The Federal Witness Security Program — also known as the “Witness Protection” program, or WITSEC — is designed to help someone disappear from their old life, and give them a new start.
But what happens when the people who need protecting are terror suspects – and they somehow manage to ditch the US Marshals hired to keep track of them?
According to a Department of Justice Inspector General report released Thursday, that actually happened!
“In July 2012, the USMS stated that it was unable to locate two former WITSEC participants identified as known or suspected terrorists…”
“Unable to locate” — as in missing.
Those terror suspects could have been laying low, enjoying a nice vacation on a quiet beach — or quietly plotting a terrorist attack.
The bottom line is, as of July of last year, US Marshals admitted they didn’t have a clue how to find at least two of the many terror suspects under witness protection.
That’s troubling, says Steven Rogers, a former Military Intelligence Officer and former member of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.
“Once a person with the label “terrorist” is put on them, never ever stop following them. What’s to say they’re not going to turn back to their terrorist group and commit an act against the united states?”, Rogers told Pix11.
The Inspector General’s audit also found problems with the way the US Marshals Service and the Criminal Division’s Office of Enforcement Operations — which together run WITSEC — shared information with other agencies.
A key example — the terror suspect’s newly created government provided fake identities — were not passed along to the agencies charged with maintaining the country’s No Fly List!
The audit concludes, “Therefore, it was possible for known or suspected terrorists to fly on commercial airplanes in or over the United States…”
A spokesperson for the Justice Department tells Pix11 it has already addressed 15 of the 16 recommendations in the Inspector General’s audit.
That includes locating those two terror suspects and making sure the No Fly List is updated with newly created Witness Protection identities.
Still, Congressman Peter King says the country cannot afford any more missteps.
“We live in a world, where you can’t afford to make any mistakes, when you’re dealing with terrorists. These are people who are there to kill us”, King said.