Investigators Guide to Sources of Information

About the Guide

The 1997 Investigator's Guide to Sources of Information contains five chapters, four on information sources and a fifth on how to access information through the Internet.

The first four chapters--on local and state governments; federal agencies; directories, reference works, and other sources; and electronic databases--discuss selected information sources in definitive categories that investigators will find helpful. The guide's descriptions of information found in specific electronic databases were furnished by the organizations that administer the databases and have not been validated by GAO. Depending on their specific needs, users of the guide may want to independently validate the currency and accuracy of information in the databases. Tables in chapters 1 and 2 provide details on topics discussed in the chapters.

Chapter 5 is a guide to using the Internet for investigative purposes. In addition to sections on how to access the Internet and the tools and functions available for Internet interaction, chapter 5 contains a sample search that may be of particular interest to the novice Internet user. Chapter 5 also informs the user about the types of information available from the Internet. For specific information on the Internet and specific web browsers, please consult applicable software manuals, local bookstores and libraries, and/or various Internet service providers.

Chapters 2 and 5 list selected Internet addresses for investigators' use, including addresses for federal agencies and electronic databases. Because Internet addresses change frequently, GAO will periodically update the electronic version of the guide to reflect such changes.

The guide's table of contents, supplemented by its index, should help users to locate specific subject matter. While major topics such as federal government agencies, federal contracting, state and local government, and directories are listed in the index, subtopics such as counterfeiting, criminal history, income tax, and driver's licenses are also listed.

This guide is not intended to be an exhaustive compilation of all sources of information available to investigators. There are many other sources of valuable information that may be useful for investigative purposes. The specific sources of information identified in the guide exemplify the types of information available to investigators, many of which have proven useful in the past. The inclusion of specific products or services should not be viewed as an endorsement by GAO.

The images in the "SEARCHING THE NET" section of chapter 5 are reprinted with the permission of the copyright owners.1

1 Figures 5.1 through 5.10 of this guide contain images that are the property of Netscape, copyright 1997 Netscape Communications Corporation, all rights reserved. Netscape is a trademark of Netscape Communications Corporation, which is registered in the United States and other countries. The images in figures 5.1 through 5.10 are reprinted here with the permission of Netscape.

Figures 5.1 and 5.2 of this guide contain images that are the property of C | net, copyright 1996-97, all rights reserved, and are reprinted here with permission.

Figures 5.3 through 5.10 of this guide contain images that are the property of Cornell University Legal Information Institute and are reprinted here with permission.

As a user of this guide, you should be aware that, in many cases, information in the sources we cite may be privileged or confidential and, therefore, unavailable. Generally, the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. 552a (1994), prohibits federal agencies from disclosing a record from "system of records" from which information may be retrieved by individual identifier, e.g., name, number, or symbol. However, federal agencies may disclose a record to another agency or governmental instrumentality for a lawful civil or criminal law enforcement activity. To receive a record, the head of the requesting agency must request the record in writing from the agency that maintains the record, specifying the portion of the record desired and the law enforcement activity for which the record is sought. The Privacy Act imposes criminal penalties on agency employees who wrongfully disclose protected information and on any person who wrongfully requests or obtains protected information under false pretenses. (5 U.S.C. 552a(i)).

This document was last updated April 20, 1997