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In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on June 5, 2010 at 10:50 am

In the 1989 movie, Fat Man and Little Boy, the brilliant and ambitious physicist, J. Robert Oppenheimer (played by Dwight Schultz) comes–too late–to realize he’s made a deal with the devil.

The same proved true for the J. Robert Oppenhiemer of history.

Hired by Army General Leslie Groves (played by Paul Newman) to ramrod construction of an atomic bomb, Oppenheimer has no qualms about using it against Nazi Germany. It’s believed, after all, that German scientists are furiously pursuing work on such a weapon.

And even though the full horror of the extermination camps has not yet been revealed, “Oppie” and many other Jewish scientists working on the Manhattan Project can easily imagine the fate of Jews trapped within the borders of the Third Reich.

But then something unforeseen happens. On May 8, 1945, the Third Reich collapses and signs unconditional surrender terms. Almost at the same time, the U.S. military learns that although some German physicists had tried to make an atomic bomb, they never even got close to producing one.

So Oppenheimer finds himself still working to build the most devastating weapon in history–but now lacking the enemy he had originally signed on to destroy. Meanwhile, the U.S. Government has invested nearly $2 billion in the Manhattan Project–at a time when $2 billion truly meant the equivalent of $1 trillion today. Is all that money to go for nothing?

What to do?

Oppenheimer doesn’t have to make that decision. It’s made for him–by Groves, by Groves’ superiors in the Army, and ultimately by the new President, Harry S. Truman.

The bomb will be used, after all. It will just be turned against the Japanese, who are even more hated by most Americans than the Germans.

That the Japanese lack the technological skill of the Germans to produce one doesn’t matter. That they are rapidly being pushed across the Pacific to their home islands doesn’t matter. That American bombers are incinerating Japanese cities at will doesn’t matter. That they are desperately trying to find a way to surrender without losing face doesn’t matter.

What matters is that Pearl Harbor is still fresh in the minds of Americans generally and of the American military in particular. And that now that the Japanese are being pushed back into their home islands, they are fighting ever more fanatically to hold off certain defeat. General Douglas MacArthur, who is scheduled to command the invasion of Japan, has estimated a million American casualties if this goes forward.

Oppenheimer, who has taught physics at the University of California at Berkeley, now finds himself being taught a lesson: That, once set in motion, bureaucracies–like objects–continue to move forward unless something intervenes to stop them. And, in this case, there was no one willing to say: Stop.

So, on August 6, 1945, an American B-29 bomber dropped “Little Boy” on Hiroshima. An estimated 80,000 people died instantly. By the end of the year, injury and radiation brought total casualties to 90,000-140,000.

On August 9, it was the turn of Nagasaki. Casualty estimates for the dropping of “Fat Man” ranged from 40,000 to 73,884, as well as another 74,909 injured, and another several hundred thousand diseased and dying due to fallout and other illness caused by radiation.

For Oppenheimer, the three years he has devoted to creating an atomic bomb will prove the pivotal event of his life. He will be praised and damned as an “American Prometheus,” who brought atomic fire to man.

Countless Americans–especially those who would have been ordered to invade Japan–will revere him as the man who brought the war to a quick end. And countless Americans–and non-Americans–will condemn him as a man whose arrogance and ambition led him to arm mankind with the means of its own destruction.

Upon witnessing the first successful atomic explosion near Alamogordo, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945, Oppenheimer had been stunned by the sheer magnitude of destructiveness he had helped unleash. Quoting the Hindu holy book, the Bhagavad Gita, he murmured: “Now I am become Death, the shatterer of worlds.”

Faced with the massive toll of lives taken by the device he had created, Oppenheimer became convinced that the only hope for humanity lay in abolishing nuclear weapons. He insisted that they should be placed under international control. And he tried to persuade American leaders of the dangers of an unchecked arms race.

The climax of his anti-bomb efforts came when he vigorously opposed the creation of a “super” hydrogen bomb. His advice was overruled, however, and construction of this went forward at the same pace that Oppenheimer had once driven others to create the atomic bomb.

The first test of this even more terrifying weapon occurred on November 1, 1952. By 1953, just as Oppenheimer had predicted, the Soviet Union had launched its own H-bomb test.

