Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

A member of the Secret Service speaks to then-President Donald Trump at the White House on August 10, 2020 in Washington, D.C.

A member of the Secret Service speaks to then-President Donald Trump at the White House on August 10, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

DHS Inspector General Launches Criminal Probe Into Secret Service Text Deletions

"This is a big deal," said one advocacy group.

Kenny Stancil

The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General has opened a criminal investigation into the Secret Service's destruction of text messages sent the day of and before the January 6, 2021 assault on the U.S. Capitol.

"This is to notify you that the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General has an ongoing investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding the collection and preservation of evidence by the United States Secret Service as it relates to the events of January 6, 2021," DHS Deputy Inspector General Gladys Ayala wrote in a letter to Secret Service Director James Murray on Wednesday night.

"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," the deputy inspector general continued. "This includes immediately refraining from interviewing potential witnesses, collecting devices, or taking any other action that would interfere with an ongoing criminal investigation."

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which filed a complaint earlier this week asking the U.S. Justice Department to launch "an immediate and full investigation into whether Secret Service employees willfully destroyed federal records," welcomed news of the inspector general's criminal probe.

While the Secret Service has claimed that texts from last January 5 and 6 were erased as "part of a device replacement program," the inspector general has emphasized that the messages were deleted after DHS oversight officials requested them to aid their assessment of the deadly insurrection incited by former President Donald Trump.

The Secret Service acknowledged its receipt of the inspector general's letter, which comes as the House committee investigating the January 6 attack is attempting to recover the agency's missing electronic communications—with limited success so far.

"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.

A Secret Service official said the letter "raises some legal complexities," NBC News reported Thursday after speaking with two unnamed sources.

While the inspector general has asked the Secret Service to cease all internal inquires amid the watchdog's criminal probe, the agency also faces a subpoena from the House January 6 committee and a request for information from the National Archives.

According to CNN, which reviewed the letter: "The inspector general wrote that the Secret Service should explain what interviews had already been conducted related to the text messages, along with the 'scope off the questioning, and what, if any, warnings were given to the witness(es).' The inspector general told the Secret Service to respond by Monday."

The results of the inspector general's probe could be referred to federal prosecutors, the outlet noted. The Justice Department declined to comment on the letter's reference to an "ongoing criminal investigation."

The January 6 panel is set to hold a public hearing Thursday at 8:00 pm ET.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Turn Off the Tap on Plastic,' UN Chief Declares Amid Debate Over New Global Treaty

"Plastics are fossil fuels in another form," said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, "and pose a serious threat to human rights, the climate, and biodiversity."

Kenny Stancil ·


EPA Urged to 'Finish the Job' After Latest Move to Protect Bristol Bay From Pebble Mine

"Local residents, scientists, and the broader public all agree that this is quite simply a bad place for a mine, and it is past time for the EPA to take Pebble off the table permanently," said one activist in Alaska.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Zero Tolerance for Corruption': Grijalva, Porter Demand Answers on Alleged Trump Pardon Bribery Scheme

The Democrats believe a real estate developer donated to a Trump-aligned super PAC in exchange for the pardons of two other men.

Julia Conley ·


Millions of Americans Lack Adequate Health Coverage, But the Pentagon Has a New Nuclear Bomber to Flaunt

"This ominous death machine, with its price tag of $750 million a pop, brings huge profits to Northrop Grumman but takes our society one more step down the road of spiritual death," peace activist Medea Benjamin said of the new B-21 Raider.

Brett Wilkins ·


Betrayal of Railway Workers Ignites Working-Class Fury Toward Biden and Democrats

"Politicians are happy to voice platitudes and heap praise upon us for our heroism throughout the pandemic," said one rail leader. "Yet when the steel hits the rail, they back the powerful and wealthy Class 1 rail carriers every time."

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo