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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Florida Gov. DeSantis signs ‘anti-riot’ bill that grants civil immunity to drivers who hit protestors and protects police budgets from being cut

ron desantis florida vaccine 60 minutes
Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed an anti-riot bill into law on Monday morning that protects police budgets from being cut and stiffens penalties against those arrested during a “riot.”

The new law also prevents “rioters” from being bailed out of jail before their first court appearance and grants immunity from civil legal action for people who drive through protesters blocking a road.

This is a developing story. Please check back for more updates.

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Robinhood protesters threw dog feces and vandalized statue at the company’s headquarters over GameStop fiasco

GettyImages 1299843912 MENLO PARK, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 01: A sign reading "Robbinghood Fraud" hangs on a pole in front of the headquarters for trading app Robinhood on February 01, 2021 in Menlo Park, California. Robinhood announced on Monday that it has raised $3.4 billion amid a trading frenzy in the past week. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A sign hung by protesters at Robinhood’s Menlo Park, California, headquarters on February 1, 2021.

A handful of protesters outraged at trading app Robinhood have shown up in recent weeks at its headquarters in Menlo Park, California, to voice frustrations over the company’s decision to limit trading of certain stocks.

Some of those protesters, however, used more than their words.

Robinhood’s security staff said in calls to the Menlo Park Police Department that one protester threw dog feces at the building, one hurled his T-shirt at a guard, and another sawed through a statue on the property, an MPPD spokesperson told Insider.

The feces thrower fled before he could be identified, while the t-shirt hurler was cited for assault and released – both incidents occured on January 28, the spokesperson said, adding that later that night, Robinhood security staff called police again to report two trespassers, who left after warnings from MPPD officers.

Robinhood declined to comment.

Those incidents, reported earlier by CNBC and confirmed by Insider, were followed by a roughly 15-person demonstration on January 29 that did not result in any police response, according to MPPD.

On January 31, another protester vandalized a statue, apparently using an electric saw, and on February 2, a 20- or 30-year-old man showed up and yelled at security staff but left before officers arrived, the MPPD spokesperson said.

Protesters also wrote “VLAD SUCKS” – referring to Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev – in chalk on the sidewalk in front of Robinhood’s offices, according to images captured by Getty photographer Justin Sullivan on February 1.

GettyImages 1299843894 MENLO PARK, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 01: A chalk drawing referencing Vladimir Tenev, the co-founder of trading app Robinhood, is visible on the sidewalk in front of the company's headquarters on February 01, 2021 in Menlo Park, California. Robinhood announced on Monday that it has raised $3.4 billion amid a trading frenzy in the past week. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A chalk drawing referencing Vlad Tenev, Robinhood CEO and co-founder, in front of the company’s offices in Menlo Park, California, on February 1, 2021.

Robinhood and other trading apps sparked the anger of customers last month after they restricted them from trading GameStop, AMC Entertainment, Nokia, and other stocks amid a short-squeeze fueled by Reddit day traders – many of whom use Robinhood to make those trades.

Customers complained the trading apps had locked them out of massive potential gains by preventing them from buying stocks or options as share values climbed – while hedge funds and other large investors were free to keep trading. They also argued that Robinhood’s business model, which depends heavily on a controversial practice known as “payment for order flow,” presents a conflict of interest that may have led Robinhood to limit trading to protect the large firms that pay it to execute users’ trades.

Read more: Robinhood makes hundreds of millions from selling customer orders. That business model is about to come into focus.

Robinhood and Tenev have defended the restrictions, saying it was necessary to curb trading volumes in order to meet regulatory requirements.

Still, the moves prompted backlash in the form of class-action lawsuits and Congressional hearings. At the same time, federal regulators and prosecutors are investigating whether the army of Reddit traders engaged in market manipulation.

