THE SECRET SERVICE erased text messages from January 5 and January 6, 2021, according to a letter given to the January 6 committee and reviewed by The Intercept. The letter was originally sent by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General to the House and Senate homeland security committees. Though the Secret Service maintains that the text messages were lost as a result of a “device-replacement program,” the letter says the erasure took place shortly after oversight officials requested the agency’s electronic communications.
The Secret Service did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Office of Inspector General letter suggests, key evidence in the form of the Secret Service’s electronic communications may never see the light of day. The Department of Homeland Security — the Secret Service’s parent agency — is subject to oversight from the DHS Office of Inspector General, which had requested records of electronic communications from the Secret Service between January 5 and January 6, 2021, before being informed that they had been erased. It is unclear from the letter whether all of the messages were deleted or just some. Department officials have also pushed back on the oversight office’s records request by arguing that the records must first undergo review by DHS attorneys, which has delayed the process and left unclear if the Secret Service records would ever be produced, according to the letter.
“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,” the letter from DHS IG Joseph Cuffari stated.
“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 records and created confusion over whether all records had been produced.”