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TRAC: your source for comprehensive, independent and nonpartisan information on federal enforcement, staffing and spending

Des Moines Sunday Register -- US links 35 in Iowa to Terror, But the Ties of Most of the Defendants to Violence Appears Doubtful, July 18, 2004
Salt Lake Tribune -- Utahns Boast the Biggest Families, and Taxes Prove It, May 22, 2004
Washington Post -- Why Corporations Pay Less, May 18, 2004
Scores of News Organizations -- Contrary to Bush Administration Claims, Audits of Business Slide, April 12, 2004
Shreveport Times -- Paying a High Cost, March 14, 2004
U.S. News & World Report -- The Real John Ashcroft: America's Top Cop is Loved and Hated, January 26, 2004
Dozens of news publications and broadcast outlets -- Report on the government terrorism enforcement activities since 9/11/01, December 8, 2003
Detroit News -- Metro Arabs Pay Stiff Price for Feds' Focus on Terrorism, November 2, 2003
Syracuse Post Standard -- Federal Money to Fight Terror Flows into CNY, October 27, 2003
Birmingham News -- North Alabama's White-Collar Crime Felons Often Get Light Sentences, September 21, 2003
Editorial Pages, New York Times and other papers -- Making the Tax System Fairer, April 15, 2003
New York Times, Washington Post and other papers -- Tax Inquiries Fall as Cheating Increases, April 13, 2003
Miami Daily Business Review -- Stealth Bomber - With Attention Fixed on Iraq, Freshman Florida Congressman Attached Widely Decried Sentencing Rider to Popular Child-Protection Measure, April 15, 2003
Indianapolis Star -- "Terror-related" Cases Really Aren't, Critics Say. April 7, 2003
Broward Daily Business News -- Thin Edge of the Wedge? Congress Goes After Federal Judge, Saying He's Lenient on Drug Offenders, Misleads Judiciary Committee, March 25, 2003
San Antonio Express News -- Federal Judge is Handpicked in Morales Case; Chief Jurist Says 1992 Clash with the then-AG Didn't Play a Role in His Decision, March 23, 2003
Louisville Courier Journal -- Police Accused of Civil Rights Violations Rarely Face Federal Prosecutions, March 17, 2003
Philadelphia Inquirer -- Terrorism Cases Inflated in NJ, March 2, 2003
New York Times -- Terror Cases Rise, but Most are Small-Scale, February 14, 2003
Washington Post -- Growing Season at the Agriculture Department, October 21, 2002
2004 Annual Report, IRS Oversight Board, August 2, 2004
White House Comments on Government's Terrorism Enforcement Activities, December 8, 2003
Senator Patrick Leahy, Senate Judiciary Committee member, presses administration for information about its handling of terrorism matters, October 21, 2003
Senator Charles E. Grassley, Senator Herb Kohl -- Congressional letter of concern to Attorney General John Ashcroft about proposed expansion of FBI Authority, September 15, 2003
National Academy of Public Administration -- NAPA testimony to Congress described continuing challenge of establishing FBI priorities at 9/11, June 2003
General Accounting Office -- GAO Faults Justice Department terrorism enforcement statistics. February 2003
Senate Judiciary Committee -- Senators Leahy (D-Vermont) and Grassley's (R-Iowa) letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft and Director Mueller of the FBI, citing TRAC data, June 14, 2002
Senate Appropriations Committee -- Annual report, citing TRAC data, challenges FBI enforcement priorities, September 8, 2000
Senate Finance Committee --TRAC challenges IRS Criminal Enforcement data, April 29, 1997
House Government Operations Subcommittee -- TRAC questions Justice Department's method for mobilizing its prosecutors, October 14, 1993
House Government Reform Subcommittee -- TRAC documents decline in ATF weapon referrals, November 4, 1999
   
