Excellent reporting by Lawrence O’Donnell and The Last Word team at MSNBC.
During the The Last Word telecast on July 21, O’Donnell details the facts of the case, as we know them, and raises very serious questions about the deleted Secret Service text messages from Jan. 5 and 6.
In summary, O’Donnell reminds us that:
- The Secret Service has a budget of $3B annually
- The first of three emails informing staff to preserve records was sent by the Secret Service Office of Strategic Planning on Dec. 9, 2020
- In an undated Jan. 2021 and a Feb. 4, 2021 email, sent by the Secret Service Chief Information Officer, reminds staff of their obligation to preserve records and includes instructions on how to do so
- The Secret Service received the first written records preservation request before the physical act of exchanging agent smartphones for new devices
- Ornato was promoted to the political post of White House Deputy Chief of Staff
- The Secret Service runs a sophisticated cyber-crime organization and knows the legal obligations it has to handle and preserve records
In my previous post on the Secret Service deleted text message fiasco, I suggested that we wait until more details about what happened by brought to light before placing blame on an IT staffer. Now it is beginning to look like the Secret Service, led by Director James Murray, either willfully ignored record preservation requests and established records and information management governance policies, or directly issued orders that the text messages be deleted from Secret Service issued smartphones. With a $3B annual budget, the Secret Service has more than enough money, in my opinion, to digitally and physically archive any Secret Service agent’s smartphone that was even remotely involved with the events leading up to and taking place on January 6, 2021. To suddenly have digital records be deleted and no discussion that I have seen about going back to the physical devices used on Jan. 5 and 6, is unfathomable to me. The Secret Service knows how to perform digital forensics and records preservation.
While it will likely be years before the full story comes out about what happened to Secret Service text messages from Jan. 5 and 6, it is, in my opinion, growing more obvious this situation has less to do with an IT staffer having a bad day and that something much more politically motivated, possibly with criminal intent, has taken place.