The US Postal Service (USPS) is allegedly tracking and collecting American social media posts for “inflammatory” content, particularly in light of planned protests.
According to a report by Yahoo News, the “covert” operation is named the Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP) and run by the law enforcement branch of the USPS, known as the US Postal Inspection Service (USPIS). According to the report, “The work involves having analysts trawl through social media sites to look for what the document describes as ‘inflammatory’ postings and then sharing that information across government agencies.”
A government “Situational Awareness Bulletin” dated March 16, 2021, marked as “law enforcement sensitive” was distributed through the Department of Homeland Security’s fusion centers providing information about protests scheduled domestically and internationally for March 20. Yahoo reports, “‘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 March 20 protests were supposedly in light of the World Wide Rally for Freedom and Democracy.
Niche concerns within the protest included lockdown measures and 5G technology. “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.”
The report comes after a year of scrutiny over the practices of the USPS. Former Postmaster General Louis DeJoy set new standards in response to the agency’s financial crisis. This included cutting overtime and limiting hours. The agency’s changes impacted the 2020 general election, claiming that some mail-in ballots may not be delivered promptly.
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ARTICLE: ANTOINETTE AHO
POLITICS EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: YAHOO