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Oct 6, 3:04 PM EDT

Treasury's IG probing illegal surveillance allegations

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Treasury Department's inspector general said Friday it is looking into allegations that a Treasury Department agency has been illegally looking at the private financial records of U.S. citizens.

BuzzFeed, a news website, is quoting unnamed government sources as saying that Treasury's Office of Intelligence and Analysis has "repeatedly and systematically violated domestic surveillance laws by snooping on the private financial records of U.S. citizens and companies."

Asked about the report, Rich Delmar, counsel to Treasury's Inspector General, said, "The issues referred to in the article are currently being reviewed as part of a Treasury OIG audit."

Treasury Department officials strongly denied the allegations. In a statement, Treasury said, "An unsourced suggestion that an office within Treasury is engaged in illegal spying on Americans is unfounded and completely off-base."

The statement said, "In the post-9-11 era, law enforcement and intelligence community members, both within agencies and across the federal government, are required to share information as governed by law."

The statement said that Treasury's Office of Intelligence and Analysis and the separate Treasury Financial Crimes and Enforcement Network "share important information and operate within the bounds of statute and other relevant legal authorities. ... We have a responsibility to bring to bear all the tools available to us to protect the American people."

The BuzzFeed report said that over the past year, at least a dozen employees of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network had warned officials and Congress that the financial data was being illegally searched and stored.

BuzzFeed said some sources believed the intelligence breach may have extended to other intelligence agencies such as the National Security Agency. Buzzfeed said that NSA may have used Treasury's intelligence division as an illegal back door to gain access to American citizens' financial records.

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