Recent tribunal filings amusement that the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) volition disclose documents astir its arguable societal media surveillance program, but authorities has besides indicated it whitethorn combat to support different records secret.
USPS faces several lawsuits from non-profit groups implicit its Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP)—the beingness of which was revealed successful April, when Yahoo News reported on an interior USPS memo astir monitoring right-wing anti-lockdown protestors.
Judicial Watch, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and the James Madison Project person filed abstracted complaints against the USPS for failing to fulfill a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) petition for records connected the program, portion the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) sued due to the fact that authorities hasn’t conducted a privateness interaction appraisal for iCOP—a reappraisal of what accusation is collected, wherefore it’s being collected, however the accusation is used, and however the information is stored.
Recent filings successful the Judicial Watch and EFF cases reveal that USPS holds much than 12,000 records related to iCOP. USPS is reviewing which documents it volition take to disclose and which ones it volition effort to withhold from the public.
Government projected consolidating the cases, but a U.S. territory justice changeable down those talks past period due to the fact that the non-profit groups are requesting antithetic documents—raising antithetic ineligible issues for whether records volition beryllium made public.
Judicial Watch, for example, seeks each societal media posts that iCOP forwarded to different authorities agencies, portion EFF wants accusation astir immoderate transgression prosecutions that were based connected iCOP information. The James Madison Foundation, for its part, is besides looking for records from the DHS, DOJ, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence astir the rationale for creating iCOP.
While USPS whitethorn disclose astatine slightest immoderate iCOP records successful these FOIA cases, it has fought the EPIC lawsuit. USPS filed a question to disregard the assertion past week, arguing that it’s not required to behaviour a privateness interaction appraisal for iCOP—and that the USPS whitethorn not marque specified records nationalist adjacent if it had them.
“Even if this Court were to necessitate USPS to behaviour a privateness interaction appraisal … USPS would stay escaped to withhold each oregon portion of that appraisal from work successful bid to support against nationalist disclosure of delicate accusation pertaining to instrumentality enforcement efforts,” the Oct. 19 question to disregard said.
Parties successful the FOIA lawsuits are to record a presumption study connected the records accumulation by Nov. 22. No dates person been scheduled for the EPIC case.
Along with the litigation, the USPS has besides received disapproval from immoderate lawmakers implicit its deficiency of transparency with iCOP. Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale reportedly briefed lawmakers successful a closed-door league successful April, but Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) aboriginal said Barksdale was “unprepared to reply our questions to the constituent of incompetence.”
“Barksdale couldn’t archer america erstwhile the programme started, however overmuch taxpayers were paying to tally it, oregon adjacent what ineligible authorization the post office had to spy connected the public’s societal media activities,” Mace said. “He denied iCOP was a program, but said it had an ‘executive’ overseeing it. He said the station bureau coordinated with different agencies, but couldn’t database a azygous one.”
Following its archetypal April report, Yahoo News revealed much details astir iCOP successful May. According to Yahoo, the USPS utilized net surveillance tools to show societal media to way imaginable unit astatine protests pursuing the decease of George Floyd.
“After the Jan. 6 riot astatine the Capitol by Trump supporters, the analysts turned their attraction to right-wing accounts,” Yahoo News reported successful May.
The postal work has defended iCOP arsenic a ineligible open-source quality cognition designed to support its employees.
“This reappraisal of publically disposable open-source information, including quality reports and societal media, is 1 portion of a broad information and menace analysis, and the accusation obtained is the aforesaid accusation anyone tin entree arsenic a backstage citizen,” a U.S. Postal Inspection Service spokesperson reportedly said.
“News study and societal media listening enactment helps support the 644,000 men and women who enactment for the postal work by ensuring they are capable to debar perchance volatile situations portion moving to process and present the nation’s message each day.”
But the non-profit groups accidental that USPS’s surveillance ops person a chilling effect connected escaped speech.
“This suit aims to support the close to protest,” said EFF ineligible chap Houston Davidson. “The authorities has ne'er explained the ineligible justifications for this surveillance.
“We’re asking a tribunal to bid the USPIS to disclose details astir this speech-monitoring program, which threatens law guarantees of escaped look and privacy.”
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]