The United States Postal Service is using its law enforcement arm to track Americans’ social media posts ahead of protests, according to a report Wednesday.
A leaked bulletin first reported by Yahoo News details how the US Postal Inspection Service collected data as part of the Internet Covert Operations Program or iCOP.
Analysts are said to have looked through posts on Facebook, Parler and Telegram before flagging ‘inflammatory’ messages to other government agencies.
An alleged member of the right wing Proud Boys is named, among others who did not appear to have posted anything threatening.
It is unclear exactly why the USPIS is putting resources into surveillance or how iCOP is funded. The USPS was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. In August last year it reported losing $2.2 billion in the three months that ended in June.
University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone told Yahoo: ‘I don’t understand why the government would go to the Postal Service for examining the internet for security issues.’
Rachel Levinson-Waldman, deputy director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s liberty and national security program called the tracking ‘bizarre’.
DailyMail.com has contacted the US Postal Inspection Service for comment.
The United States Postal Service tracked Americans’ social media posts ahead of a planned protest, according to report Wednesday
A leaked bulletin first reported by Yahoo News details how the US Postal Inspection Service collected data as part of the Internet Covert Operations Program or iCOP
Analysts are said to have looked through posts on Facebook, Parler and Telegram before flagging ‘inflammatory’ messages to government agencies
Levinson-Waldman added: ‘If the individuals they’re monitoring are carrying out or planning criminal activity, that should be the purview of the FBI.
‘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 US Postal Inspection Service said in a statement to Yahoo: ‘The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is the primary law enforcement, crime prevention, and security arm of the U.S. Postal Service.’
‘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.
They added: ‘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,.
‘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.
‘In order to preserve operational effectiveness, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service does not discuss its protocols, investigative methods, or tools.’
The March 16 government bulletin focuses on a March 20 protest, the World Wide Rally for Freedom and Democracy which demonstrated against COVID lockdowns.
The March 16 government bulletin focuses on a planned protest March 20, the World Wide Rally for Freedom and Democracy, to demonstrate against COVID lockdowns
About one hundred supporters of World Wide Rally for Freedom and Democracy along with two dozen Proud Boys attend a gathering to impeach Governor Roy Cooper and for the return of constitutional freedoms in Raleigh, NC, United States on March 20
The bulletin reads: ‘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.
‘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.’
The bulletin notes: ‘Parler users have commented about their intent to use the rallies to engage in violence.’
It shares screenshots from right leaning social media site Parler ‘indicating two users discussing the event as an opportunity to engage in a ‘fight’ and to ‘do serious damage’ as well as from Telegram and Facebook.
The bulletin adds: ‘No intelligence is available to suggest the legitimacy of these threats.
‘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.’