The Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross reports that the FBI “failed to preserve” five months’ worth of text messages exchanged between FBI counterintelligence officer Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page. In a letter sent to Senate Homeland Security Committee chairman Ron Johnson on Friday, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd disclosed that text messages are missing for the period between December 14, 2016 and May 17, 2017. The period is crucial to understanding the FBI’s handling of the investigation of alleged Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.
Boyd’s disclosure reads like some kind of a parody. It is as though the FBI had outsourced document retention to the friends of Hillary Clinton. Boyd explained to Senator Johnson: “The Department wants to bring to your attention that the FBI’s technical system for retaining text messages sent and received on FBI mobile devices failed to preserve text messages for Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page.” Boyd attributed the failure to “misconfiguration issues related to rollouts, provisioning, and software upgrades that conflicted with the FBI’s collection capabilities.”
“The result was that data that should have been automatically collected and retained for long-term storage and retrieval was not collected,” Boyd wrote. In his AP story today, Eric Tucker adds that “the FBI declined to comment Sunday.”
JOHN adds: Given the manner in which Barack Obama politicized the upper reaches of the FBI, along with the rest of the Department of Justice–we know that the Bureau’s Deputy Director, Andrew McCabe, was involved in discussions of how the FBI might deprive Donald Trump of the presidency–I have absolutely no confidence that the Bureau’s deleting of five months’ worth of critical texts was accidental.
JOE adds: We don’t know whether the FBI’s five-month records evaporation was deliberate or mere incompetence. But there is no doubt that those text messages can be found. Whereas once upon a time a text message was sent from one cell phone, to a tower, briefly cached, and sent to the recipient cell phone, today text messages are transmitted over cloud-based platforms that all, with rare exceptions, save the complete data. Moreover, it isn’t just in one place (say, Google’s messaging platform, or Apple’s iMessage platform) where these messages are saved. Each party’s smart phone is backed up, probably both to the cloud and to a home computer. These backups, too, would contain the text messages in question.
And there is yet more: carriers themselves are obligated to hold on to text messages (raw SMS messages, anyway) and are routinely subpoenaed for these in various criminal and national security proceedings. Carriers might also hold on to messages sent between users via iMessage, Facebook Messenger, Google Voice, and the like; but these are mostly encrypted and probably can never be understood by the carrier.
In essence: there’s almost no way these messages are gone forever, this bizarre performance by the FBI notwithstanding.