Report: USPS ‘Internet Covert Operations Program’ Is ‘Much Broader in Scope Than Previously Known’
The program ‘includes analysts who assume fake identities online, use sophisticated intelligence tools, and employ facial recognition software.”
Last month, Yahoo News ripped the lid off of a government surveillance program run by a division of the USPS. The program monitors, scans, and collects information on social media postings considered “inflammatory” enough to pass along to other government agencies. It includes posts promoting the coordination and planning of upcoming political demonstrations.
The program’s existence came out after the news outlet obtained a copy of a March USPS bulletin that was “distributed through the Department of Homeland Security’s fusion centers.” It warned of the possibility of violence at upcoming protests though they acknowledged they had no reliable intelligence to suggest any alleged threats were legitimate:
“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.”
“No intelligence is available to suggest the legitimacy of these threats,” it adds.
The bulletin includes screenshots of posts about the protests from Facebook, Parler, Telegram and other social media sites. Individuals mentioned by name include one alleged Proud Boy and several others whose identifying details were included but whose posts did not appear to contain anything threatening.
“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 says.
The report about the previously unknown iCOP sparked an outcry among Congressional Republicans. A House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing was held a week later where a USPS official confirmed its existence without going into a lot of detail:
USPS Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale confirmed to lawmakers that the agency is running a shadowy operation dubbed the Internet Covert Operations Program, which tracks “inflammatory” posts on Facebook, Parler and other sites, Rep. Nancy Mace (R-South Carolina) told The Daily Mail.
Barksdale told the House Oversight and Reform Committee that the initiative has netted no arrests and will continue despite privacy concerns, which arose after the program was revealed publicly last week, the outlet reported.
Barksdale said the operation — which reports threatening posts to local and federal law enforcement — is overseen by a USPS executive. But he claimed it’s not a real “program” because it’s “incident-related,” not an ongoing initiative, according to the outlet.
This week, Yahoo News filed a new report detailing more information they’d learned about iCOP. The outlet noted that “the program is much broader in scope than previously known”:
Yet the program is much broader in scope than previously known and includes analysts who assume fake identities online, use sophisticated intelligence tools and employ facial recognition software, according to interviews and documents reviewed by Yahoo News.
Among the tools used by the analysts is Clearview AI, a facial recognition software that scrapes images off public websites, a practice that has raised the ire of privacy advocates. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service uses Clearview’s facial recognition database of over 3 billion images from arrest photos collected from across social media “to help identify unknown targets in an investigation or locate additional social media accounts for known individuals,” according to materials reviewed by Yahoo News.
According to the interviews and new documents reviewed by Yahoo News, the genesis of iCOP appears to date back to 2018, when the U.S. Postal Inspection Service expanded and rebranded its “cybercrime dark web” program into a broader covert operation.
“As the criminal use of the ‘Dark Web’ marketplaces has grown and affected investigative assignments across the agency, we are re-branding the program to encompass all online covert operations beyond ‘Dark Web’ marketplaces to include publicly accessible web sites and private sites,” says an internal description of the change.
USPS can barely deliver the mail adequately and manages to lose $5 billion a year, yet they apparently have the time and money to run a spy ring. 🧐 https://t.co/obnIaipsM0
— Rep. Nancy Mace (@RepNancyMace) May 19, 2021
Analysts with iCOP closely monitored social media postings once the Antifa/BLM-led protests and riots started after the death of George Floyd last year. Likewise, they closely tracked right-wing posts on Twitter, Parler, and other social media platforms after the Jan. 6th Capitol riots.
When asked to explain and defend the existence of the program, the USPS told Yahoo News in a statement that the goal of iCOP was to protect USPS employees and its infrastructure:
“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.
Based on what is now known about the surveillance program, however, it would appear that iCOP’s scope has gone way beyond merely monitoring potential threats to employees and infrastructure and has understandably raised serious privacy concerns. Expect more hearings on this matter in the coming months, especially in light of the Democrat-led push to keep the “insurrection” narrative alive via umpteen overlapping Congressional “investigations” into the Capitol riots going into the 2022 elections.
— Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym “Sister Toldjah” and can be reached via Twitter. —
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.
This is the old Soviet Union in modern drag
This is straight up Stasi tactics
one man’s truth is another man’s inflammatory
Let me tell you about my truth regarding USPS. I own a farm, it is half a mil deep, nearly 40 years ago I built at the back of the farm, in part to preserve tillable land, in part so that latch key brats would not be messing with my machinery. I also have run several other businesses from the site.
Until about 5 years ago I had a great carrier. She retired and I got this huge, lazy, arrogant female carrier.
