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Pentagon Joins DHS In Destroying Potential January 6 Evidence, Calls Records Retention Schedules Into Question: FRINFORMSUM 8/4/2022

August 4, 2022
Excerpt from Joint Status report – American Oversight v DOD and Army

Pentagon and DHS Announce More Destroyed January 6 Phone Records

The Pentagon has joined the Department of Homeland Security in destroying potential evidence related to the January 6 Capitol attack. Open government organization American Oversight posted court records related to its FOIA lawsuit for DoD January 6 records on its website, and the records indicate that the Pentagon “wiped” government-issued phones for senior officials that were in charge of mobilizing the National Guard’s response to the insurrection. The Washington Post reports that the erasure impacts the phone records of numerous senior officials, including then-acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller and then-Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy. 

The court records indicate that the erasure is in keeping with DoD and Army policy for employees who have left the agency. An investigation of the Pentagon’s records retention schedules will help verify this claim, which, if true, is an egregious oversight that may impact the January 6 committee’s investigation. It would also put further pressure on the National Archives and Records Administration to do a more thorough job vetting agency records retention schedules.

American Oversight has asked Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate the destruction. 


The DoD news comes on the heels of new revelations into the extent of the destruction of phone records at the Department of Homeland Security. The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) recently obtained internal agency documents showing that “Text messages for President Donald Trump’s acting homeland security secretary Chad Wolf and acting deputy secretary Ken Cuccinelli are missing for a key period leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.” The DHS Inspector General, Joseph V. Cuffari, was notified of the destruction in February and did not notify the January 6 Committee, did not press department leadership about the destruction, and did not attempt to recover the lost data. 

The destroyed messages from DHS’s most senior leadership adds to the list of the agency’s missing January 6 records, most notably the Secret Service’s destruction of agency text messages surrounding the attack shortly after the messages were requested by the January 6 Select Committee, allegedly during the course of an agency-wide phone reset and upgrade. 

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AQ Leader al-Zawahiri Killed in CIA Drone Strike

President Biden confirmed on August 1 that the United States successfully targeted al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan. Al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian who merged his al-Jihad organization with Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda, was one of the masterminds of 9/11. He was identified and targeted by the CIA while residing in the wealthy Kabul neighborhood of Shirpur, in a house owned by senior Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani (in a seemingly clear violation of the Doha Agreement), and in an area patrolled by the Haqqani Network. The strike comes a year after the United States’ chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and raises questions about the potential re-emergence of Afghanistan as a terrorist safe haven. 

The Washington Post reports that the CIA was certain it had ascertained al-Zawahiri’s location by early July. President Biden convened a meeting in the Situation Room on July 1 to discuss options and logistics, and convened a final briefing on the strike on July 25. 

For more on the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and al-Qaeda, consider reading any of the following from the Archive’s Afghanistan Project:

The National Security Act Turns 75

The National Security Archive recently published a compilation of key declassified US documents on the run-up to the enactment of the National Security Act, which was signed into law 75 years ago. The law’s passage marked a major restructuring of the US government’s military and intelligence apparatus in the years following World War II, and has revolutionized US policy making post-9/11. The documents in our latest posting show the run-up to the law’s enactment, the debates surrounding the unification of the military departments, and the establishment of three major national security organizations: the National Security Council (NSC) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the office of a civilian Secretary of Defense. This publication also sheds light on how the law, originally crafted with the intent of military and intelligence reorganization, evolved into something that would overhaul the Executive branch and establish the essential framework for foreign policy making during and after the Cold War.

Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, spoke with NPR’s Greg Myre about the law’s birthday, focusing particularly on the creation of the CIA. Blanton notes that, “The great successes the CIA has had have been the way in which it reduced the possibility of confrontation in a nuclear age,” but that “the places where the CIA has gone wrong has been in its handling of agents, its covert operations, its paramilitary, which raised the possibilities of confrontation, raised the danger.”

If you’re curious to read more about the US Intelligence Community, visit the Archive’s Intelligence Documentation Project, which has won the release of thousands of previously classified records that describe and contextualize many facets of the IC’s history, organization, structure, mission and operations. 

In Brief

EPA Delays Plan to Sunset Online Archive: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it would put plans to sunset its online Archive on hold until June 2023. During that time, the agency said it will “assess the use of archive content” and “continue to analyze, inventory and transition key content to our main website”.

In March of this year the EPA announced that it would wipe its site that contains “old news releases, policy changes, regulatory actions, and more,” on the grounds that it is no longer cost-effective and was never intended to be permanent. Open government and environmental advocates raised the alarm because, as The Verge’s Justine Calma reported, “The archive is the only comprehensive way that public information about agency policies, like fact sheets breaking down the impact of environmental legislation, and actions, like how the agency implements those laws, have been preserved…It also shows how the agency’s understanding of an issue, like climate change, has evolved. And when the Trump administration deleted information about climate change on the EPA’s website, much of it could still be found on the archive.”

DOJ Sues Ex-Trump Adviser Over Presidential Records: The Justice Department is suing ex-Trump aide Peter Navarro over his refusal to turn over presidential records. The suit, brought on behalf of the National Archives, alleges that Navarro used personal email to conduct government business and “is wrongfully retaining Presidential records that are the property of the United States, and which constitute part of the permanent historical record of the prior administration.”

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