In a famous meeting with President Truman, Oppenheimer reportedly said, “Mr. President, I have blood on my hands.” Truman later claimed that he had offered Oppenheimer a handkerchief, saying, “Here, this will wash it off.”

President Harry S. Truman

It didn’t. Accused during the hysteria of the Joseph McCarthy witch-hunts of being a Communist traitor, Oppenheimer found himself stripped of his government security clearance in 1954.

Just as he had been unable to prevent the military bureaucracy from moving relentlessly to use the atomic bomb, so, too, was he unable to halt the political bureaucracy from its own rush into cowardice and the wrecking of others’ lives.


In Bureaucracy, Business, Law, Politics, Social commentary on June 4, 2010 at 1:33 pm

“The U.S. now has two deficits to overcome on the road to economic health,” writes Joseph Lazarro, economics and markets columnist. “A budget deficit and a jobs deficit.”

Lazarro cites a May jobs report by the Labor Department as “dismal” in its economic outlook.

The economy added 431,000 jobs in May–far less than the 540,000 Bloomberg survey estimate. Excluding the 411,000 U.S. Census workers hired, private sector payrools rose by only 20,000.

Yet the fortunes of qualified, willing-to-work Americans can be sharply turned around.

An Employers Responsibility Act would address the terrible economic waste and moral unfairness of the current job-search climate.

In this, job-seekers are legally obligated to acquire the education and experience, and demonstrate the ability and integrity that employers demand.

Yet employers are under no legal or even moral obligation to demonstrate any respect for such achievements—such as the respect shown by offering worthwhile jobs instead of worthless excuses for refusing to hire.

The result? Countless highly-qualified and highly-motivated job-seekers daily face an “I win/You lose” situation—where the winner is always the employer.

Summing up this employer-as-God attitude, Calvin Coolidge still speaks for the overwhelming majority of employers and their paid lackeys in government: “The man who builds a factory builds a temple, and the man who works there worships there.”

We, as a Nation, can finally put an end to this arrogant and wasteful attitude. And an Employers Responsibility Act can be the catalyst for this long-overdue change.


A nationwide Employers Responsibility Act would ensure full-time, productive employment for millions of capable, job-seeking American. And it would achieve this goal without raising taxes or creating controversial government “make work” programs.

If passed by Congress and vigorously enforced by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Labor, such legislation would legally require employers to demonstrate as much initiative for hiring as job-seekers are now expected to show in searching for work. Its provisions would include—but not be limited to—the following:

(1) American companies that close plants in the United States and open others abroad would be forbidden to sell products made in those foreign plants within the United States.

This would protect both American and foreign workers from employers seeking to profit at their expense. American workers would be ensured of continued employment. And foreign laborers would be protected against substandard wages and working conditions.

Companies found violating this provision would be subject to Federal criminal prosecution. Guilty verdicts would result in heavy fines and lengthy imprisonment for their owners and top managers.

(2) Large companies (those employing more than 100 persons) would be required to create entry-level training programs for new, future employees.

These would be modeled on programs now existing for public employees, such as firefighters, police officers and members of the armed services. Such programs would remove the employer excuse, “I’m sorry, but we can’t hire you because you’ve never had any experience in this line of work.” After all, the Air Force has never rejected an applicant because, “I’m sorry, but you’ve never flown a plane before.”

This Nation has greatly benefited from the humane and professional efforts of the men and women who have graduated from public-sector training programs. There is no reason for the private sector to shun programs that have succeeded so brilliantly for the public sector.

(3) Employers would receive tax credits for creating professional, well-paying, full-time jobs.

This would encourage the creation of better than the menial, dead-end, low-paying and often part-time jobs which exist in the service industry. Employers found using such tax credits for any other purpose would be prosecuted for tax fraud.

(4) A company that acquired another—through a merger or buyout—would be forbidden to fire en masse the career employees of that acquired company.

This would be comparable to the protection existing for career civil service employees. Such a ban would prevent a return to the predatory “corporate raiding” practices of the 1980s, which left so much human and economic wreckage in their wake.

The wholesale firing of employees would trigger the prosecution of the company’s new owners. Employees could still be fired, but only for provable just cause, and only on a case-by-case basis.

