The United States Postal Service has been running a "covert operations program" that tracks and collects social media posts considered "inflammatory." Yahoo News obtained a copy of a "Situational Awareness Bulletin" issued to law enforcement agencies by the Department of Homeland Security which warned of the potential for violence ahead of protests planned for March 20.
The bulletin included screenshots of social media posts obtained by analysts with the United States Postal Inspection Service Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP). They highlighted a post made by a member of the Proud Boys and identified him by his real name, though it was redacted in the memo shared by Yahoo News.
"Parler users have commented about their intent to use the rallies to engage in violence. Image 3 on the right is a screenshot from Parler indicating two users discussing the event as an opportunity to engage in a 'fight' and to 'do serious damage,'" the two-page memo says.
The document listed several rallies planned in California, Denver, Virginia, and Vermont. The bulletin said that while "there is currently no intelligence to suggest specific threats," analysts will continue to monitor social media.
"iCOP analysts are currently monitoring these social media channels for any potential threats stemming from the scheduled protests and will disseminate intelligence updates as needed."
The U.S. Postal Service issued a statement to Yahoo News defending the surveillance program.
"The Internet Covert Operations Program is a function within the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which assesses threats to Postal Service employees and its infrastructure by monitoring publicly available open-source information," the statement said.
"Additionally, the Inspection Service collaborates with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to proactively identify and assess potential threats to the Postal Service, its employees and customers, and its overall mail processing and transportation network. In order to preserve operational effectiveness, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service does not discuss its protocols, investigative methods, or tools."
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