Watchdog felt it faced delays in oversight of DHS and Secret Service texts – but never sent notice to Congress


Career government watchdog staff for the Department of Homeland Security prepared an opinion for Congress earlier this year regarding their difficulty obtaining Secret Service text messages related to Jan. 6, but it was never included in the watchdog’s regular reporting requirement to lawmakers.

New documents reviewed by ABC News, and first obtained by the independent accountability group Project on Government Oversight, show that the DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) legal office went so far as to approve a project advice to Congress that was ultimately not included in the agency’s semi-annual report in June.

It is unclear why the notice was not in the report. But the draft document details what the OIG called “avoidable” obstacles imposed on its work by DHS.

According to the notice, DHS used a cumbersome approval process to release the requested records to the OIG, which “required [the office] wasting valuable time researching.” And after delays of more than a month in some cases, documents were arriving with unexplained redactions.

In this file photo from June 21, 2022, Committee Chair Bennie Thompson, Vice Chair Rep. Liz Cheney and Rep. Committee Member Adam Schiff attend the fourth of eight scheduled public hearings for the United States House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters, FILE

Amid these described delays, according to the notice, the OIG said it was February 23 when the Secret Service informed watchdog staff of the process to migrate cellphone data in early 2021.” who erased all the data” – including January 6. -linked texts.

This contradicts another timeline: The Watchdog’s office was aware as early as December that the Jan. 6 Secret Service texts had been expunged, according to members of the Congressional committee who received a Secret Service briefing on the subject last month. last.

It wasn’t until more than six months after the OIG reportedly learned of the deletions that it formally notified lawmakers, on July 13, according to Congress.

PHOTO: Representative Liz Cheney speaks during a public hearing of the United States House Select Committee to investigate the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol on Capitol Hill in Washington on 21 July 2022.

Representative Liz Cheney speaks during a public hearing of the United States House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 21, 2022.

Sarah Silbiger/Reuters, FILE

As ABC News previously reported, Democrats in Congress released new evidence last week alleging that nearly a year before notifying Congress, Inspector General Joseph Cuffari had abandoned efforts to retrieve the services’ text messages. secrets of January 6.

Democrats called on Cuffari to step down, suggesting a cover-up related to the text message investigation.

Sen. Gary Peters, Democratic chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, on Wednesday demanded a “full account” from Cuffari on efforts to retrieve messages from Secret Service and other DHS officials.

PHOTO: Dr. Joseph Cuffari, Arizona Policy Advisor for Military and Veterans Affairs, delivers remarks on behalf of Arizona Governor Doug Ducey.

In this April 18, 2019, file photo, Dr. Joseph Cuffari, Arizona’s political adviser for military and veterans affairs, delivers remarks on behalf of Arizona Governor Doug Ducey.

US Military Entry Processing Command, FILE

“These are serious allegations and diverge from information you have previously provided to me and my team,” Peters wrote.

“Therefore, I request that you provide me with a full account of the actions planned and taken by your office and clarify any inconsistencies in what has been reported to date,” he wrote.

The DHS Inspector General’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

Regarding the government watchdog’s Jan. 6 investigation more generally, its June report noted “significant delays” in the production of Secret Service records.

“We continue to discuss this matter with the Secret Service,” the brief statement said at the time.

ABC News

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