Politics

Welcome To The New USSR: Postal Service Covertly Monitoring Social Media Posts; Civil Libertarians Concerned

More and more, it appears the United States is turning into something that more resembles the former Soviet Union or Nazi Germany than the Republic envisioned by its founders.

On Wednesday, Yahoo! News reported that the United States Postal Service is covertly monitoring Americans’ social media posts.  According to the report, the Service is allegedly looking for “inflammatory” postings, then sharing those posts with other government agencies.

Jana Winter wrote:

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“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.”

A number of groups were expected to gather in cities around the globe on March 20 as part of a World Wide Rally for Freedom and Democracy, to protest everything from lockdown measures to 5G. “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,’” says the bulletin.

“No intelligence is available to suggest the legitimacy of these threats,” it adds.

If you’ve never heard of this arm of the Post Office, don’t feel bad.  Winter tells us, “the surveillance effort, known as iCOP, or Internet Covert Operations Program, have not previously been made public.”

Gee, wonder why?

Here’s the bulletin she referenced:

Civil liberties experts expressed alarm at this surveillance program, Winter said:

“It’s a mystery,” said University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone, whom President Barack Obama appointed to review the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection in the wake of the Edward Snowden leaks. “I don’t understand why the government would go to the Postal Service for examining the internet for security issues.”

The Postal Service has had a turbulent year, facing financial insolvency and allegations that its head, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, was slowing down deliveries just as the pandemic vastly increased the number of mail-in ballots for the 2020 election. Why the post office would now move into social media surveillance, which would appear to have little to do with mail deliveries, is unclear.

“This seems a little bizarre,” agreed Rachel Levinson-Waldman, deputy director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s liberty and national security program. “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.”

“If the individuals they’re monitoring are carrying out or planning criminal activity, that should be the purview of the FBI,” Levinson-Waldman said. “If they’re simply engaging in lawfully protected speech, even if it’s odious or objectionable, then monitoring them on that basis raises serious constitutional concerns.”

But it seems the Constitution doesn’t matter anymore.  What was it His Lying Demented Fraudulence, Emperor Joe Biden, said?  That’s right, no amendment is absolute.  Apparently, that includes the amendment that guarantees a certain level of privacy and protection from unwarranted government searches and seizures.

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service did not respond to specific questions sent by Yahoo News about iCOP, but provided a general statement on its authorities,” Winter added.

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is the primary law enforcement, crime prevention, and security arm of the U.S. Postal Service,” the statement said. “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,” the statement said.

“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.”

But the question remains.  What the absolute HELL do social media posts have to do with the mail?  And why is the government covertly spying on us to find out what we’re posting online?

Sadly, Winter says the Post Office isn’t alone in this virtual surveillance.  The DHS is also monitoring what we say and do online.  And we all know who the REAL target of this effort is…

Exit question: At what point do we say, enough is enough?

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Joe Newby

A 10-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Joe ran for a city council position in Riverside, Calif., in 1991 and managed successful campaigns for the Idaho state legislature. Co-author of "Banned: How Facebook enables militant Islamic jihad," Joe wrote for Examiner.com from 2010 until it closed in 2016 and his work has been published at Newsbusters, Spokane Faith and Values and other sites. He now runs the Conservative Firing Line.

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