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) -- John Peter Suarez, An Analysis of his Record, March 2002
NRA -- Rifle Association cites TRAC data when it questions Clinton enforcement record, August 1999
PEER -- Analysis of Justice Department data obtained by TRAC shows erratic enforcement of environmental laws, December, 1998
Human Rights Watch -- Report citing TRAC data finds lax Justice Department prosecutions of brutal cops, June1998
Morality in Media -- Advocacy Group Finds Clinton Justice Department Does not deliver on Candidate Clinton's Promise to Go After Smut Peddlers, October, 1999
   
Customized queries of TRAC's data TRAC FBI Web Site TRAC DEA Web Site TRAC INS Web Site TRAC ATF Web Site TRAC IRS Web Site TRAC CUSTOMS Web Site TRAC Reports Web Site

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
Copyright 2004
TRAC
                           Home

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse

The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) is a data gathering, data research and data distribution organization associated with Syracuse University.

Purpose TRAC's Purpose
The purpose of TRAC is to provide the American people -- and institutions of oversight such as Congress, news organizations, public interest groups, businesses, scholars and lawyers -- with comprehensive information about federal staffing, spending, and the enforcement activities of the federal government. On a day-to-day basis, what are the agencies and prosecutors actually doing? Who are their employees and what are they paid? What do agency actions indicate about the priorities and practices of government? How do the activities of an agency or prosecutor in one community compare with those in a neighboring one or the nation as a whole? How have these activities changed over time? How does the record of one administration compare with the next? When the head of an agency or a district administrator changed, were there observable differences in actual enforcement priorities? When a new law was enacted or amended, what impact did it have on agency activities?

History TRAC's History
TRAC was established in 1989 as a research center at Syracuse University. It has offices there, and in Washington, D.C. It has been supported by Syracuse University, foundations such as the Rockefeller Family Fund, the New York Times Company Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Beldon Fund and the Open Society Institute, research grants and contracts, and fees which help offset the costs of providing services to academics, reporters, attorneys and others subscribing to TRACFED, or those requesting specialized research and data set preparation.

Freedom of Information TRAC's Use of FOIA
TRAC's core purpose is to make information about the federal government's enforcement and regulatory effort more accessible to the public. An essential step in this process is TRAC's systematic and informed use of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The basic principle of FOIA is very simple: The records of the federal government should be generally public. All you need to do is ask. But because of the sheer number of records, the vast complexity in how information is recorded and stored, and the uneasiness many agencies feel about the public examining their day-to-day performance, the actual process of obtaining federal records is far from simple. In fact, the systematic collection of such information usually is a difficult and time-consuming task. So difficult, in fact, that many news organizations, public interest groups, scholars and others do not bother to exercise their rights under FOIA.

Because comprehensive and relevant records about what an agency is doing -- and not doing -- are essential to meaningful oversight, TRAC continuously uses the law to obtain new data about government enforcement and regulatory activities. Some agencies are remarkably open. Other agencies are not. In some circumstances TRAC has to file suit in federal court to force the release of vital data. An example of these efforts is TRAC's current suit against the Justice Department.

Data TRAC's Analyses of Data
Once TRAC obtains the data through its FOIA efforts, the information is analyzed. With the use of a variety of sophisticated statistical techniques, the raw information obtained from the agencies is checked and verified. Where possible, data from one agency is compared with another for general consistency. Through the addition of relevant population figures and staffing counts, the enforcement data is placed in an understandable context -- such as the per capita number of prosecutions. County-level data obtained by TRAC on significant local community features can provide useful background about specific federal enforcement activities. For example, in connection with FBI robbery investigations in a particular district, the number of branch banks operating in it would be relevant. In the same way, information on the relative number of persons 65 and over living in an area could add perspective to a report on the prosecution of fraudulent medical providers who often prey on the elderly.

The focus of these efforts is to develop as comprehensive and detailed as possible picture about what federal enforcement and regulatory agencies actually do, to describe what resources (staffing and funds) they have to work with to accomplish these tasks, and to organize all of this information to make it readily accessible to the public.

