Watchdog launches criminal inquiry into deleted Secret Service text messages

WASHINGTON – The Department of Homeland Security's inspector general has launched a criminal investigation into the destruction of Secret Service text messages sought as part of investigations into the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol attack, an official with knowledge of the matter said Thursday.

A letter notifying the Secret Service of the probe was directed to Director James Murray Wednesday night, said the official who is not authorized to comment publicly on a pending investigation.

The existence of the criminal investigation was first disclosed by NBC News.

In a statement, the Secret Service acknowledged receipt of the inspector general's letter.

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A Secret Service Agent looks on as Marine One, carrying President Joe Biden, lifts off from the South Lawn of the White House on April 1.

"We have informed the January 6th Select Committee of the Inspector General's request and will conduct a thorough legal review to ensure that we are fully cooperative with all oversight efforts and that they do not conflict with each other," the agency said.

Earlier this month, DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari notified the House and Senate Homeland Security committees that the agency had deleted text messages from the day before and the day of the 2021 Capitol attacks after the communications had been requested by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general.

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"The (DHS) notified us that many U.S. Secret Service...text messages from January 5 and 6 2021 were erased as part of a device replacement program," Cuffari wrote. "The USSS erased those messages after (the inspector general) requested records of electronic communications from USSS, as part of our evaluation of events at the Capitol on January 6."

The Secret Service has acknowledged that some of the data was lost before an inspection began when the service began to reset its mobile phones in January 2021, as part of a three-month system migration. But the agency maintained that its actions were not malicious.