The law enforcement arm of the U.S Postal Service has secretly been spying on American’s social media posts, reports Yahoo News.
According to documents obtained by Yahoo News, the Postal Service has been secretly combing through American’s social media posts, including those relating to planned protests. Analysts comb through social media posts, looking for “inflammatory” posts. Any posts deemed “inflammatory” are then sent to other government agencies.
Details of the program, called iCOP, or Internet Covert Operations Program, have not been released to the public.
“Analysts with the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP) monitored significant activity regarding planned protests occurring internationally and domestically on March 20, 2021,” says the March 16 government bulletin obtained by Yahoo News, which was marked as “law enforcement sensitive” and distributed throughout the Department of Homeland Security. “Locations and times have been identified for these protests, which are being distributed online across multiple social media platforms, to include right-wing leaning Parler and Telegram accounts.”
Groups were alleged to gather on March 20th in cities as apart of a “World Wide Rally for Freedom and Democracy,” which would target lockdowns and 5G.
“Parler users have commented about their intent to use the rallies to engage in violence. Image 3 on the right is a screenshot from Parler indicating two users discussing the event as an opportunity to engage in a ‘fight’ and to ‘do serious damage,’” says the bulletin.
“No intelligence is available to suggest the legitimacy of these threats,” continued the bulletin.
The bulletin included screenshots of alleged posts about the protests from Facebook, Parler, Telegram, and other social media sites. Individuals allegedly involved with the protests include an alleged member of the Proud Boys.
“iCOP analysts are currently monitoring these social media channels for any potential threats stemming from the scheduled protests and will disseminate intelligence updates as needed,” says the bulletin.
“This seems a little bizarre,” said Rachel Levinson-Waldman, deputy director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s liberty and national security program. “Based on the very minimal information that’s available online, it appears that [iCOP] is meant to root out misuse of the postal system by online actors, which doesn’t seem to encompass what’s going on here. It’s not at all clear why their mandate would include monitoring of social media that’s unrelated to use of the postal system.”
“If the individuals they’re monitoring are carrying out or planning criminal activity, that should be the purview of the FBI,” continued Levinson-Waldman. “If they’re simply engaging in lawfully protected speech, even if it’s odious or objectionable, then monitoring them on that basis raises serious constitutional concerns.”
“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is the primary law enforcement, crime prevention, and security arm of the U.S. Postal Service,” said the U.S Postal Inspection Service, the law enforcement arm of the Postal Service, to Yahoo News. “As such, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service has federal law enforcement officers, Postal Inspectors, who enforce approximately 200 federal laws to achieve the agency’s mission: protect the U.S. Postal Service and its employees, infrastructure, and customers; enforce the laws that defend the nation’s mail system from illegal or dangerous use; and ensure public trust in the mail.”
“The Internet Covert Operations Program is a function within the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which assesses threats to Postal Service employees and its infrastructure by monitoring publicly available open source information,” continued the statement.
“Additionally, the Inspection Service collaborates with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to proactively identify and assess potential threats to the Postal Service, its employees and customers, and its overall mail processing and transportation network,” concluded the statement. “In order to preserve operational effectiveness, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service does not discuss its protocols, investigative methods, or tools.”