FBI And Witness Protection The Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Even thenm once in a while the heads of the more powerful families would meet to work out differences (Meltzer, 1990, pp. 40-41). Still, striking at the mob could not be effected easily by the use of normal investigative methods alone.

Indeed, the failure of the FBI to use even those methods in a concerted manner is noted by Kessler (2002), who reports that Hoover usually claimed that the FBI had no jurisdiction in such cases, which Kessler denies, citing laws on interstate transportation of stolen goods. During the Kennedy Administration, Hoover was forced to admit that organized crime existed and also put more pressure on the mafia as a result. Still, as Kessler (2002) notes, "the bureau still adopted a haphazard, piecemeal approach, charging Mafia figures if they submitted a false loan application to the government, for example. Having been allowed to grow, the Mafia was now difficult to eradicate" (Kessler, 2002, p. 104). Kessler contrasts the way the FBI addressed the issue with the way the Federal Bureau of Narcotics did. Under the leadership of Harry Anslinger, this agency recognized the existence of organized crime and convicted Mafia soldier Joseph Valachi in 1959. this success would also show the major approach to be taken to these matters thereafter as Valachi, believing he was to be killed by the Genovese crime family,

Agreed to cooperate and provide evidence, "first for the Bureau of Narcotics and then for the FBI" (Kessler, 2002, p. 105). Valachi was already in federal prison and so could be protected as well as possible in that setting. Others who could be persuaded to talk -- and now the FBI was seeking such informants and was actively attacking the Mafia -- needed a different form of protection.

The Witness Protection Program

The law creating and governing the Witness Protection Program is embodied in Section 3521 of the U.S. Code, which reads:

The Attorney General may provide for the relocation and other protection of a witness or a potential witness for the Federal Government or for a State government in an official proceeding concerning an organized criminal activity or other serious offense, if the Attorney General determines that an offense involving a crime of violence directed at the witness with respect to that proceeding, an offense set forth in chapter 73 of this title directed at the witness, or a State offense that is similar in nature to either such offense, is likely to be committed. The Attorney General may also provide for the relocation and other protection of the immediate family of, or a person otherwise closely associated with, such witness or potential witness if the family or person may also be endangered on account of the participation of the witness in the judicial proceeding (Part II-?Criminal Procedure, 1999).

The law also explains what the Attorney General can do to protect a witness: 1) provide suitable documents to enable the person to establish a new identity or otherwise protect the person; 2) provide housing for the person; 3) provide for the transportation of household furniture and other personal property to a new residence of the person; 4) provide to the person a payment to meet basic living expenses; 5) assist the person in obtaining employment; 6) provide other services necessary to assist the person in becoming self-sustaining; 7) disclose or refuse to disclose the identity or location of the person relocated or protected, or any other matter concerning the person or the program, after weighing the danger such a disclosure would pose to the person, the detriment it would cause to the general effectiveness of the program, and the benefit it would afford to the public or to the person seeking the disclosure; 8) protect the confidentiality of the identity and location of persons subject to registration requirements as convicted offenders under Federal or State law, including prescribing alternative procedures to those otherwise provided by Federal or State law for registration and tracking of such persons; and 9) exempt procurement for services, materials, and supplies, and the renovation and construction of safe sites within existing buildings, from other provisions of law as may be required to maintain the security of protective witnesses and the integrity of the Witness Security Program (Part II-?Criminal Procedure, 1999).

The facilitation of...
...The Service is responsible several other tasks as well, but it specifically operates the Federal Witness Security program to ensue the safety of endangered government witnesses (United States Marshals Service, 2007). Because of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, the Parole Commission also has ongoing responsibility over all state defendants who are accepted into the Witness Protection Program, for the program has been expanded beyond witnesses in federal cases. After a state defendant or witness is accepted into this program, the Parole Commission takes jurisdiction over the case (Hoffman, 1997, p. 56).

The Witness Security Program was first authorized in 1970 by the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 (Public Law 91-452), later amended by the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984. Under this law, the United States Marshals Service provides for the security, health, and safety of government witnesses and their immediate dependents whose lives are in danger because of their testimony against organized crime, drug traffickers, terrorists, and other major criminals. The reason for the program was to serve as a tool in the government's war against major criminal conspiracies and organized crime. Since the start of the program, an overall conviction rate of 89% has been obtained as a result of testimony by protected witnesses. The Attorney General decides that a witness qualifies for WITSEC protection, and he or she bases this decision on recommendations by U.S. Attorneys assigned to major federal cases throughout the nation. For a state court case, the determination is based on a request from a State Attorney General through the appropriate U.S. Attorney's office. The witness then receives a pre-admittance briefing by Marshals Service personnel and agrees to enter the program, and the next step would normally be the immediate removal of the witness and his/her immediate family members from the danger area, to be relocated to a secure area selected by the Marshals Service. The move also typically involves obtaining a court-ordered name change, and the Service provides new identities with authentic documentation for the witness and family. Certain types of assistance are also provided to the witness, including housing, medical care, job training, and employment. The witness may receive subsistence funding to cover basic living expenses, at least until the witness becomes self-sufficient in the relocation area. The Marshals Service handles 24?hour protection to all witnesses while they are in a "threat" environment and as they return to a danger area for pre-trial conferences, testimony at trials, or other court appearances. The program is operated from three levels: Marshals Service Headquarters; 10 regional offices; and Metro units, each with a highly trained Witness Security Inspector to provide assistance to witnesses and to serve as an adviser to the local Marshal on witness security matters. Less than ten percent of protected witnesses with criminal histories are arrested and charged with crimes after joining the program, a rate of recidivism among program participants that is less than half the rate of those released from the nation's prisons (U.S. Marshals Service-?Witness Security, 2007).

Still, the program has been criticized on various grounds over the years. One criticism is the charge that it has often been used to protect people who should not be given protection. One case often cited is tht of Carlos Lehder Rivas, once listed as America's public enemy No. 1, the man who turned Colombia cocaine trade into the Medellin Cartel, a more efficient and murderous operation than existed before. The cartel was responsible for 80% of the cocaine smuggled into the United States. After Lehder was finally captured in a Colombian jungle in 1987, he immediately sought a deal that would in time put him in the federal witness protection program. This was possible at the time because the Justice Department wanted Panamanian President Manuel Noriega, who may have been a minor player in the drug trade but who was a bigger political catch.

Lehder testified against Noriega in 1992 and had his sentence cut from life plus 135 years to 55 years. Lehder would later claim that he had an additional deal to reduce his sentence further and make him eligible for deportation and freedom:

The Lehder case illustrates how far the federal government's use of the witness protection program has moved from its original intent of protecting innocent victims or informants who testify against major crime figures. Lehder was rewarded for turning in someone who was in effect an…

Sources Used in Documents:


Clark, R. (1970). Crime in America. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Kessler, R. (2002). The Bureau: The secret history of the FBI. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Lawrence, J.M. (2001, August 29). FBI aided killer - Hub FBI men helped Mob hit man escape death row. The Boston Herald. Retreived October 29, 2007 at http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-77665441.html.

Lawrence, J.M. (2003, June 24). Thug's lawyers say FBI coerced witness. The Boston Herald. Retrieved October 29, 2007 at http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-104128330.html.

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