WASHINGTON, D.C. -(Ammoland.com)- A FOIA obtained by Cato Institute senior fellow Patrick Eddington shows that the United States Postal Service (USPS) inspectors have been monitoring pro-gun activists.
The USPS Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP) monitored the social media accounts of gun rights advocates from September 2020 through April 2021. The postal inspectors tracked the online activities of gun activists that attended Virginia Citizens Defense League’s (VCDL) “Lobby Day” and protests over the killing of Breonna Taylor. These actions alarmed Mr. Eddington.
“The Post Office has no business devoting a cent of taxpayer money to monitoring groups involved in the political process,” Eddington told AmmoLand News. “Those officials who authorized or otherwise participated in this iCOP program who are still on the federal payroll should be fired and the program terminated.”
Politically Motivated Spying
Gun rights activists believe that the monitoring is politically motivated. One of these activists is VCDL president Philip Van Cleave. Mr. Van Cleave points out that there has never been violence or any unlawful activity on any lobby day.
“This smacks of a politically-based anti-gun agenda,” Van Cleave told AmmoLand News. “If that’s not the case, then the Postal Service is pretty inept if they think a VCDL rally needs to be monitored for any reason. If they had done even the tiniest amount of research, they would have realized that VCDL had a rally with over 50,000 people the year before with zero problems, and we left Richmond cleaner than it was before our rally. In fact, VCDL has always coordinated its rallies with the police to ensure that the gun-control crowd doesn’t start any trouble. In what alternate universe would VCDL in any way be a threat to the postal service or its employees?”
VCDL is not the only gun rights group that has participated in Virginia’s lobby day. Gun Owners of America (GOA) participates in the gun rights rally annually. GOA is one of the largest and most powerful lobbying groups on Capitol Hill. GOA has sued the government multiple times, making them an enemy of the Biden administration.
“Prior to the Virginia lobby day in 2021, the US Postal Service was tracking gun owners who, we now know, were 100 percent law-abiding and committed no crimes at the event,” said Erich Pratt, Senior Vice President of GOA. “This just shows the anti-gun animus at USPS. After all, did the agency track the Antifa rioters who tore apart city after city during 2020-21? Or did the Postmaster General track the thugs who burnt St. John’s Church, when the Secret Service had to whisk away the President to safety? Ignoring the real criminal element just shows that anti-gun Leftist bureaucrats are ignoring the ‘elephant in the room’ in order to persecute and harass their political opponents.”
The USPS program was not limited to just monitoring gun activists. The postal inspectors also monitored anti-Biden protests. They targeted Americans that attended the “Million MAGA March” and other pro-Trump rallies.
The Postal Service inspector general has admitted that USPS overstepped its law enforcement authority.
“We determined that certain proactive searches iCOP conducted using an open-source intelligence tool from February to April 2021 exceeded the Postal Inspection Service’s law enforcement authority,” the Postal Service inspector general said in a March audit. “Furthermore, we could not corroborate whether other work analysts completed from October 2018 through June 2021 was legally authorized.”
The USPS inspectors disputed the IG’s finding. They believe that they acted within the law. The IG worked on the request from the top Democrat and Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
The full extent of the Postal Service’s monitoring is unknown due to the heavily redacted documents.
USPS Internet Covert Operations SPYING Program FOIA 2022 – 2021-FPIS-00339