Expert Selwyn Raab on how September 11th helped the Mob evade annihilation and rebuild into the 21st century
By Shawn McCreesh | 22 November 2016
ROLLING STONE — When Selwyn Raab first published his 765-page jeremiad Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America’s Most Powerful Mafia Empires, the year was 2005 and the Mob was, in Raab’s words, “a crushed colossus.” Decades of indictments brought under the RICO law had vanquished even the most fearsome mobsters; Bonanno crime boss Joseph Massino had just flipped sides for the Feds the year before, and two years prior to that, John “The Teflon Don” Gotti had died a lonely death in a Missouri prison hospital far from the streets of New York.
The book, which drew from Raab’s four-decade career investigating the Mob for the metropolitan desk of The New York Times, has since been hailed as the definitive account on all things Cosa Nostra, complete with painstakingly detailed family trees and whole appendixes dedicated to things like “Mafia Boss Succession.” (Raab later became a consultant for AMC’s 10-part series The Making of the Mob, among others.) Yet despite the prevailing belief that the Mob had been defeated – and the fact that Raab himself had spent nearly 700 pages illustrating the elaborate terms of this crushing defeat – he devoted the last 20 pages to the likelihood of the “resurgence” referred to in its lengthy subtitle.
“This [was] a stretch,” chalked up to “an apparent attempt to buoy [the book’s] relevance,” decided Bryan Burrough in the Times‘ original 2005 review. Most in New York would’ve agreed with him. But Raab, in all his expertise, had the foresight that many at this time did not. He believed the September 11th attacks four years earlier had so dramatically shifted the priority of the FBI’s New York bureau – the largest in the nation – from organized crime to homeland security, that the mafia would be poised for a comeback.
“The Mob was on the ropes and really needed only one or two more crushing blows before the FBI could really turn these people into old street gangs,” says Raab. “That changed after 9/11.” […]