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Homeland Security will stop wiping phones after controversy over missing Jan 6 texts

Homeland Security will stop wiping phones after controversy over missing Jan 6 texts
Deepening scandal envelops DHS, Secret Service over Jan 6 texts

Department of Homeland Security said on Thursday that it would immediately work to ensure that electronic devices from officials will not be cleared of data before being backed up on external servers.

The directive, if implemented correctly, will bring the department in line with federal records laws which very plainly state that communications between federal officials discussing official policies on government devices must be preserved. In general, officials are prohibited from having such discussions at all on personal devices.

Officials first announced the directive in a memo obtained by CNN. The move is one of damage control as the agency is hounded by questions from Congress about what exactly happened to text messages sent by Secret Service agents assigned to Donald Trump on the day of the January 6 攻击 (and the hours leading up to it), as well as those from top former DHS officials including ex-Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli.

Two congressional committees have been pressing the agency’s Office of Inspector General, the internal watchdog for DHS, to explain why data from the phones of such officials were deleted with out being backed up, a move that would likely be a violation of the Federal Records Act in any scenario, and especially why an effort was not made to preserve messages concerning one of the most important days in recent political history. Scrutiny is especially high given that it has been reported that agents were instructed to preserve the data before it was deleted, and that the Inspector General did not alert lawmakers about the problem for months.

“These documents raise troubling new concerns that your office not only failed to notify Congress for more than a year that critical evidence in this investigation was missing, but your senior staff deliberately chose not to pursue that evidence and then appear to have taken steps to cover up these failures,” the committees on Oversight and Homeland Security wrote to DHS’s Inspector General in a joint letter on Monday.

They’ve also asked the Inspector General, Joseph Cuffari, to personally recuse himself from the investigation going forward, citing a lack of trust in his efforts.

DHS’s memo on Thursday states: “[Employees] are directed to preserve either the actual mobile devices (and accompanying access information) or complete fully accessible backups of all device content for all members of the Senior Executive Service or equivalent and political appointees, whenever such an employee departs or would have their device replaced or wiped for any reason.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the 司法部, has meanwhile asked Attorney General Merrick Garland to take over the investigation currently being led by the separate agency.

“I don’t know whether the failure to preserve these critical government texts from January 6 is the result of bad faith or stunning incompetence. But I do know that the man who has overseen the investigation of this fiasco is not the right person to continue leading it,” chairman Dick Durbin said on Wednesday.

“This man has lost whatever credibility he may have once had on this matter. That is why I’ve asked Attorney General Merrick Garland to step in and take control of this investigation into the missing texts.”