WITSEC, Inside the Federal Witness Protection Program

Cover ImageWITSEC Inside the Federal Witness Protection Program by Pete Earley and Gerald Shur

Finished 2-17-08, rating 3.5/5. non-fiction, pub. 2002

Where to begin?  Well, I chose this book because I am researching the Witness Protection Program for my own book (fiction) and was curious about the inner workings of this government program.  This was co-written by the creator of the program, Gerald Shur, so you get a fly-on-the-wall view of the inception all the way through its current troubled times.  During Shur’s tenure WITSEC protected 6,416 witnesses and 14,468 of their family members.

The program began because of the government’s priority of taking down the mob.  The book is full of colorful stories about mob witnesses and the Justice Department’s struggle to keep them alive long enough to testify.  Having little to no interest in the Mob, I still found this book fascinating.  After the mob, drug lords, gangs, and terrorists all became witnesses in this storied program. 

This book highlights the good, the bad, and the ugly and some notables came out a little muddied.  Hoover’s FBI and Geraldo Rivera did not look good. Also, there was an interesting story about Jeb Bush encouraging his Dad to pressure the Justice Department to release a terrorist to curry favor with Floridia Hispanics.  But the book isn’t aimed at making people look bad.  It is an honest and thought provoking look at the pros and cons of this program.

I came away with great respect for Shur and the others who toiled with him to make WITSEC a success.  Is it safe to put known killers and rapists in unsuspecting communities?  Shur says it is for the greater good, but you’ll have to judge for yourself.  I highly recommend this if you are at all interested in the Witness Protection Program, the mob, US Marshals, or the way that the Justice Department works.

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