The U.S. Department of Defense reportedly wiped phones belonging to key DOD and Army officials at the end of the previous administration, thus "deleting any texts from key witnesses to events surrounding" the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, CNN reports Tuesday, per court filings.
The revelation that phones had been wiped was first acknowledged in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought against the DOD and the Army by watchdog group American Oversight, CNN writes. The government confirms in the court filings that texts from that day belonging to officials' central to American Oversight's inquiry from "were not preserved."
American Oversight has now called on the Justice Department to lead a "cross-agency investigation" into the matter. The Pentagon had apparently previously said that wiping phones during a transition period is standard practice, though American Oversight claims the DOD took such a step after the group's records request was filed, per The Hill.
The acknowledgement that the texts weren't saved "just reveals a widespread lack of taking seriously the obligation to preserve records, to ensure accountability, to ensure accountability to their partners in the legislative branch and to the American people," American Oversight Executive Director Heather Sawyer told CNN.
Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security is also under fire for having apparently lost messages from the Secret Service from the day of the riot. On Monday, two House committees said top officials at the DHS inspector general's office had actually "interfered with efforts to recover erased Secret Service texts from the time of the [Capitol attack] and attempted to cover up their actions," The Guardian reports.