Wired has learned that a federal government watchdog is considering legal action against the NSA, which allegedly broke the law when it leaked sensitive information to the press.
The Government Accountability Office, a bipartisan watchdog group that has investigated the NSA for decades, is reviewing the NSA programs that allegedly broke open a federal program to share information between the NSA and the FBI, which the group says was “unauthorized and unlawful.”
The NSA was not immediately available for comment.
The GAO’s review, however, does not allege the agency broke any laws.
In the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations, the agency has faced criticism for its handling of the leak, which led to its ouster in 2013.
According to a statement issued by the Office of Inspector General, the NSA has since taken steps to address the “misuse of this information.”
A spokesperson for the Office’s inspector general told Wired that the agency is “reviewing our investigation” into the leaks, which have been described by the NSA as a “national security breach.”
The Office’s statement did not say whether the investigation will take a more definitive stance.
The NSA’s “whistle blower” program, which allows employees to report “unaired information” about violations of its privacy laws, has been widely criticized for being a loophole for the agency to abuse its authority.
The program was created in 2015, according to a GAO report.
The watchdog office has said that the program has made it harder for whistleblowers to come forward, and that the NSA “may have unintentionally compromised” national security by inadvertently revealing the scope of the programs’ activities.
In response to the leak and subsequent congressional hearings, the White House announced in February that it would investigate whether the NSA violated the Constitution by sharing “unaused information” with the FBI and the Justice Department.
The president’s decision sparked a backlash from members of Congress and civil liberties groups, which called for a reopening of the program.
In March, the House passed the USA Freedom Act, which would have repealed the NSA program.
However, it failed to gain enough support to pass the Senate, where the bill failed to receive a single vote.
It is unclear how the Senate will vote on the bill, which has not been formally introduced.
“We have no intention of allowing the NSA to continue this program,” House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said during a hearing in March.
“This bill has not even been heard in committee.
I will not give up until the American people know that this program has not violated our Constitution.”
In the past, the GAO has taken steps in the GAOs investigation into the NSA whistleblower program, including a probe into whether the government improperly shared classified information with the NSA.
In January 2017, the watchdog office released a scathing report on the NSA whistleblowers program, finding that the government “used the program for more than a decade, and it is widely believed to have resulted in many innocent Americans being wrongly accused of violations of privacy laws and the First Amendment.”
The report noted that the leaks to the media “may also have compromised the intelligence of innocent people.”
The GAOs report also said that “it appears that the GAAs whistleblowers have been the most vulnerable in this program to misuse,” but it did not specify which agency was responsible for the leaks.