The Defense Department’s inspector general said in a letter to Congress this week that his office has identified “concerns” with the department’s use of phone messaging apps that were related to calls for an investigation into the department’s failure to preserve texts from January 6, 2021.
Acting Inspector General Sean O’Donnell told Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, who had requested the probe, that his office will be issuing an advisory on the department’s use of mobile messaging applications “that we believe will be relevant to the concerns you raised in your letter” requesting the review.
“This advisory will notify DoD officials responsible for approving the use of mobile applications of concerns we identified during our ongoing audit of Defense Digital Service (DDS) support of DoD programs and operations,” O’Donnell said, according to the Tuesday letter that Judiciary Committee Democrats posted to Twitter on Wednesday.
In a footnote, O’Donnell said the audit had looked at whether misuse of mobile device applications was a “DoD-wide concern.”
In August, after it was revealed that phones of top Defense Department and Army officials had been wiped at the end of the Trump administration, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks issued a department-wide memo instructing department leaders that “under existing DoD instructions, DoD users are required to retain text messages that qualify as federal records.”
Hicks directed the department’s chief information officer and general counsel to “assess DoD policies and procedures” to ensure Federal Records Act compliance.
The inspector general also told Durbin in the letter that his office was planning an audit of actions the Defense Department took to preserve its electronic records and whether its approach complied with federal law.
“As part of the audit, we will consider reviewing the DoD’s processes to preserve text messages on DoD-issued cell phones when DoD personnel leave their position, including processes in place currently and as of January 6, 2021,” O’Donnell said in his letter.
Durbin pressed the inspector general for a review after CNN reported on court filings revealing that the department had wiped the phones of top Trump administration officials upon their departure, deleting texts from key witnesses to the events around the US Capitol attack.