Cybersecurity experts and former government leaders are stunned by how poorly the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security handled the preservation of officials’ text messages and other data from around Jan. 6, 2021, saying the top agencies entrusted with fighting cybercrime should never have bungled the simple task of backing up agents’ phones.
Experts are divided over whether the disappearance of phone data from around the time of the insurrection is a sign of incompetence, an intentional coverup, or some murkier middle ground. But the failure has raised suspicions about the disposition of records that could provide intimate details about what happened on that chaotic day, and whose preservation was mandated by federal law.
“This was the most singularly stressful day for the Secret Service since the attempted assassination of [Ronald] Reagan,” said Paul Rosenzweig, a senior policy official at the Department of Homeland Security during the George W. Bush administration who’s now a cybersecurity consultant in Washington. “Why apparently was there no interest in preserving records for the purposes of doing an after-action review? It’s like we have a 9/11 attack and air traffic control wipes its records.”
Rosenzweig said he polled 11 of his friends with cybersecurity backgrounds, including information-security chiefs at federal agencies, on whether any of them had ever done a migration without a plan for backing up data and restoring it. None of them had. “There’s a relatively high degree of skepticism about [the Secret Service] in the group,” he said.
The experts said that backing up the data on the phones would have been ridiculously easy.
If the Secret Service had truly wanted to preserve agents’ messages, experts said, it should have been almost trivially easy to do so. Backups and exports are a basic feature of nearly every messaging service, and federal law requires such records to be safeguarded and submitted to the National Archives.
Several experts were critical of the Secret Service’s explanation that it had asked agents to upload their own phone data to an agency drive before their phones were wiped. Cybersecurity professionals said that policy was “highly unusual,” “ludicrous,” a “failure of management” and “not something any other organization would ever do.”
The error is especially notable because of the Secret Service’s vaunted role in the federal bureaucracy. Besides protecting America’s most powerful people, the agency leads some of the government’s most technically sophisticated investigations of financial fraud, ransomware and cybercrime.
I’m no expert, but I smell a coverup.
A couple more January 6 stories:
Betsy Woodruff Swan at Politico: The RNC ‘election integrity’ official appearing in DOJ’s Jan. 6 subpoenas.
In addition to a group of former President Donald Trump’s top lawyers, the Justice Department’s Jan. 6 probe is also seeking communications to and from a Republican National Committee staffer in a sensitive role.
At least three witnesses in DOJ’s investigation of so-called alternate electors in the 2020 election — two in Arizona and another in Georgia — have received subpoenas demanding communications to and from Joshua Findlay, who is now the RNC’s national director for election integrity.
POLITICO reviewed the subpoena sent to the Georgia witness afterthe Washington Postpublished copies of two Arizona subpoenas. Findlay’s appearance in the documents means the Justice Department has taken interest in his communications as part of its probe related to pro-Trump GOP officials and activists who presented themselves as legitimate electors from states where Joe Biden won.
Findlay worked for Trump’s 2020 campaign in multiple capacities. In January 2019, the campaign announced he was joining the team that would handle the 2020 Republican National Convention. After the convention, he worked as an attorney on the Trump campaign’s legal team.
The three subpoenas order the witnesses to share all documents and communications from October 2020 on, “[t]o, from, with, or including” a list of people, including Findlay.
While Findlay is not a central figure in the Jan. 6 select committee’s investigation, the head of the Trump campaign’s legal team, Matt Morgan, mentioned him in testimony to the panel. At a hearing on June 21, the panel played a video clip where one of its investigators, Casey Lucier, said some Trump campaign lawyers “became convinced that convening electors in states that Trump lost was no longer appropriate.”
Read the rest at Politico.
Lisa Rubin at Maddowblog: Why an unnamed ‘White House employee’ could be a pivotal Jan. 6 witness.
With the revelation that several senior Trump administration officials and Cabinet secretaries have testified or will soon testify before the House Jan. 6 committee, the political press is abuzz about what that could mean for the congressional fact-finding mission — and for the Justice Department’s criminal investigation. After all, as Politico reported Thursday, the DOJ and the Jan. 6 committee finally have reached a “general agreement” over evidence sharing that could grant federal investigators access to more than 1,000 transcripts of witness testimony.
That the DOJ soon will have a vehicle for obtaining evidence from the Jan. 6 committee has me thinking about a wholly different witness, however, and one whose name I don’t even know. Based on former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s prior testimony and committee members’ own statements at the hearings to date, an as-yet-unnamed White House employee or employees could be among the most significant witnesses to then-President Donald Trump’s words, actions and inaction on and around Jan. 6.
Specifically, at the so-called season finale of the committee’s hearings last week, Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., highlighted that “within 15 minutes of leaving the stage” at the Ellipse rally, Trump was informed about the attack on the Capitol by a person she described only as “a White House employee” who encountered Trump “as soon as he returned to the Oval [Office].” From there, Luria said, Trump went to the private dining room off the Oval Office at 1:25 p.m.
Later in the hearing, her colleague Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., returned to that unnamed White House employee, noting that Trump left the dining room on Jan. 6 for the White House residence at 6:27 p.m. Kinzinger added:
“As he was gathering his things in the dining room to leave, President Trump reflected on the day’s events with a White House employee. This was the same employee who had met President Trump in the Oval Office after he returned from the Ellipse. President Trump said nothing to the employee about the attack. He said only quote, ‘Mike Pence let me down.”
Rubin suggests that the person who overheard this remark could be a White House valet, and that person could have witnessed interactions between Trump and other officials and heard more remarks from Trump during the time that Trump was watching the violence at the Capitol. Read more at the link.
More stories to check out, links only:
The New York Times: Russian National Charged With Spreading Propaganda Through U.S. Groups.
NBC News: Combat vet ‘fuming’ over lawmakers’ failure to pass two bipartisan measures that could have helped millions.
Slate: When Can Dying Patients Get a Lifesaving Abortion? These Hospital Panels Will Now Decide.
The New York Times: Fox News, Once Home to Trump, Now Often Ignores Him.
NBC News: New York Gov. Hochul declares state disaster emergency over monkeypox.
Axios: Sinema indicates she may want to change Schumer-Manchin deal.
The Washington Post: Hot mic captured Gaetz assuring Stone of pardon, discussing Mueller redactions.