U.S. Lost Track of Suspected Terrorists in Witness Protection Program


The U.S. has lost track of two known or suspected terrorists given identities under the federal witness protection program, says a Justice Department audit that indicated the program was so poorly monitored the department didn’t even know how many such individuals were in it, reports the Christian Science Monitor. The new identities of individuals who had cooperated in terrorism investigations were not properly shared with other agencies, the Justice Department's inspector general reported yesterday.

As a result, some known or suspected terrorists in the witness protection program who were on the federal “no-fly” list were allowed to travel on commercial flights. “We found significant deficiencies in the handling of known or suspected terrorists who were admitted into the WitSec [witness security] Program,” the watchdog agency found. “Therefore, it was possible for known or suspected terrorists to fly on commercial airplanes in or over the United States and evade one of the government's primary means of identifying and tracking terrorists' movements and actions.” Since it began in 1971, some 18,300 witnesses, family members, and other associates of witnesses have received identity protection – relocated with new names – under the program. As of a year ago, there were about 700 participants in the program. Witnesses typically testify in cases involving organized crime, drug trafficking, gang activity, and terrorism.

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