More information on the Witness Protection Program
September 12, 2016 6:06 AM   Subscribe

How does the Witness Protection Program work?

I would love to know more both on a high-level (as in, what is the order of operations? who is eligible?) as well as the nitty gritty (who has access to the "real identities"? has the list ever been hacked?).

Has the system changed over the years? What prompted the change? Have any ex-WPP people discussed their experience with it? How do they handle information leaks?

Does the local police know that there is someone in Witness Protection in their neighborhood?

Is there an expiration date or can you go on in Witness Protection forever? Are your kids always protected? Their kids?

I would love any recommendations of books or texts that discuss this as well.

posted by amicamentis to Law & Government (6 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Henry Hill (of GoodFellas fame) wrote a couple of books about his experiences with the WPP. He was a constant pain in the ass to his handlers and was ejected from the program after continuing to commit crimes and blab about his real identity to his new neighbors.
posted by Etrigan at 6:18 AM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

One thing I heard about the WPP is that the participants are issued new SSNs, but the new ones are issued via the same process as for any new sign-up. People who are attuned to the SSN world can look at it and see that it's a 40-year-old (or whatever) with a newborn's SSN.

The program tells the participant where to go, or at least, where not to go. They want to you to go live somewhere that all your friends and acquaintances know you would never want to go. So, of course, the participants push back.
posted by SemiSalt at 7:00 AM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is the seminal book by the man credited with starting and refining the witness protection program A very fine read!
posted by Postroad at 7:35 AM on September 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Last recommendation: Witsec: Inside the Federal Witness Protection Program
posted by Mitheral at 7:43 AM on September 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've been wracking my brain trying to remember a book written by a woman whose family went into WPP after testifying against some mobsters... I'd say it was around the same time as Henry Hill, but it was def a (low level? mobster's) wife who wrote it. It was not a happy experience. She felt that many promises were made, that were forgotten/ignored once the testifying was over. The one detail I do remember is that their house was packed up by the marshals after the family was spirited away. They were very though; they even packed the kitchen garbage which was not a pleasant discovery when their belongings were finally unloaded many months later when the family reached their final destination.

ETA: It's possible that this was a chapter in Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:17 PM on September 12, 2016

You might want to read a bit about Point Roberts, WA. It's an exclave, which means that people who want to go there from the rest of the United States have to go through Canada first, and then re-enter the USA, both times going through Customs.

Consequently, it's a popular destination for those in the Federal Witness Protection Program.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:23 PM on September 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

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