- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Justice Department’s watchdog on Tuesday recommended the FBI overhaul its system to collect and store text messages from bureau-issued cell phones.

The recommendations stem from the Justice Department Inspector General’s review of actions taken but the FBI in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. That probe uncovered texts between former investigators Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, who expressed a clear preference for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. Thousands of texts between the pair had been lost by the bureau.

In a report released Tuesday, the inspector general recommended the bureau designate “an entity” to be responsible for text message collection and retention.

It also called for current and future text message collection tools be studied for potential weaknesses that prevented some texts from being retained and all collected data be saved to “a secure or encrypted location.”

Coordination with technology vendors to ensure that data is being saved and identify weaknesses was also recommended.

“Current and future mobile devices and data collection and preservation tools should be tested for security vulnerabilities in order to ensure the security of the devices and safekeeping of the sensitive data therein,” wrote Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

Jackie Maguire, an FBI spokeswoman, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Thousands of texts between Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page went missing, giving rise to questions about whether those exchanges would shed light on the bureau’s election-related investigations. Both briefly served on special counsel Robert Mueller’s team and Mr. Strzok led the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, while secretary of state.

A review discovered a five-month gap in which the FBI’s automated collection tool did not include any texts from the phones of Ms. Page or Mr. Strzok, coinciding with their time on Mueller’s team. The inspector general blamed the missing texts on collection error and not any malicious activity.

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