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

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

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

This memo “further recommends that, effective immediately, all mobile device service providers in DoD will capture and store the data present on DoD-provided mobile devices when devices are handed in by users,” Hicks wrote.

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The Pentagon has erased the phones of former acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller, former Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and former Pentagon Chief of Staff Kash Patel in the days following the Capitol attack and the end of former President Trump’s term.

Government watchdog American Oversight first discovered the data breach after it filed a lawsuit over the lyrics over a public archive request.

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The erased data is important because it could have shed more light on why the National Guard’s approval to go to the Capitol was delayed because it was under siege.

Earlier this week, Senate President Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) called for an investigation into how communications have been lost.

“The disappearance of this critical information could jeopardize efforts to get the full truth about Jan. 6,” Durbin said in a statement. “I don’t know if the failure to preserve these critical government documents dated January 6 is the result of bad faith, astounding incompetence, or outdated records management policies, but we need to get to the bottom of this.”

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In her memo, Hicks also directs the Pentagon’s Chief Information Officer and General Counsel to review and report within 30 days of existing DOD communications policies and procedures and any recommendations for improvement.

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