’clock.
We spent a couple of hours finding out the situation, what was going on, and suggesting his
getting off the tube.
Mr. Willens: Was there federal jurisdiction at the time that you made that trip?
Did you anticipate that there was a federal case here?
Mr. Miller: No. As I recall, at the time there was no statute that prohibited the
assassination of the President, so it was under state jurisdiction. The killing of Oswald was a
state matter, too. As far as I knew, there was no federal jurisdiction there. But anyway we talked
and tried to figure out what the next step was, trying to figure out where Oswald came from, what
did we know about Oswald, what was his background. I guess we went to bed that night and got
up the next morning, and continued working on it. Then I think I got a call either that day or the
next day when i was getting ready to head back. Katzenbach called and said that the Attorney
General of Texas had called for a major press conference over in Austin, the State capitol. He
had apparently cleared with somebody in Washington or in the White House that he was going to
announce the formation of the Texas Investigating Commission, which was a procedure that they
had actually used (I think) in the Billy Sol Estes case. It had statutory authority, but it had little
in terms of regulations or anything, and I don’t think that its findings bore any weight whatsoever.
Nick and I discussed what a lousy idea it was for Lyndon Johnson’s home state to conduct an
inquiry into that assassination, but that was one of those brainless things that happen, I guess. So
I said, well what are the marching orders, and Nick said well, just go over and do what you can
do. And I said well, we cannot say that we won’t cooperate, but I’ll try to talk him out of it. So
we went over there. I remember both Barefoot and I had quit smoking. He had an old
Oldsmobile, and we were barreling along the road about 100 miles an hour, and he said I can’t
stand it, and I said neither can I. He slammed the brakes on, and we went and both bought two
packs of cigarettes. We were puffing like mad all the way trying to figure out what to do. When
we got there Carr was with several of his aides, and I tried to spell out how wrong it was to have
a Texas investigation of this matter. It could easily be misconstrued, something that Johnson had
caused, and there was going to be enough trouble with this as it was. So we argued back and
forth, and he said well, what are you going to do. I said, well I’ll go out there and I’ll sit with you
at the press conference and I will say that the Department will cooperate with any investigation
initiated. But I’m not going one step beyond that and, if somebody asks me what I think, I’ll try
to finesse the question. So we go out there, and it was just an absolute mob scene. It looked like
150 radio, television, print reporters, and Carr got up and made his announcement.
Mr. Willens: Well, what was his announcement at that time?
Mr. Miller: That he was going to start a Texas board of inquiry. Then some
questions were asked, and one of the questions was what was the position of the White House or
the Department of Justice. I responded that we would of course be conducting our own
investigation but we would cooperate. Period. I answered no further questions. But then
Barefoot and I were sitting there, and one of the reporters asked Carr if he’d cleared this idea with
anybody in the White House, and of course both Barefoot and I became all ears. We were
curious. And he named some-names. I think one was Fortas and a couple of other names that I
forget at the moment but will recollect if I think about it. That was very much that. I went to the
airport and came back.
Mr. Willens: When did you first hear of the possibility that there would be a
Presidential Commission established to investigate the matter?
Mr. Miller: You know, I don’t remember that. You probably have a better
recollection of that than I do. But somewhere along the line, I think it was Katzenbach’s idea,
Mr. Willens: I don’t know.
Mr. Miller: I think it probably was. I’m sure we discussed it. I’m sure you and
I discussed it, because if he’d brought it up to me I would have talked to you about it. I thought
then it was very important that, because of the diverse makeup that the panel would probably
have, the Criminal Division should have a handle on what was happening. So I asked if you
would go over and participate, because I wanted somebody that had law enforcement and
Mr. Willens: Do you remember the Deputy Attorney General asking you
whether you were available and willing to spend time with the Warren Commission?
Mr. Miller: Did he ask me? I’ve forgotten? Did he?
Mr. Willens: He told me recently that he did ask you and that you said that you
couldn’t do that consistent with your own responsibilities. But he recalls that you said you could
persuade me to do that. That’s his current recollection. It may be no better than yours or mine.
Mr. Miller: No, but I couldn’t leave at that stage because Bob was devastated. I
just couldn’t leave the Criminal Division unattended. That would have been a full-time job. I
just couldn’t have done it. It just wouldn’t have been proper.
Mr. Willens: During a break in our interview, I happened to see that there were
some books sitting in this room that are some of the more than 700 volumes written about the
Warren Commission. These books, like most of them, are critical of the Commission, and
indeed this one’s critical about everyone involved because the thesis is that organized crime in the
person of Carlos Marcello of Louisiana was an active figure in planning the assassination of
President Kennedy. Do you have any judgment today about the findings of the Warren
Commission or the possible involvement in that assassination of organized criminal elements
that have not been heretofore documented?
Mr. Miller: Well, I have heard and there’s been a couple of books out. As a
matter of fact by chance I recently happened to pick up a television program the thesis of which
was that because Robert Kennedy had knowledge and was part and parcel of the CIA plan to use
the Mafia to do in Castro,- that the murder of his brother was retnbution for that conduct. And I
consider that all hogwash, I’m sorry. I see nothing to support it. In fact, an author of one of the
books who spent a long time with me, showed me all of the FBI reports that he’d gotten under the
FOIA. I went through them, and I became more convinced than ever that it was not true.