(5) Employers would be required to provide full medical and pension benefits for all employees, regardless of their full-time or part-time status.

Increasingly, employers are replacing full-time workers with part-time ones—solely to avoid paying medical and pension benefits. Requiring employers to act humanely and responsibly toward all their employees would encourage them to provide full-time positions—and hasten the death of this greed-based practice.

(6) Employers of part-time workers would be required to comply with all federal labor laws.

Under current law, part-time employees are not protected against such abuses as discrimination, sexual harassment and unsafe working conditions. Closing this loophole would immediately create two positive results:

(a) Untold numbers of currently-exploited workers would be protected from the abuses of predatory employers; and
(b) Even predatorily-inclined employers would be encouraged to offer permanent, fulltime jobs rather than only part-time ones—since a major incentive for offering part-time jobs would now be eliminated.

(7) Employers would be encouraged to hire to their widest possible limits, through a combination of financial incentives and legal sanctions. Among those incentives: Employers demonstrating a willingness to hire would receive substantial Federal tax credits, based on the number of new, permanent employees hired per year.

Employers claiming eligibility for such credits would be required to make their financial records available to Federal investigators. Employers found making false claims would be prosecuted for perjury and tax fraud, and face heavy fines and imprisonment if convicted.

(8) Among those sanctions: Employers refusing to hire could be required to prove, in court:

(a) their economic inability to hire further employees, and/or
(b) the unfitness of the specific, rejected applicant.

Companies found guilty of unjustifiably refusing to hire would face the same penalties as now applying in cases of discrimination on the basis of age, race, sex and disability. Employers would thus fund it easier to hire than to refuse to do so. Job-seekers would no longer be prevented from even being considered for employment because of arbitrary and interminable “hiring freezes.”

(9) Employers refusing to hire would be required to pay an additional “crime tax.”

Sociologists and criminologists agree that “the best cure for crime is a job.” Thus, employers who refuse to hire contribute to a growing crime rate in this Nation. Such non-hiring employers would be required to pay an additional tax, which would be earmarked for agencies of the criminal justice system at State and Federal levels.

(10) The seeking of “economic incentives” by companies in return for moving to or remaining in cities/states would be strictly forbidden. Such “economic incentives” usually:

(a) allow employers to ignore existing laws protecting employees from unsafe working conditions;
(b) allow employers to ignore existing laws protecting the environment;
(c) allow employers to pay their employees the lowest acceptable wages, in return for the “privilege” of working at these companies; and/or
(d) allow employers to pay little or no business taxes, at the expense of communities who are required to make up for lost tax revenues.

(11) Employers who continue to make such overtures would be prosecuted for attempted bribery or extortion:

(a) Bribery, if they offered to move to a city/state in return for “economic incentives,” or
(b) Extortion, if they threatened to move their companies from a city/state if they did not receive such “economic incentives.”

This would protect employees against artificially-depressed wages and unsafe working conditions; protect the environment in which these employees live; and protect cities/states from being pitted against one another at the expense of their economic prosperity.

(12) The U.S. Departments of Justice and Labor would regularly monitor the extent of employer compliance with the provisions of this Act.

Among these measures: Sending undercover agents, posing as highly-qualified job-seekers, to apply at companies—and then vigorously prosecuting those employers who blatantly refused to hire despite their proven economic ability to do so.

This would be comparable to the long-time and legally-validated practice of using undercover agents to determine compliance with fair-housing laws.

(13) CEOs whose companies employ illegal aliens would be held directly accountable for the actions of their subordinates. Upon conviction, the CEO would be sentenced to a mandatory prison term of at least ten years.

This would prove a more effective remedy for combating illegal immigration than stationing tens of thousands of soldiers on the U.S./Mexican border. With CEOs forced to account for their subordinates’ actions, they would take drastic steps to ensure their companies complied with Federal immigration laws. Without employers’ systematically hiring illegal aliens at a fraction of the money paid to American workers, the flood of illegal job-seekers would quickly slow to a trickle.

(14) A portion of employers’ existing Federal taxes would be set aside to create a national clearinghouse for placing unemployed but qualified job-seekers.


