The law enforcement arm of the U.S. Postal Service has been running a program called iCOP or “Internet Covert Operations Program” that tracks and collects Americans’ social media posts.
A recent report from Yahoo News alleges that the law enforcement division of the U.S. Postal Service has been quietly running a program that tracks and collects American’s social media posts including those related to protests and other gatherings.
The surveillance effort, known as iCOP, or Internet Covert Operations Program, has not been made public until now. The program involves analysts searching through social media sites to look for “inflammatory” postings, according to internal documents. This information is then shared across government agencies.
A March 16 government bulletin, marked as “law enforcement sensitive” and distributed through the Department of Homeland Security’s fusion centers states:
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.
The bulletin notes that a number of groups planned to gather around cities worldwide on March 20th as part of a World Wide Rally for Freedom and Democracy to protest a number of issues. The bulletin stated:
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. No intelligence is available to suggest the legitimacy of these threats.
The bulletin included screenshots of posts from Facebook, Parler, Telegram, and other social media sites discussing the protests. “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 stated.
Rachel Levinson-Waldman, the deputy director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s liberty and national security program, commented on the situation to Yahoo News stating: “This seems a little bizarre. “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.”
iCOP provided a general statement on its authorities to Yahoo News stating:
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.
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.
Read more at Yahoo News here.
Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address firstname.lastname@example.org