The Postal Service is monitoring your social media usage and nobody knows why
The initiative is called the Internet Covert Operations Program.
A new government bulletin shows that the United States Postal Service has been running covert operations aimed at tracking and collecting Americans’ social media posts. This is in an effort to discover and uncover information about planned protests that may or may not be happening across the country.
This is the first time that Americans have heard anything about this initiative, known as Internet Covert Operations Program or iCOP. The law enforcement branch of the Postal Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) is in control of this operation. Analysts are tasked with looking through social media posts for potentially dangerous posts and sharing that information with various other government agencies.
An example of this came fairly recently. Many groups were expected to gather on March 20 as part of a Freedom Rally, and the iCOP discovered some questionable posts surrounding the rallies. The government document mentioned above says this about some posts found:
“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”
No one really understands why the Postal Service is being tasked with this operation. The iCOP is a federal law enforcement agency, but it is around to deal with issues surrounding the Postal Service, not social media.
The agency could see its jurisdiction move to social media for issues regarding the mail, but the complete monitoring doesn’t make much sense. Rachel Levinson-Waldman, deputy director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s liberty and national security program told Yahoo! News:
“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.”
There is no doubt that the Postal Service hasn’t been doing so well as of late. The Government agency has seen some pretty significant financial troubles, as well as some pretty serious criminal allegations. Newly appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy came under fire during the election season last year, after mail began slowing down conveniently just in time for the massive increase in mail-in ballots last year.
Though the Postal Service is definitely struggling, this monitoring still doesn’t make much sense. When asked about the operation by Yahoo! the Postal Service declined to answer any questions, instead opting to give a blanket statement that lists the USPIS responsibilities.
Not surprisingly, social media monitoring was not part of this statement at all, proving even further that this just doesn’t make any sense. Who knows, maybe the government has a master plan to save the Postal Service that involves social media, but I doubt it. This is more likely another case of government bureaucracy having its hands in matters it doesn’t really belong in.
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