In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement on June 4, 2010 at 8:48 am

On some occasions, deputy U.S. marshals feared Mafia hitmen less than “young punks” who might try to gain a reputation by killing a notorious witness.

Such was the case when Deputy U.S. Marshal James Gardiner was assigned to protect Vincent Teresa. Once the number-three man in the Raymond Patriarca Mafia Family, Teresa became the target of a $500,000 contract when he turned federal witness.

Gardiner believed that a professional hitman wouldn’t dare try such a hit: the resulting investigation would put him out of business. But would-be gunsels, unaffiliated with the Mafia and eager to earn its gratitude, might be willing to do so.

“And with someone as big as Teresa—325 pounds—you had to protect your own men assigned to guard him,” recalled Gardiner. Security on Teresa proved airtight, and no Mafia or freelance assassins made an attempt on his life.

Gardiner (and other marshals) often relied on disguises to foil mob killers. Once, he and a witness, dressed in painters’ overalls and carrying a ladder, casually walked into a courthouse. (Gardiner was also carrying an empty paint can, which contained his pistol.) Outside, the Mafia’s hitmen were waiting for the scheduled arrival of the marshals’ detail. No one paid any attention to the two “workmen.” In fact, one of the mob’s assassins stepped forward to open the courthouse door for them.

Sometimes a witness and his guards faced as much danger from corrupt policemen as from Mafia hitmen. One NYPD officer accepted a Mafia enforcer’s invitation to work for him as a firearms expert. The policeman agreed to supply the mobster with dumdum bullets–which would be used to silence federal informants. Part of this conversation—captured by a hidden microphone—went:

MIKE: You like the way we set up the federal stool pigeons?
POLICEMAN: What do you mean, “stool pigeons”?
MIKE: Stool pigeons.
POLICEMAN: Oh, that’s what you’re after, stool pigeons?
MIKE: Only stool pigeons.
POLICEMAN: Oh, yeah.
MIKE: Nobody else. Only stool pigeons. I mean like, the cops like stool pigeons when they go, especially if they’re federal stool pigeons, right?
POLICEMAN: Nah. You’re kidding. How many times have I seen and have I heard—
MIKE: I said the cops—
MIKE: New York policemen—
MIKE: —Like it when a federal stool pigeon is hit.
POLICEMAN: Nah. What difference does it make? To me, it makes no difference.
MIKE: There’s a big difference. I’ll tell you why. A New York cop–detective or police department–doesn’t like a federal stool pigeon, because he’ll stool on anyone. I never do it. I walk.

“In New Jersey, federal agents had arrested so many politicians and mobsters, we knew the cops were infiltrated,” said former deputy U.S. marshal Gary Bricker of his assignment as a bodyguard for securities thief Gerald Zelmanowitz.

“And we knew it was just as likely we’d be hit by a guy in a policeman’s uniform as by a guy in a double-breasted suit. So we [himself and Zelmanowitz] were really on our own. We protected each other.”

In fact, Bricker and his security detail came within a hair’s-breath of a shootout with officers of the New Jersey Police Department. The police suspected that Zelmanowitz was using his house as a base for the fencing of stolen antiques. They didn’t know that Zelmanowitz had just agreed to become a federal witness.

Nor did they know he was now under constant protection by deputy U.S. marshals. Accordingly, they made plans for a late-night raid on the house.

Only hours before the raid, police stopped a car carrying what they believed were two criminal associates of Zelmanowitz. At a nearby police station, the arrested men identified themselves as deputy U.S. marshals. The police were surprised to learn that Zelmanowitz was under federal protection.

Surprise gave way to shock when they learned that the marshals were armed with bulletproof vests and Thompson submachine guns. Had the raid occurred, the marshals would have mowed down the police as they charged across the front lawn.

So the agents of the Witness Security Program usually distrusted local and even state police departments. The names and locations of federal witnesses were rarely divulged to such agencies. And when this occurred, the circumstances were truly extraordinary, as in the case of Gerald Zelmanowitz.

Sometimes this distrust of local police surfaced publicly and dramatically, such as during the security detail for Robert Leuci. A former member of the elite Special Investigating Unit of the NYPD, Leuci had done the unthinkable: he had become a federal undercover agent to expose massive narcotics corruption among judges, defense attorneys, bail bondsmen—and his fellow officers.

