Washington, D.C. (May 25, 2021)—Today, Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform Carolyn B. Maloney and Ranking Member James Comer sent a letter to Tammy L. Whitcomb, Inspector General of the U.S. Postal Service, expressing concerns about reports that the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) is using the Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP) to perform intelligence operations on First Amendment activity.
“These activities raise serious questions about the scope of the program, the extent of sharing of information among law enforcement agencies, and whether USPIS has the authority to conduct such an operation,” wrote Chairwoman Maloney and Ranking Member Comer. “We understand that USPIS has a critical law enforcement responsibility to protect the people and facilities of the Postal Service. We also appreciate that since reports of iCOP being used in connection with First Amendment activity have become public, USPIS has put certain safeguards in place and is reviewing additional ways to protect First Amendment activities. Nevertheless, significant questions about iCOP remain.”
Chairwoman Maloney and Ranking Member Comer requested that Inspector General Whitcomb conduct an evaluation of iCOP, specifically addressing questions of USPIS’ authority to conduct online intelligence operations on people in the United States, the impact of this activity, and any internal processes to ensure accountability.
Today’s bipartisan letter follows news reports, confirmed by USPIS briefings for Committee staff, that iCOP analysts monitored social media sites for “inflammatory” posts and shared details about some posts and individuals who posted the information with other federal law enforcement agencies.
The Members requested confirmation of the review and a timeline for initiation and completion by June 4, 2021.