The Federal Witness Security Program
Criminal Division (redacted version)
Report No. 02-05
Office of the Inspector General
The purpose of the Federal Witness Security Program (Program) is to protect government witnesses and their families so that the most serious criminals can be brought to trial and be judged on evidence provided by those witnesses. The Program has been in existence for more than 30 years and has become a vital tool for prosecuting criminal cases, particularly cases involving organized crime and narcotics.
Within the Department of Justice (Department), three components are responsible for administering the Program. The Criminal Division (CRM) is responsible for admitting witnesses into the Program and for collecting, analyzing, and reporting the results of protected witness testimony. In fiscal year (FY) 2000, the CRM spent about $863,579 for the Program. The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), which does not budget separately for the Program, is responsible for protecting Program witnesses housed in its facilities. The United States Marshals Service (USMS) is responsible for protecting Program witnesses and their family members who are relocated to new communities. In FY 2000, the USMS budgeted about $27.5 million for the protection of witnesses. This audit report focuses on the administration of the Program within the CRM's Office of Enforcement Operations (OEO).
Overall, we found that the OEO admitted witnesses into the Program in accordance with the Witness Security Reform Act of 1984 (the Act), and took appropriate action in terminating witnesses from the Program who substantially breached Program guidelines. Additionally, in our judgment the OEO had made some improvement in overcoming a long history of problems associated with reporting on the results of protected witness testimony. Specifically, we found that:
However, problems with compiling and reporting protected witness data remain. In reviewing the most recent data compiled by the OEO, we found that the reported number of defendants against whom protected witnesses testified or cooperated, along with the resulting number of indictments and convictions, were significantly overstated. The most recent data on protected witness testimony compiled by the OEO resulted in 1,621 defendants, 1,607 indictments, and 920 convictions. However, these numbers were overstated - defendants by 296 (18 percent), indictments by 746 (46 percent), and convictions by 228 (25 percent). This occurred because of flaws in: (1) the process used by the OEO to compile data pertaining to the number of defendants, indictments, and convictions; and (2) the formula used by the OEO to calculate the number of indictments. We also noted that the CRM did not comply with requirements of the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) to develop outcome-based performance measures related to the results of protected witness testimony. As a result, the OEO may not be able to demonstrate to Congress and other decision makers accurate statistical benefits resulting from protected witness testimony.
Additional details pertaining to the collecting and reporting of data are contained in the Findings and Recommendations section of the report. Our objectives, scope, and methodology are contained in Appendix III.