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The National Archives is looking into reports that the Secret Service deleted texts

The chief records officer of the U.S. government has asked the Secret Service to determine whether any of its text messages on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021, were improperly deleted.
Patrick Semansky
/
AP
The chief records officer of the U.S. government has asked the Secret Service to determine whether any of its text messages on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021, were improperly deleted.

Updated July 19, 2022 at 6:27 PM ET

Reports that the Secret Service deleted text messages related to the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack have caught the attention of the chief records officer of the U.S. government.

That officer, Laurence Brewer, said in a letter to the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday that the National Archives and Records Administration "has become aware of the potential unauthorized deletion of United States Secret Service (Secret Service) text messages" that were dated Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, 2021.

If the department determines any messages were improperly deleted, then Homeland Security must send the National Archives a report describing the messages as well as why they were deleted and how the agency attempted to salvage them, Brewer wrote.

The inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, who is looking into the Capitol insurrection, has notified Congress that after requesting records of texts for the day before and the day after the attack he learned that "many of these texts were erased as part of a device-replacement program." That has raised serious questions of whether the Secret Service, which protects the president, has destroyed federal records or the Department of Homeland Security obstructed oversight.

Anthony Guglielmi, chief of communications for the Secret Service, has disputed the IG's account.

"The insinuation that the Secret Service maliciously deleted text messages following a request is false," Guglielmi said in a statement last week. "In fact, the Secret Service has been fully cooperating with the OIG in every respect – whether it be interviews, documents, emails, or texts."

On Tuesday, Guglielmi said the National Archives "will have our full cooperation in this review and we will complete the internal review of our information as directed and promptly respond to their inquiry."

Gugliemi also said the Secret Service has handed over thousands of pages of documents to the Jan. 6 committee in response to a subpoena the panel issued Friday. But it was not able to fully comply with it.

"We are exhausting all options," Guglielmi told NPR.

He said that while it is conducting a forensic analysis on devices with erased text messages, it is likely the agency will not be able to recover them.

"We are taking all feasible steps to identify records responsive to the subpoena, to include forensic examinations of agency phones and other investigative techniques," he said in a statement issued Tuesday.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Washington Desk