Secret Service provided only 1 text on Jan. 6 Capitol attack after phone factory resets

The Jan. 6 committee wants proof the Secret Service secured and performed forensics on 24 employees' phones.
US President Donald Trump travels in an armor vehicle with masked members of the Secret Service after arriving at Walter Reed Medical Center October 2, 2020, in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

The Secret Service provided a single text message in response to the Department of Homeland Security inspector general’s request for all exchanges from 24 personnel in the lead up and immediate aftermath of the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol attack, according to a letter obtained by CNN.

Inspector General Joseph Cuffari requested texts between Dec. 7, 2020, and Jan. 8, 2021, in June 2021, Secret Service Assistant Director Ron Rowe wrote the House select committee investigating the attack in the letter, which doesn’t identify the 24 employees.

Secret Service Communications Chief Anthony Guglielmi stated on July 14 the agency lost employees’ texts when it began resetting mobile devices to factory settings in January 2021, ahead of a planned “system migration,” while denying they were “maliciously deleted.”

The lone text message provided was from U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund to former Secret Service Uniformed Division Chief Thomas Sullivan requesting aid on Jan. 6, 2021. No texts the inspector general sought were lost during the migration to Microsoft’s mobile device management system, Intune, according to Rowe’s letter.


Factory resets are avoidable during such migrations however, and explanations of how the texts were erased have varied, reported Kim Zetter on Wednesday.

Now the Jan. 6 committee wants proof the Secret Service secured and performed forensics on the phones in question to verify Secret Service’s assertion the replacement was simply coincidental.

While Guglielmi held the Secret Service is “fully cooperating” with the DHS inspector general — and the agency provided an initial collection of hundreds of thousands of documents, policies, radio communications, emails, briefings and interviews — the Office of Inspector General has stated access was neither appropriate nor timely due to attorney review.

The Secret Service left it to employees to back up phone records when Congress sent a preservation and production request on Jan. 16, 2021, ahead of the three-month phone replacement that began Jan. 27, 2021. The agency sent personnel a guide on backing up phone content ahead of replacement, but it’s unclear how many employees followed the guidance or why there wasn’t an automated collection system in place — given the Secret Service’s record retention requirements, Zetter reported.

Rowe wrote the Secret Service continues to assess whether any relevant texts were lost and if they’re recoverable, an unlikely prospect without cutting-edge decryption technology, Zetter reported. The Secret Service is also interviewing the 24 employees to see if they stored messages elsewhere.

Dave Nyczepir

Written by Dave Nyczepir

Dave Nyczepir is a technology reporter for FedScoop. He was previously the news editor for Route Fifty and, before that, the education reporter for The Desert Sun newspaper in Palm Springs, California. He covered the 2012 campaign cycle as the staff writer for Campaigns & Elections magazine and Maryland’s 2012 legislative session as the politics reporter for Capital News Service at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he earned his master’s of journalism.

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