52 pages 1 hour read

Lamar Giles

Fake ID

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2014

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Historical Context: The Witness Protection Program (WITSEC)

WITSEC is a federal program started in 1971 that protects the identities of potential witnesses in federal criminal cases. Since its inception, about 19,000 different witnesses and many of their family members have been given new identities, new locations, and new careers so that those they testify against cannot harm or intimidate them. The Justice Department claims that about 90% of these witnesses’ testimonies have led to successful convictions.

The Pearson family, as portrayed in Fake ID, is typical of WITSEC families. First, they are in the program because of the father’s connection to a mob boss the government wants to prosecute. Second, they have been forced to give up all contact with people they knew before entering the program. Finally, while those who remain in WITSEC, which can last an entire lifetime, typically remain safe, leaving the protection of the WITSEC program can be fatal. Because being in the program results in a complete breaking of ties with one’s past life, Nick’s experiences are characteristic of those in the program who have to start different lives, learn new backstories, and never reveal their true origins. Those who grow up in witness protection are told not to tell even the people they marry about their origins.