Is there any part of the U.S. government that stays within its remit? This report from Yahoo suggests that the answer is no:
The law enforcement arm of the U.S. Postal Service has been quietly running a program that tracks and collects Americans’ social media posts, including those about planned protests, according to a document obtained by Yahoo News.
Before we continue: Let’s hold up for a moment. The Postal Service has a “law enforcement arm”?
Okay, then. But, surely, it’s just a few armed guys who are there in case the department has to arrest people, right?
The details of the surveillance effort, known as iCOP, or Internet Covert Operations Program, have not previously been made public. The work involves having analysts trawl through social media sites to look for what the document describes as “inflammatory” postings and then sharing that information across government agencies.
“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.”
It is bad enough that the FBI and CIA spy on Americans in the way that they do, but at least we know that they’re doing it. But the Post Office? I’m fairly up-to-speed on America’s political developments, and I must confess to having had absolutely no idea that there was such a thing as the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP) — let alone that it “monitored” protests and then issued “bulletins” featuring its findings. Which statute enabled that power, exactly? Is it the “P” in “PATRIOT Act”?
I look forward to the next Yahoo exposé — on the “paramilitary wing of the Department of Transportation.”