US Postal Service accused by Inspector General of taking it’s ‘covert’ internet spy operation too far

Remember that surprise report last year that the United States Postal Service was secretly monitoring social media posts by Americans?

Since spying scandals are so common these days, a little refresher might be in order. Beginning in 2018, the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), which constitutes the law enforcement wing of the USPS, instituted what can only be characterized as a sweeping surveillance program targeting American citizens.

The USPIS established the Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP), which was designed to provide supportive analytics for online investigations undertaken by postal inspectors. Most iCOP investigations targeted the usual criminal activities that fall within the Postal Service’s remit, such as mail theft or the transportation of illegal narcotics through the mail.

But some of the program’s operations were devoted to tracking the social media posts and activity of American citizens, including plans for protests and so-called “inflammatory posts.” In practice, this often meant the agency was surveilling dissidents on such right-leaning social media platforms as Parler and Telegram, expending significant energy tracking and cross-referencing data on planned protests.

Now, in a report on its investigation of the iCOP program released on March 25, the Postal Service Office of Inspector General finds that the program went too far.

“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 report states.

“Furthermore, we could not corroborate whether other work analysts completed from October 2018 through June 2021 was legally authorized. The Postal Inspection Service’s activities must have an identified connection to the mail, postal crimes, or the security of Postal Service facilities or personnel (postal nexus) prior to commencing. However, the keywords used for iCOP in the proactive searches did not include any terms with a postal nexus,” t continues.

The Inspector General report also censures the program for using overly broad keywords and search terms, apparently in an attempt to cast as wide a net as possible:

“The keywords iCOP used for one of the profiles during this time did not include any terms related to the mail, postal crimes, or security of postal facilities or personnel. Examples of the keywords include ‘protest,’ ‘attack,’ and ‘destroy.’ According to the program manager, iCOP intentionally omitted terms that would indicate a postal nexus in an effort to broadly identify threats that could then be assessed for any postal nexus,” it stated.

The report is full of such technical jargon, but the gist of it is this: the iCOP program was required to use precise search terms that demonstrated a clear connection to the postal service in some way. It failed to do that, which is why it exceeded the law enforcement authority vested in the Postal Inspection Service. The report also criticizes the program for not having a policy for managing, storing, and securing sensitive records and information.

In an appendix to the report, the Postal Inspection Service responded to the findings:

“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…In addition to conducting criminal investigations, the Inspection Service is also responsible for protection of the mails, plant and personnel security, and coordinating Postal Service emergency preparedness planning. To accomplish these goals, case law and federal statutes permit the Inspection Service, like other law enforcement agencies, to use a wide variety of tools when conducting activities in furtherance of its mission.”

In other words, don’t expect the snooping to stop anytime soon.

The prospect of another federal agency exceeding its legal authority and surveilling the constitutionally-protected free speech and political activities of American citizens is understandably alarming, even to postal inspectors. Speaking to Yahoo News, Frank Albergo, president of the Postal Police Officers Association, observed that the Postal Inspection Service had gone astray.

“At this point,” he said, “they might as well take their mission statement of protecting the Postal Service and its employees and throw it in the garbage.”

Whether Big Brother is watching you may be an open question—but it’s a safe bet your friendly local mail carrier is.

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open your eyes
Trusted Member
open your eyes
1 month ago

There are 3 kinds of Liberal, Communist, America hating, immoral, corrupt, fact hiding, non-binary, queer loving, race baiting, lying, DemoRat and RINO Republicans’: 1) They don’t care what happens, they just hate Original American Values – 2) Their ignorant of facts or just ignorant, – 3) They want the destruction of America by any means possible, and promote all the above agenda’s,

Greg
Noble Member
Greg
1 month ago

In light of the fact that the USPS is constantly underperforming within its budget and has financial problems, wouldn’t it be better advised for them to stop spending on activities that are well beyond their authorized protocols? Perhaps then they could do their jobs within their actual budget!

George
Noble Member
George
1 month ago

The postal service is BLEEDING money, and “they” are spending money on this? My son’s a letter carrier. “GET RID”of the “higher ups”, who do NOTHING but “sit behind desks, “crunch” overtime, AND “DO NOTHING”! “They” ALWAYS have “somebody” IN THE SUMMER,” walking routes “AND “say””THIS IS YOUR TIME” for your route. Forget about RAIN, SLEET & SNOW. “The “summer time ” route “IS” THE POST OFFICE TIME”. Anything “above” Summer “time” IS OVERTIME, since NOBODY can “DO” ANY of this with ice, sleet or snow.! WHAT is “WRONG” with Washington?

BLSinSC
Famed Member
BLSinSC
1 month ago

SO – how many are going to be PROSECUTED for EXCEEDING the LAWS??? Yeah, thought so!!

Sympl1
Famed Member
Sympl1
1 month ago

Everybody spies on everybody, if your going to get butthurt don’t do anything wrong period….trolls do the same exact thing,it’s what they do with their information is what’s important,,,,,quit relying on the internet for your life get out into the world and be human,,,,,,,FJB,,,,,,,
sympl1

walkinddog
Famed Member
walkinddog
1 month ago

Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Internet cops, telephone cops, and now mail cops. Can anyone say Hiel Hitler? Maybe we should all start learning to goose step march with an extended arm solute. Big Brother is watching. Hes lerking in the shadows and around the corner. Hes hiding in the dark and in your homes. Dont trust your children. Dont trust the cops.Dont trust the phone company or your internet providers. Dont trust your doctors. Dont trust your mailman. Maybe we should start using carrier pigeons again.

TheMayor
Famed Member
TheMayor
1 month ago

Here`s a personal experience with the P.O.: years back, I had a tenant, who turned out to be a professional thief, mail a counterfeit money order to me as payment for 3 months of back rent. About 3 weeks after I deposited this money order, my bank informed me that it was counterfeit. The bank told me to report this to the P.O., as, they should be involved due to the fact that it was mailed to me. When I was finally able to speak with a Postal Inspector, after relating the problem to him, he told me that there was nothing that he could do. I was very surprised by this, so, I asked him why. As the amount of the phony money order was a few thousand dollars, he said the policy of the P.O. was to ignore such a “petty theft”, as, only transactions $10,000 and above were being investigated!! Our P.O. at work…. Not a pretty picture!

restorefreedom
Noble Member
restorefreedom
1 month ago
Reply to  TheMayor

The PO got aggressive when I would get a money order for any amount not only did they ask for your ID they acted like I was some kind of criminal. I feel like the PO is full of law enforcement not to mention extremely understaffed, long lines and poor service in general not to mention how unkept and dirty the two in my town are.

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