Mr. Willens: What do you believe was not true?
Mr. Miller: That this assassination was the result of conduct by the Mafia
Mr. Willens: Do you know whether Attorney General Kennedy knew of the
assassination efforts directed at Castro in the late 1950s and the early 1960s?
Mr. Miller: From everything that I’ve been able to read, the answer is he did
not. I mean there are a couple of authors who have called me over the years that are running
around trying to put that story together, but I wouldn’t believe it. Because I know Bob Kennedy.
Mr. Willens: .Is it your assessment of him that he would not have authorized —
Mr. Miller: He would not have authorized it. And as far as I’m concerned, if he
had participated to that extent, believe me, there would be some kind of a written record that
would have surfaced a long time ago.
Mr. Willens: Those who claim he had knowledge of the Castro assassination
attempts tend to identify Castro or people acting in his direction as behind the assassination.
That is something different from organized crime, is it not?
Mr. Miller: Well, some people say Castro, some people say the Mob. You
know you got this Mob lawyer a year or so ago quoting one of the Mafia leaders, now that we
know there’s a Mafia, that he had arranged it, and Giancanna was supposed to be involved. But
I’ve seen nothing to demonstrate that except surmise.
Mr. Willens: What was the impact of the assassination on the Department of
Mr. Miller: It was devastating, because it not only lost the President, but you
know Bob was very severely affected at the loss of his brother. It was a very trying time.
Mr. Willens: There’s some suggestion in the literature that the FBI decided
immediately upon the assassination that they would not deal with the Attorney General as they
had previously and that they would reassess their own priorities with respect to organized crime.
Do you have any information one way or the other about that particular allegation?
Mr. Miller: Any decision like that would not have been broadcast or published.
I do know that the relationship between the Attorney General’s office and the FBI changed. In
fact, the man that represented the FBI in dealing with Robert Kennedy, shortly after the
assassination, well it was a while, no longer had that function.
Mr. Willens: . Who was that?
Mr. Miller: Courtney Evans. He stayed until retirement age and then left the
Department to open a law office with an aspiring young lawyer by the name of Herbert J. Miller,
Jr. and the law firm. of Miller and Evans.
Mr. Willens: Did you decide to stay with the Department of Justice until
Attorney General Kennedy resigned in 1964?
Mr. Miller: Yes. I would not have left before him
Mr. Willens: What prompted your departure in early 1965?
Mr. Miller: I had been there 4 years. I felt it was time to move on. That was
not a career position, as you well know. I guess my primary reason for going there in the first
place was because of Robert Kennedy. I felt it would be better if who was going to be the
Attorney General would appoint my successor to work with him
Mr. Willens: Had you given consideration to doing anything other than returning
to private practice in Washington?
Mr. Miller: I was offered a judgeship or offered to have my name put on a list
to go to the White House, which I gather did happen. There were three people on the list, and the
other two were appointed to the Court of Appeals. I was offered a District Court judgeship but
decided that I’d always wanted to see if I could survive on my own, so that’s when Courtney and I
opened a law office.
Mr. Willens: Did that happen then during 1964 before you left the Department?
Oh, yes, that was before I left the Department.
Mr. Willens: So it was —
Mr. Miller: Ramsey Clark was very close to the White House. And I think it
was he who was instrumental-in getting my name on the judicial appointment list.
Mr. Willens: But when it came down to it, you decided you’d rather reenter
private practice than take a position on the District Court bench
Mr. Miller: Yes. I really had missed the private practice. You know, running
the Criminal Division is an incredibly important, exciting job, a chance to really do something
worthwhile. But I really missed the practice. As you can see, at my advanced age I’m still
practicing full-time, and I really enjoy it.
Mr. Willens: But did you not consider the job of running the Criminal Division a
traditional legal position?
Mr. Miller: It is a traditional legal position, but it’s more an executive slot than
it is the practice of law. You know, you prepare to go up on the Hill and testify, and you’re an
advocate for Department legislation, and you review the important cases to see whether the facts
and the law support return of an indictment. But a lot of other times it’s personnel matters and
investigative decisions, that kind of thing.
Mr. Willens: Did you take advantage of any opportunity to appear in court
yourself while you were at the Department?
Mr. Miller: No. I felt my job was to run the Division and not become an
appellate advocate. I had fortunately already argued a case before the Supreme Court. Well, I
take that back. I remember Archie Cox requested that I appear in an in-chambers hearing before
one Justice of the Supreme Court on a bail application out in the Ninth Circuit. But I did that at
the request of Archie.
Mr. Willens: Do you have any other recollections of your Department of Justice
experience that come to mind as being particularly important or humorous or revealing?
Mr. Miller: At the end of the day? No.
Mr. Willens: All right. Let’s take a break for a moment.
Interview of Herbert J. Miller, Jr.