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A Special TRAC Report:

A Word About the Data

This report is based on very timely data received by TRAC on a month-by-month basis as a result of a continuing series of requests and court actions under the Freedom of Information Act.[1] The original source of the data are the offices of individual United States attorneys who are required under long-established rules to keep track of their daily work product — referrals for prosecution received from the investigative agencies, the decisions made by each office about how the referrals were handled and the ultimate disposition of each matter. This very detailed information is used by the Justice Department to prepare special studies for the attorney general and Congress and to publish an annual report summarizing the department's criminal and civil enforcement actions.

Presented here are findings concerning those recommendations for prosecution from the investigative agencies that the U.S. Attorneys in one way or another had acted upon and that they categorized as involving "terrorism" or "anti-terrorism." Because the Justice Department is now withholding certain data that it previously had provided TRAC, the counts of agency "referrals" are estimated.

The Department now divides terrorism into four main components. The first three are international, domestic and financial terrorism. The fourth, is a category the government has labeled as anti-terrorism. Anti-terrorism concerns individuals who were targeted on the grounds that charging them with some crime might "prevent or disrupt potential or actual terrorist threats." (See figure 1 for a table of program categories.)

Most of the counts in this report are based on two separate "cohorts" — one concerning those matters recommended for prosecution in the two years after 9/11, the second in the two years before. In both cohorts the processing of each matter was followed up thru September 30, 2003.

A critical report on an investigation by the General Accounting Office about the way the Justice Department classified terrorism matters was issued on February 19, 2003. It called for better management oversight and internal controls to ensure accuracy of terrorism-related statistics.

One further note. The Justice Department data presented here focus on the government actions in regard to those individuals who an investigative agency has recommended be prosecuted for a specific crime and who the government classified as terrorists or anti-terrorists . This means that those individuals who the government has detained without a referral are not covered.

[1] This litigation is continuing. TRAC filed a new lawsuit December 22, 2002 challenging the government's very recent decision to begin withholding information on program area for new prosecution referrals. As a result, it is possible that the counts of terrorism referrals since the latter months of FY 2002 may be slightly under-counted. Data on terrorism declinations and prosecutions, however, are not being withheld and should therefore be a complete record of the actions of individual United States attorneys as they were recorded.

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