Covert Postal Service unit probed Jan. 6 social media

Source: Politico | September 27, 2021 | Betsy Woodruff Swan

New documents reveal the involvement of the little-known USPS Internet Covert Operations Program.

In the days after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, an obscure arm of the U.S. Postal Service did some serious internet sleuthing.

On Jan. 11, the United States Postal Inspection Service’s Internet Covert Operations Program — better known as iCOP — sent bulletins to law enforcement agencies around the country on how to view social media posts that had been deleted. It also described its scrutiny of posts on the fringe social media network Wimkin.

Few Americans are aware that the same organization that delivers their mail also runs a robust surveillance operation rooted in an agency that dates back to the 18th century. And iCOP’s involvement raises questions about how broad the mandate of the Postal Service’s policing arm has grown from its stated mission of keeping mail deliverers safe.

The documents also point to potential gaps in the Jan. 6 select committee’s investigation by revealing concerns about a company it is not known to be scrutinizing. And those documents point to a new challenge for law enforcement in the post-Jan. 6 era: how to track extremist organizing across a host of low-profile platforms.

Two more previously unpublished government documents reviewed by POLITICO — one of which was reported on by ABC News — reveal more about the increasingly complex work of tracking extremism, and the concerns those efforts generate among civil liberties advocates. Property of the People, a watchdog group focused on national security, obtained the documents through open records requests as part of its investigation of the Jan. 6 attack. The group has also obtained records showing that hundreds of law enforcement officers planned ahead in case Jan. 6 became a mass casualty event, and that an FBI bomb analyst warned her coworkers that #StopTheSteal could turn violent.

Both iCOP bulletins are dated Jan. 11. They circulated through law enforcement circles, including to intelligence-sharing hubs called fusion centers that connect federal agencies with their state and local partners. One of the reports highlights tweets from two users about Jan. 6.

One of the tweets, from Czech Republic-based company Intelligence X, announced the creation of a system for people to share pictures and videos from the Capitol attack. Another tweet, from an account called “@donk_enby,” says it includes a link to every Parler post made during the riot.


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