•   
  •   
  •   

Politics Chief postal inspector tells lawmakers that social media monitoring began after George Floyd protests

18:15  30 april  2021
18:15  30 april  2021 Source:   news.yahoo.com

Derek Chauvin led away in handcuffs after guilty verdict in Minneapolis courtroom

  Derek Chauvin led away in handcuffs after guilty verdict in Minneapolis courtroom Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was handcuffed and taken into custody after a jury found him guilty of murdering George Floyd.Images of Chauvin leaving the courtroom in handcuffs spread quickly on social media.

The U.S. Postal Service’s law enforcement arm began monitoring social media posts following the Black Lives Matter protests that erupted in Minnesota and across the nation after George Floyd was killed in police custody in May 2020, according to congressional aides and lawmakers who attended a briefing this week on the program.

Last week, Yahoo News revealed that analysts with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service have been trawling Americans’ social media posts to track political protests as part of its Internet Covert Operations Program, known as iCOP. The news prompted more than two dozen Republican lawmakers to demand the USPS provide information on the program.

Teenager Who Filmed George Floyd's Death Reacts to Derek Chauvin Murder Conviction: 'I Just Cried So Hard'

  Teenager Who Filmed George Floyd's Death Reacts to Derek Chauvin Murder Conviction: 'I Just Cried So Hard' "George Floyd we did it!! justice has been served" 18-year-old Darnella Frazier wrote on social media Tuesday after former police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted for murder "I just cried so hard," Frazier wrote in a social media post following the verdict. "This last hour my heart was beating so fast, I was so anxious, anxiety bussing through the roof.

a close up of a man wearing a suit and tie: Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale. (Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images) © Provided by Yahoo! News Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale. (Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

During a Wednesday briefing before the House Oversight Committee, Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale told lawmakers that iCOP began in 2017 to investigate potential crimes, such as drug and firearms trafficking transported by the mail system, but then moved into monitoring protests last spring because of the potential threat to Postal Service workers and buildings. An uptick in threats against Postmaster General Louis DeJoy was also a factor in iCOP’s continued focus on monitoring protests, according to a GOP aide who attended the briefing.

A leaked intelligence bulletin from March about iCOP’s work largely focused on social media posts on the right-leaning Parler platform, as well as Facebook and other sites. According to those who attended the hearing, Barksdale would only say the work was “incident-specific,” but did not provide further details.

Can Democrats Make Peace With Louis DeJoy?

  Can Democrats Make Peace With Louis DeJoy? The postmaster general’s reform plan looks a lot better now that Donald Trump is no longer president.DeJoy’s critics, however, were fretting about the wrong crisis. The Postal Service handled the deluge of ballots but not the crush of Christmas cards and packages that followed. The holiday season was a disaster for the agency, prompting many Democrats to renew their calls for his ouster. Yet as the fight turns to the future of the Postal Service, the party is divided over the leader it loves to hate, and some lawmakers are realizing that DeJoy’s vision is not radically different from their own.

“The chief postal inspector was unprepared to the point of incompetence,” Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., told Yahoo News. “He couldn’t tell me when this program started, how much money is spent on it or where the authority to spy on Americans came from.

“The complete inability to give us answers to basic questions was unacceptable,” Mace added.

Still, new details about iCOP’s work did emerge, according to several people who attended the briefing. Barksdale began his testimony with a dramatic video of a mail truck engulfed in flames during the protests that erupted in Minnesota after Floyd's death.

The footage was intended to illustrate why iCOP resources were dedicated to tracking protests on social media, according to a GOP aide.

a group of people walking on a city street: Protesters march in downtown Brooklyn over the killing of George Floyd, on June 5, 2020. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images) © Provided by Yahoo! News Protesters march in downtown Brooklyn over the killing of George Floyd, on June 5, 2020. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Concerns about the USPS’s social media surveillance comes amid a series of controversies surrounding the agency. During the 2020 presidential campaign, Democrats accused DeJoy, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, of removing mailboxes and sorting machines to influence the November election, which had a record number of mail-in ballots.

What George Floyd's brother thought watching Derek Chauvin placed in handcuffs

  What George Floyd's brother thought watching Derek Chauvin placed in handcuffs One of George Floyd's brothers says he was struck watching former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin put his hands behind his back. "I watched him put his hands behind his back -- he had it a lot easier than my brother because my brother's hands were pinned backwards," Philonise Floyd told ABC News' "Good Morning America" on Wednesday.

Yet now it’s Republicans leading the charge against the USPS, after it emerged that iCOP was monitoring right-wing social media accounts following the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. It’s unclear if news that the program was also tracking protests related to Black Lives Matter will prompt Democratic lawmakers, who have so far been silent about the program, to join their GOP colleagues in asking for more answers.

