Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzMystery Florida Senate candidate was planning move to Sweden Britney Spears to discuss conservatorship in court Liz Cheney says McConnell, McCarthy are heads of GOP MORE (R-Fla.) and a group of other House Republicans on Friday introduced legislation to end funding for an arm of the U.S. Postal Service that carries out online surveillance.
The legislation was rolled out in response to a March bulletin, reported by Yahoo News earlier this month, distributed by the Postal Service’s Inspection Service’s Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP). The bulletin cited iCOP concerns about potential “significant” protests planned for March 20 based on “online inflammatory material” and posts on social media platforms Parler and Telegram.
“iCOP analysts are currently monitoring these social media channels for any potential threats stemming from the scheduled protests and will disseminate intelligence updates if needed,” the agency wrote in the bulletin.
The new bill backed by almost a dozen House Republicans would prohibit federal funds from being used for iCOP. The legislation’s text accuses the organization of being “politically motivated in its target,” and the USPS of “operating a clandestine domestic surveillance program of Americans’ social media activity.”
Gaetz said in a statement Friday that “the Postal Service should deliver the mail on time and on budget.”
“They shouldn’t have a covert surveillance program to monitor social media political behavior, protected by our cherished Constitution,” he said. “As the dangers of government surveillance and targeting become ever the more clear, especially to conservatives, Congress must immediately abolish this program.”
Other bill sponsors include GOP Reps. Marjorie Taylor GreeneMarjorie Taylor GreeneRep. Marjorie Taylor Greene says she’s meeting with Trump ‘soon’ in Florida QAnon site shutters after reports identifying developer Republicans head to runoff in GA-14 MORE (Ga.), Paul GosarPaul Anthony Gosar136 Republicans get Fs in accountability rankings from anti-Trump GOP group House rejects GOP resolution to censure Waters Cheney on Trump going to GOP retreat in Florida: ‘I haven’t invited him’ MORE (Ariz.), Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller Gohmert136 Republicans get Fs in accountability rankings from anti-Trump GOP group Democrats warn Waters censure move opens floodgates Clyburn fined K for metal detector violation MORE (Texas), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Scott PerryScott Gordon PerryUS Chamber enters hostile takeover by crony capitalists 14 Republicans vote against resolution condemning Myanmar military coup New Democratic super PAC to target swing-district Republicans over vote to overturn election MORE (Pa.), Greg SteubeWilliam (Greg) Gregory SteubeHillicon Valley: Tech companies duke it out at Senate hearing | Seven House Republicans vow to reject donations from Big Tech Seven House Republicans vow to reject donations from Big Tech House Republicans ask Pelosi to reschedule Biden’s address to Congress MORE (Fla.), Ken BuckKenneth (Ken) Robert BuckParler app risks charges of selling out with Apple return Hillicon Valley: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube execs to testify at Senate hearing on algorithms | Five big players to watch in Big Tech’s antitrust fight Five big players to watch in Big Tech’s antitrust fight MORE (Colo.), Tim BurchettTimothy (Tim) Floyd BurchettParade of 2024 GOP hopefuls court House conservatives House GOP holdouts muddle Trump vaccine message READ: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results MORE (Tenn.) and Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieConservative House members call on Senate to oppose ATF nominee House votes to condemn Chinese government over Hong Kong 14 Republicans vote against resolution condemning Myanmar military coup MORE (Ky.).
Gaetz — who is currently under investigation by the Justice Department in connection with sex trafficking allegations — along with several of the co-sponsors have accounts on Parler, a popular social media platform removed from both Google’s and Apple’s app stores in the wake of the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol for content moderation concerns. Apple restored the app earlier this month.
A spokesperson for the Postal Service pushed back against Republican concerns, noting in a statement provided to The Hill on Friday that the agency “occasionally reviews publicly available information in order to assess potential safety or security threats to Postal Service employees, facilities, operations and infrastructure.”
“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is the primary law enforcement, crime prevention, and security arm of the U.S. Postal Service,” the spokesperson said. “As such, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service has federal law enforcement officers, Postal Inspectors, who enforce approximately 200 federal laws to achieve the agency’s mission: protect the U.S. Postal Service and its employees, infrastructure, and customers; enforce the laws that defend the nation’s mail system from illegal or dangerous use; and ensure public trust in the mail.”
“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service also employs uniformed Postal Police Officers who are assigned to protect select postal facilities, including postal employees, postal assets, and U.S. mail, at those facilities,” the spokesperson added.
Yahoo News reported separately that the Postal Service briefed members of the House Oversight and Reform Committee on iCOP surveillance concerns earlier this week.
The briefing was the result of a request in a letter sent to Postmaster General Louis DeJoyLouis DeJoyThe Hill’s Morning Report – Biden to country: ‘Turning peril into possibility’ Senate panel advances Biden’s Postal Service nominees Tammy Duckworth pressures postal service board on firing DeJoy MORE last week by more than 30 House Republicans, including Gaetz and committee ranking member James ComerJames (Jamie) R. ComerTop House Republicans ask Harris for meeting on border House committee approves DC statehood bill Overnight Energy: EPA pledges new focus on environmental justice | Republicans probe EPA firing of Trump-appointed science advisers | Biden administration asks court to toss kids’ climate lawsuit MORE (R-Ky.), listing concerns around iCOP.
“The United States is not lacking in its availability of intelligence agencies, and it should be left to those professionals to engage in this sort of behavior, if it is even necessary at all,” the House Republicans wrote. “Truly, it is baffling why America’s postal service would be involved in this kind of coordinated, intensive review of its citizens’ online activity.”