POST OFFICE PLAYING SPYMASTERS. News broke this past week that the USPS has been running a program called iCOP (Internet Covert Operations Program).
Does it target agents of Communist Chinese or members of international drug cartels? No. The initiative, embedded in the Postal Service, exists to target “domestic terrorists.”
According to Yahoo News, which broke the story, “The work involves having analysts trawl through social media sites to look for what the document describes as ‘inflammatory’ postings and then sharing that information across government agencies.”
The pretext for the program launched with the Biden administration was the 6 January Washington, DC protest.
“What we’ve seen since January 6th, we’ve seen a specific targeting of Trump supporters, so this isn’t about targeting all Americans,” journalist Lee Smith commented on the revelations in an interview on OANN. Smith has written several books detailing how U.S. intelligence agencies spied on and sabotaged the Trump administration. “It’s about targeting a very particular subset of Americans, a large subset of Americans, and those happen to be... you can look at it two ways. Either supporters of Donald Trump, or people who did not for Joe Biden to be President.”
Illegal political spying on Americans isn’t new. Eric Snowden famously opened many eyes to the extent spy agencies, including the NSA, have been surveilling its citizenry. Even before Snowden, other whistleblowers and groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation were sounding alarms over George W. Bush and Obama-era programs that comprehensively sifted internet packets along the internet’s backbone network lines to capture email content, etc.
But the subversion of the USPS into yet another tentacle of the American domestic spy network is a new level of betrayal of the privacy and political freedoms and rights of Americans.
The USPS program does things like report on people planning protests or voicing politically incorrect views in opposition to government policies like coercive lockdowns and vaccinations, opposition to illegal immigration, support for Second Amendment rights, and, indeed, First Amendment rights.
Republicans Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz, and Mo Brooks, all members of the House Oversight Committee, have called for a hearing with Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale by 28 April regarding the Yahoo News report.
LEGAL AUTHORITY? NOT NEEDED FOR FEDERAL AGENCIES FIGHTING “CYBER THREATS.” The deep state continues to bilk “security” as a pretext to grab all the power it deems fit – no laws or oversight from citizens required.
A recent example is a Department of Education (DOE) initiative “proactively” neutralizing threats from web domains that don’t even exist.
That’s right. The DOE has empowered itself to buy up prospective domain names and go “outside its perimeter” in other ways, with the purported motive to protect citizens from malicious websites and activities that might be created or carried out.
The DOE’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Office (CISO) head Steve Herandez explained the extra-legal pursuits of the department acting together with Homeland Security while speaking last Tuesday at an event hosted by cybersecurity firm ZeroFOX.
“[At] most federal agencies I’ve been at, there’s a foundational premise that the law must say we can, and we started this conversation, just based on the pure necessity of saying actually hang on, stop, where does it say we can’t?
If there’s nothing out here saying we can’t, and we’ve already checked our appropriations and defending our programs and maintaining our fiduciary responsibility for the taxpayer dollars is squarely within the authorities of our appropriations, then frankly we ought to be doing this.”
Hernadez’s expansive view of federal powers goes beyond even the loosest construction of established law. Authorities can only exercise powers that are explicitly laid out by laws or clearly necessary to accomplish their implementation. “Enumerated Powers” comprises the whole framework of American jurisprudence, and the nation’s legal history is filled with case law that rejects governmental authorities operating by fiat.
“Pre-Crime” Fighting And Ad-Hoc Spying
But the DOE’s CISO seems to have missed those classes. At the cybersecurity event, Hernandez enthused that the new, self-granted agency authorities would allow the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to eliminate threats outside their perimeter. That includes ad-hoc initiatives like infiltrating and monitoring communications on secure messaging apps like Signal and Slack.
And he reportedly giggled describing some of the methods his “threat-hunting team” has made for putting suspicious URLs out of reach.
“We leveraged our procurement authorities and we went out and bought up a bunch of URLs that looked similar, or that we thought would be likely candidates for exploitation kind of preemptively going out and saying, you know, we’re gonna solve these problems before they start.”
Hernandez said the efforts of his cybersecurity team were substantially focused on stopping financially motivated attacks, explaining there are “trillions of dollars” flowing through the department each year, rendering it a target for malicious actors.
In fact, past analyses have pointed out that government employees themselves are among the biggest wasters and pilferers of the public coffers. Cyber criminals could only dream of siphoning one trillion dollars from government resources. But that’s what gets wasted or outright stolen in a given year.
Obscene sums of money notwithstanding; eavesdropping fishing expeditions; snapping up domains that haven’t been activated, let alone used in crimes; and a carte blanche ethos on other cyber combat pursuits might make average Americans shudder.
With no positive grant of legal authority and no oversight, there’s no telling what communications government agents are intercepting or what URLs they’re taking off the table, etc. The potential for political or other abuse is huge.