An obscure unit of the U.S. Postal Service took a deep dive into the internet's right-wing fringes just after the Jan. 6 insurrection.
The Postal Service operates a surveillance operation -- the Internet Covert Operations Program, or iCOP -- as part of its centuries-old mission to keep mail carriers safe, and its agents sent bulletins Jan. 11 to law enforcement agencies nationwide to teach them how to view deleted social media posts and described its probe of content on the fringe social media network Wimkin, reported Politico.
Two government documents reviewed by the website's reporters show how law enforcement officers prepared for the possibility that Jan. 6 would become a mass casualty event, and an FBI bomb analyst warned colleagues that the "Stop the Steal" rally would become violent.
Both of those newly revealed iCOP bulletins circulated among law enforcement officers, and one of the reports highlights tweets from Czech Republic-based company Intelligence X that announced a platform to share photos and videos from the U.S. Capitol riot, and another from an account called "@donk_enby" that purportedly includes a link to every Parler post made during the assault.
"Although Parler is currently inactive and inaccessible, efforts fronted by '@donk_enby', Intelligence X, and public contributions of data can assist law enforcement in the analysis and identification of parties involved in the US Capitol Protests," the bulletin says. "The archived information can assist in the possible mitigation of future violent protests."
The other iCOP bulletin highlighted a website called givemebass.com whose founder explicitly threatened House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and was possibly used to coordinate militia groups ahead of the insurrection on the Wimkin platform.
The Postal Service defended their work monitoring fringe accounts, which a spokesperson said was necessary to protect postal workers, but civil rights groups aren't so sure.
"Law enforcement-intelligence apparatuses raise serious Constitutional questions, serious questions for our democracy," said Chip Gibbons, 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."