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Witsec: Inside the Federal Witness Protection Program Hardcover – January 29, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0553801453 ISBN-10: 0553801457

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (January 29, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553801457
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553801453
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #258,158 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Earley, an Edgar fact-crime award winner for Circumstantial Evidence, and Shur present a fascinating third-person account of Shur's 25-year career with the Department of Justice. Starting out as a federal attorney who recruited witnesses to take down the New York crime syndicate, Shur immediately saw the need to protect those who might testify against organized crime. After years of ardent advocacy, Shur created what would become the Witness Protection Program (WITSEC). As this book shows, WITSEC's 30-year history has been anything but tranquil. Some witnesses started up new crime syndicates or haplessly revealed their true identities. Others, wanting to remain in the spotlight, presented false testimony at congressional hearings. Still others took their indispensability as witnesses to mean they were to live forever on government subsistence checks. Additionally, Shur and WITSEC faced infighting among the federal agencies that most used the program, notably, the FBI, IRS and DEA; and the physical protection of witnesses and their families was often badly handled by a poorly organized U.S. Marshals Service. Yet WITSEC has managed to protect thousands of witnesses from certain death for having offered incriminating testimony to authorities. Since the book brazenly cheers Shur's every contribution to WITSEC, it is not the well-rounded work that it should be; nevertheless, this is an eye-opening account of a significant government program, with firsthand testimony by a woman identified only as "Witness X," who has been relocated by the program. (Feb. 4)Forecast: This BOMC alternate selection has plenty of drama and action to satisfy true-crime fans. The dramatic cover photo of a man in the dark, his outline silhouetted by light, will draw attention.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

WITSEC, or the Witness Protection Program, has alternately been praised as the key to the destruction of organized crime and damned for "buying" testimony and setting vicious criminals loose on unsuspecting communities. Here Shur, the driving force behind WITSEC for over 30 years, and journalist Earley present the history of the program, warts and all. Conceived as a way to help mob informants, WITSEC was underfunded, understaffed, and foisted on the unwilling U.S. marshals. But over the years it became much more organized and professional, even as it began to draw controversy. Some relocated criminals continued their criminal careers, families were broken up, and some noncriminal witnesses felt like criminals themselves. Included is a first-person account of the relocated wife of a mobster, who describes the terror and devastation of leaving her old life behind. While Shur's perspective is foremost, the authors bend over backward to present dissenting opinions. Overall, the impression is of a program that works staggeringly well despite its shortcomings. For all true-crime collections. Deirdre Root, Middletown P.L., OH
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

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 reporting and compelling writing helped him garner success as one of few authors with "the power to introduce new ideas and give them currency," according to Washingtonian magazine.

When Pete's life was turned upside down by the events recounted in his book Crazy, he joined the National Alliance of Mental Illness to advocate for strong mental health reform on the public stage.

This new advocacy has taken him to 46 different states and multiple countries around the globe where he delivers speeches to rally against the troubled mental health systems and for the mentally ill.

As an author, Pete has been on the receiving end of many accolades, including:

- 2007 Pulitzer Prize Finalist for General Nonfiction
- New York Times Bestseller for The Hot House
- Robert F. Kennedy Award for Social Justice
- Edgar Award Winner for Best Fact Crime Book

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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See all 32 customer reviews
I just started reading this one last night.
Casia Holmgren
I believe the authors make a very good case for its merits, however.
David Harris
A very well done book about a very remarkable man.
Jim Bob P

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Daniel J. Maloney on May 20, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I found WITSEC to be fascinating from cover to cover. Gerald Shur was one of the original founders of the federal Witness Protection Program. For many years, he was the lynchpin in bringing increasing levels of organization and professionalism to a once informal "make it up as you go along" experimental program.

