Why is the US government using the postal service to monitor what Americans post on social media?
The law enforcement arm of the US Postal Service is secretly monitoring and collecting Americans’ social media posts, according to documents obtained by Yahoo News.
The spying program is known as iCOP, or Internet Covert Operations Program and involves goons trolling through social media sites to look for “inflammatory” posts – and then sharing the information with other government agencies.
Last we checked, “inflammatory” language was covered by the First Amendment.
“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,” the bulletin says.
The bulletin mentioned the “Stop the Steal” rally and included screenshots from an alleged member of the Proud Boys, but iCOP conceded that none of the posts contained anything threatening.
The bulletin didn’t mention anything about Antifa or BLM terrorists.
“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,” says the March 16 government bulletin, marked as “law enforcement sensitive” and distributed through the Department of Homeland Security’s fusion centers. “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.”
When contacted by Yahoo News, civil liberties experts expressed alarm at the post office’s surveillance program. “It’s a mystery,” said University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone, whom President Barack Obama appointed to review the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection in the wake of the Edward Snowden leaks. “I don’t understand why the government would go to the Postal Service for examining the internet for security issues.”
“This seems a little bizarre,” agreed 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.”