Post Office Claims Surveillance Powers Under Same Law Used to Curb Cops

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The aforesaid instrumentality utilized by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) arsenic the ground for a sweeping quality programme has besides been interpreted to beryllium highly restrictive connected postal policing activities—raising questions among immoderate critics astir the legitimacy of USPS surveillance power.

When Postal Police Officers Association president Frank Albergo archetypal work a leaked U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) memo astir monitoring blimpish anti-lockdown protestors, thing successful the good people caught his eye.

Written astatine the bottommost of the March bulletin, postal officials assertion powerfulness to surveil and disseminate accusation astir the right-wing protests nether 18 U.S. Code 3061—a statute with which Albergo is familiar.

As a labour typical for immoderate 500 postal constabulary officers, Albergo has fought with the USPS implicit the meaning of U.S.C. 3061. Last summer, Postal Service authorities said 3061 mostly confines postal constabulary officers to USPS property—restricting them from patrolling the streets to support missive carriers, bluish postulation boxes, and message vehicles.

Albergo and his national deliberation the USPS is restricting officers arsenic a corporate bargaining maneuver to thrust down their pay—by treating them arsenic information guards alternatively than afloat police. But putting that quality aside, Albergo said he’s puzzled astatine what helium sees arsenic a contradiction.

“So, according to the Postal Service, the instrumentality allows the Inspection Service to surveil Americans’ societal media accounts portion astatine the aforesaid time, the instrumentality doesn’t let a uniformed constabulary unit to support the message and employees portion distant from postal premises,” Albergo told The Epoch Times. “Only successful the topsy-turvy satellite of the Postal Service could this marque sense.”

Privacy advocates besides person concerns astir what the USPS calls the Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP)—the beingness of which was first revealed successful April by Yahoo News. The USPS faces lawsuits from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Judicial Watch, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), and the James Madison Project implicit iCOP.

EFF elder unit lawyer Aaron Mackey said helium has akin questions astir wherever the USPS derives its surveillance authority. While disclaiming that he’s not an adept successful Postal Service law, Mackey said helium recovered it “odd” that the iCOP bulletin relied connected U.S.C. 3061 arsenic the ground for the program.

“As I work the statute, it provides constricted powers for postal work instrumentality enforcement to analyse crimes, question hunt warrants, and marque arrests, but the scope of those powers is constricted to the functioning of the postal service, its property, and related laws that support mail,” helium said.

“It’s hard to quadrate the sprawling iCOP surveillance programme with the specific, constricted instrumentality enforcement powers Congress created successful conception 3061,” helium told The Epoch Times. “That’s partially wherefore our FOIA suit seeking records astir iCOP has asked for documents that amusement the ineligible ground for the iCOP program.”

The USPIS—the instrumentality enforcement helping of the USPS—did not reply to questions astir wherever it derives its authorization for iCOP. USPS media contacts besides did not respond.

Postal Service officials person antecedently defended iCOP arsenic a ineligible open-source quality cognition designed to support its employees.

Albergo was blunter successful his appraisal of whether U.S.C. 3061 authorizes iCOP.

“Absolutely thing successful 3061 could beryllium construed arsenic allowing specified wide instrumentality enforcement jurisdiction,” helium said, accusing USPIS of wanting to beryllium a “quasi-NSA.”

Albergo besides criticized the contented of the USPIS devoting resources to surveillance ops astatine the disbursal of having officers connected the streets.

Multiple reports suggest that the Postal Service has been dealing with a drastic upswing successful theft, fraud, and convulsive crime.

In September 2020, NBC News published a story reporting a 600-percent summation successful message theft reports implicit the anterior 3 years, from astir 25,000 successful 2017 to astir 177,000 done August 2020. A May 2021 USPS Inspector General report further recovered a 161-percent summation successful message theft complaints from March 2020 to February 2021.

And past month, Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale announced that the USPIS responded to much than 7,000 reports of convulsive crimes against postal employees implicit the past year, including threats, assaults, and homicides.

“With the detonation successful postal-related thoroughfare crime, what precisely is the USPIS doing to halt it different than spending immense sums of wealth connected surveillance?” Albergo asked. “The USPIS would alternatively analyse transgression aft it happens alternatively than stopping it.”

Albergo continues to combat for his officers to beryllium backmost connected the streets.

The Postal Police Officers Association initially sued implicit the substance successful September 2020, aft Deputy Chief Inspector (DCI) David Bowers issued a memorandum stating that U.S.C. 3061 confines postal constabulary officers to USPS property—what’s present referred to arsenic the Bowers Memo.

The Postal Police Officers Association sought an injunction connected the argumentation confining officers until its grievance could beryllium settled successful arbitration. A U.S. territory justice tossed the postal union’s suit successful Nov. 2020, declining to enactment a halt to the USPS policy.

The parties proceed to quality the substance successful arbitration.

Ken Silva

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Ken Silva covers nationalist information issues for The Epoch Times. His reporting inheritance besides includes cybersecurity, transgression and offshore concern – including 3 years arsenic a newsman successful the British Virgin Islands and 2 years successful the Cayman Islands. Contact him astatine [email protected]

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