Two Significant Findings in the Inspector General’s Report on Missing Strzok-Page Texts

The Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a report on their investigation of months’ worth of missing texts between former Special Agent Peter Strzok and attorney Lisa Page.

The Stzrok-Page messages drew controversy for their charged language against Donald Trump, as well as statements showing favor for Hillary Clinton. These messages were sent while Trump and Clinton were running for president, while Clinton faced an investigation into her private email use, and while the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia were being looked into.

Both Page and Strzok had been involved with the Clinton investigation and Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s Russia probe. Strzok was taken off the Russia investigation when the messages were discovered. Page also left the investigation, and later left the FBI altogether. Strzok was fired in August 2018.

Investigators noticed that when messages between Page and Strzok were turned over, a large block of messages was missing. Specifically, there were no records of messages sent between December 15, 2016, and May 17, 2017 from either of their phone archives. Strzok’s phone had a larger gap, ranging from June 18, 2016 through July 5, 2017, but messages between him and Page between June 18 and December 14, 2016, and those from May 18 to July 5, 2017 were still in Page’s archives, the report said.

The OIG report revealed two significant findings. First, they “found no evidence” that either of them ” attempted to circumvent the FBI’s text message collection capabilities.” This is consistent with the opinion of a contractor who was brought in to look at issues related to the missing texts, many of which were eventually recovered from different databases through the efforts of forensic experts. The OIG could not determine whether every missing text was recovered.

The second revelation was that the FBI still has weaknesses in their data collection system when it comes to extracting text messages from agency-issued phones. The report says:

[A]ccording to FBI’s lnformation and Technology Branch, as of November 15, 2018, the data collection tool utilized by FBI was still not reliably collecting text messages from approximately 10 percent of FBI issued mobile devices, which included Samsung S7s and subsequently issued S9s.

That number was even worse for the older Samsung Galaxy S5. The FBI data collection tool had problems with 20 percent of those.

The FBI responded to the OIG report, saying the following:

The FBI has been aware of- and acknowledged previously – the fact that although a majority of text messages are captured on its systems, there continue to be challenges in the collection and retention of text messages sent and received on FBI mobile devices. The FBI continues to take steps to mitigate those challenges.

The FBI claimed that after years of researching the issue, they are “not aware of any solution that closes the collection gap entirely on its current mobile device platforms” They noted that “complete collection of text messages is neither required nor necessary to meet the FBl’s legal preservation obligations.”

OIG Report on Page-Strzok T… by on Scribd

[Image via Alex Wong/Getty Images]

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