Alleged cover-up, I should say. But each new bit of news makes the “alleged” part seem less and less necessary.

The timeline here is strange. A week ago, Joseph Cuffari, the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, notified Congress that texts sent by some Secret Service agents on January 5 and 6, 2021, had been deleted. And not only had they been deleted, they were supposedly deleted *after* the IG had requested them, which pointed to deliberate destruction of evidence rather than a sloppy failure to back up records to a server. Yesterday we learned that Congress itself had twice warned the Service to preserve and produce documents related to January 6 before those records were lost during the Service’s transition to new phones in late January 2021.

Today brings a twist in the mystery of the missing texts. According to two whistleblowers, Cuffari’s office knew many months ago that the Secret Service had purged its texts from January 5 and 6 but kept that information to itself until last week. Why?

A watchdog agency learned in February that the Secret Service had purged nearly all cellphone texts from around the time of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, but chose not to alert Congress, according to three people briefed on the internal discussions.

That watchdog agency, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, also prepared in October 2021 to issue a public alert that the Secret Service and other department divisions were stonewalling it on requests for records and texts surrounding the attack on the Capitol, but did not do so, the people briefed on the matter said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal investigations…

In recent days, one former employee approached the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), an independent government-accountability group, and described the decision from Cuffari’s office not to promptly disclose that Secret Service records had been wiped from agency phones starting in January 2021. The group relayed the information to congressional staff, who independently corroborated the account with a second whistleblower…

“It’s a dereliction of duty to keep the public and Congress in the dark for months,” said POGO senior investigator Nick Schwellenbach. “Digital forensics experts could have been working to recover these lost texts a long time ago.”

Why did the IG stall in informing Congress? And why did he stop stalling last week?

Cuffari’s office did say in previous reports to Congress that the Secret Service was delaying his investigation but it didn’t mention anything about the missing texts. And that’s a curious omission if it’s true that the IG knew in February that the texts had been purged, as his most recent report to Congress was submitted a month later in March.

It seems bizarre that a Biden appointee would suppress information about the Secret Service’s possible destruction of evidence about January 6, but that’s the thing. Cuffari isn’t a Biden appointee. He was appointed by Trump and has been held over in his job by Biden’s administration. Is that why he sat on the information about the texts, out of loyalty to the former guy?

Or is this more of an institutional bias at work, with the IG not wanting to get one of DHS’s agencies in hot water with Congress?

As for why Cuffari might have stopped stalling, read the excerpt again and note the phrase “in recent days.” Maybe his office discovered only very recently that whistleblowers were about to expose the fact that he had withheld information about the destruction of the texts. Et voila — suddenly the IG’s office was fully transparent, notifying Congress that the texts they were interested in had been purged. From cover-up to “cover your ass” in a flash.

That’s just a theory, but we’re running out of explanations here that might plausibly account for all of this as mere negligence. “I smell a rat,” said Jamie Raskin, a member of the January 6 committee, about the missing texts. “That seems like an awfully strange coincidence for those text messages to be banished into oblivion on two days where there was also the most violent insurrection against the union in our history, after the Civil War.”

Even more curious is the Secret Service’s insistence that the missing texts are likely unrecoverable, gone forever. Yesterday cybersecurity consultant Paul Rosenzweig was aghast at the possibility that a federal law enforcement organization that’s supposed to be cutting-edge in cyberforensics might really have fumbled away something as simple as its own personnel’s text messages.

Was this really incompetence or just pretend-incompetence by an agency that deliberately chose poor data-retention policies in order to evade recordkeeping requirements? God only knows what other Secret Service communications are routinely “lost” but go unnoticed by archivists because they don’t involve a matter that’s under as much scrutiny as January 6.

The January 6 committee has taken notice, though. Quote: “The procedure for preserving content prior to this purge appears to have been contrary to federal records retention requirements and may represent a possible violation of the Federal Records Act.”

By the way, the latest twist in this saga is Cuffari’s office now warning the Secret Service to *stop* investigating the missing texts lest it interfere with the IG’s own investigation. Uh, why wasn’t that investigation already moving ahead full steam as of February, when the IG allegedly learned that the texts had gone missing?

I’ll leave you with this, as the plot thickens.

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