Pentagon reminds top officials not to wipe phones after Jan. 6 data scrub

The Pentagon’s No. 2 official is reminding its employees to preserve the contents of their government phones following revelations that the texts for top Defense Department officials were not preserved and their communications on Jan. 6, 2021, were lost. 

In a memo sent to senior leaders on Wednesday, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks reminded officials that the retention of records as required by the Federal Records Act “is a solemn responsibility and legal obligation for all federal employees, civilian and military.”  

This memo “further directs that, effective immediately, all mobile device service providers in DoD will capture and save the data resident on DoD-provisioned mobile devices when devices are turned-in by users,” Hicks wrote. 

The Pentagon wiped the phones of former acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, former Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and former Pentagon chief of staff Kash Patel in the days after the attack on the Capitol and the end of former President Trump’s term. 

The government watchdog American Oversight first discovered the data gap after it sued for the texts following a public records request. 

The scrubbed records are significant as they could have shed more light on why the National Guard was delayed approval to go to the Capitol as it was under siege. 

Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) earlier this week called for an investigation as to how the communications were lost.  

“The disappearance of this critical information could jeopardize efforts to learn the full truth about Jan. 6,” Durbin said in a statement. “I don’t know whether the failure to preserve these critical government texts from Jan. 6 is the result of bad faith, stunning incompetence, or outdated records management policies, but we must get to the bottom of it.” 

In her memo, Hicks also directs the Pentagon’s chief information officer and general counsel to assess and report back in 30 days on existing Defense Department communication policy and procedures and any recommendations for improvement. 

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