Scheduled to testify before a federal grand jury, Leuci was placed under guard by eight specially-screened NYPD cops. And deputy U.S. marshals were assigned to closely watch the eight officers—to ensure that none of them tried to murder Leuci.

Copyright@1984 Taking Cover: Inside the Witness Security Program, by Steffen White and Richard St. Germain


In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement on June 2, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Even the most experienced deputy U.S. marshals faced pulse-pounding tensions while transporting hunted witnesses–especially to and from courthouses.

The Secret Service had taught the marshals to surround a witness with guards and rush him in and out of courthouses. But this tactic was soon abandoned by at least one deputy marshal. This was James A. Gardiner, who, in 1968, was assigned to the detail that protected Joseph Barboza, once the most-feared hitman in the New England mafia.

“You know,” Barboza bragged one day to Gardiner, “if I was still in the Mafia, I could kill any witness you have, if I really wanted to.”

“How could you do that?” asked Gardiner.

Barboza pointed out that the marshals timed their courthouse arrivals by the court calendar. This record was available to anyone—including mobsters. The hitmen could simply station themselves nearby and wait for the appointed hour for the marshals’ detail to arrive.

Gardiner had served with the Army’s White House Security Division from 1958 to 1961. He had known many Secret Service agents and had learned much from them about personal security. Still, Barboza’s observation stunned him. From then on, Gardiner varied the movements of his security details and no longer relied on sheer numbers of armed guards to fend off an attack.

Many years later, Gardiner would candidly admit that during its early days, the Witness Security Program wasn’t as sophisticated as it was later to become: “We were damn lucky we didn’t lose a witness in those days.”

As for the technique of surrounding a witness with an army of guards and rushing him in and out of buildings: “That doesn’t always work, either. You rely on your Intelligence”—that is, the highly sensitive data produced by agencies such as the FBI and DEA, which maintain close watch on suspected threats to organized crime witnesses.

Even when a law enforcement agency got a warning that a hit was to be made at a specific time and place, uncertainty remained. The information might be genuine. Or it might be the attempt of an informant to ingratiate himself with authorities by telling them something they would certainly take seriously. Or the report could simply be the product of underworld gossip.

And even if the tip were genuine, no one could predict the actual behavior of the hitman assigned to the job. A friend once asked Witness Security Inspector Richard St. Germain: “Suppose you get a tip that the mob’s going to hit a witness at a courthouse. You put up a security blanket and nothing happens. How do you know whether the tip was false, or that the hitman was scared off by your security precautions?”

“You don’t know,” answered St. Germain. “You just take your precautions and hope that nothing happens.”

Some witnesse-security agents disdained the threat posed by a potential Mafia sniper: “Mob hitmen aren’t great marksmen,” scoffed John Brophy, a veteran of witness-security assignments dating back to Joseph Barboza. “Mob hits are made with a pistol from seven feet away. There is just too much of a danger—to the Mob—of accidentally killing a federal agent who’s guarding a witness.”

Such a killing would trigger an awesome crackdown from an enraged Justice Department—exactly the reaction that American organized crime groups had learned to avoid at all costs.

Such a crackdown erupted in April, 1963, after four New York mobsters knocked FBI agent John Foley to the ground, and then severely beat and kicked him. Foley had been conducting surveillance at the Brooklyn funeral of Carmine “The Doctor” Lombardozzi, a capo in the Gambino Mafia Family.

The FBI retaliated by launching an all-out war against the Gambinos. Agents leaned heavily on the cartel’s boss, underboss, counselor and lieutenants. The Bureau also intensified its use of illegal electronic surveillance against the mobsters. Even law-abiding relatives of the Gambinos—one of these a nun, the other a priest—found themselves interrogated.

Angelo Bruno, the boss of the Philadelphia crime syndicate, unwittingly informed a hidden microphone on how the FBI brutally drove home the message to “boss of all bosses” Carlo Gambino:

BRUNO: They [the FBI] went to Carlo and named all his capos to him….The FBI asked him: “Did you change the laws in your family, that you could hit FBI men, punch and kick them? Well, this is the test—that if you change the laws, and now you are going to hit FBI men, every time we pick up one of your people we are going to break their heads for them.”

And, really, they picked up our guy, they almost killed him, the FBI. They don’t do that, you know. But they picked up one of his fellows and crippled him. They said, “This is an example. Now, the next time anyone lays a hand on an FBI man, that’s just a warning. There’s nothing else we have got to tell you.” And they went away.

Word traveled quickly through the nationwide organized crime network—and its leaders decreed there should be no further assaults on FBI agents.

Copyright@1984 Taking Cover: Inside the Witness Security Program, by Steffen White and Richard St. Germain


In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement on June 1, 2010 at 8:45 am

The Witness Security Program also known as (WITSEC) was authorized by the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970. Since then, the U.S. Marshals have protected, relocated and given new identities to more than 8,200 witnesses and 9,800 of their family members.

Before 1978, no Marshals Service regulations forbade deputies from accepting gratuities from witnesses. Among the gifts received by some marshals were dinners, parties and cases of liquor. Even some WITSEC Inspectors socialized with certain witnesses—taking them to dinner, visiting their homes or inviting them to the Inspectors’ own homes.

Financial violations exposed marshals and witnesses to economic risk or disadvantage. Some deputies borrowed money from witnesses; some witnesses borrowed money from deputies. Some marshals went into business with witnesses. Others gambled in high-stakes card or dice games with witnesses, losing or winning hundreds of dollars.

Some deputies helped their business friends sell or rent homes and/or businesses to witnesses. This created a blatant conflict-of-interest and jeopardized both the deputy and the witness.

However innocent his motive, the marshal became a potential target for charges of corruption. The witness, in turn, felt pressured, consciously or unconsciously, to accept the offered proposal. Even if he disliked it, he dared not risk offending his protector.

Ultimately, such fraternizing proved more dangerous to the marshals—especially the Inspectors—than the witnesses. Many witnesses lodged false charges of corruption against Inspectors they had “befriended.”

By claiming that their lives were now in danger, they guaranteed another relocation. More importantly, they guaranteed the continuation of their federal subsistence, allowing themselves to escape the need to find a job.

The credibility of a witness’s charge rose if he could prove there had been an intimate, unprofessional relationship between himself and the accused Inspector. Here, specific details counted. Such details might include an accurate description of the Inspector’s house or the physical appearance of his wife.

So the more knowledge an Inspector allowed a witness to have of his private life, the greater the danger he faced that these secrets could be turned against him.

Such was the fate of Inspector Walter Belveal, of Boise, Idaho. His mistake was befriending Joseph Cantalupo, a relocated witness from the Joseph Columbo Mafia Family. Belveal helped get Cantalupo and his family drivers’ licenses, a car and a house. He also helped Cantalupo arrange clandestine meetings with a girlfriend named Rachel. Belveal and his wife often partied with Cantalupo and Rachel, sometimes allowing Cantalupo to pick up their tabs.

But Veronica Cantalupo, the hot-tempered ex-wife of the witness, hated Belveal. Believing that he was giving her ex-husband special treatment, she complained to the highest officials of WITSEC. Her charges included detailed accounts of prohibited social contacts (as of 1978) between the Inspector and Cantalupo.

While the Marshals Service launched an internal investigation, Cantalupo moved to prevent his own termination from WITSEC. He began taping all his phone conversations with Inspectors, marshals and prosecutors.

These tapes, and the testimony of Cantalupo and Rachel–who had been admitted onto the Program—destroyed the careers of a half-dozen Inspectors in Minnesota, Connecticut and New York. (During the 1980s the ranks of the Inspectors were greatly expanded, to more than 130.) Some were transferred out of WITSEC and demoted. Others—like Walter Belveal—were dismissed altogether from the U.S. Marshals Service.

“WITSEC is very dangerous that way,” warned Donald McPherson, the Inspector for Los Angeles throughout the 1980s. He estimated that, since 1978, the careers of twenty to twenty-five Inspectors had been destroyed. They had been fatally compromised—not by the bribes or violence of the Mafia, but by their own closeness to the witnesses they protected.

