The United States Postal Service is facing backlash over its covert program to scan citizens’ social media accounts for “inflammatory” content.
The Kentucky representative Thomas Massie expressed his concern over the USPS’s move. “The USPS has been losing money for many years … so where do they find money to run this surveillance program?”
Yahoo News reported that the U.S. Postal Service has been tracking American’s social media posts and monitoring those which have references to planned protests among other “inflammatory” posts.
According to “reliable” documents gathered by Yahoo News, the surveillance is carried out by the Internet Covert Operations Program by enlisting the law enforcement arm of the USPS.
Together, these two organizations track down social media posts that include those posted by various groups such as the Proud Boys and even planned demonstrations by Americans who are against the Coronavirus lockdowns.
What’s alarming about these alleged surveillance activities is the fact that these social media posts if deemed threatening will be sent to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies for close monitoring.
Although the information on these planned protests is distributed across social media platforms, it is still up to the law enforcement agencies to deem those as threatening, even in the absence of legitimacy as to why those activities are potential threats.
The alleged activities alarmed civil liberties and privacy experts. These groups argue that social media posts are not within the jurisdictions of the US postal system.
As such, the USPS was not mandated to monitor social media posts. Doing so should merit constitutional concerns.
“It’s not at all clear why their mandate would include monitoring of social media that’s unrelated to use of the postal system,” said Rachel Levinson-Waldman, deputy director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s liberty and national security program in the Yahoo report.
The US Postal Service did not directly respond to the Yahoo News report but issued a statement saying that the Internet Covert Operations Program was created to assess threats to its employees.
“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.
“Additionally, the Inspection Service collaborates with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to proactively identify and assess potential threats to the Postal Service, its employees and customers, and its overall mail processing and transportation network. In order to preserve operational effectiveness, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service does not discuss its protocols, investigative methods, or tools.”