A document made public by Yahoo News on April 21 allegedly shows that the Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP) at the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) is tracking and collecting social media posts from accounts on platforms like Parler and Telegram. The Department of Homeland Security disseminated the iCOP bulletin widely to local, state, and federal police through their fusion center network. The published screenshots can be found below:
The bulletin says, “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 identifies various protests being organized, like Stop the Steal—a large citizen-activist group that cropped up because of their belief that the election was stolen from President Trump. Some of the social media comments, only partially readable in the screenshots, talk about no longer “placating” BLM if they show up to the protests and “to humanize them and make them sorry they were born.” The bulletin also states that “no intelligence is available to suggest the legitimacy of these threats.”
According to reporting by American Greatness, a name mentioned in the bulletin is allegedly a Proud Boy:
“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.”
Lee Smith, who appeared on OAN on Apr. 23, says it is a Biden administration policy driving the targeting and collection of data from social media platforms. He believes that this is just a transition from the “collusion narrative” so commonly pushed during the Trump years to a “sedition narrative,” as evidenced by the recent NY Times article and the Commission to Investigate Jan. 6 pushed by House Leader Pelosi.
— The Dirty Truth (Josh) (@AKA_RealDirty) April 23, 2021
“What we have seen since Jan. 6 is a specific targeting of Trump supporters,” Lee continued, “So this isn’t about targeting all Americans. It’s about targeting—if you’re a particular subset of Americans or a large subset of Americans and those happen to be—you can look at it two ways—those happen to be supporters of Donald Trump or people who did not vote for Joe Biden… these are people they have tried to re-label domestic terrorists, white nationalists, white supremacists. It’s a very specific campaign.”
It is difficult to discern from the limited material released whether the kind of political targeting Smith is talking about is objectively true. Many feel that Telegram and Parler, the platforms from which some of the posts were collected, attract more users from the right side of the political aisle.
Some of the USPIS security initiatives and partnerships began after 9/11 with the Patriot Act and other DHS and CISA security directives. However, in 2013, the Obama administration issued a directive called “Partnering for Critical Infrastructure, Security and Resilience” to strengthen national security and resilience—using the USPIS as one way to track and collect data. This was an update to an existing security protocol called The National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP) overseen by CISA.
The key concepts of the Obama era directive are pictured below:
Item number 4 of the Obama-era Directive alludes to critical infrastructure and its role in protecting our country. The Post Office is a critical infrastructure entity in the Federal Government:
“4) Development of a Situational Awareness Capability for Critical Infrastructure. Within 240 days of the date of this directive, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall demonstrate a near real-time situational awareness capability for critical infrastructure that includes threat streams and all-hazards information as well as vulnerabilities; provides the status of critical infrastructure and potential cascading effects; supports decision making; and disseminates critical information that may be needed to save or sustain lives, mitigate damage, or reduce further degradation of a critical infrastructure capability throughout an incident. This capability should be available for and cover physical and cyber elements of critical infrastructure, and enable an integration of information as necessitated by the incident.”
It also provides definitions within the Directive.
“The term “all-hazards” means a threat or an incident, natural or manmade, that warrants action to protect life, property, the environment, and public health or safety, and to minimize disruptions of government, social, or economic activities. It includes natural disasters, cyber incidents, industrial accidents, pandemics, acts of terrorism, sabotage, and destructive criminal activity targeting critical infrastructure.”
It could be that these types of activities and protocols are the ones that produced the bulletin in question.
DHS and CISA have formed partnerships with the USPIS to keep our country secure.
The CISA website lists “16 critical infrastructure sectors whose assets, systems, and networks, whether physical or virtual, are considered so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof.” The post office falls under the Transportation Systems Sector.
The USPIS “About/How We Do It” Page header says “Intelligence Informs Our Every Move” because of its “wide jurisdiction” and innovative investigative techniques. “Mail fraud, elections, disasters, providing security, collecting and analyzing evidence, partnering against crime” are all listed as activities in which USPIS engages.
The Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) initiative is another DHS program closely partnering with the USPIS with its mandate to protect the United States. “The NSI is a collaborative effort of a number of federal, state, local, and tribal agencies and organizations with counterterrorism responsibilities.”
The NSI was an outgrowth of the 9/11 Commission. This initiative provides law enforcement with “another tool to help prevent terrorism and other related criminal activity by establishing a national capacity for gathering, documenting, processing, analyzing, and sharing SAR information.”
Republicans on the House Oversight Committee, including Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), and Mo Brooks (R-AL) wrote to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy Thursday calling for a hearing with Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale by April 28 about the report. An excerpt from their letter may indicate that the congressmen were not fully aware of the program and its mandates.
“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 type of general review of social media alleged in the reporting does not indicate that the posts reviewed by iCOP are related to the protection and security of USPS, its postal routes, its employees, or the mail generally. As Geoffrey Stone of the University of Chicago Law School said, ‘I don’t understand why the government would go to the Postal Service for examining the internet for security issues. We agree’.”