The U.S. Postal Service’s Insatiable Appetite for Taxpayers Dollars

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) just got more than $100 billion in taxpayer assistance through the Postal Service Reform Act. It is licking its chops for billions more as Congressional Democrats and the Biden Administration work to serve up a smorgasbord of new programs and funding schemes.

USPS was once the federal government’s most responsible steward of taxpayer funds, with a focused public service mission, delivering the mail.   

Under the 1970 Postal Reorganization Act, USPS is required to be self-supporting with the sales of postage and services covering the costs of operations. And from 1970-2006 it was, operating with a cumulative surplus of $3 billion during this time.

The rise of the Internet and a requirement to set aside funds for future retiree health benefits led to chronic losses at USPS starting in 2007. Some Republicans saw the Postal Service Reform Act (PSRA), signed into law April 6, as the reset button to provide USPS with financial assistance so that it could return to a focused mission and be self-supporting.

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Postal Inspectors Have Used iPhone Hacking Tools Hundreds of Times

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) owns sophisticated hacking tools that can breach iPhones, and has used them hundreds of times over the last several years, according to USPIS records.

Law enforcement’s use of hacking tools such as Cellebrite and GrayKey has attracted considerable attention in recent years, particularly following reports that the FBI used the Israeli-based Cellebrite to help access the iPhone belonging to San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook—though there has since been reporting to the contrary. More recently, records obtained by Vice Motherboard last year revealed how police departments use GrayKey.

The use of such tools by the USPIS, the law enforcement arm of the Postal Service, is disclosed in its 2019 and 2020 annual reports, but has gone largely unpublicized until now. The Epoch Times has also reviewed an internal Postal Service letter, which shows that one technician in the USPIS digital evidence unit used GrayKey to crack more than 150 iOS devices—iOS being the mobile operating system for the iPhone.

Altogether, the records suggest that the USPIS has cracked hundreds of iPhones—generally thought to be one of the most secure commercial phones on the market—as well as other devices.

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Post Office’s Law Enforcement Arm Is Expanding Its Surveillance Powers

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has announced plans to provide its law enforcement branch with access to its vast trove of customer data, raising concerns among privacy activists about the organization’s expanding surveillance powers.

The USPS came under scrutiny in 2021 when it was revealed that its law enforcement arm, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), was monitoring both left- and right-wing protest groups on social media. Multiple nonprofit organizations sued the USPS, seeking internal records about its surveillance program and questioning the legality of such activities.

Those lawsuits haven’t stopped the Postal Service from seeking additional surveillance powers. On Dec. 17, 2021, the USPS announced that it intended to provide customer data to USPIS investigators.

“USPIS will collect and aggregate eight data elements—Name, Address, 11-Digit Delivery Point ZIP Code (ZIP 11), Phone Number, Email Address, Tracking Number, IP Address, and Moniker,” the Postal Service stated.

According to the USPS, the influx of new data will allow postal inspectors to conduct “link analysis,” using data analytics to discover patterns and trends in criminal activity.

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USPS mail carriers allegedly stole credit cards as part of huge identity theft ring

Four US Postal Service mail carriers — including three from New York City — are accused of stealing credit cards from the mail as part of a $750,000 identity theft ring, prosecutors said.

The postal workers and nine other suspects were indicted in Manhattan Supreme Court on conspiracy, grand larceny and a litany of other charges over the scheme that took place between January 2017 and August 2019, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

The federal employees, who were recruited by 37-year-old ringleader Michael Richards, of Manhattan, allegedly swiped over 1,000 credit cards that were then used by another defendant to buy high-end goods at luxury retailers, prosecutors said.

“Richards paid the mail carriers different amounts depending on how well the cards they stole performed,” the DA’s office said in a press release.

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Covert Postal Service unit probed Jan. 6 social media

In the days after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, an obscure arm of the U.S. Postal Service did some serious internet sleuthing.

On Jan. 11, the United States Postal Inspection Service’s Internet Covert Operations Program — better known as iCOP — sent bulletins to law enforcement agencies around the country on how to view social media posts that had been deleted. It also described its scrutiny of posts on the fringe social media network Wimkin.

Few Americans are aware that the same organization that delivers their mail also runs a robust surveillance operation rooted in an agency that dates back to the 18th century. And iCOP’s involvement raises questions about how broad the mandate of the Postal Service’s policing arm has grown from its stated mission of keeping mail deliverers safe.

The documents also point to potential gaps in the Jan. 6 select committee’s investigation by revealing concerns about a company it is not known to be scrutinizing. And those documents point to a new challenge for law enforcement in the post-Jan. 6 era: how to track extremist organizing across a host of low-profile platforms.

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Postal Censorship and Surveillance: A Timeline

1775

A year before independence, the Continental Congress creates the Postal Service—not as a government agency, but as one of several new independent alternatives to the British postal system. One advantage: This allows American dissidents to communicate without the authorities intercepting their letters.

1835

Southern mobs seize and burn abolitionist material sent through the mail. The postmaster general refuses to intervene, establishing a de facto policy of permitting the censorship of such literature in the slave states.

