The Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General has launched a criminal investigation into the deletion of text messages of Secret Service agents relating to the January 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. A report found that messages were deleted as part of a “device replacement program.”
The probe comes after the Secret Service turned over just a single text message in response to a request for a month’s worth of records from 24 employees. The request was made in June 2021 and included text messages sent and received between December 7, 2020, and January 8, 2021.
The inspector general informed the Secret Service that the investigation was criminal in nature and asked the agency to halt its internal investigation into the matter. The results of the probe could be sent to federal prosecutors, who will decide if charges should be filed.
“To ensure the integrity of our investigation, the USSS must not engage in any further investigative activities regarding the collection and preservation of the evidence referenced above,” DHS Deputy Inspector General Gladys Ayala wrote in a letter to Secret Service Director James Murray. “This includes immediately refraining from interviewing potential witnesses, collecting devices, or taking any other action that would interfere with an ongoing criminal investigation.”
The Secret Service confirmed it has received the letter from Ayala and noted it is working to ensure that the agency is fully cooperating with the inspector general’s probe and a subpoena from the House select committee investigating the January 6 riot.
“We have informed the January 6th Select Committee of the Inspector General’s request and will conduct a thorough legal review to ensure we are fully cooperative with all oversight efforts and that they do not conflict with each other,” the Secret Service said in a statement.