Judicial Watch

Judicial Watch Sues U.S. Postal Service for Information on Tracking Americans’ Social Media Posts

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) for information relating to the tracking and collecting of Americans’ social media posts through its Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP) (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Postal Service (No. 1:21-cv-01735)).

The lawsuit was filed after the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) failed to respond to an April 27, 2021, FOIA request seeking access to:

1. All records from January 1, 2020 to the present identifying criteria for flagging social media posts as “inflammatory” or otherwise worthy of further scrutiny by other government agencies.

2. All records from January 1, 2020 to the present relating to the Internet Covert Operations Program’s database of social media posts.

3. All records and communications from January 1, 2020 to the present between any official of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and any official of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and/or the U.S. Department of Homeland Security regarding the Internet Covert Operations Program.

4. All social media posts that the Internet Covert Operations Program has flagged and forwarded to other government agencies.

5. Any analyses outlining the authority of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to monitor, track, and collect Americans’ social media posts.

6. All records concerning the reasons for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to monitor, track, and collect Americans’ social media posts.

7. All records of communication sent to and by Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale from January 1, 2020 to the present regarding the Internet Covert Operations Program.

The FOIA request was prompted by an April 21, 2021, Yahoo! News report that the law enforcement arm of the U.S. Postal Service has been “running a program that tracks and collects Americans’ social media posts, including those about planned protests.” According to a document obtained by Yahoo! News, this surveillance effort is known as the Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP):

“Analysts with the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP) monitored significant activity regarding planned [anti-lockdown] protests occurring internationally and domestically on March 20, 2021,” says the March 16 government bulletin, marked as “law enforcement sensitive” and distributed through the Department of Homeland Security’s fusion centers. “Locations and times have been identified for these protests, which are being distributed online across multiple social media platforms, to include right-wing leaning Parler and Telegram accounts.”

“Did the Biden administration weaponize the United States Postal Service to improperly spy on Americans?” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

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