The U.S. Marshals Service has been assisting a dozen countries with the creation of witness-protection programs in response to increasing threats against key figures in foreign prosecutions, USA Today reports. Based on the U.S. witness-protection operation, which has helped relocate an estimated 7,500 witnesses and 9,500 family members over 37 years, the international effort extends from Western Europe to Asia, said Thomas Wight, who oversees the U.S. program.
Many of the requests for U.S. assistance have come during the past five years as foreign governments –including Colombia, Israel, Italy, Brazil, and Thailand – attempt to intervene in violent drug cartels, criminal gangs, human trafficking operations and domestic terror groups. Interpol is hosting a September conference with the Marshals Service at Interpol’s headquarters in France to address the needs of foreign governments. Israel is expected to begin a witness-protection operation as early as 2008. On the domestic front, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) has introduced a proposal that would establish a separate program in the Marshals Service to provide “short-term protection” for witnesses in state trials involving homicide or other major violent crimes.