Three years ago packages stopped arriving, no notice of attempted delivery, after two weeks I started investigating, The carrier was entering false information into their system about my packages. There were a variety of excuses.
Eventually they claimed my driveway was more than a half mile long, that is not possible, since the back property line is half a mile. I measured it with the odometer, It is a bit over 0.4 mile. I also measured it using the Google map measuring tool, with the same results.
I complained to the postmaster, she continued the same BS.
I now specify on every order in the second address line to not deliver USPS, a rather large number ship that way regardless.
Going to the post office to pickup a package is a 1.5 to 2 hour proposition.
A complaint to the national number produced no results other than my spending 45 minutes on hold.
Early this year they claimed an international package was, it was not. That was about a $300 MPPT charge controller, they have not paid for it, at least not moneys.
I have checked complaints online, these problems are widespread.
USPS deserves to have their plug pulled. They have a shit culture which cannot be fixed.
I still run a small business trade association. Over two years ago I started encouraging other business owners to complain to shippers, especially Amazon and Ebay. That appears to be bearing fruit, though I almost never order from Amazon now.
One more thing, if you ask most international shipper will ship via other carriers for slightly more money.
Your tax dollars at work.
98% of ‘mail’ that I get is idiotic fraud spam bullshit, and the other 2% is bills.
NOTHING important gets sent through the USPS anymore.
Gee, I wonder if they consider BLM and antifa ‘inflammatory.’
Quite obvious from what they actually tracked.
It’s absolutely time to privatize mail delivery. The USPS has proven itself not only incompetent but, now, intrusive and abusive of citizens Constitutional rights. Private companies could perform the task much more effectively without the civil rights atrocities committed by the USPS.
And most likely without union control.
I like the coincidence of Google rebranding as Alphabet, Inc. The FBI, CIA, NSA, and the like are known as alphabet agencies.
Olinser is more right than we know, and I’ll disagree with SRT a bit.
It is NOT time to privatize mail delivery.
It is time to kill it dead, dead, dead. Great idea for the 18th century, not for the 21st.
All matters financial can be done on the web. All matters personal can be done electronically. All packages can be delivered by, well, someone, be it Amazon or UPS or FedEx or Barney Rubble’s delivery service.
And as Olinser says, what else do you get in the mail these days?
Do it in stages. We could cut residential mail delivery to 3 days a week, then 2 days a week, etc. Business mail delivery could be cut and businesses could pay a fee for delivery, scaled to their size. That will encourage them to move smartly to email, e-billing, and package delivery.
Ensure the pensions are good for the mail workers — it’s not their fault that the business model is wrong for the 21st century.
We should publicize this as a goal — say a 10 or 15 year goal to eliminate the USPS completely. Sunset it and then stick to it. This gives everyone enough time to get used to the idea.
If the progressives whine, point out that they’re demanding a “carbon-free”world by 2035 — if they can’t eliminate the USPS before 2035, they have no room to complain about carbon.
Yeah, great idea. Let’s privatize it. We’ll make it just like the internet – delivery by Google, Facebook, Twitter. Oh yeah, and just wait until they start shadow-banning and suspending delivery to conservatives. Does the USPS suck? You bet, but before you shut it down, better consider the law of unintended consequences.
Please note that I didn’t say ‘privatize’, I said ‘eliminate’. I’ve thought about the unintended consequences, but I also see where the technology is going.
Personal letters? All electronic these days. And you don’t need social media.
Finance? All on the web. And the banks easily will stiff-arm google.
Business? All on the web; email; and secure transactions. Don’t need google.
Parcels? Multiple delivery companies.
The next ten years will leave the USPS without a mission other than delivering advertising and spying on our citizens. And we can do nicely without both of those.
I would propose the exact opposite: EE.
It’s probably not a terribly great idea to become even more dependent on Big Tech than we already are for communication. /adjusts tinfoil tiara and saunters off casually
I agree about big tech, but USPS is just as bad, they all need to be shaken up
Fuzzy, you do realize the point of the article Ms. Matthews posted, right? The USPS is spying on us. Eliminate them and the number of people spying on me decreases by one.
Hardly, the spies will be transferred to some other alphabet agency, as would most USPS top brass. The only people hurt would be those who somehow don’t get swallowed up in the swamp in some other capacity (I.e. those they can’t transfer, buy out, or get to retire early). These are federal employees, after all.
” And the banks easily will stiff-arm google.”
And stupidity stands revealed. The banks are already on board. Try getting a firearms related business’ payments processed.
Thank you for your contribution;, though I’m sure Fuzzy was able to read what you wrote and isn’t short in the area of reading comprehension.
