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WITSEC: Inside the Federal Witness Protection Program

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  361 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
Written by the founder of the Federal Witness Protection Program, this riveting book is an insider's view of the controversial crime-fighting program that provides new identities for federal witnesses.
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published January 29th 2002 by Bantam (first published 2002)
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Jun 17, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, law, non-fiction
One of the co-authors of "Witsec," Gerald Shur, is the federal Department of Justice official largely responsible for creating a formal program for re-locating, providing new identities, housing, temporary financial support, and help finding a job to witnesses who would otherwise likely be killed if they testified at trial. The re-location program is largely the work of U. S. Marshals. In addition, in the 1970s the federal Bureau of Prisons developed separate facilities to house those witnesses ...more
Aug 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: CIA/FBI buffs
I've always been interested in government books, especially those dealing with agencies like the CIA and FBI. When this came out, I was so excited to read it because I've also always had some weird fascination with the Witness Protection program. Something that could so easily make someone disappear into thin air sounded really cool!

I liked this book because it not only gave the history of the department, but it dealt with the trials and tribulations the department's founder, Gerald Shur, dealt
Jan 22, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
WITSEC: Inside the Federal Witness Protection Program is the interesting but awkward collaboration between Gerald Shur, the founder of WITSEC, and Pete Earley, a writer who happened to be working on a WITSEC book at the same time that Shur was writing his autobiography. When each learned what the other was up to, they decided to join forces, and the results are uneven. Though the book takes pains to include criticisms of the sometimes troubled program, Shur, of course, always gets the last word ...more
Jul 26, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lots if interesting information, but not very well written.
L Frost
Feb 22, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This nonfiction book about the US witness protection program isn't just a history but more of a collection of stories that when strung together tell the history. It's also the personal story of the man behind the program which provides a man character for the book. The book was very interesting in the beginning but began to be tedious about midway through. Maybe the stories started to sound too much alike at that point. Progression of the story seemed to bog down. I actually quit reading for a f ...more
Aug 10, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would have liked less of a surface description of the beginnings of Witsec and more delving into the ethical implications of the program. I don't know if the lack of depth is because Shur -- who created Witsec -- is a co-author, so there is never more than a "this was a hard decision but we did the right thing" response to the problems caused by Witsec, or if it is Earley's staccato, just-the-facts-ma'am type writing style that is the problem. Disappointing.
Terry Southard
A good enough book about an interesting topic. It could have been better if they had included more personal insights from those inside the program - some were included, but not enough. I felt like they were honest about the problems with the program. And it made me consider some sides of the issue I had not thought about before.
Peg Griffith
Mar 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought this was a real interesting book and I am glad I read it.
David Harris
Mar 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
* A relatively quick read with lots of good information, March 14, 2005 *

For obvious reasons, the witness protection program has always been and probably always will be controversial. I believe the authors make a very good case for its merits, however. Thanks to this program, the law now has much more effective tools to protect ordinary people from the reckless, greed-crazed megalomaniacs who prey on them. It also gives those trapped in this soul-deadening lifestyle an opportunity to change thei
As I said before, I’ve picked up WITSEC because of a novel I’ve recently read and a television I watch every Sunday night. There are very few nonfiction books written about this origination due to the nature of their work, so I was excited to find one co-written by the founder of the Federal Witness Protection Program. I’m also not the only one who’s discovered it as I noticed several story lines transferred from print to television by “In Plain Sight.”

The Federal Witness Protection Program, als
May 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009, non-fiction
What a fascinating book! It traces the Witness Protection Program (shortened as "Witsec" for "Witness Security" - hence the title of the book) from its creation to fight organized crime, to its use today. Like everyone else, I've heard of the witness protection program but didn't know much about it other than it established new identities for people. I know so much more now, from all the bureaucratic problems it had in the beginning - and some that it continues to have now - to issues protected ...more
Aug 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Greg Stoll
Mar 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A mostly interesting history of the Witness Protection Program, as recounted by its founder. There were quite a few amusing anecdotes:
- After Nixon announced that there were mob "strike forces" in 18 cities when in truth there were only 17, instead of correcting him the Justice Department created another one!
- A lot of mob people who went into the program had a wife and a mistress, and both would generally get protection. One guy asked them to protect his mistress but not his wife! (they protect
Sep 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'Witsec' offers an intriguing, fairly objective look at the history, operation and challenges of the United States' witness protection program. It's written in a fairly straightforward, journalistic manner, with little of the sensationalism some true crime tomes are prone to. Even so, it's got plenty of personal stories and observations that make it easy to relate to co-author and WITSEC founder Gerald Shur and his associates. The many anecdotal stories included within do a good job of highlight ...more
Emily Wiersma
How many of us really think of Witsec and what it has done for crime in the U.S.? I never really did until I read this book written by Pete Early and Gerald Shur. It gives excellent detail on the beginnings of the program to where it is at today. Shur, a Jewish boy from Brooklyn, was dubbed "The father of Witsec" because it was his brainchild. His program helped encourage witnesses (criminal or non-criminal) to come forward and testify against crime. Witsec would than give them a new identity an ...more
Brooke Evans
May 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
This book was amazing! Highly recommend. The history of the Witness Protection Program (WITSEC) from such reliable sources is so fascinating. I would never, never want to be part of WITSEC, but it has done such incredible things. The Witness X story was depressing and brings you down to earth about how very difficult the program would be especially for the friends and family of a witness (or the non-criminal WITSEC witnesses.) But it seems unarguable that the program is largely responsible for c ...more
Jul 24, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Jan McGill
"The one time I was really concerned was when a witness [an ex-mafioso who was given a new identity after testifying against other Mob members:] asked me to protect his mistress but not his wife. I protected his wife anyway."
--Gerald Shur, founder of WITSEC

