U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz (FL-01) reintroduced Tuesday the ‘‘USPIS Surveillance Protection Act.” The legislation, if passed, would defund the Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP), an illegal domestic surveillance program operated by the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS).
The Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP) is a United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) program that monitors social media posts for threats to the USPS and its employees.
The program was first revealed in 2021 and has been criticized by privacy advocates and some lawmakers.
The USPIS claims that iCOP is necessary to protect the USPS from threats such as mail theft, bomb threats, and physical attacks on postal workers.
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However, critics argue that the program is an overreach of government power and violates American citizens’ privacy.
The iCOP program is authorized by the Inspector General Act of 1978, which gives the USPIS broad authority to investigate threats to the postal service. However, the act does not specifically authorize the USPIS to monitor social media posts.
In 2021, the USPIS released a statement saying that iCOP only monitors publicly available information. However, critics have argued that the program is still capable of collecting private information about Americans, such as their location, interests, and political views.
In March 2022, following pressure from the House Oversight and Reform Committee, the USPS Inspector General released a report stating that “certain proactive searches iCOP conducted using an open-source intelligence tool from February to April 2021 exceed the Postal Inspection Service’s law enforcement authority.”
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Since then, there has been no indication that USPIS has shut down iCOP, likely meaning that this surveillance program is still violating Americans’ privacy and seeking to curb their First Amendment rights, according to Gaetz.
“The Postal Service should be focused on delivering the mail on time and on budget, not running a covert surveillance program to monitor political behavior on social media. This program is not only outside USPIS’ jurisdiction and infringes on American citizens’ civil liberties but is more evidence of the government-sanctioned spying on its own citizens. Congress must immediately abolish this program,” Gaetz said.
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