The Postal Service is reportedly monitoring Americans’ social media for ‘inflammatory’ content, per report

USPS mailer
The Colorado Secretary of State on Friday said the postal service is confusing voters by mailing out a nationwide postcard encouraging Americans to plan ahead.

An unlikely government entity may be watching your activity on social media.

According to a Yahoo News report, the law-enforcement arm of the US Postal Service is running a “covert” program that monitors Americans’ social media posts for “inflammatory” content and then passes those posts along to other government agencies.

The surveillance effort, which falls under the agency’s Postal Inspection Service, is known as the Internet Covert Operations Program, or iCop, the outlet reported.

Prior to the Yahoo News Wednesday report, details of the program had not been made public.

The outlet obtained a March 16 memo, marked as “law enforcement sensitive” that said analysts with the US Postal Inspection Service had monitored “significant activity regarding planned protests occurring internationally and domestically on March 20, 2021.”

The government bulletin appears to be referencing demonstrations across the world planned as part of a World Wide Rally for Freedom and Democracy, in which groups were expected to demonstrate for a variety of causes, including lockdown measures and 5G, Yahoo News reported.

The two-page document reportedly includes screenshots of users’ posts from Facebook, Parler, and Telegram, including “inflammatory material” which “suggests potential violence may occur.” The memo, however, notes no intelligence exists to suggest specific threats, Yahoo News reported.

One particular Parler screenshot reportedly included in the document shows two users discussing the rallies as an opportunity to “do serious damage” and engage in a “fight.”

An alleged member of the Proud Boys as well as several other users whose identifying details were included are mentioned by name in the memo, according to the outlet.

iCop analysts would continue to monitor the social media accounts “for any potential threats stemming from the scheduled protests” and “will disseminate intelligence updates as needed,” the bulletin reportedly said.

In a statement provided to Yahoo, the Post Office said the US Postal Inspection Service, as the primary law enforcement crime prevention entity of the agency, employs federal officers who protect the agency and its employees, infrastructure, and customers and “enforce the laws that defend the nation’s mail system from illegal or dangerous use” to ensure public trust.

“The Internet Covert Operations Program is a function within the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which assesses threats to Postal Service employees and its infrastructure by monitoring publicly available open source information,” the statement reportedly said.

The agency also told Yahoo News the Inspection Service collaborates with law-enforcement agencies to identify and assess threats to the Postal Service and its “overall mail processing and transportation network.”

USPS declined to answer the outlet’s specific program-related questions. The agency did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

The Postal Service came under intense scrutiny in 2020, when the Trump-appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy made a number of changes in response to financial woes, including cutting overtime and limiting hours. The agency’s operational changes caused outrage ahead of the 2020 general election, when USPS warned some ballots might not be delivered in time for the pandemic-struck election in which millions of people planned to vote by mail.

Debate over the government’s purview to monitor Americans’ social media has heated up following the January 6 Capitol insurrection.

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Postal Service finds ‘no evidence’ of Project Veritas’ claim that mail workers tampered with ballots in the 2020 election

james o keefe project veritas cpac
James O’Keefe, President of Project Veritas, in February.

  • The Postal Service released a report into claims that employees tampered with Pennsylvania ballots.
  • They found “no evidence” for the accusations, first brought by Project Veritas.
  • Investigators reviewed the ballots and found no indications of tampering.
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Federal investigators looked into accusations from Project Veritas that Pennsylvania postal workers tampered with mail-in ballots and found that the claims were false.

The findings came in a little-noticed February 26 report from the US Postal Service Office of Inspector General. The report drew widespread attention after being posted by the website 21st Century Postal Worker earlier this week.

The investigation was initially launched after Project Veritas, a far-right political operation seeking to undermine media outlets and tech companies, produced an affidavit from a “whistleblower” postal worker, Richard Hopkins, in November.

Hopkins claimed that he overheard other postal service employees in Erie County, Pennsylvania, backdating ballots that arrived in the mail. In the 2020 election, Pennsylvania counted only mail-in ballots sent by Election Day on November 3.

Hopkins recanted the affidavit he signed days later. A video obtained by Insider’s Charles Davis showed that Hopkins had other people in the room as he swore to the affidavit over Zoom.

