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Release of Jobs Numbers Revamped to Prevent Leaks: Report


Both the FBI and the Securities and Exchange Commission have approached the Department of Labor with concerns that the agency’s monthly jobs report data could leak out to markets in the minutes and seconds before their official release, a government report revealed Tuesday.

Stan Hoda | AFP | Getty Images

The report is an analysis of security surrounding the market-moving jobs data conducted by Sandia National Laboratories that was compiled last year. CNBC first revealed the existence of the report in March , but its contents were not made public until Tuesday. Access to the highly anticipated jobs data even a few thousandths of a second early could generate huge profits for sophisticated high-speed traders.

The document, entitled “CleanSweep Red Team Report,” was posted on the Department of Labor’s website in heavily redacted form.

In it, Sandia analysts say that the security review was prompted by alerts from other government agencies. “Over the course of the last four years, the DOL was approached by various regulatory authorities (e.g. OIG, SEC, and FBI) concerned that key economic data were potentially subject to unauthorized, premature release,” the report stated.

It also detailed the “likely adversaries” who could try to gain clandestine access to the jobs market data as “profit-driven, technically sophisticated individuals or organizations who may have considerable resources at their disposal.” The report noted these adversaries’ “technical proficiency enables implementation of stealthy surveillance equipment. Although they are willing to bend and potentially violate rules and laws, violence is unlikely as an operational method.”

The report noted that Sandia personnel specifically scrutinized the so-called “lockup” process whereby reporters are given access to the data as much as a half hour in advance in order to prepare stories for release precisely at 8:30 a.m. The experts did not assess the likelihood of an insider attack from a Department of Labor employee, a hack attack on the data through Department of Labor computers connected to the Internet, or clandestine access to the market moving data which is delivered to the White House the day before its official release.

Recommendations in the report, which was completed in 2011, became the basis for a sweeping series of changes to security procedures at the press lockups announced earlier this year, including a demand for reporters covering the jobs report to use computers and transmission lines provided by the government. That provision, among others, drew immediate complaints from media organizations covering the jobs data, leading to a long series of conference calls and a congressional hearing designed to arbitrate the dispute. In the end, the Department of Labor rejected several smaller organizations from access to the lockup facility, but agreed to allow those that remain to use their own computers and lines under certain circumstances.

Complaints from media organizations also led to Tuesday’s public unveiling of the Sandia report.

The report laid out several of the technical details of what Sandia’s security review concluded, and revealed that Sandia agents were sweeping the air surrounding the Department of Labor building during the jobs report release of July, 2011, to determine if anyone was surreptitiously beaming the information out of the building.

“Technical personnel conducted external and in?conference inspections of the Radio Frequency (RF) environment both prior to and during a live press release, to detect the presence of clandestine surveillance devices in the area,” the report said.

“No such devices were detected.”

- By CNBC's Eamon Javers
@EamonJavers

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