Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse

Important Court Freedom of Information Victory

After a bruising FOIA court battle, the Justice Department under court order has provided the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) with 131 computer tapes containing referral-by-referral data about the federal governmentís criminal and civil enforcement activities through September 30 of this year. Data files for the most recent time period were released to TRAC on October 29. A second shipment of 170 computer data tapes from this lawsuit was received on November 20.

The new data mean the American people can now track the enforcement activities of the government from the early Reagan years through the first nine months of the current Bush Administration.

While the Justice Department release marks a significant victory under the nationís Freedom of Information law, a number of issues remain which are still in litigation. Throughout the long and ultimately successful court battle TRAC has been represented by the Public Citizen Litigation Group.

Since 1999 that Justice Department had fought to block public access to data that the department in the settlement of an earlier FOIA suit had agreed it would provide TRAC.

TRAC is currently hard at work on the complex process of processing the masses of new enforcement data and mounting the new information on the web sites that it operates.

On December 3, a special terrorism enforcement report based on the new data became available to the public on TRACís public web site. The report examines the federal government processing of individuals identified by federal prosecutors as being involved in international or domestic terrorism from fiscal year 1997 through FY 2001. How many times did federal investigative agencies recommend the prosecutions of such suspects? How many of these recommendations were declined? How many were prosecuted and convicted? What sentences did they receive?

In mid- November, TRAC added new criminal enforcement data it had just received the its subscription sites, TRACFED and FEDPROBE. This information makes it possible to examine the criminal enforcement of virtually all laws by all agencies from FY 1986 through FY 2001.

TRAC plans to add the new civil data to the subscription sites as soon as possible. Also in the works is the updating of the free public sites that focus on the nationís six largest investigative agencies -- the FBI, INS, DEA, ATF, IRS and Customs.

Copyright 2001, TRAC Reports, Inc.