Durbin Statement On Defense Department IG Report Regarding Use Of Messaging Apps On Mobile Devices

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today released the following statement after the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Inspector General released a report regarding the use of mobile applications on DoD mobile devices, which is in response to questions Durbin raised about text messages that may have been deleted by departing DoD officials at the end of the Trump Administration concerning the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Today’s report revealed that even when DoD personnel are using DoD mobile devices, if the messaging application used is one that DoD has not authorized and managed, DoD cannot track or retain that data.  Therefore, messages could be inadvertently lost or intentionally deleted in violation of federal and DoD records retention policies.  The Office of the Inspector General also discovered a variety of unauthorized and unmanaged mobile applications being used on DoD mobile devices, including ones that could cause cybersecurity risks, operational security risks, and potentially inappropriate content.  

Today’s report also revealed that DoD personnel seem to have unrestricted access to unauthorized, unmanaged applications from public application stores without security assessments, and that DoD lacks a comprehensive mobile device and mobile application policy.

“Today’s report raises more questions than it answers. Was the disappearance of critical information related to the January 6 insurrection a result of bad faith, stunning incompetence, or outdated records management policies?  We still do not know.  But this report illustrates the key vulnerabilities and failures that the Defense Department needs to immediately address.”

An August 2022 report showed that text messages for former President Donald Trump’s then-Secretary of Defense Chris Miller, former chief of staff Kash Patel, and former Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy are missing for a key time period leading up to the January 6 insurrection.  The report notes that all three individuals were involved in the Defense Department’s response to sending National Guard troops to the U.S. Capitol as the insurrection was unfolding, but there is no suggestion that the officials themselves erased the records.

In July 2022, Durbin sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland asking him to assume control of the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General’s investigation into the missing text messages from former President Donald Trump’s Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli, as well as Secret Service officials, in the lead up to the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.