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Gaetz, House Republicans introduce bill to defund Postal Service covert operations program

Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzGaetz, Greene tout push to oust Cheney: 'Maybe we're the leaders' Rural community leaders call on Gaetz, Greene to 'stop dividing America' ahead of US tour Gaetz, Greene start tour of America 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.

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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 GosarGaetz, House Republicans introduce bill to defund Postal Service covert operations program 136 Republicans get Fs in accountability rankings from anti-Trump GOP group House rejects GOP resolution to censure Waters MORE (Ariz.), Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertPence to give keynote address at National Conservative Student Conference Gaetz, House Republicans introduce bill to defund Postal Service covert operations program 136 Republicans get Fs in accountability rankings from anti-Trump GOP group MORE (Texas), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Scott PerryScott Gordon PerryFive takeaways on the House's return to budget earmarks Gaetz, House Republicans introduce bill to defund Postal Service covert operations program US Chamber enters hostile takeover by crony capitalists MORE (Pa.), Greg SteubeWilliam (Greg) Gregory SteubeGaetz, House Republicans introduce bill to defund Postal Service covert operations program Hillicon 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 MORE (Fla.), Ken BuckKenneth (Ken) Robert BuckHillicon Valley: Trump's Facebook ban to stay in place, board rules | Facebook board's Trump decision pleases no one | Republicans float support for antitrust reform Republicans float support for antitrust reform after Trump Facebook ban upheld Facebook board decision on Trump ban pleases no one MORE (Colo.), Tim BurchettTimothy (Tim) Floyd BurchettGaetz, House Republicans introduce bill to defund Postal Service covert operations program Parade of 2024 GOP hopefuls court House conservatives House GOP holdouts muddle Trump vaccine message MORE (Tenn.) and Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieOvernight Health Care: WHO-backed Covax gets a boost from Moderna Vaccine hesitancy among lawmakers slows return to normalcy on Capitol Hill Gaetz, House Republicans introduce bill to defund Postal Service covert operations program 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. 

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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 DeJoyGaetz, House Republicans introduce bill to defund Postal Service covert operations program The Hill's Morning Report - Biden to country: 'Turning peril into possibility' Senate panel advances Biden's Postal Service nominees MORE last week by more than 30 House Republicans, including Gaetz and committee ranking member James ComerJames (Jamie) R. ComerRepublicans request documents on Kerry's security clearance process Gaetz, House Republicans introduce bill to defund Postal Service covert operations program Top House Republicans ask Harris for meeting on border 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.”