The Secret Service recently admitted to the unauthorized (according to the National Archives) deleting of text messages relevant to the US House's investigations of events surround the January 6, 2021 insurrection.

What are the legal ramifications and consequences for this illegal activity? (for both the agency, and for individuals responsible within the agency)

  • I don't think that the unauthorized deletions are automatically illegal. The text messages were deleted well before any investigations into the 1/6 incident started.
    – doneal24
    Jul 20, 2022 at 13:24
  • @doneal24 I'm pretty sure that notion is contested
    – spacetyper
    Jul 21, 2022 at 7:32

1 Answer 1


Up to 1 year in prison or a fine

The relevant law is 18 U.S. Code § 641 - Public money, property or records and the value of the lost items is less than $1,000.

  • Damn that's nothing. Crazy.
    – spacetyper
    Jul 20, 2022 at 9:46
  • 1
    Well, it says that it's 1 year if the value is below 1 grand, up to 10 years if the value is above that. Now the question is "what is the value of those messages?" Is it the literal cost of sending them or should they be evaluated by their contents? Is the original US costitution worth its weight in paper & ink or does it have a huge historical value?
    – GACy20
    Jul 20, 2022 at 10:25
  • 1
    @GACy20 the law says how you define value. The value of an SMS is its market value - essentially $0.
    – Dale M
    Jul 20, 2022 at 10:36
  • @DaleM Is it? Jack Dorsey's first tweet has been sold twice, once for a very ridiculous sum, and again for a much smaller but still, objectively speaking, ridiculous sum. Might not there be strong market interest in the SMS contents? People thinking there's the smoking gun of a conspiracy that'll save the country upon reveal might be willing to pay a hefty sum to acquire it (if they have the money). Or those trying to cover it up and get ahead of the narrative at the other extreme, etc. I kind of assume those aren't accounted for, but where's that in the laws/precedents? Jul 20, 2022 at 11:05
  • @DaleM I don't think so. The law says "The word “value” means face, par, or market value, or cost price, either wholesale or retail, whichever is greater." Which means all and nothing. I'm pretty sure the market value of condemning SMSs for the US president is at least in the hundreds of thousands, but more probably millions of dollars.
    – GACy20
    Jul 20, 2022 at 12:47

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