The Inspector General report said Hopkins admitted he never actually heard other employees talking about backdating ballots in the first place.

“[Hopkins] revised his claims, eventually stating that he had not heard a conversation about ballots at all – rather he saw the Postmaster and Supervisor having a discussion and assumed it was about fraudulent ballot backdating,” the report says. “[Hopkins] acknowledged that he had no evidence of any backdated presidential ballots.”

The fake story was widely cited by Republicans as a reason to doubt the results of the presidential election. Then-President Donald Trump pushed the claims on his now-suspended Twitter account. Sen. Lindsay Graham used it as a basis to request that the Justice Department investigate the election results.

Now-President Joe Biden won the state of Pennsylvania by more than 81,000 votes in the election, and there’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud. The highest-profile case of voter fraud in Pennsylvania is from a man who pretended to be his dead mother to cast an additional vote for Trump in a county he lost anyway.

OIG investigators also said they reviewed all the ballots in the post office where Hopkins worked that were postmarked November 3 and later and did not find any evidence of tampering.

“The physical examination of ballots produced no evidence of any backdated presidential election ballots at the Erie, PA Post Office,” the report said.

Investigators also interviewed several other officials in the post office. None of them said they saw any evidence of backdated ballots, the report said.

The OIG report is yet another failure for Project Veritas, run by the conservative activist James O’Keefe. The organization is known for a series of high-profile “sting operations.” Also in 2020, it released a video that baselessly attempted to link Rep. Ilhan Omar to voter fraud. O’Keefe didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Project Veritas is perhaps best known for attempting to plant false sexual misconduct allegations against 2017 Republican US Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama. The Washington Post discovered the operation and published a story about how Veritas pushes its falsehoods. The Post won a 2018 Pulitzer Prize for that story and others about Moore’s real-life sexual misconduct allegations.

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After a chaotic year, Biden moves to reclaim the USPS, despite a defiant Postmaster General Louis DeJoy

Louis DeJoy
U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testifies before a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on slowdowns at the Postal Service ahead of the November elections on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., August 24, 2020

  • Postmaster DeJoy testified Wednesday at a House Oversight Committee hearing on the postal crisis. 
  • The same day, Biden nominated three people to open positions on the agency’s governing board.
  • If all are confirmed by the Senate, the board would potentially have the votes needed to oust DeJoy
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

After weeks of mounting pressure from Democrats, President Joe Biden named three nominees to open positions on the US Postal Service’s governing board Wednesday, as a first step toward securing control of the agency that became a point of contention under the Trump administration last year.

Biden nominated two Democrats and a voting rights advocate – Ron Stroman, Anton Hajjar, and Amber McReynolds – to the agency’s board of governors, according to The Washington Post. Stroman previously served as the deputy postmaster general, Hajjar acted as former general counsel for the American Postal Workers Union, and McReynolds is the chief executive of the National Vote at Home Institute. 

If all three are confirmed by the Senate, Democrats would essentially gain an advantage over the governing body which would have equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans and one Independent in McReynolds, whose organization is beloved by the left, according to The Post.

The board would then have the potential votes to oust the current postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, who drew criticism last summer over an agency overhaul that led to slower mail service and caused many to worry about the agency’s ability to handle the influx of mail-in ballots for the 2020 general election. 

DeJoy has faced repeated calls for his resignation since the summer, with some progressive lawmakers urging Biden to remove the entire board of governors as a way to fill the body with people who would support removing DeJoy, according to Politico.

Biden’s three nominees also mark a significant step toward diversifying the currently all male, mostly white governing body. Of the Biden nominees, Stroman is Black, McReynolds is a woman, and Hajjar provides legal advice to the American-Arab Anti Discrimination Committee, Politico reported. 

In stark contrast to its governing body, the US Postal Service is disproportionately Black and female when compared to the rest of the federal workforce, the Pew Research Center showed in a May 2020 report.

At a House Oversight and Reform Committee meeting Wednesday, Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri questioned DeJoy on the board’s lack of diversity, comparing the group to a “millionaire white boys’ club.”

DeJoy pushed back, reminding lawmakers the president is responsible for nominating board members and the Senate is responsible for confirming them, while noting the agency “would love to have a diverse board.”

