WASHINGTON – Federal criminal and civil investigators looked into possible leaks of economic data that the government provides early to news organizations, according to a report released Tuesday by the Labor Department.
The Securities and Exchange Commission, the FBI and the Labor Department's inspector general are among the authorities that reviewed possible leaks over the past four years, according to the report. It's unclear whether any of their probes are continuing or have resulted in any charges. None of the three agencies had an immediate comment.
But the investigations have led the Labor Department to tighten security surrounding its release of economic data, including the monthly employment report.
The room where news organizations, including The Associated Press, receive early copies of the employment report is supposed to be secure. Before the data were released, reporters gave up their cell phones and temporarily lost Internet access. But the system still suffered from security flaws, according to the report conducted by Sandia National Laboratories on behalf of the Labor Department.
As part of the Labor Department's review of its security policies, it looked into which news organizations should or should not be allowed to receive early access to economic data. Officials said their decisions were based on whether a news outlet produces original reporting and distributes it to a wide audience.
The report says Labor officials raised concerns about self-identified news organizations that primarily serve high-speed stock traders. It notes that high-speed traders can profit from having the data even a split-second before its public release.