Barksdale’s appearance Wednesday did not appease Republican lawmakers. “I was not satisfied with their answers,” Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., told Yahoo News.

“Their theory of the case is, they’ve got to protect their workers and properties,” Biggs said. “I asked, 'If you already have engagement with other agencies like FBI, Homeland Security, NSA, whatever, then why aren’t you asking them for help?'

“Why not just call the agencies whose job it is, who are probably already surveilling American citizens?” he said.

The chief postal inspector told lawmakers those agencies “would not cooperate,” so the USPS “made an executive decision” to have iCOP patrol social media searching for potential threats from upcoming protests, Biggs told Yahoo News.

I’m Actually Glad Nancy Pelosi Thanked George Floyd for “Sacrificing” Himself

  I’m Actually Glad Nancy Pelosi Thanked George Floyd for “Sacrificing” Himself It's saying the quiet part loud.Pelosi’s and Frey’s words aren’t just tone-deaf expressions by two prominent voices in American politics. They point to something larger. They’re telling slips that illustrate how easy it is to view Black victims of police violence not as people, but as means to an end, even if that end is “just.” The active verbs alone are an offense: a life sacrificed; a life that bettered a city by being lost. As if Floyd had any choice in his death at the hands of Derek Chauvin.

Biggs said legislators were also told that iCOP analysts use keyword searches in social media to identify any potential threats, such as rioting or looting.

Andy Biggs wearing a suit and tie: Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz. (Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images) © Provided by Yahoo! News Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz. (Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

A GOP aide told Yahoo News that Barksdale noted that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security could not be relied upon to do this work because they don’t have the ability to send text messages alerting mail carriers to nearby danger. It’s unclear, however, if the information gleaned from iCOP has ever been used for that purpose.

The Postal Inspection Service did not respond to Yahoo News’ request for comment.

Barksdale also discussed the iCOP intelligence bulletin obtained by Yahoo News, which said analysts were looking for “inflammatory” posts, pointing out that was not language normally used in the bulletins.

Between December 2020 and March 2021, iCOP produced seven other similar bulletins on its social media investigations of upcoming protests, Barksdale said at the briefing. Those bulletins were shared with other federal agencies, which disseminated them to local and state law enforcement.

Barksdale said iCOP would continue its surveillance work but would no longer produce the bulletins.

Biden's USPS board nominees aren't likely to oust DeJoy, postal insiders say

  Biden's USPS board nominees aren't likely to oust DeJoy, postal insiders say Although opponents of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy hope that Thursday's board confirmation hearing could lead to his ouster, the embattled USPS chief appears safe. But even if Biden's picks are approved by the Senate, industry insiders suspect the board is unlikely to have enough votes to oust DeJoy, in part because its chairman -- Ron Bloom, a Trump-appointed Democrat -- has recently expressed strong support for the postmaster general.

“It’s really uncomfortable to think you can look on any event [page] and you’re going to do keyword search on social media that’s related — that seems pretty broad to me,” Biggs told Yahoo News. “If you think your mandate includes this, your mandate is too broad.”

Biggs said he’d back legislation that "would either have to narrow their mandate or you’d have to find some kind of way to prevent them from having this blanket authority,” he said.

In a sign that bipartisan support for such legislation is unlikely, Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., the ranking member of the Oversight Committee, blamed Democrats for iCOP’s focus on protests, claiming their criticism of DeJoy contributed to violence. “Though questions remain about the expansion of the iCOP program, it’s clear Democrats’ reckless rhetoric has led to increased danger to postal property and individuals forcing the postal inspectors to divert from their main mission as a law enforcement entity,” Comer said in a statement following the briefing.

a man wearing a suit and tie: Rep. James Comer, R-Ky. (Carlos Barria/AFP via Getty Images) © Provided by Yahoo! News Rep. James Comer, R-Ky. (Carlos Barria/AFP via Getty Images)

While Comer offered no evidence to support that claim, it does appear that DeJoy was personally involved in the program’s shift toward social media surveillance. A GOP aide said that after DeJoy was appointed postmaster general in 2020, he reallocated some of the eight-person iCOP team, currently staffed with only five analysts, to focus on protesters.

Biggs said he asked Barksdale during the hearing: “How diverted does this small group get from its mandate to spy on Americans?”

____

Read more from Yahoo News:

  • Are cryptocurrencies ready to go mainstream?

  • CBP: 'Perceptions of U.S. immigration policy changes' driving border surge

  • Biden administration looks to state foster care and shelters to house growing number of migrant children at border

  • Remembering the lives lost to COVID-19

Gaetz, House Republicans introduce bill to defund Postal Service covert operations program .
Rep. Matt Gaetz (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. © Getty Images Gaetz, House Republicans introduce bill to defund Postal Service covert operations program 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).

usr: 5
This is interesting!