Jan 6 Secret Service texts: What is federal records retention requirement
The Federal Records Act of 1950 establishes a framework for records management programs
Agencies and departments are not allowed destruction or loss of records through carelessness
Federal records can only be destroyed after approval by the Archivist of the United States
The House select committee investigating Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot said Wednesday that the US Secret Service may have violated federal records-keeping law by allegedly deleting agents’ texts during the process of updating their mobile devices.
“We have concerns about a system migration that we have been told resulted in the erasure of Secret Service cell phone data,” select committee Chairman Bennie Thompson and Vice Chair Liz Cheney said in a joint statement.
“The procedure for preserving content prior to this purge appears to have been contrary to federal records retention requirements and may represent a possible violation of the Federal Records Act,” the committee leaders said.
The statement came a day after the Secret Service said it had handed over just one text message thread in response to a subpoena issued by the select committee.
The committee is investigating the insurrection of Jan. 6, when a violent mob, who were supporters of then-President Donald Trump’s supporters, stormed the Capitol in order to block the change of power.
What is the federal records retention requirement?
The Federal Records Act of 1950 establishes a framework for records management programs in Federal Agencies. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is responsible for assisting federal agencies in maintaining adequate and proper documentation.
According to federal law, agencies and departments are not allowed destruction or loss of records through carelessness.
Federal records can only be destroyed in accordance with the procedures described in Chapter 33 of Title 44, United States Code. These procedures allow for records destruction only under the authority of a records disposition schedule, which needs to be approved by the Archivist of the United States.
According to National Archives, the head of each federal agency must make and preserve records containing adequate and proper documentation of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, and essential transactions of the agency. These are necessary to protect the legal and financial rights of the government and of those directly affected by the agency’s activities.
According to the US Department of Justice, records in the physical possession of a federal agency are subject to the Freedom of Information Act. Agencies are not bound to retain indefinitely the records created by or submitted to them. However, agencies are required to establish records management programs which identify records.