On Wednesday, a U.S. Postal Service official reportedly admitted that its Internet Covert Operations Program (ICOP) has been quietly monitoring Americans by tracking and collating social media posts, including about a March 20 rally that protested against COVID lockdowns called the World Wide Rally for Freedom and Democracy.
“A number of groups were expected to gather in cities around the globe on March 20 as part of a World Wide Rally for Freedom and Democracy, to protest everything from lockdown measures to 5G,” Yahoo News reported.
Appearing before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale appeared “wildly unprepared for this briefing,” said Representative Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), who serves on the House Oversight and Reform Committee and met with Barksdale Wednesday, reported the Daily Mail.
Fox Businesses reports that “a spokesperson for South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace confirmed that Barksdale said during the briefing that USPS analysts search through social media posts, which is said to be part of a cover mission known as iCOP.”
Mace, the Daily Mail reported, “revealed that Barksdale claims iCOP isn’t a real ‘program’ at USPS because it’s ‘incident-related’ not an ongoing matter, but the social media operation is being overseen by an ‘executive.’ Barksdale also said he doesn’t know how much money is being allocated for the spying initiative, Mace said, and would not say during the briefing which agencies are coordinating with USPS.”
A March 16 government bulletin listed as “law enforcement sensitive” and distributed through the Department of Homeland Security’s fusion centers stated:
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.
“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 bulletin continued, adding, “No intelligence is available to suggest the legitimacy of these threats.”
“The bulletin, distributed through the Department of Homeland Security’s fusion centers, includes screenshots of posts from Facebook, Parler, Telegram and other social media sites about the protests,” Yahoo News reported.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service previously issued a statement to Yahoo News saying, “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.”
“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,” the statement added. “In order to preserve operational effectiveness, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service does not discuss its protocols, investigative methods, or tools.”