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TRAC: As terrorism prosecutions decline, extent of threat remains unclear

May 18, 2010

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According to an analysis of Justice Department data by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), the dramatic post 9/11 surge in prosecutions that the government categorized as terrorism has undergone a four-fold decline. The data show that terrorism and internal security filings in court have dropped from an average of about 100 a month at their peak, shortly after the attacks, to a current level of just under 25 a month.

TRAC is a data gathering, data research and data distribution organization at Syracuse University. 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 staffing, spending and enforcement activities of the federal government. 

The most recent available information shows that in January 2010 there were only 11 such prosecutions while in February there were 13. The data on the instances of terrorism prosecutions for the nation as a whole are compiled by the Department’s Executive Office for United States Attorneys (EOUSA) on the basis of data regularly submitted to it by each of the 94 U.S. Attorney offices. 

The long, slow slump in these prosecutions during the last eight years contrasts starkly with what happened in the period immediately after the September 11, 2001, attacks when there was an extraordinary ten-fold growth spurt in these matters. 

In explaining the sharp shifts, the report notes that increases and decreases in arrests or prosecutions in a particular criminal area often are not related to changes in the actual threat. Instead the shifts in official actions such as arrests or prosecutions are determined by the number of available investigators or the adoption of new enforcement policies. 

To read the full report, visit

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