WITSEC by Pete Earley and Gerald Shur

WITSEC I selected 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, also know as WITSEC for Witness Security, began as a way to break the mob’s code of silence. Without protection witnesses, snitchs, and “rats” would turn up dead in very gruesome ways before federal authorities could bring the case to trial, and the mob ran wild throughout the United States.

Within the book, there’s a lot of technical and personal information that bogs the story down and distracts from the overall focus, WITSEC. However, I did find it very interesting how badly WITSEC was perceived in the 1960s and 70s and the cases that went wrong to be the most interesting part of this nonfiction book. Too often books written by those closest to the program — let alone the “father” of a program — have a tendency to be very arogent and unwilling to confront the controversies. But Shur and Earley have no problem laying it all out there; they hid nothing and explain everything.

I thought the testimony by “Witness X” would give more insight into the human side of the program, but that was problem one of the most disappointing parts. “Witness X” may be real, but she comes across as very fake, very made-up. I wish their had been either more first-person accounts or one by someone else.

The other problem was just how much this book relies on the reader being a mafia buff. I know almost nothing about the mafia — other than “The Sopranos” and The Godfather — and the authors offer no background information as to who “Fat Vinny” and “Sammy the Bull” were.

Book Mentioned:

  • Earley, Pete and Gerald Shur. WITSEC: Inside the Federal Witness Protection Program. New York: Bantam, 2002. Print. 368 pgs. ISBN: 9780553582437. Source: Library.
Book Cover © Bantam. Retrieved: July 26, 2009.

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