1844

The libertarian abolitionist Lysander Spooner establishes the private American Letter Mail Co. The government reacts by outlawing it, and in 1851 the experiment ends.

1861

The Civil War begins, and both the Union and the Confederacy adopt their own forms of postal censorship. The postmaster general spends a year refusing to deliver papers deemed disloyal to the Union cause.

1873

The Comstock Act makes it illegal to knowingly mail or receive any “filthy book, pamphlet, picture, paper, letter, writing, print, or other publication of an indecent character,” as well as any contraceptives, any abortifacients, or any information about acquiring or using contraceptives or abortifacients.

1878

The Supreme Court upholds the government’s right to bar “circulars concerning lotteries” from the mail—and, provided it has a warrant, to open and inspect packages to find such material.

1887

Police arrest the libertarian journalists Moses Harman, Edwin C. Walker, and George Harman for publishing and mailing a feminist argument against marital rape. The author’s description of such an assault is deemed obscene under the Comstock Act.

1917

After the U.S. enters World War I, the Wilson administration cracks down on anti-war and anti-draft literature. In the case of the anarchist magazine Mother Earth, the government doesn’t just bar the material from the mail—it arrests editor Emma Goldman for “conspiracy to induce persons not to register” for the draft, imprisons her, and eventually deports her.

1944

The government intercepts the international correspondence of tax resister Vivien Kellems—a prominent critic of the Roosevelt administration—and leaks it to columnist Drew Pearson and Rep. John M. Coffee (D–Wash.). Coffee quotes from it on the House floor while accusing Kellems of subversion.

1953

The CIA starts reading correspondence between people in the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The covert program quickly extends to a much larger watchlist, with the agency illegally opening more than 13,000 letters a year until the operation ends in 1973.

1970

As part of its campaign against the underground press, the FBI considers a scheme to spray copies of The Black Panther with a chemical called Skatole before the issues are shipped to distributors, thus giving them “a most offensive odor.” The bureau drops that particular plan but finds other ways to harass alternative papers using the mails.

2001

In the wake of the post-9/11 anthrax attacks, the government creates the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking system to collect the information on the exterior of virtually everything mailed in the United States. One cybersecurity specialist later sums up the program for The New York Times: “Let’s record everyone’s mail so in the future we might go back and see who you were communicating with.”

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Judicial Watch files open records request asking USPS to disclose social media monitoring documents

Judicial Watch Announced Monday that it filed an open records request against the United States Postal Service, asking the organization to produce documents on its alleged tracking of social media posts regarding protests.

The conservative judicial watchdog group originally filed the suit on April 28 through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The group asked for all documents related to the tracking and collecting of Americans’ social media posts through its Internet Covert Operations Program, according to The Epoch Times.

The FOIA is specifically looking for communication records between the USPS and the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Department of Homeland Security from Jan.1, 2020. 

“Did the Biden administration weaponize the United States Postal Service to improperly spy on Americans?” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton asked in a statement Monday.

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The Postal Service is running a ‘covert operations program’ that monitors Americans’ social media posts

The law enforcement arm of the U.S. Postal Service has been quietly running a program that tracks and collects Americans’ social media posts, including those about planned protests, according to a document obtained by Yahoo News.

The details of the surveillance effort, known as iCOP, or Internet Covert Operations Program, have not previously been made public. 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.

“Analysts with the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP) monitored significant activity regarding planned protests occurring internationally and domestically on March 20, 2021,” says the March 16 government bulletin, marked as “law enforcement sensitive” and distributed through the Department of Homeland Security’s fusion centers. “Locations and times have been identified for these protests, which are being distributed online across multiple social media platforms, to include right-wing leaning Parler and Telegram accounts.”

A number of groups were expected to gather in cities around the globe on March 20 as part of a World Wide Rally for Freedom and Democracy, to protest everything from lockdown measures to 5G. “Parler users have commented about their intent to use the rallies to engage in violence. Image 3 on the right is a screenshot from Parler indicating two users discussing the event as an opportunity to engage in a ‘fight’ and to ‘do serious damage,’” says the bulletin.

“No intelligence is available to suggest the legitimacy of these threats,” it adds.

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Ex-USPS Subcontractor Says Colleagues ‘Ordered to Backdate Ballots’

Former US Postal Service subcontractor Ethan Pease alleged USPS workers were ordered to backdate ballots received too late so that they could be lawfully counted, detailing the allegation during a Tuesday press conference hosted by the Amistad Project of the Thomas More Society.

Pease explained he worked as a temporary hire at United Mailing Services (UMS), a USPS subcontractor in Wisconsin, in the weeks leading up to Election Day.

He worked as a route driver, delivering mail to UMS for sorting, and he would transport it to USPS. In September and October, he delivered mail-in ballots from UMS to USPS.

“On November 2, 2020, I noticed that there was only one ballot in the bin for delivery to USPS. And on November 3, Election Day, there were no ballots in the bin for delivery,” he said.

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