Breaking: USPS admits to spying on Americans’ social media posts: Report
The US Postal Service has admitted to spying on Americans’ social media posts on Facebook, Parler and other sites with its law enforcement arm, a report says.
On Wednesday, USPS Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale told lawmakers that the agency is running a shadowy operation which tracks “inflammatory” posts on social media sites, Rep. Nancy Mace (R-South Carolina) told The Daily Mail.
Barksdale told lawmakers on the Oversight Committee that the program known as iCOP, or Internet Covert Operations Program, has netted no arrests so far.
“The Chief Postal Inspector was wildly unprepared for this briefing,” Mace told DailyMail following the meeting with Barksdale.
Barksdale said the operation, which reports threatening posts to local and federal law enforcement, is monitored by a USPS executive, but claimed it is not a real “program” because it is “incident-related,” not an ongoing initiative, according to the outlet.
The inspector was called for a briefing after iCOP was first made public in a report last week by Yahoo which obtained and published documents related to the program, raising privacy concerns.
On March 16, a government bulletin was sent from the US Postal Service to the Department of Homeland Security, giving warnings about a protest – the World Wide Rally for Freedom and Democracy, which was planned by Q-Anon-linked groups in Washington, DC, on March 20.
“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,” the bulletin, marked as “law enforcement sensitive”, reads.
“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,” it continues, but later notes, “No intelligence is available to suggest the legitimacy of these threats.”
The bulletin includes screenshots of posts on social media sites about the protests. None of the posts from the bulletin, however, appear to contain any threatening language.
Barksdale told the Oversight Committee that while the USPS will stop releasing the government bulletin, it will continue the operation.
He also did not say which government agencies are coordinating with the USPS on the operation, according to Mace.