Education Secretary Betsy DeVos asked the department's inspector general if leakers could be prosecuted — and was told any case that came from such a complaint would be on shaky legal grounds.

Reporting on an internal memo circulated within the department, the Washington Post on Wednesday noted that in response to DeVos' request, the IG's office told her that there's little grounds for doing so, because the department doesn't have many guidelines governing how employees should handle information.

"While evaluating the . . . incidents of alleged unauthorized releases of non-public information, we identified challenges to criminal prosecution or taking significant administrative actions against individuals responsible for the release of this type of information," the report read.

In response to DeVos, Assistant Inspector General for Investigations Aaron R. Jordan said that the department should implement stronger policies aimed at controlling unauthorized leaks and training employees on how to handle information. In doing so, Jordan wrote, department officials could more easily punish leakers in the future. Such a move, he wrote, "may increase the potential” for the IG's office “to obtain a criminal prosecution in certain cases."

As a footnote, Jordan noted that any future guidelines must "take into consideration whistleblower rights and protections,” because “there may be times when what may be viewed as a ‘leak’ or unauthorized release of non-public information could involve a protected disclosure."