"I used to feel that there was a deputy following me with a broom sweeping up any evidence I was here. I hated that. Memories matter because, in the end, memories are all any of us have." --"Witness X," who was relocated with her Mob-connecte
Aug 02, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in law enforcement, those who read all things mafia-related
I wish I could give this book 3 1/2 stars. The book was full of fascinating information, and I particularly was intrigued by the section told from the witnesses point of view. I wish there would have been more first person accounts of people within the program.

An interesting note: I've been watching USA's In Plain Sight and recognized several story lines that were taken from this book. There are very few non-fiction books about WITSEC, so obviously the writers used this resource.

Overall a good
Tom Schulte
Jul 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bio, true-crime-spies
coauthored with program founder Gerald Shur, this is a fascinating look into the relocation and new identity program administered by US Marshals that grew out of the FBI's fight against the Mafia in the 60s. After its peak in the 70s, the maturing program was instrymental in the fight against Escobar's cartel and later international terrorism. expected highlights are noted cases and failures, like Jimmy the Weasel and Mad Dog Pruett. unexpected gems is the account of going through the program wr ...more
Jun 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
- simply...the fascinating, true story of the U.S. Federal Witness Protection Program, which has protected more than 6,400 witnesses since 1963. Hiding people who have received death threats, keeping them safe and alive long enough to testify, and then creating new identities for them (and their families) is a controversial idea, especially when it means protecting killers, mobsters, and thieves, financially assisting them, and helping them get a fresh start/
Feb 15, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting look into the Witness Security program, from its inception to the present. Although long winded - I think the story could easily be told in half the pages - there are some great stories of the good and bad, the use and abuse of the program and the people involved. I loved the little story about how the Bush boys had a mass-murderer released from prison to appease the hispanic population to garner some votes.
Apr 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I generally don't read non-fiction, but this was a really interesting story co-authored by the "father of witsec" Gerald Shur. Getting witnesses to testify against mobsters was almost impossible due to their legitimate fear of retribution against themselves and their families. Lots of fits and starts, unanticipated problems, politics, funding problems, unfulfilled promises, and stupid witnesses taking chances. Great stories!
Cori Arnold

While I was a little disappointed this book had so much focus on the mob, I can understand (now) why it did. About half way through I wondered if someone besides Mr. Shur had been the focus of the book if it would have been drastically different. Would we be so mired in the politics? Maybe. My favorite sections focused on 'Witness X' and the last section on the modern changes within the program.

I read this book for research for my next novel, so in that it was invaluable.
Sep 04, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: criminal justice lovers
Shelves: criminal-justice
An amazing look into how WITSEC got started and those who were involved with it's start. Interesting to see the battle within each man involved with the program because they're protecting criminals and unleashing them among non-the-wiser neighborhoods but if they don't protect them, they'll never ge thte testimony they need to send the even worse criminals to jail.
May 27, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ghost-written in cooperation with the "father" of the Federal witness protection program, this was an interesting look at the genesis and innards of a much-misunderstood operation.

The first two-thirds of this book were dast-paced and informative; the last third seemed to bog down under countless new names, dates, and incidents (I would have given the first part five stars).
Feb 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
A very interesting (albeit a bit slow) look into the origins and operation of WITSEC. The main things I walked away from this book with are: knowledge of how many former murderers could be in my community, a reassurance that WITSEC does (at least mostly) work, and a deep dislike for Geraldo Rivera. If WITSEC interests you, then I highly recommend this book.
Minerva Koenig
May 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very readable history of the program. Would like have have known a bit more about the nuts and bolts of how witness protection actually works, but was pleasantly suprised at the well-crafted writing.
Mandy Brazee
Oct 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a very interesting account of how the Witness Protection Program was started. It also chronicled changes in the U.S. Marshall's service and how organized crime was brought down. I didn't realize that the Witness Protection Program was basically created to combat organized crime.
Nov 26, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It was pretty good,but not all parts of the book were equal,and I did some skimming over certain parts. It's still worth a read for those interested in the history. Those were the strongest parts of the book,in fact.
Jul 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was extremely interesting. It covers the WITSEC program from its inception to about 2000. Great stories about some of the witnesses. I especially enjoyed the first-hand account by a protected witness.
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Pete Earley is a storyteller who has penned 13 books including the New York Times bestseller The Hot House and the 2007 Pulitzer Prize finalist Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness.
After a 14-year career in journalism, including six years at The Washington Post, Pete became a full-time author with a commitment to expose the stories that entertain and surprise.
His honest
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