You are applying your personal preferences and experience to the entire US, if not world, population. You assume too much that isn’t true for everyone. I may not be around to see 90, perhaps even the near term 80. But until I’m gone I prefer having USPS around to use as I see fit.
Personal letters are not all electronic, but you are correct that I don’t need (or use) the common social media outlets, Banks easily stiff arm Google? The SCOTUS couldn’t do that with a clear cut case of Intellectual Property theft, you think any piddly little bank will do what the SCOTUS couldn’t bring themselves to do? Those multiple delivery companies all charge me more to send packages than USPS does and half the time the fill in drivers can’t find rural addresses to save their lives. If the USPS spending is eliminated, Congress won’t return a dime of our taxes for the billion$ in reduction, they will spend it elsewhere and not even reduce the deficit.
Thanks, but no thanks.
Not everyone has internet. Not everyone wants internet. Many old people are confused by the internet; many old people are scammed through the internet. Many adults are concerned about the privacy exposure through the internet and eschew its use. Many people do not want their every public interaction to be electronically recorded somewhere. Throwing out the USPS in favor of electronic communications is a one-size-fits-all solution that does not, in fact, fit all.
What else comes through the mail? Government communications. One of the fraud preventives by the IRS is that they do NOT initiate communications electronically, not even over the phone. Throw out the USPS and you are throwing out that part of fraud protection. Ditto for social security; ditto for State & local government; ditto for legal notices; etc. etc.
There is more going on with the mail than you are allowing for; there are great concerns over the vulnerability of electronic communication. I’m far more in favor of a top-to-bottom house-cleaning of the USPS, and a thorough re-examination of its charter.
Whether it should be a government service is arguable, although even here I would point out that not everyone has, knows how to use, or even can use the internet. These people need to be able to communicate, too.
I have been involved in corporate house cleaning, it is really hard to identify all the bad players. If the purge is not complete, one often has to go return and repeat. Leaving one bad apple leads to another spoieled barrel.
I’m guessing you don’t live in a rural area. You may not see a need for the USPS but out here in the sticks? They are still very necessary.
say a 10 or 15 year goal to eliminate the USPS
Which will turn into a 40 year shutdown, because government.
….and Bezos is salivating at the opportunity for him if the US collapses into a third world country.
This is why no federal agency should have there own protective force. That’s why we have the US Marshall’s. Does anyone remember all the ammo purchased by these federal protection services across the government?
“USPS can barely deliver the mail adequately and manages to lose $5 billion a year, yet they apparently have the time and money to run a spy ring.”
“The program ‘includes analysts who assume fake identities online, use sophisticated intelligence tools, and employ facial recognition software.””
Did you know that there really is a ZIP code 00007?
They hid it where no one would look, between 99723 and 99749.
Hey, I’m just saying… make of it what you will.
If you get Area Fifty-Oned up there, it’s not on me.
Remember when they wanted the Postal Service Bank? Wow. All this push toward communism is sadly unsurprising.
I remember (in fact, I worked on the contract) when the Post Office wanted to monopolize email. They called it E-COM. They planned to get your email to you in as little as two days!
Thanks for that. It was an extremely interesting read.
Nothing but outrageousness coming out of the government anymore.
Biden and Pamela are gutting America and enjoying it. That whole “natural born citizen” thing was axed by the kenyan and now we’ve got Pamela using the axe to gut Americans.
I believe this is being funded surepticiously by the intel community to expand their operations targeting American patriots. The USPS needed money and the CIA, FBI et al needed more people and cover.
DC has become a criminal enterprise.
I would add that USPS is a haven for Affirmative incompetents, about a quarter, The postmaster who was trying to blow smoke up my as was.
USPS just “lost” my still-valid passport and renewal form, sent via Priority Mail with tracking and signature confirmation. I have no doubt that my passport was stolen by a USPS worker. The address on the package reads “National Passport Processing Center,” so, the contents were identifiable from the outside of the envelope. Calling USPS customer service leads to a truly Kafkaesque experience — after navigating a hellish and convoluted series of automated menu options, in order to reach a human representative, I’m given a case number and told that a supervisor from the Philadelphia office (the destination site of the P.O. Box address) will call me with an update, within two business days. Of course, no phone call arrives.
Here’s a novel idea — how about the USPS concentrate on rooting out the thieves on its payroll, and, on delivering mail in a competent manner, as opposed to spying on conservative Americans?
