The US Secret Service is reportedly considering disabling text messaging on agent phones as it continues to deal with the fallout from purging phone records from the January 6, 2021 insurrection.
Secret Service Director James Murray briefed employees on the plan in a memo Tuesday, sources told CNN. The agency will first investigate how disabling texting could interfere with officers’ work and communication with outside law enforcement. If implemented, the change would be in place until the Secret Service figures out a system to preserve records.
The inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Secret Service, has been criticized for failing to alert Congress about missing phone records linked to January 6. The watchdog learned in February that texts were missing, including those exchanged with agents assigned to former President Donald Trump during the insurrection, but did not notify lawmakers until recently.
House lawmakers had asked DHS to keep records related to the Jan. 6 investigations twice in January 2021. However, the Secret Service said it carried out a pre-planned data migration that wiped the phones of the agents.
Since then, the committee of January 6 aforementioned Secret Service records.
Last month, Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) who co-chaired the Jan. 6 panel, said they were concerned about missing data.
“The procedure to preserve content prior to this purge appears to have been contrary to federal record retention requirements and may represent a possible violation of the Federal Records Act. The Select Committee is also seeking additional Secret Service records,” they said. “Every effort should be made to recover lost data as well.”
In the past week, political reported that the Secret Service was specifically seeking to disable iMessages, texts that can only be exchanged with other Apple users over WiFi or mobile data, because iMessages are encrypted and cannot be stored centrally.
“This is something that we are looking at very closely,” Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told Politico. “Director James Murray has ordered a benchmarking study to further examine the feasibility of disabling iMessage and whether it could have any operational impact.”
However, regular text messages may also be among those missing, Politico said.
DHS is not the only government department dealing with missing records related to January 6. The Defense Department also reportedly wiped the phones of top officials at the end of the Trump administration, deleting texts that could provide information about the insurrection. according to court documents filed this week.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.