Postal Service ‘covert operations program’ monitors social media

A brand new report says the U.S. Postal Service has run a secret surveillance program concentrating on protestors on social media, and its causes don’t have any obvious connection to delivering the mail.

Reporting for Yahoo News, longtime investigative journalist Jana Winter uncovered a doc from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service describing an “Web Covert Operations Program.” This system’s goal has been to observe social media for potential safety threats and share data with different businesses, and it seems to have focused right-wing conspiracy teams particularly.

In a bulletin posted by Winter, the company describes “inflammatory materials” circulating on Telegram and the right-wing social media platform Parler, warning that “potential violence might happen” throughout protests on March 20. As The Washington Publish reported, members of QAnon conspiracy teams had been selling a “World Large Rally For Freedom” to protest pandemic restrictions on that date.

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The postal service bulletin stated the company was “monitoring these social media channels for any potential threats stemming from the scheduled protests and can disseminate intelligence updates as wanted.”

Whereas the FBI and other law enforcement groups have an extended historical past of utilizing social media as a surveillance software, it’s unclear why the Postal Service is doing the identical, particularly for exercise that doesn’t appear to contain the postal system.

However as The Washington Publish notes (per Gizmodo), the U.S. Postal Inspection Service is definitely the nation’s first federal legislation enforcement company, having been established in 1775, and it enjoys broad authority to analyze crimes, even after they’re solely tangentially associated to the mail. Final yr, for example, the company was concerned in arresting Steve Bannon for allegedly funneling cash from a fraudulent border wall crowdfunding marketing campaign.

On this case, the Postal Service didn’t deny Winter’s reporting, sending her a press release suggesting that social media surveillance is simply a part of its job to make the mail run easily.

“The Web Covert Operations Program is a operate throughout the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which assesses threats to Postal Service workers and its infrastructure by monitoring publicly out there open supply data,” the assertion stated.