Secret Service deleted Jan. 6 text messages: Watchdog

Secret Service deleted Jan. 6 text messages: Watchdog by Abigail Adcox, Breaking News Reporter for Washington Examiner

The Secret Service deleted text messages from Jan. 5 and 6 last year after oversight officials investigating the Capitol riot requested them, according to a government watchdog.

Homeland Security Department Inspector General Joseph Cuffari penned a letter to the House and Senate Homeland Security committees on Wednesday, informing them that text messages from those two days were erased from the system as part of a device replacement program.

“First, the Department notified us that many US Secret Service text messages from January 5 and 6, 2021, were erased as part of a device-replacement program. The USSS erased those text messages after OIG requested records of electronic communications from the USSS, as part of our evaluation of events at the Capitol on January 6,” Cuffari wrote in the letter first obtained by the Intercept.

The Office of Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security, which is the Secret Service’s parent agency, had requested electronic communications records as part of its evaluation of the events of Jan. 6, when rioters stormed the Capitol as lawmakers met to certify Joe Biden’s presidential victory.

“Second, DHS personnel have repeatedly told OIG inspectors that they were not permitted to provide records directly to OIG and that such records had to first undergo review by DHS attorneys,” Cuffari added. “This review led to weeks-long delays in OIG obtaining recordsand created confusion over whether all records had been produced.”

The Secret Service said any “insinuation” that the messages were maliciously deleted was false, adding that the electronic communications request was made after the system update had already begun.

“First, in January 2021, before any inspection was opened by OIG on this subject, USSS began to reset its mobile phones to factory settings as part of a pre-planned, three-month system migration. In that process, data resident on some phones was lost,” said Anthony Guglielmi, chief of communications for the Secret Service, in an email to the Washington Examiner. “DHS OIG requested electronic communications for the first time on Feb. 26, 2021, after the migration was well under way.”

The statement went on to say that the Secret Service had been cooperating fully with the review and had provided approximately 786,176 unredacted emails and 7,678 team messages by Secret Service members “referencing conversations and operational details pertaining to January 6th and preparations leading up to it.”

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