I could give you even worse stories, like package shipped to iowa that ended up in guam, all sort of misrouted registared mail,, a package that was destroied by the post office, I do not sent anything by usps that I can send by other means. if you want to read other usps horror stories, look up the usps ig site
Funny — where was the USPS’s spying zeal, way back when goose-stepping, jackbooted Dhimmi-crat terrorists of the “Black Lives Matter” and “Anti-fa” cadres, were murdering innocents, burning cities, businesses and neighborhoods, attacking police officers, destroying statues and monuments and desecrating synagogues, for most of year 2020?
The only purpose the postal service has anymore is illegal surveillance of Americans.
It should be axed, and without notice.
The TV show “The Detour” has already taken USPIS to task.
I always thought the arts community considered it bad form to burlesque someone else’s burlesque.
I guess this is what happens when you’re too woke to recognize Hamilton as a burlesque.
My alternate mail-carrier is a different race and last year he was forcibly closing my mail box (punching it, most likely) whenever anything with “Trump” on it was delivered. Then any time anything was delivered until after the election. He kept deforming the pull-tab at the top and I’d keep straightening it.
My guess is there are more than just a few anti-Trump (anti-us) employees at the USPS who would be more than happy to follow orders and make our lives miserable. Why should they be any different from the rest of America?
This just confirms two things: 1) why the USPS does such a lousy job of delivering the mail and 2) why Nazi Pelosi put so much money in for the USPS in the CoVid relief bill.
The USPS used to have a motto about neither rain nor sleet nor dark of night preventing delivery of the mail. That hasn’t been used in probably 30 years because one of their last priorities is actually delivering the mail. I recently had occasion to send three items by priority mail (next day delivery certified and with return receipt). Next day took 3 days for each to be delivered and 6 and 7 days for the return receipt. In all 3 cases, I was able to track the letters and in all 3 cases, they sat at a regional USPS facility for 2 days. Priority for whom? Certainly not the person who paid over $50 for expedited mail delivery. From this point on, either UPS or FedEx will get my business. The USPS struggles to deliver mail that originates locally! It is beyond comprehension that a letter mailed from my town to a neighboring town (10 miles away) has to travel through the neighboring town on a truck to get to a regional center to be “cancelled” only to be returned to the neighboring town a week later. I could walk it there sooner than USPS transports it!! And our tax dollars fund this insanity. At least knowing that now they are the social media police explains why they cannot properly do their stated job.
Who gave the order for USPS to be the social media monitoring police? I suspect the same people who gave the orders for mail-out ballots. Sounds like common planning!!
Local USPS offices would rather not send local mail to the distribution center. They have no choice because some dumbass in DC claims it will “save money”. Just like the delivery point system used to presort letters. Carriers and clerks used to actually view each piece of mail to make sure the name and address were correct. Nope, said management.. if it’s sorted to a particular address, it goes in the box whether it’s correct or not. The majority of the problems with the USPS could be rectified by firing the idiots making the decisions who have no clue how mail is actually delivered.
They probably got into it from their wildly successful program to print emails at the delivery post office and deliver them to a physical mailbox. It’s just a small step to social media and the FBI’s physical mailbox.
Though if you’re, like me, just trying to be heard, the more reporting the better.
Reason #462 to scale back and privatize USPS.
For decades it’s been mainly a jobs program for Democrats. Now it’s a growing part of their woke surveillance network.
I see all these examples of poor service and vandalized mailboxes above. I girss I’m the odd man out. In the 60-some years I’ve been receiving and sending mail, I have had very good to excellent service. What am I doing wrong?
I certainly don’t condone or like the spying but will give credit where it is due.
With only a single exception over all these years, I’ve noticed that the only time my mail got “lost” was when it was convenient for the recipient to have not received it. Of course that happens with electronic communications, too.
Maybe. Though the $34K tax payment check I sent 2 day ‘priority’ via USPS is now seven days late from the ‘guaranteed’ delivery date of the 14th May. No updates just ‘in transit’ since last Saturday.
Had one package of APBA stuff I sold to a nice gentleman out in Oregon take over 6 weeks to get to him when the prior one took, at best, a week.
Covid, you know!
IMO, this is about the poorest excuse for an agency attempting to ‘find’ a problem to ‘solve’ I have seen. It is misguided and is subject to considerable abuses.
That said, I am not too concerned with the ability of these clowns to execute their self defined/created mission. If these folks were any good they would be working in the private sector for contractors making bank.
Failing that they would be working for an agency with a clear security mission: DoD, Homeland, DoJ, ECT. These guys ain’t the varsity. They ain’t even JV. These guys are fourth rate wanna be.
I wonder what percentage of USPS employees have an IQ greater than 90?
I cn help the USPS meet their budget. Read their charter, which is to deliver mail, not to perform espionage on We, the People