The United States Postal Service (USPS) is running a “covert operations program” monitoring Americans’ social media accounts for “inflammatory” posts.
The program is carried out by the USPS enforcement arm, the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), and is called the Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP). Analysts with the program monitor the social media posts of people attending rallies and protests, according to Yahoo News.
“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,” a March 16 memo distributed by the Department of Homeland Security says. “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.”
“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,’” the memo continues. “No intelligence is available to suggest the legitimacy of these threats.”
The program has reportedly targeted right-wing protests such as those against strict lockdown measures.
In a statement to Yahoo News, the USPS acknowledged the existence of the program and said its operation is meant to protect USPS employees from harm. The agency did not elaborate on the program, and none of its details until now have been made public.
“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is the primary law enforcement, crime prevention, and security arm of the U.S. Postal Service,” the statement said. “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,” the statement continued. “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 Yahoo News report sparked criticism of the Postal Service and concerns over the government-run monitoring program. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) slammed the USPS on Twitter Wednesday.
“Disturbing! Why do Presidents and my colleagues in congress tolerate these violations of the Constitution?” he asked. “Also, and unfortunately, the USPS has been losing money for many years… so where do they find money to run this surveillance program?”
Disturbing! Why do Presidents and my colleagues in congress tolerate these violations of the Constitution?
Also, and unfortunately, the USPS has been losing money for many years… so where do they find money to run this surveillance program?https://t.co/rmcKAsTRNK
— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) April 21, 2021