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.
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. Some agencies are remarkably open. More agencies are not.
In some circumstances TRAC has to file suit in federal court to force the release of vital data. This step is taken only after all administrative remedies are exhausted, as required by law.