U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Hiding in Plain Sight: A Peek Into the Witness Security Program

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 73 Issue: 5 Dated: May 2004 Pages: 25-32
Douglas A. Kash
Date Published
May 2004
8 pages
This article discusses the purpose, operation, legal bases, State and local agency usage, and recent State developments of the Federal Government's Witness Security Program (WITSEC).
Traditionally WITSEC has been used to protect witnesses and their families in cases that involve organized crime, narcotics, motorcycle gangs, prison gangs, and public corruption. Now it is used as well for witnesses in terrorism cases. Although the government does not have any legal obligation to provide any level of protection for a witness, it is in the government's interest to ensure witness protection, both in order to keep the witness alive for testimony and to ensure that witnesses will not be deterred from testimony by fear of death or harm either prior to or after their testimony. The U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Office of Enforcement Operations (OEO) oversees the WITSEC. The U.S. Marshals Service administers the daily operation of the Program for witnesses relocated in the community. The Federal Bureau of Prisons administers the daily operation of the Program for witnesses who are incarcerated. In addition to witnesses in Federal cases, witnesses in State or local cases can also request protection under the Program through the investigative agency managing the case. This article outlines the criteria and procedures for applying for the WITSEC. Although there have been problems with the Program, including law violations by protected witnesses, there have been a comparatively limited number of such problems. This is due to the dedication and professionalism of the persons who administer the Program. 64 notes