The US Postal Service admitted Wednesday to spying on Americans’ social media posts — including ones made by right-wing protest groups, according to a report.
USPS Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale confirmed to lawmakers that the agency is running a shadowy operation dubbed the Internet Covert Operations Program, which tracks “inflammatory” posts on Facebook, Parler and other sites, Rep. Nancy Mace (R-South Carolina) told The Daily Mail.
Barksdale told the House Oversight and Reform Committee that the initiative has netted no arrests and will continue despite privacy concerns, which arose after the program was revealed publicly last week, the outlet reported.
Barksdale said the operation — which reports threatening posts to local and federal law enforcement — is overseen by a USPS executive. But he claimed it’s not a real “program” because it’s “incident-related,” not an ongoing initiative, according to the outlet.
Instead of shutting it down, he said the USPS will simply stop releasing a government bulletin about the operation, which last week led to the surveillance program being exposed by Yahoo News.
“The Chief Postal Inspector was wildly unprepared for this briefing,” Mace said.
She said he couldn’t provide a date for when the operation began, or how much money is being spent on it.
Barksdale also declined to say which government agencies are coordinating with USPS on the operation, according to Mace.
The House Oversight meeting was called by lawmakers last week after documents revealed that the law enforcement branch of the USPS had targeted protest groups, including the Proud Boys.
On March 16, a government bulletin was sent from the US Postal Service to the Department of Homeland Security, warning about the World Wide Rally for Freedom and Democracy, which was planned by Q-Anon-linked groups in Washington, DC, on March 20.
“Locations and times have been identified for these protests, which are being distributed online across multiple social media platforms, to include right-wing leaning Parler and Telegram accounts,” the bulletin states. “No intelligence is available to suggest the legitimacy of these threats.”
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