David Burnham -- a writer, investigative reporter and researcher -- is the co-founder and co-director of the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC). For the last three decades he has specialized in the critical examination of numerous government enforcement bureacracies including the New York Police Department, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Environmental Enforcement Agency, the Internal Revenue Service, the Food and Drug Administration and the Justice Department.
A reporter with The New York Times from 1968 to 1986, Burnham has written several books and numerous magazine articles. In 1989, he became the Washington-based co-director of TRAC, a data-gathering, research and data-distribution organization associated with Syracuse University, as well as an associate research professor at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. The goal of TRAC is provide the public and members of the oversight community -- reporters, public interest groups, Congressional committees, scholars and others -- with the comprehensive performance data they need to hold federal investigative and regulatory agencies accountable. TRAC has been supported by Syracuse University, the Rockefeller Family Fund, the Knight Foundation, the New York Times Company Foundation, the Open Society Institute and numerous news organizations, advocacy groups, scholars and lawyers.
Among the stories Burnham developed while with the Times in New York City was a police corruption series in the early 1970s that ultimately resulted in major governmental reforms and the movie Serpico. As a reporter in the paper's Washington bureau, he focused on privacy issues and the shortcomings of federal regulation, including those of the Atomic Energy/Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Karen Silkwood was on her way to give Burnham information about the manufacture of faulty fuel rods by the Kerr Mcgee Corporation when she died in a car crash.
In August of 1997, The Nation devoted an issue to an article by Burnham that challenged the basic management skills and investigative competence of the FBI. The article was based on comprehensive data obtained from the Justice Department by TRAC under the FOIA. ABC's Nightline broadcast a program on the article and TRAC's findings. His latest book, Above the Law: Secret Deals, Political Fixes, and Other Misadventures of the U.S. Department of Justice, was published in January 1996 by Scribner. His investigative book on the Internal Revenue Service -- A Law Unto Itself: Power, Politics and the IRS -- was published in 1990. A third book -- The Rise of the Computer State -- was published in 1984. Over the years, Burnham has received a number of professional honors including the George Polk Award for Community Service, Long Island University, 1968; the Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellowship, 1987; the Best Investigative Book of 1990, Investigative Reporters and Editors, 1990; and the Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship, Bellagio, Italy, 1992.