The Nation
August 11/18, 1997

When TRAC began exploring Justice Department data concerning the performance of FBI before putting up its public FBI web site ( two years ago, it realized that the challenge was a big one. Up to that time, no one had ever undertaken a comprehensive study of what the FBI actually was doing. There had been the usual leaks about the "good" cases the FBI wanted to publicize and some harsh criticism of a handful of "bad" cases (Waco, Ruby Ridge, the crime lab) that the bureau would have loved to suppress. But because of the FBI's obsession with secrecy, the patterns and trends of the investigative activities were totally unknown. With a grant from the Nation Institute, TRAC began analyzing the data that now concern more than 40,000 referrals for prosecution each year. After months of analysis and reporting by TRAC's co-directors -- David Burnham and Susan B. Long -- the findings were summarized in a magazine-long article in the August 11/18, 1997 issue of The Nation. One key finding: more than half of the FBI's 12,000 convictions involved drugs, bank robberies and fraud against banks, matters that in most cases could have been dealt with by local police. By contrast, according to the Justice Department, there were only 148 convictions that were categorized as involving medical fraud. At the time the Nation article was published, TRAC's FBI web site became available for public inspection.

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