- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The House Oversight Committee on Tuesday urged an inspector general to investigate the extent of the U.S. Postal Service’s surveillance of Americans’ social media accounts.

The Postal Service’s law enforcement arm previously confirmed to lawmakers’ staffs that the agency’s Internet Covert Operations Program or iCOP had monitored social media for “inflammatory” posts and shared details about the accounts and posts with other federal law enforcement agencies, according to lawmakers.

“These activities raise serious questions about the scope of the program, the extent of sharing of information among law enforcement agencies, and whether [U.S. Postal Inspection Service] has the authority to conduct such an operation,” the committee’s top Democratic and Republican wrote in a letter to Postal Service Inspector General Tammy L. Whitcomb.

The letter was signed by Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney, New York Democrat, and ranking member James Comer, Kentucky Republican.

They said they had unanswered questions about the alleged snooping, including what authority the Postal Service has to conduct intelligence operations on Americans; why the covert operations program expanded and who made the decision to expand it; what vendors the Postal Service uses to collect data on Americans; and which other agencies received information collected through the Postal Service’s covert operations.

The Postal Service’s surveillance program monitored “right-wing Parler and Telegram accounts” before planned protests and had also monitored Facebook and Twitter users, according to a Postal Service bulletin first reported in April by Yahoo! News.

The Postal Service’s covert operations incensed Republican lawmakers. They received a private briefing from Chief Postal Inspector Gary R. Barksdale in April that failed to satisfy many lawmakers’ questions. Ten Republican lawmakers subsequently proposed the “USPIS Surveillance Protection Act” to defund the Postal Service’s covert operations program.

Ms. Maloney and Mr. Comer requested a response from the inspector general by June 4.

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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