Text messages released on January 6 were deleted from the phones of key Pentagon officials

The admission that Pentagon officials’ phones were tapped were the first revelations in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Defense Department and the military. The agency is seeking sworn statements by Jan. 6 from former Defense Secretary Chris Miller, former Chief of Staff Cash Patel and former Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, among other senior Pentagon officials. Capital assault.

Miller, Patel and McCarthy were seen as key witnesses to understanding the administration’s response to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack and former President Donald Trump’s response to the breach. As riots break out, the three take part in the Defense Department’s response to sending National Guard troops to the US capital. There is no indication that the authorities themselves destroyed the records.

The government’s claim in the recording that the officers’ text messages from that day were not retained is the latest setback for efforts to bring transparency into the events of January 6. The Department of Homeland Security also appears to be under fire. Missing letters from the Secret Service that day.

Miller declined to comment. Patel and McCarthy did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to CNN’s request. “It is our policy not to comment on ongoing legal proceedings,” said Col. Kathy Wilkinson, chief of public affairs media relations for the U.S. Army, said in a statement.

The US watchdog has now called for a “cross-agency investigation” by the Justice Department to investigate the destruction of the material.

“It is surprising to think that the agency does not understand the importance of protecting its records – especially [with regards] As for the CEOs who may have been arrested: what they did, when they did it, why they did it that day, Heather Sawyer, executive director of US Censorship, told CNN.

Sawyer said his organization learned earlier this year that the records were not protected from state prosecutors, and challenged the admission in the joint case brief filed in court in March.

“When an employee separates from the Ministry of Defense or the Armed Forces, he turns on a government-issued phone, and the Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces inform the claimant that the phone is deleted,” the government said. said in the filing. “For non-agency custodians, text messages are not protected and therefore not searchable, although specific text messages may be stored in other systems of record, such as email.”

With the ongoing scandal over the disappearance of Secret Service agents’ files since January 6, the recognition that the records are unprotected has taken on new importance.

“The failure to take seriously the responsibility to protect records, to ensure accountability and to ensure accountability to their partners in the legislature and to the American people reveals a major deficit,” Sawyer said.

The Secret Service said its messages were lost as a result of the transfer of data from its customers’ cellphones that began on January 27, 2021, exactly three weeks after the attack on the US capital. Homeland Security Inspector General Joseph Ghafari learned of the disappearance of the transcripts in May 2021. CNN reported earlier.

The multi-agency pattern prompted his organization to write to Attorney General Merrick Garland, who is already facing demands from congressional Democrats to take over the Department of Homeland Security’s investigation into missing Secret Service documents.

“U.S. Oversight urges you to investigate the actions of the Department of Defense to enable the destruction of records related to this important matter of national focus and historical significance,” the senator said. The Department of Homeland Security has been investigated for similar failures, citing Dick Turpin’s calls. message, which was shared with CNN on Tuesday, he said.
After submitting FOIA requests to the Department of Defense and the military, the US watchdog says the Pentagon approved the request on January 15, 2021. US Watchdog then filed a lawsuit in March to force the release of the records. In addition to Freedom of Information Act obligations, US censors allege the Pentagon was negligent in not keeping records, Sawyer noted in a separate one. Federal records The law also requires the government to keep records that have “the informational value of the data they contain.”

“I don’t think it would be possible for anyone to expressly argue that communications between these high-ranking officials on January 6th would not have the informational value that the Federal Records Act should achieve,” Sawyer said. The US watchdog is seeking records of a number of Pentagon officials – some of whom are in government service.

“For defense attorneys still with the agency, the military has begun searching for text messages in response to Freedom of Information Act requests and estimates it will complete its additional search by the end of September,” the Justice Department said in ‘ a joint filing in July.

A spokesman for the Department of Justice declined to comment.

What the Pentagon heard from the White House when the Capitol attack was revealed was the focus of a House hearing on Jan. 6, and lawmakers say the goal of their investigation is to address security holes that day.

In testimony last week before the Miller Committee, the House Committee denied that former President Donald Trump had given him an official order to prepare 10,000 troops for the Capitol on January 6.

“I have received no direction, order or knowledge of any such plans,” Miller said in the video.

On Jan. 6, a spokesman for the group declined to comment on records related to the Pentagon.

A former Defense Department official from the previous administration told CNN that their work devices are subject to the Presidential Records Act and that their communications are in the archive. The source said that when they turned on their devices after work, any communication logs were supposed to be archived.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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