3 out of 4 stars
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Non-Disclosure by George Dapra is a biography/memoir in which the author gives us an insider’s look into the Witness Security Program based on his own experience. He takes us on a fascinating life journey, from his childhood growing up in a large Italian-American family with immigrant parents to his days as a soldier and as an employee in the world-famous Hotel Plaza. All this will eventually lead us to his days as an inspector of the United States Marshal’s Witness Security Program in New York City at the height of the government’s war against organized crime.
Here, Dapra shares with us some of his numerous experiences in the field during the tumultuous final decades of the twentieth century. These include, among others, the much-publicized Elian Gonzalez case, the John Gotti Trial, and the story behind the conviction of Wadih el-Hage, a former Al-Qaeda member who took part in the 1998 United States embassy bombings. He also describes some of the meetings he had with various mob informants along with other high-value witnesses, proving us with the first sneak peek authorized by the US Department of Justice into the secret government program.
In general terms, the author approaches his book as a behind-the-scenes look of how the WITSEC program works, from its origins to specific details behind some of its procedures. Personally, I enjoyed reading Mr. Dapra's intimate perspective on his relationship with his clients in contrast to the consequences his work life brought to his family. His prose is simple but relatively fluid, although it becomes more technical but still equally enjoyable in some segments where he describes the functioning of the WITSEC system or the history of the Sicilian Mafia. Mr. Dapra also managed to make his work an interesting look at the evolution of the US legal system's struggle against organized crime.
I only have two major complaints with this book. First, considering the author promotes his book around revealing some of the secrets of how WITSEC works, it is not until after the first third of it that he begins to develop this theme, while the most important details are exposed halfway through his work. Of course, one can come to expect a few chapters devoted to his family and personal background, especially if it helps to set a parallel set between the witnesses adapting to their new life and the experiences of his immigrant family in an unfamiliar world. Nevertheless, I believe the author would have benefited from a more focused approach to the dominant theme of his work.
In second place, although I understand the need to preserve certain names and locations to avert unintended consequences regarding the information in this book, bumping into multiple "XXXs" in the same context was a bit confusing at the time of reading. On a few occasions, I found myself rereading certain passages to identify who the author was talking about in the midst of so many unknown identities. Here I leave an example for you to better understand what I mean:
Out of this last inconvenience, the editing work, while mostly acceptable, misses a couple of typos and awkward sentences, especially at the time of mixing present and past tenses, which can interrupt to some extent the reading flow at times. However, despite these few drawbacks, the book achieves what it proposes effectively, giving the reader an unprecedented opportunity to know some of the details and curiosities behind the lives of those who end up in the WITSEC program. Therefore, I think I can give this book 3 out of 4 stars without second thoughts. I particularly recommend it to those who want to know more about how the US Marshals operate.XXX was to testify in SDNY in a narcotics case against XXX. Present at the interview were XXX, XXX, XXX, and XXX, along with an official interpreter. XXX was a very serious and solemn person. His XXX, who could speak English well, explained some of the details of the Program that he did not understand.
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