The U.S. Treasury’s in-house watchdog is reportedly looking into claims that officials at the Treasury department broke the law by looking at the financial records of U.S. citizens.
According to a news report in Reuters citing Richard Delmar, counsel to the Treasury’s inspector general, the investigation is looking at whether the officials at the Treasury stayed within legal guidelines for intelligence gathering. Reuters reported that Delmar said the audit was investigating “many issues relating to these allegations.” Additionally, late last week, BuzzFeed reported that a Treasury employee warned officials that the banking and financial data of U.S. citizens had been searched and stored illegally.
The inquiry also explores whether or not Treasury officials followed the surveillance guidelines that were put out via an executive order by President Ronald Reagan back in 1981 and modified by President George W. Bush. The audit has been ongoing for about a year now. While the rule, known as “twelve triple-three,” is focused on foreign surveillance, it also enables collection of data for U.S. citizens in certain instances.
The inquiry from the Treasury’s internal watchdog comes at a time when the department is aiming to weaken another watchdog agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In June, the Treasury Department released a report in which it officially recommended that the CFPB should be substantially stripped of its powers. The report accuses the CFPB of regulatory overreach and notes that its director should serve at the will of the president, just like the director of every other executive branch agency.
“The CFPB was created to pursue an important mission, but its unaccountable structure and unduly broad regulatory powers have led to predictable regulatory abuses and excesses,” the report said. “The CFPB’s approach to rulemaking and enforcement has hindered consumer access to credit, limited innovation and imposed unduly high compliance burdens, particularly on small institutions.”