According to Politico, DeJoy “appeared perturbed” at times during Wednesday’s hearing by certain members’ lines of questioning and discussion of the critical media coverage USPS has faced during his tenure. 

He remained defiant, telling lawmakers that he’s not going anywhere and intends to be around “a long time” the outlet reported.

But later that day, the White House signaled it may have other plans for the embattled postmaster. 

“He [Biden] believes the leadership can do better, and we are eager to have the board of governors in place,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said when asked if the president was interested in replacing DeJoy, according to The Hill. 

Lawmakers also questioned DeJoy on his next plan for the agency, which, according to The Post, will include higher prices and slower delivery. He reportedly told committee members a strategic plan for the USPS should be ready by March.

DeJoy acknowledged the USPS experienced major delivery delays during the holiday season, citing problems with the agency’s air transportation network as the cause. 

The agency has reported billions in losses over the last few years, according to Politico, and the postal board chair Ron Bloom told lawmakers Wednesday that the agency is projected to lose around $160 billion over the next decade if reform measures aren’t taken.

“The years of financial stress, underinvestment, unachievable service standards and lack of operational precision have resulted in a system that does not have adequate resiliency to adjust and adapt to changing circumstances,” DeJoy reportedly testified, arguing the agency’s structural problems preceded his arrival.

Most Republicans defended DeJoy during the hearing and accused their Democratic colleagues of vilifying the postmaster general over how the agency handled mail-in ballots leading up to the 2020 election, which led to “tense exchanges” between members at times during the hearing, The Post reported. 

Several of the operational changes made to the USPS last summer under DeJoy were stopped in August, after public outcry over the mounting crisis. The agency’s internal watchdog found in October the changes combined with COVID-19 staffing issues “negatively impacted the quality and timeliness of mail delivery,” according to Politico.

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Workhorse extends 2-day slide to 57% after losing USPS contract to Oshkosh

Workhorse Truck
Workhorse Truck

  • Workhorse stock extended its two-day slide to 57% on Wednesday after losing a coveted USPS contract to Oshkosh Defense.
  • The electric vehicle maker was a front runner for the ten-year, multi-billion dollar USPS contract to modernize the delivery fleet.
  • Oshkosh received $482 million in the first part of the deal and expects to assemble 50,000 to 165,000 vehicles over the contract period.
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Workhorse extended its two-day slide to 57% on Wednesday after losing a coveted US Postal Service contract to Oshkosh Defense.

The company’s stock fell over 50% amid increased volatility after the news on Tuesday, triggering multiple trading halts before the stock recovered slightly, ending the day 47.5% lower.

The USPS awarded Oshkosh Defense the first part of a 10-year, multi-billion dollar contract to modernize the postal delivery fleet. An initial investment of $482 million will help finalize the design of the new vehicles for mail and package delivery, and allow Oshkosh to assemble 50,000-165,000 vehicles over the contract period.

The USPS made the agreement an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract, meaning that after an initial dollar commitment, the Postal Service will be able to order more vehicles throughout the 10-year contract period.

According to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Christopher Ciolino, the total contract could be worth more than $5.7 billion in revenue for Oshkosh.

The USPS had been looking for a partner to help modernize its fleet of postal vehicles since 2015, but when Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) introduced the Federal Leadership in Energy Efficient Transportation Act in 2019 the postal service finally had the backing to narrow in on a deal.

For a time, the electric vehicle maker Workhorse was thought to be a leader in the competition for the lucrative contract. The USPS commissioned five prototype postal service vehicles and Workhorse partnered with truck builder VT Hackney to produce their own.

Analysts at BTIG said they saw Workhorse securing a portion of the USPS contract as a part of their base case scenario and held a “buy” rating on the company, per CNBC.

But now Oshkosh has secured the contract to make both fuel-efficient internal combustion engines and some battery-electric powertrains for USPS, leaving the pre-revenue EV startup Workhorse in a difficult spot.

In October of last year, short-seller Fuzzy Panda Research alleged that Workhorse destroyed its chances of landing the USPS contract.

According to the short-seller, there were numerous failures including suspension issues, motor outages, and even a parking brake malfunction that led to a postal worker injury.

Workhorse stock was down 9.14% as of 8:44 a.m. ET on Wednesday.

Workhorse chart
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