The Pentagon said in court filings released Tuesday that it deleted the text messages and emails of top officials from on or around the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol. File Photo by Frontpage/Shutterstock
Aug. 2 (UPI) -- The Department of Defense erased text messages and emails sent by top officials in the days surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, riots at the U.S. Capitol, according to court filings released Tuesday.
Advocacy group American Oversight shared the court records in which the Pentagon indicated it "wiped" the phones of Pentagon and Army officials who were responsible for mobilizing the National Guard in response to the attacks, including then-Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller and then-Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy.
In the court filings, the Pentagon said that texts from the government-issued phones of officials no longer in the agency "were not preserved" and could not be searched or produced despite the fact the group's request came on Jan. 12.
"When an employee separates from DOD or Army, he or she turns in the government-issued phone and the phone is wiped," the filing stated.
American Oversight said it also sought the communications of Miller's chief of staff, Kash Patel; Paul Ney, the Defense Department's general counsel; and James McPherson, the Army's general counsel, all of whom left around the end of the Trump administration.
According to the advocacy group, the Army said it has initiated a search for the communications of Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville and Director of Army Staff Lt. Gen. Walter Piatt, both of whom remain with the government, and estimates the search will be completed by the end of September.
A defense official told The Washington Post that the deletions were standard "process" for the agency.
American Oversight's executive director, Heather Sawyer, on Tuesday sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland asking him to open an investigation into the Pentagon's "failure to preserve the text messages of several high-ranking officials on or surrounding the day of the Jan. 6 attack."
"The apparent deletion of records from Jan. 6 by multiple agencies bolsters the need for a cross-agency investigation into the possible destruction of federal records," Sawyer wrote.
The release of the court filings Tuesday comes after it was revealed that the Secret Service and other parts within the Department of Homeland Security had deleted text messages and other records related to the riots, prompting Sen. Dick Durbin, R-Ill., to similarly ask that Garland launch an investigation.
"It now appears as if multiple federal agencies may have failed to preserve records surrounding the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol," Sawyer wrote. "There are still too many open questions about the role of the Pentagon, Secret Service, and others before and during the attack."