Commissions of Inquiry

May 22, 1951

Report Outline
Excutive Vs. Legislative Investigations
Investigations in Foreign Countries
Service of American Commissions of Inquiry

Excutive Vs. Legislative Investigations

Alternative Means of Pursuing Crime Inquiry

With the Senate Crime Investigating Committee due to expire Sept. 1, Congress will be called upon to decide within the next three months whether or not to provide for continuing surveillance of crime conditions—either by a permanent Federal Crime Commission in the Executive Branch or by a special congressional committee devoted exclusively to the task. The resolution under which the life of the Senate committee, originally extended from Mar. 31 to May 1, was extended for an additional four months provides that at the end of that period its records shall be turned over to the Senate Interstate Commerce Committee, and that that committee shall continue to study the crime problem. Manifestly, however, a standing legislative committee cannot give to the question the attention it would receive from a special committee or commission.

If it is decided to provide for a more thorough follow-up of the crime investigation, three alternative courses of action will be available: (1) Further extension of the existing special committee of the Senate; (2) creation of a new joint Senate-House watchdog committee; (3) enactment of legislation to establish a presidentially-appointed Federal Crime Commission. The actual choice lies largely between the second and third alternatives, for the nature of future activities will differ from that of the activities carried on during the last year by the special Senate committee.

As Sen. Kefauver (D., Tenn.) said in the Senate on Apr. 24, a week before he relinquished the chairmanship of the Crime Investigating Committee to Sen. O'Conor (D., Md.): “The work of a legislative investigating committee is for the purpose of obtaining facts upon which to make legislative recommendations, and … there is no justification for an investigating committee's continuing forever, unless there are certain facts which it can investigate and which would be of assistance in proposing legislation.” Kefauver felt that the committee already had developed enough facts to warrant termination of the investigation. The two Republican members of the committee—Sens. Tobey (N. H.) and Wiley (Wis.)—wanted to extend its life to Jan. 15, 1952, and Wiley said that “by the end of this year we can have pretty well completed the job.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Crime and Law Enforcement