Pentagon Officials' Phones Were Wiped of Jan. 6 Texts

Watchdog group demands investigation
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 3, 2022 12:15 PM CDT
Pentagon Officials' Phones Were Wiped of Jan. 6 Texts
"It is our policy not to comment on ongoing litigation," an Army spokeswoman said.   (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

(Newser) – The post-Jan. 6 phone-wiping apparently extended to the Pentagon as well as Homeland Security and the Secret Service, according to court documents. The watchdog group American Oversight says that in response to litigation, the Department of Defense and the Army have confirmed that the phones of officials including former acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller and former Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy were wiped at the end of the Trump administration. The group says it filed Freedom of Information Act requests for the officials' text messages on Jan. 12, 2021, just six days after the attack.

"From the reporting about the Secret Service and the senior DHS officials, it becomes pretty clear that this is not just a DOD problem, not just an Army problem, but multiagency," American Oversight spokeswoman Dana Silvestre tells the Washington Post. The officials whose phones were wiped after they were turned in played key roles in the Pentagon's response to the riot, and the erasure of their text messages will be yet another blow to the investigation. Heather Sawyer, American Oversight's executive director, has asked Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate the Pentagon's "destruction of records potentially relevant to this significant matter of national attention and historical importance."

Pentagon sources say wiping the phones of departing officials is standard procedure, but Sawyer tells CNN that it's "just astounding to believe that the agency did not understand the importance of preserving its records"—especially those of "top officials that might have captured: what they were doing, when they were doing it, why they were doing, it on that day." Paul Ney, former general counsel for the Department of Defense, tells CNN that he didn't wipe his phone before he turned it in on Jan. 20, 2021, and this is the first time he's heard about any issue with it. (Read more Capitol attack stories.)

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