Services TRAC's Services
TRAC offers various information services:

Public Web Site TRAC Public Web Site. Since 1996, TRAC has mounted and updated a series of specialized sites on the World Wide Web with highly detailed but easy-to-access information on selected federal enforcement agencies, special topical reports, and "snapshots" about federal expenditures, staffing and enforcement. The sites -- featuring colorful maps and graphs and tens of thousands of pages of tables and other supporting material -- are available without charge to anyone with access to the web. Currently featured are separate TRAC Web sites describing the enforcement activities and staffing patterns of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the U.S. Customs Service.

TRACFED TRACFED is TRAC’s dynamic subscription site. It provides a vast range of information about federal enforcement activities -- criminal, civil, and administrative -- as well as detailed information about federal staffing, federal funds, and the diverse characteristics of counties, federal districts, and states. Subscribers with the click of a mouse can request specific statistics, detailed listings, maps or charts and have the information return immediately to their browser. More advanced web-tools allow users to conduct tailor-made analyses of specific subsets ("data slices") they want to examine in depth. A flash movie allows you to view without charge TRACFED features.

All federal criminal enforcement activities are covered -- under any law or Justice Department program category, by any agency, and in any one of the 90 federal judicial districts or for the nation as a whole. The civil enforcement layers allows analysis of civil litigation handled by the U.S. Attorneys where the government sues or is itself the subject of a suit. In either case, broad statistical reviews as well as detailed information about individual cases or matters may be obtained. The administrative enforcement layer, now featuring information about IRS audit and collection actions, focuses upon administrative enforcement activities outside of court.

To place these enforcement activities -- criminal, civil, and administrative -- into a broader context, another layer provides detailed information on federal civilian employees, where they work, what they do, and how much they are paid. Again, broad statistical overviews including rankings and time trends are available, as well as detailed information on salary, post of duty, and occupation down to the individually named federal employee. A further layer on federal funds provides comprehensive information about where government funds are spent -- by program and agency -- for each state, federal district, and county. Finally, the community context layer provides demographic and economic information about every county, state and federal judicial district.

Training TRAC Training More and more, TRAC is training individuals and organizations who want to improve their ability to use data to examine the actual policies of individual U.S. Attorneys, agencies, and administrations or to explore how well or poorly a specific law is functioning. Our training does not focus on technical skills like down loading data into spreadsheets or using software-specific commands. Rather, it is designed to give students a solid framework for understanding how they can use enforcement data for constructive oversight. What information is available? How should it be explored? So far, TRAC's training has been aimed at news organizations that want to improve the quality of their reporting. Examples of the training have included one-day hands-on seminars for up to 10 reporters and editors working for news groups like the Associated Press and more intensive three-day hands-on seminars for students from a variety of different organizations. TRAC soon hopes to expand its training to other members of the oversight community such as public interest groups.

Research TRAC Research. Congressional committees, government agencies, public interest groups, news organizations, lawyers, scholars and others frequently hire TRAC to create specialized data packages or to conduct focused data studies. Human Rights Watch, for example, needed data on how the government was enforcing the laws against brutal law enforcement officials. Morality in Media wanted information about the federal prosecution of pornographers. One of the independent counsels sought information on how long the Justice Department took to prosecute cases under a selected group of statutes. News organizations like The New York Times, the Washington Post, U.S. News and World Report, the Wall Street Journal, the Rolling Stone, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Boston Globe and the St Louis Post Dispatch all had data needs that TRAC could satisfy. Selected examples of how the news media, Congress, and public interest groups have used TRAC data are available in the TRAC at Work section on this web site.

The co-directors of TRAC are Susan Long, a statistician and professor in Syracuse University's School of Management who as a FOIA pioneer has specialized in federal enforcement issues for more than 25 years, and David Burnham, an investigative writer and former New York Times reporter, who has covered local, state and federal enforcement issues since 1966. TRAC has offices in Syracuse, NY and Washington, D.C..