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The Emergency Witness Assistance Program
Report Number I-2001-002


The Inspections Division, Office of the Inspector General, reviewed the Emergency Witness Assistance Program (EWAP) in the Executive Office for United States Attorneys (EOUSA) and selected United States Attorneys' offices (USAOs). We conducted this review to determine whether the EOUSA and the USAOs are properly administering the EWAP and whether the program is achieving its purpose. Our assessment is based on a review of program policies and procedures, files documenting witness assistance, and financial records and interviews with EWAP administrators and other Department of Justice (Department) officials. Appendix I describes our inspection scope and methodology.

Program Background

Prior to the EWAP, the Department assisted certain witnesses through the Witness Security Program and the Short-Term Protection Program. Participation in these programs requires extensive review and approval by the Department. The Witness Security Program, which began in the early 1970's, is designed to deal with extreme cases of intimidation and threats to witnesses and their families. In these cases, the witnesses and family members require physical protection, permanent relocation, and new identities. In 1992, the Department implemented the Short-Term Protection Program for threatened witnesses in cases prosecuted by the USAO for the District of Columbia (USAO-DC). The Short-Term Protection Program provides physical protection and temporary relocation of witnesses up to 90 days after defendants are sentenced. Although the Witness Security Program and the Short-Term Protection Program provide critical assistance to witnesses, the programs are not appropriate for all witnesses and case situations. Also, the programs' restrictive requirements for participation may prevent the Department from meeting the needs of all threatened or intimidated witnesses. Appendix II provides a detailed summary of these programs.

To address the need for immediate, non-protective, short-duration witness assistance not available through the Witness Security Program and the Short-Term Protection Program, the Attorney General's Advisory Committee of United States Attorneys (AGAC) developed the EWAP, which became operational in April 1997. The purpose of the EWAP is to provide the USAOs with the flexibility to assist witnesses and potential witnesses on an emergency basis to ensure their well-being and availability for court proceedings or other activities related to an ongoing civil or criminal case.1 Unlike other witness assistance programs, the EWAP does not include any protective services, custody arrangements, or law enforcement presence. The EWAP only provides emergency assistance of money and services to help relieve some of the fear and concerns (real or perceived) that witnesses or potential witnesses have about participating in a specific matter before or after they have agreed to cooperate with the government.

The EWAP is important because it is the only funding available to the USAOs for assisting witnesses on an emergency basis and it allows the USAOs, within program guidelines, to locally approve witness participation. The EWAP is a low-cost program that provides immediate benefits to witnesses and helps them to participate in the prosecution of federal cases.

Through the EWAP, the USAOs may provide the following types of assistance, which is usually limited to less than 30 days and less than $4,000:

The EWAP has an annual funding level capped at $3 million that is available until expended ("no year" funds). Each fiscal year, the fund is replenished to the $3 million cap. In FY 1997, based upon the number of violent crime cases opened in each USAO, the EOUSA initially allocated $10,000 to 48 USAOs, $25,000 to 25 USAOs, and $50,000 to 20 USAOs for a total of $2,105,000. The EOUSA allocated supplemental funds to 31 USAOs when their EWAP requirements exceeded their initial allocation. Appendix III describes the USAOs' responsibilities for approving the use of EWAP funds to assist witnesses.

  1. Two memorandums provide the background, description, authority, and legal basis for the EWAP. The first memorandum, "Creation and Implementation of the Emergency Witness Assistance Program," September 12, 1996, provides the background and description of the EWAP. The second memorandum, "Authority and Basis for Conclusions Contained in the EWAP Memorandum," September 12, 1996, provides the authority and legal basis for the establishment of the EWAP.
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