Copyright@1984 Taking Cover: Inside the Witness Security Program, by Steffen White and Richard St. Germain


In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement on June 1, 2010 at 8:31 am

The Witness Security Program–also known as WITSEC–is the most important weapon the U.S. Justice Department has against organized crime.

Created by the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970, it is run by the U.S. Marshals Service. Since 1971, this agency has protected, relocated and given new identities to more than 8,200 witnesses and 9,800 of their family members.

Its clients provide testimony against drug traffickers, terrorists, organized crime members and other major criminals. They have come to this knowledge, in most cases, because they were themselves a party to criminality. “You’ve got to take a small bum to catch a bigger bum,” was how one deputy U.S. marshal summed up the approach.

Deputy U.S. marshals provide 24-hour protection to all witnesses while they are in a high-threat environment, including pretrial conferences, trial testimonials and other court appearances.

According to the website of the U.S. Marshals Service: “No Witness Security Program participant who followed security guidelines has been harmed while under the active protection of the U.S. Marshals.”

But that does not mean that witness-security came easily to the marshals assigned to it. On the contrary, creating an effective Witness Security Program was literally an on-the-job learning experience.

At the start of the program, the Secret Service was called in to train the marshals in security techniques. The Secret Service had been guarding Presidents since 1901. During the next sixty-two years, of the ten Presidents guarded by that agency, only one—John F. Kennedy—had died at the hands of an assassin. Such an agency, believed the top officials of the U.S. Marshals Service, must know its business.

But the Secret Service did not know the type of people the marshals would be assigned to protect. The Secret Service had been used to guarding important government officials and their families. These were decent, hard-working, law-abiding people.

But the marshals were now living intimately with charges who were mostly hardened criminals. Clashes between the law-enforcing marshals and the law-breaking witnesses were inevitable.

Many of the marshals were appalled to learn that most witnesses expected the government to provide them with a lifetime of luxury. As the witnesses saw it: they were risking their lives on the government’s behalf. That they were doing so to escape a prison sentence or a gangland contract didn’t matter.

What mattered to them was that they had become pariahs, hated and despised by their former friends and even, in some cases, their own families. They had become informers—“finks,” “rats,” “stool pigeons,” “songbirds,” “squealers.” To add to their anguish, they knew that “straight” society—including many of their new protectors—regarded them with equal contempt.

Most witnesses came from major cities within Northeastern states. Marshals who also came from urban centers usually got along better with their charges than deputies from rural communities. The city-bred marshals rejected the immorality of the witnesses. But they understood, from their own experiences, the pressures and temptations of big-city living.

Marshals from rural areas had grown up with a simpler, more fundamentalist view of the world which lay beyond their small towns. They believed absolutely in such old-fashioned values as hard work, thrift, and faith in God and country. To the city-bred witnesses, these deputies were naïve rednecks. To the rural marshals, the witnesses were animals. These deputies resented even more having to risk their lives on behalf of such hoodlums.

The outcome of these resentments and conflicts was that, after a week or two, the marshals were usually kicked out of the witness’s home. Then they spent the rest of their protective assignment waiting in unmarked cars parked nearby.

In many cases, relationships between marshals and witnesses grew too close. This compromised the professional ethics of the deputies and sometimes the safety of the witnesses. These violations of both the law and common sense usually fell into two categories: (1) social contacts; and (2) financial dealings.

Social violations exposed witnesses to danger by making needless trips from the security site. In New Jersey, a marshal repeatedly escorted a witness to another town so the latter could visit his girlfriend. During one of these visits, the marshal got drunk at an engagement party. Wearing only a pair of swimtrunks, he set out to drive home with a young woman. On the way there, he lost control of his car and plowed into a house.

When police arrested him, he could not produce his credentials as a deputy U.S. marshal. To prove his identity, he called the witness: “Can you bring my ID over here to police headquarters?” The witness made the trip, without an escort. When the U.S. Marshals Service learned about the incident, its reaction was a cover-up.

In other cases, marshals took witnesses to posh restaurants and nightclubs without first screening these places. Such a precaution would have revealed that many of these establishments were owned or frequented by mobsters. Some deputies went bar-hopping with witnesses or joined them for trips to whorehouses.

Copyright@1984 Taking Cover: Inside the Witness Security Program, by Steffen White and Richard St. Germain

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