On Tuesday, U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz (FL-01) reintroduced 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).
In April 2021, a report from Yahoo News exposed USPIS’ iCOP surveillance government bulletin that was distributed by the Department of Homeland Security. The bulletin reported the program’s findings of “inflammatory” posts on social media accounts, including on Facebook, Parler, and Telegram.
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.” 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.
Rep. Gaetz’s legislation would prohibit any federal funds, including amounts available in the Postal Service Fund, from being used by USPIS to carry out iCOP, or any other similar program.
“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,” Congressman Gaetz said.