Inspector General Says Post Office Used iCOP Surveillance Program to Illegally Spy on Social Media Users
Why did the US government use the postal service to monitor what Americans post on social media?
The law enforcement arm of the US Postal Service secretly monitored and collected Americans’ social media posts, according to documents previously obtained by Yahoo News.
The spying program is known as iCOP, or Internet Covert Operations Program and involved goons trolling through social media sites to look for “inflammatory” posts – and then sharing the information with other government agencies.
Last we checked, “inflammatory” language was covered by the First Amendment.
“iCOP analysts are currently monitoring these social media channels for any potential threats stemming from the scheduled protests and will disseminate intelligence updates as needed,” the bulletin posted last year said.
The bulletin mentioned the “Stop the Steal” rally and included screenshots from an alleged member of the Proud Boys, but iCOP conceded that none of the posts contained anything threatening.
The bulletin didn’t mention anything about Antifa or BLM terrorists.
It turns out the post office used the program to illegally spy on Americans.
An inspector general investigation concluded the Post Office illegally used iCOP to spy on social media users.
Yahoo News reported:
An inspector general probe into the U.S. Postal Service surveillance program, known as iCOP, concluded that the agency did not have the legal authority to conduct the sweeping intelligence collection and surveillance of American protesters and others between 2018 and 2021.
The Postal Service Office of Inspector General launched an investigation into iCOP — which stands for Internet Covert Operations Program — at the request of Congress in direct response to reporting from Yahoo News last year.
“We determined that certain proactive searches iCOP conducted using an open-source intelligence tool from February to April 2021 exceeded the Postal Inspection Service’s law enforcement authority,” the March 25, 2022, inspector general report stated.
Using sophisticated technology and software, iCOP was running keyword searches like “protest” on social media to collect online speech about a host of different events that contained no threats and had nothing to do with the Postal Service’s work.
The inspector general report notes that in April 2021 Postal Inspection Service lawyers asked iCOP to remove “protest” from its keyword searches “to protect constitutional rights.”
Frank Albergo, president of the Postal Police Officers Association, told Yahoo News that the Postal Inspection Service had “lost their way.”
“At this point they might as well take their mission statement of protecting the Postal Service and its employees and throw it in the garbage,” Albergo said, arguing that not enough attention is being paid by the agency to the “mail theft epidemic” of postal property that was happening at the same time.
The 26-page report concluded that the post office did not have the legal authority to compile reports on Americans involved in Black Lives Matter protests sweeping thenation. The reportalsofound across-the-board violations of statutory and legal authority ranging from lack of legal authority to noncompliance with federal records retention to use of facial recognition software. It also said there was no record-keeping policy or proceduresin place to make sure the work was legal.
The inspector general recommended a series of changes and an overhaul to the program, according to Yahoo, however the Postal Service leadership shot back and argued that they did nothing wrong.
“We strongly disagree with the overarching conclusion that the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (Inspection Service) exceeded its legal authority and conducted improper intelligence searches,” the Postal Inspection Service said in its response, Yahoo reported.