Secret Service may disable iMessages to avoid repeat Jan 6 controversy
The missing text messages have become a recent flashpoint in investigations into the January 6, 2021 riot.
On July 13, the DHS inspector general informed Congress that the Secret Service had lost texts related to the attack by wiping the phones of its employees as part of a change in how it handled such devices. That revelation prompted the House committee investigating the attack to subpoena the agency for its records. Panel leaders suggested the agency may have violated federal records laws by failing to preserve the messages.
The phone resets came as the Secret Service rolled out a new mobile device management platform, technology that employers use to centrally manage and store emails, photos and other data stored on employee phones. Apple iMessages cannot be backed up by this system because they are encrypted and stored on users’ devices, unlike regular text messages.
Due to this issue, the Secret Service could not store iMessages in a central location the way they managed their messaging system and other technology. So when individual agents failed to manually back up their data before their phones were wiped and reconfigured for the new management system, the only copies of those iMessages were lost.
Regular text messages could also be among those sought by Jan. 6 investigators and deemed lost, depending on how centrally the Secret Service backed them up.
Cybersecurity experts have expressed astonishment that the Secret Service, which in addition to its well-known mission to protect the President also conducts many complex cybercrime investigations, may not preserve digital data crucial to understanding its own role in the crime. one of the most astonishing episodes of political violence in American history.
Lawmakers also questioned the series of events.
“It’s pretty crazy that the Secret Service would end up suppressing everything about one of the most infamous days in American history, especially when it comes to the role of the Secret Service,” the rep said. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a Jan. 6 panel member, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on July 17.
On Thursday, The Washington Post reported that similar device resets erased texts from the two top DHS officials from the period leading up to the attack.
When it comes to handling iMessages, the Secret Service follows the protocols of its parent department and according to former CISA director Chris Krebs, DHS has not disabled the feature. Krebs said the White House has disabled iMessages. DHS and the White House did not respond to requests for comment.
Secret Service fears disabling iMessages could hamper emergency communications with other agencies that rely on text messaging. Guglielmi noted that the Capitol Police Chief texted a Secret Service official asking for help on Jan. 6. It’s unclear whether that message — the only one the agency gave to House investigators — was sent as an iMessage.
“We want to make sure that the political measures we take do not have a negative impact on our protective or investigative missions,” Guglielmi said. He added that the Secret Service is “studying other technological solutions”. He did not provide further details.
The firestorm that engulfed the Secret Service represents the latest scandal to plague protection agency after years of security breaches. Secret Service agents have been recalled from overseas trips for bringing sex workers to their hotel rooms, and people have jumped the White House fence and circumvented numerous security measures before being exposed. apprehended, a person entering the executive mansion.