In Maria Sacchetti and Carol D. Leonnig, Secret Service erased texts from January 5 and 6, 2021, official says – The Washington Post (July 14, 2022), the Washington Post reports that Joseph V. Cuffari, head of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, “accused the U.S. Secret Service of erasing texts from Jan. 5 and 6, 2021, after his office requested them as part of an inquiry into the U.S. Capitol attack….”
Cuffari emphasized that the erasures came “after” the Office of Inspector General requested copies of the text messages for its own investigation, and signaled that they were part of a pattern of DHS resistance to his inquiries. Staff members are required by law to surrender records so that he can audit the sprawling national security agency, but he said they have “repeatedly” refused to provide them until an attorney reviews them.
The Post reports that “Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Thursday that the agency did not maliciously delete text messages following a request.” The Secret Service is quoted as responding:
“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,” he said. “DHS OIG requested electronic communications for the first time on Feb. 26, 2021, after the migration was well under way. The Secret Service notified DHS OIG of the loss of certain phones’ data, but confirmed to OIG that none of the texts it was seeking had been lost in the migration.”
“Second, DHS OIG’s allegation regarding DHS’s cooperation with its investigation is neither correct nor new. To contrary, DHS OIG has previously alleged that its employees were not granted appropriate and timely access to materials due to attorney review,” Guglielmi said. “DHS has repeatedly and publicly debunked this allegation, including in response to OIG’s last two semi-annual reports to Congress. It is unclear why OIG is raising this issue again.” …
According to two people briefed on the documents request, the Secret Service began a long preplanned, agencywide replacement of staff telephones to improve communication across the agency in January 2021.
It wasn’t until sometime in February 2021 that Cuffari’s office requested that the Secret Service produce records that centered on Jan. 6 and the days leading up to the attack on the Capitol, seeking internal agency communications, memorandums, emails and telephonic records such as text messages.
By the time of the request, the people said, as many as a third of Secret Service personnel had been given new cellphones.
Most of the replacement program began with staff members in Washington offices, and if they did not back up their old text messages, the people said, the information from Jan. 6 and the days before that is lost. …
The Secret Service has a policy requiring employees to back up and store government communications when they retire old electronic or telephonic devices, but in practice, staff do not consistently back up texts from phones.