A member of the US Secret Service stands on the South Lawn of the White House. The Project on Government Oversight reported that DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari cut five paragraphs warning Congress that Secret Service texts surrounding the Jan. 6 riots had been deleted from a June report. File Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 11 (UPI) -- Top officials at the Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector General quashed a warning to Congress that Secret Service texts from the days surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, riots at the U.S. Capitol had been deleted, a non-profit investigative group said Thursday.
The Project on Government Oversight, or POGO, shared a report Thursday showing that the DHS' Office of Inspector General approved five detailed paragraphs alerting lawmakers to the deletion of the texts on April 1 but the warning never appeared in a public report that was eventually sent to Congress in June.
"Instead of the five paragraphs informing lawmakers that the Secret Service had purged texts, the June report contained only two sentences about delayed access to Secret Service records and the January 6 review and neither mentioned the agency had admitted to erasing the messages," POGO said.
Career staff throughout several Office of Inspector General teams working on Jan. 6 reviews approved the language, which was sent to an office run by Kristen Fredricks, chief of staff to Inspector General Joseph Cuffari, at which point it was never again included in the report.
"The language about the deleted Secret Service texts was bottled up and never published after it was sent to Fredrick's office," POGO said.
The paragraphs noted that Secret Service on Feb. 23 "claimed inability to extract text message content due to an April 2021 mobile phone system migration, which wiped all data."
"Secret Service caused significant delay by not clearly communicating this highly relevant information at the outset of its exchanges with OIG during this reporting period. Moreover, Secret Service has not explained why it did not preserve the texts prior to the migration," the deleted passages continued.
POGO added that the report and the alert could have been sent to Congress earlier than June at Cuffari's discretion but he waited until July 13 to send a letter notifying Congress that the messages had been "erased" that contained "far less detail" than the unsent language approved in April.