Postal Inspection Service acknowledges role in covert monitoring
By Bill McAllister, Washington Correspondent
The United States Postal Inspection Service, the investigative branch of the U.S. Postal Service, has acknowledged it participates in an internet covert operations program that monitors social media outlets for inflammatory information.
The participation was first disclosed in an online report by Yahoo News on April 21.
In a brief statement, the inspection service said it “occasionally reviews publicly available inform in order to assess potential safety or security threats to Postal Service employees, facilities, operations and infrastructure.”
The Yahoo News account quoted a March 16 “situational awareness bulletin” that said, “Analysts with the United States Postal Inspection Service Internet Covert Operations Program monitored significant activity regarding planned protests occurring internationally and domestically on March 20, 2021.”
The bulletin said groups were expected to gather March 20 with an unnamed individual calling this an opportunity to “fight” and another who said it was a chance to “do serious damage.”
“No intelligence is available to suggest the legitimacy of these threats,” the bulletin said.
Yahoo News said the bulletin was distributed by the Department of Homeland Security.
Yahoo quoted the inspection service as declining to reveal details of the program, saying it “does not discuss its protocols, investigative methods or tools.”
Two Republicans in the House of Representatives demanded that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy offer a briefing on the Postal Service’s internet covert operations program, known as iCOP.
“If the reporting is accurate iCOP raises serious questions about the federal government’s ongoing surveillance of and encroachment upon Americans’ private lives and discourse,” said Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.
“It is unclear why USPS, of all government agencies and the only one devoted to the delivery of Americans’ mail, is taking on the role of intelligence collection,” they said in a letter to the postmaster general.
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