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The Federal Witness Security Program
Criminal Division (redacted version)

Report No. 02-05
January 2002
Office of the Inspector General


Criminal Division officials have indicated that this report contains information that, if distributed widely, could compromise the law enforcement operations of the U.S. Department of Justice. Therefore, we have redacted the sensitive information in this publicly released version of the report.

The Witness Security Reform Act of 1984 (the Act) provides the Attorney General with the authority to place individuals into the Federal Witness Security Program (Program). The Act establishes the authorities and responsibilities of the Attorney General in administering the Program:

Program Responsibility

The Program provides protection services for relocated and prisoner witnesses. Relocated witnesses protected by the United States Marshals Service (USMS) are relocated to new communities to avoid detection and reprisal. Prisoner witnesses are incarcerated and protected by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and upon release may be eligible for relocation services. In addition, the Program provides protection services to family members or persons closely associated with the relocated or prisoner witness.

The Office of Enforcement Operations (OEO) within the Criminal Division (CRM) is responsible for admitting all witnesses into the Program. Appendices IV and V illustrate the OEO's procedures for admitting relocated and prisoner witnesses into the Program. The OEO is also responsible for resolving conflicts (e.g., conflicts between witnesses and the BOP), coordinating visits to witnesses, and removing witnesses from the Program. In addition, OEO officials visit prisoner witnesses at the BOP facilities biannually to address any problems or concerns of these witnesses. Further, the OEO is responsible for determining if restitution is to be paid to victims of crimes that are committed by protected witnesses.

The OEO expended $863,579 in fiscal year (FY) 2000 for the Program. These appropriated funds were spent on salaries, travel, supplies, and other indirect costs. These funds did not include expenses for witnesses. The BOP does not budget separately for the Program. The USMS is responsible for administering funds for the protection of witnesses from the Fees and Expenses of Witnesses account. In FY 2000, the USMS budgeted about $27.5 million for the protection of witnesses, which included: (1) subsistence, (2) housing, (3) medical and dental care, (4) travel, (5) documentation, (6) identity changes, (7) one-time relocation, (8) assistance with employment, and (9) other miscellaneous expenses.

Program History

The Program was initially developed to protect relocated witnesses. However, between FY 1998 and FY 2001, the Department admitted significantly more prisoner witnesses than relocated witnesses into the Program as shown in the chart below. According to a former CRM official, this is in part because: (1) federal prosecutors have been able to obtain crucial testimony from criminals who have first-hand knowledge of a criminal organization and many of these individuals are serving time for their crimes; and (2) honest, law-abiding citizens often do not know enough about the crimes committed by criminal organizations to provide the types of detailed testimony necessary to convict members of a criminal organization.

Bar chart showing the types of witnesses authorized between FYs 1998 and 2001 organized by number of witnesses and prisoner.  In 1998 there were 25 relocated witnesses and 103 prisoner witnesses. In 1999 there were 27 relocated witnesses and 105 prisoner witnesses. In 2000 there were 21 relocated witnesses and 95 prisoner witnesses. As of May 2001 there were 13 relocated witnesses and 62 prisoner witnesses.

Source: The Office of Enforcement Operations

When the Program first was developed in the early 1970s, United States Attorneys used it as a tool in prosecuting cases related to organized crime. Currently, witnesses admitted into the Program testify mostly in narcotics-related cases. The following chart depicts the type of cases for which the OEO authorized 128 witnesses for FY 1998. 1 The chart shows that 55 witnesses (43 percent) were authorized for narcotics-related cases, whereas only 9 witnesses (7 percent) were authorized for organized crime-related cases.

Bar chart showing the types of cases for which witnesses were authorized and the number of witnesses in FY 1998. Number of witness: Firearms had 1, Organized Crime 9, Racketeering 17, Gang 13, Case Type Not Available 10, INS 1, Money Laundering  1, Murder 13, Narcotics 55, Public Corruption 1, Robbery 7.

Source: The Office of Enforcement Operations

Congressional Oversight

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing in June 1996 on the Program during which Department officials testified about the Program's successes, including the following:

In addition, Department officials testified about one of the shortfalls of the Program, citing the fact that the Department did not have meaningful statistics demonstrating the contributions made by protected witnesses to law enforcement. Department officials told the Judiciary Committee in 1996 that the Department would develop a process to track the results of protected witness testimony.

Our audit encompassed a review of this data collection and tracking system, as well as Program admission and termination criteria. Additionally, we reviewed Program compliance with the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA).


  1. FY 1998 data was the most recent available data. The OEO was still in the process of compiling data for FY 1999 at the time of our audit.