1984: USPS Political FreeSpeech SpyVeillance FOIA

grarpamp grarpamp at gmail.com
Tue Jul 13 16:52:53 PDT 2021

Judicial Watch Asks Court To Order USPS To Disclose Social Media
Snooping Documents


A non-profit government watchdog is suing in federal court to force
the United States Postal Service (USPS) to produce copies of documents
on its tracking of social media posts about planned political
U.S. Postal Service headquarters at L'Enfant Plaza in Washington.
(Coolcaesar/Wikipedia, CC BY-SA)

The suit filed by Judicial Watch in the U.S. District Court for the
District of Columbia is based on the group’s April 28 U.S. Freedom of
Information Act (FOIA) request and the failure of USPS to respond by
the required deadline.

In its original request, Judicial Watch asked for all documents
related to multiple aspects of the government’s activity that is
reportedly known as the Internet Covert Operations Program (ICOP),

    All records from Jan. 1, 2020, to the present identifying criteria
for flagging social media posts as “inflammatory” or otherwise worthy
of further scrutiny by other government agencies.

    All records from Jan. 1, 2020, to the present relating to the ICOP
database of social media posts.

    All records and communications from Jan. 1, 2020, to the present
between any USPS official and any official from the FBI and/or the
U.S.  Department of Homeland Security regarding ICOP.

    All social media posts flagged under ICOP and forwarded to other
government agencies.

    Any analyses outlining USPS authority to monitor, track, and
collect Americans’ social media posts.

    All records concerning justifications for USPS to monitor, track,
and collect Americans’ social media posts.

    All records of communication sent to and by Chief Postal Inspector
Gary Barksdale from Jan. 1, 2020, to the present concerning ICOP.

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement announcing the
suit that he wants to know, “Did the Biden administration weaponize
the United States Postal Service to improperly spy on Americans?”

A USPS spokesman did not respond to The Epoch Times’ request for
comment on the Judicial Watch suit.

The USPS program first came to public attention earlier this year when
its existence was reported by Yahoo News. As The Epoch Times then
reported, the revelation prompted a request from a group of House
Republicans to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.

    “If the reporting is accurate, ICOP raises serious questions about
the federal government’s ongoing surveillance of, and encroachment
upon, Americans’ private lives and discourse,” House Oversight Ranking
Member James Comer (R-Ky.) and House Judiciary Ranking Member Jim
Jordan (R-Ohio), along with 30 other Republican lawmakers, wrote to

According to the bulletin, ICOP recorded the locations and times of
protests. Social media websites Parler and Telegram are mentioned by
name, described as “right-wing leaning” platforms on which people were
coordinating events. Analysts with the USPS’ law enforcement arm were
told to keep an eye out for “inflammatory” postings and share them
with other government agencies.

    “The type of amorphous, broad mandate under which ICOP is
allegedly operating is particularly troubling because it is unclear
why the USPS, of all government agencies and the only one devoted to
the delivery of Americans’ mail, is taking on the role of intelligence
collection,” the lawmakers wrote.

The Republicans asked DeJoy for a Members-Only briefing on the
program, which was subsequently provided. Not long after the GOP
members’ request, the oversight committee’s chairman, Rep. Carolyn
Maloney (D-N.Y.) joined with Comer in a request to USPS Inspector
General Tammy Whitcomb for “a comprehensive analysis of the program
and its uses.”

Among much else, Maloney and Comer encouraged Whitcomb to examine the
USPS’ justification for expanding ICOP from its uses in drug
interdiction to general surveillance of political expression and
protest planning on social media.

The IG was also asked to get answers from USPS to these questions:

    “What vendor does USPIS use to search publicly available
information? What information is the vendor storing about searches and
results, and how is this information secured? What is the total
awarded value of the contract, and what are USPIS’s obligated costs
under the contract? When was the contract initiated, and when does it

Comer told The Epoch Times July 12 that, “the United States Postal
Inspection Service’s use of the Internet Covert Operations Program to
spy on the First Amendment rights of the American people raises
serious concerns and must be investigated.”

The Kentucky Republican said he is “pleased the Inspector General’s
office agreed to investigate the use of this program and we look
forward to reviewing its findings. We must ensure the American people
have transparency about how this program has been used and how [USPS]
will install safeguards to prevent abuses from happening again in the

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