National Archives demands Secret Service probe into ‘erased’ text messages

The National Archives is pushing the Secret Service to launch a probe into claims it may have erased text messages from agents from Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021.

The request comes after the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) accused the agency of having “erased text messages as part of a device replacement program.”

“If it is determined that any text messages have been improperly deleted (regardless of their relevance to the OIG/Congressional inquiry of the events on January 6, 2021), then the Secret Service must send NARA a report within 30 calendar days of the date of this letter with a report documenting the deletion,” Laurence Brewer, chief records officer for the U.S. government, wrote in a letter to the custodian of records at DHS.

The Secret Service has denied the allegations from the OIG, stressing that it does not communicate by text as a policy due to security concerns. However it acknowledged some data may have been lost in what it has referred to as a “system migration.”

Still, any such text messages that were sent should have been uploaded and preserved.

“This report must include a complete description of the records affected, a statement of the exact circumstances surrounding the deletion of messages, a statement of the safeguards established to prevent further loss of documentation, and details of all agency actions taken to salvage, retrieve, or reconstruct the records,” Brewer wrote in the letter from the Archives.

The Secret Service’s custodian of records now has 30 days to conduct the review. 

A spokesperson for the Secret Service said the agency would comply.

“The United States Secret Service respects and supports the important  role of the National Archives and Records Administration in ensuring preservation of government records.  They will have our full cooperation in this review,” Anthony Guglielmi, the spokesman, wrote on Twitter.

Still, the agency has denied that it has not cooperated with investigators and maintains it’s unaware that any specific text messages were lost during the migration.

“In January 2021, before any inspection was opened by OIG on this subject, the Secret Service 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,” Guglielmi said last week.

“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,” he added.    

The demand from the National Archives came just hours after a subpoena deadline from the Jan. 6 committee to turn over “the relevant text messages, as well as any after action reports” for Jan. 6.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) a member of the committee, said that while the Secret Service pledged to comply with the subpoena, the panel is likely to have outstanding questions about any missing data.

“I suspect we will still have a lot of additional questions to be answered,” he said Tuesday.

Updated 2:06 p.m.

Tags Adam Schiff Donald Trump Jan. 6 attack Jan. 6 panel National Archives Secret Service

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