Now retired and finally free to give an insider's view of the program and its successes and failures, Gerald Shur offers a sometimes captivatingly honest and direct chronicle of the challenges and growing pains the program went through over the years. He is able to give an honest appraisal of the good decisions and successes the program has had, and even more admirable, he is able to state and own the program's shortcomings and outright failures. I admire the fact that Shur has been able to step aside from this work that he lived and breathed for so many years and offer a fairly objective story of the program.

At one point in the book, a relocated witnesses' wife tells her own personal story. It is a touching and sad story of a woman who had to abandon herself without notice and chronicles the 25 years after she was first relocated. I cannot imagine, even after having read this book, how difficult it must be to leave one's entire identity behind in order to "become someone completely new" -- birth history, family, origins, family support systems, and familiar surroundings -- all in order to help save a partner's life or one's own! While some have been extremely critical of the purpose of the witness protection program over the years, this is no glamorous escape for criminals who would be otherwise incarcerated for their entire lives.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Gene Coon on January 29, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Gerry Shur's unique story telling ability is expertly enhanced by Pete Earley's easy flowing writing style.
This book, which reads like a novel, provides the reader with and in depth look into why and how this Program was developed. Facts are laced with the right amount of anecdotal information, affording a balanced, accurate and fair portrayal of a controversial Government Program.
At times the reader may wonder if the main character of the book is Shur or Howard Safir but you quickly learn that without the leadership and innovative thinking of Safir, Shur's brainchild may have dwindled on the vine.
Pete Earley's inclusion of a mobster's wife's perspective on the Program is brilliant. It comes at just the right time in the sequence of events to allow the reader to more clearly understand the impact that this extremely effective law enforcement tool can have on the lives of those on the peripheral.
Once you begin, you won't want to put this one down.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By XTreme Cdn on April 13, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
What an education you will recieve from reading this book. The majority of the public will never have any clue what goes on in the life of a "protected witness"or how the "system" works ... that's one of the things that drew me to the book. Is Shur slanting the story, aggrandizing his own reputation? Whatever.

*The other thing that drew me to read it ... when I was in college in Southern California many years ago - living off-campus in an apartment with two roomates (attending a small, private Christian 'Liberal Arts' College) ... our neighbor was a single mother who never seemed to go to work (???), and never left the apartment.

One day she mentioned to my roomate that she was in the "Witness Protection Program". The very next week, in the middle of the night, there were agents moving out all her stuff very quickly. She left a note under our door saying she was moving to Hawaii. The day after she was out without a trace ... some people showed up to her apartment to force their way in. They ended up crawling through my roomate's bedroom window by mistake, while he was taking a nap (the guy had a tire iron in his hand). *What was scary - was they guy was very soft-spoken, and politely apologized to my roomate for the "intrusion". They eventually forced their way in through the sliding glass door on the balcony of her apartment (the one guy actually climbed the side of the building). Of course the apartment was empty.

We had called the police ... and within MINUTES the entire complex was swarming with agents, helicopters, and police dogs. We really had no idea what was going on - or if she was telling the truth about any of her story. The book made it all come to life. My story was just like many of those in the book.

The book really summed it up: "You choose WITSEC ... when you have absolutely NO other alternative". What a tough way to live - not to mention the trade-off you make.

Highly recommended reading.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This fast-paced non-fiction book reads like a novel. It's a fascinating look into the development of the Witness Protection Program--a program which is part of everyday lexicon, but whose origins and real-life operations are not widely known. Post-September 11, this book offers a timely look at how the original program has been expanded to bring the terrorists of the 1993 World Trade Center attack to justice, and has been used against the Colombian cartels, serving as a model to other countries. Shur, the self-effacing WITSEC founder, bluntly describes the problems with the program, past and present, and candidly talks about its failures as well as its successes. Interagency feuds and critics of the program, including Geraldo Rivera, are given ample space in this balanced account of the program that is widely credited with breaking the mob's code of silence. A first-person account of a relocated relative of a mob informant gives a chilling glimpse of life in the program. Informative AND entertaining, this book has Hollywood written all over it!
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