Louis DeJoy’s Postal Inspectors Are Secretly Monitoring Social Media Accounts by way of a ‘Covert’ Program: Report

An almost completely unknown program under US Postmaster General Louis DeJoyThe job is to covertly monitor social media posts under the guise of protecting US Postal Service employees and “infrastructure”. The effort, known as the Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP), raises civil rights issues that one expert calls “serious constitutional concerns”.

“The US Postal Service’s law enforcement agency has tacitly launched a program to track and collect American social media posts, including those about planned protests, according to a document received from Yahoo News,” the news site said. “The details of the surveillance effort known as the iCOP or Internet Covert Operations Program have not yet been made public.”

The work is for analysts to search social media websites to look for what the document describes as “flammable” posts and then share that information between government agencies.

The Yahoo News report does not indicate when the Internet Covert Operations program was created, but it does not have any online references to it prior to 2019.

Geoffrey Stone, a law professor at the University of Chicago, a former Obama appointee tasked with reviewing the NSA’s bulk data collection, told Yahoo News: “I don’t see why the government would go to the postal service to look at the Internet on security issues to investigate.”

Rachel Levinson-Waldman, assistant director of the Freedom and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, told Yahoo News it was “a little bizarre.”

“Based on the very minimal information that is available online,” said Levinson-Waldman, “it appears that [iCOP] aims to eradicate abuse of the postal system by online actors, which does not seem to encompass what is going on here. It is not at all clear why their mandate would include monitoring social media unrelated to the use of the postal system. “

Levinson-Waldman also questioned the postal service’s legal authority to monitor social media activity. “If the people they oversee are engaged in or planning criminal activity, it should fall within the purview of the FBI,” she said. “If they simply engage in legally protected speech, even if it is obnoxious or offensive, monitoring on that basis raises serious constitutional concerns.”

There are almost no online references to iCOP, with the exception of a 2019 US Postal Inspection Service annual report, which in part reads:

The Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP) is one of seven functional groups within the Inspection Service’s cybercrime program. The iCOP program protects the postal service and the public by facilitating the identification, disruption, and dismantling of individuals and organizations using the Postal or USPS online tools to facilitate black market e-commerce or other illegal activities. Analysts at iCOP use USPS systems and tools to provide open source intelligence and cryptocurrency blockchain analytics in support of all Inspection Service investigations.

The Postal Service would only comment on Yahoo News if it issues a statement that partially states, “The Internet Covert Operations Program is a function of the US Postal Inspection Service that assesses threats to Postal Service employees and its infrastructure by monitoring publicly available open data from source information . “

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