An obscure initiative of the United States Postal Service aided law enforcement investigators following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, Politico reported.
The postal service's Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP) sent bulletins to law enforcement agencies on how to view social media posts that had been deleted, and information derived from scrutinizing posts on the uncensored social media platform Wimkin, Politico reported Monday.
Since the iCOP was created to keep mail deliverers safe, involvement with Jan. 6 investigations raises questions about how broad the program's mandate had grown.
"Law enforcement-intelligence apparatuses raise serious Constitutional questions, serious questions for our democracy," said Chip Gibbons, the policy director of Defending Rights & Dissent. "It is outside their jurisdiction as I understand it.
"The FBI has jurisdiction over domestic terrorism, whereas the Post Office — I don’t even know how they're involved in this."
A U.S. Postal Inspection Service spokesperson told Politico the agency reviews public social media posts as part of "a comprehensive security and threat analysis."
"News report and social media listening activity helps protect the 644,000 men and women who work for the Postal Service by ensuring they are able to avoid potentially volatile situations while working to process and deliver the nation’s mail every day," the spokesperson told Politico.
Politico said documents pointed to potential gaps in the Jan. 6 select committee's investigation by revealing concerns about a company it is not known to be scrutinizing. The challenge of tracking people on low-profile platforms also was discussed.
Two previously unpublished iCOP documents — one of which was reported on by ABC News — circulated through law enforcement and intelligence-sharing hubs called fusion centers that connect federal agencies with their state and local partners. Both bulletins were dated Jan. 11.
One of the reports highlights tweets from two users about Jan. 6, Politico reported.
One tweet announced the creation of a system by which people could share photos and videos from the Capitol assault. Another tweet said it included a link to every Parler post made during the violence.
The iCOP bulletin noted that major tech companies stopped providing services to Parler, forcing the platform to go offline, in the wake of the attack because of unsuitable content.
The second iCOP bulletin is titled "Nationwide Coordination of Militia Groups and Threat to Nancy Pelosi,” Politico said.
The brief said a post "directly associated to the site founder [sic]" of givemebass.com threatened House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
The bulletin included an image saying "DEMAND PELOSI BE EXECUTED SHE TRIED TO COME BETWEEN OUR POTUS THE NUCLEAR CODES [sic]."
The USPS’s covert operations program drew attention in April when Yahoo reported on a bulletin it sent out in March about anti-lockdown and anti-5G protests.
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