Read more: Robinhood has been beefing up its legal firepower with these 15 lawyers as suits pile up

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The Pentagon blocked the DC National Guard from receiving riot gear or interacting with protesters without explicit approval from Trump’s defense secretary

GettyImages 1295091200 WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 07:  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
DC National Guard guardsmen stand outside the U.S. Capitol on January 07, 2021 in Washington, DC. Supporters of President Trump had stormed and desecrated the building the day before as Congress debated the a 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification.

  • The Pentagon placed major restrictions on the DC National Guard leading up to Wednesday’s attempted insurrection, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
  • Officials curtailed the ability of DC guardsmen to deploy troops, receive ammo and riot gear, engage with protesters, share equipment with local police, and use surveillance without explicit approval from Trump’s acting Defense Secretary, Christopher Miller, according to the Post.
  • Guardsmen didn’t arrive to support US Capitol Police — who were ill-prepared and quickly overrun — until more than two hours after the USCP chief called for them, according to the Post.
  • The muted approach was allegedly meant to avoid backlash that followed an aggressive response to BLM protests last summer, but the response has drawn sharp criticism from Democratic lawmakers, activists, and even some law enforcement experts for being insufficient.
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In the days before Trump supporters’ attempted insurrection, the Department of Defense placed major limitations on the tactics, equipment, and resources the DC National Guard could make use of in dealing with protesters, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

Pentagon officials sent memos on January 4 and January 5 banning DC guardsmen from receiving ammo and riot gear, engaging with protesters (except for self-defense), sharing equipment with local police, or using surveillance or air assets without explicit approval from Trump’s acting Defense Secretary, Christopher Miller, according to the Post.

The additional bureaucratic hurdle delayed the DC Guard’s response after US Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund asked on Wednesday for 200 guardsmen to provide backup – with guardsmen not arriving until 2.5 hours later – according to the Post.

Five fatalities, including one law enforcement officer, have been confirmed so far in connection with Wednesday’s violence.

USCP, who had only planned for peaceful protests – despite numerous warning indicators suggesting protesters may turn violent – were massively vastly outnumbered by the rioters and were quickly overrun.

It’s not clear how many officers were on-duty Wednesday, but USCP has a total of 2,300 officer and civilian employees who patrol 16 acres of land and protect 535 members of Congress and their staff.  By comparison, Minneapolis has around 840 uniformed officers who police 425,000 residents spread across a 6,000-acre area, according to the Associated Press.

DC Guards were not initially deployed to the US Capitol in large numbers, in part because city and Pentagon officials wanted to avoid the backlash that followed Trump’s aggressive use of federal law enforcement to attack peaceful protesters following the death of George Floyd, according to the Post.

USCP itself rejected multiple offers for help from federal law enforcement ahead of Wednesday’s events, and according to the Post, Mayor Muriel Bowser had only requested 340 guardsmen, mostly to monitor traffic and public transit.

But DC guard troops answer to state governors, and since DC is not a state, Bowser had to request additional support on Wednesday from the Pentagon, which answers to Trump – a task that proved to be difficult and slow-moving.

Bowser and her staff, as well as lawmakers trapped in the Capitol, called on the governors of neighboring Maryland and Virginia, who themselves were initially ignored by the Pentagon when they asked military leaders to deploy additional guardsmen.

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, who effectively commands the DC Guard, said at a press conference Thursday that 6,200 guardsmen would be deployed by the weekend and that a “non-scalable” 7-foot fence would be set up around the Capitol. He added that military officials had planned for Wednesday assuming it would be like other recent protests and that not in their “wildest imagination” did they expect rioters to breach the Capitol.

But decisions by law enforcement – USCP as well as local and federal agencies – not to prepare for riots have drawn sharp criticism. Former DC Metropolitan Police Chief Charles Ramsey slammed the police response, telling CNN that “they need to be locking them up without question,” with regards to rioters inside the Capitol.

USCP “were not prepared for today,” Democrat Rep. Val Demings told the Baltimore Sun, adding: “I certainly thought that we would have had a stronger show of force.”

Activists also pointed to the disparity between law enforcement’s relatively passive response to violent protesters Wednesday and the mass arrests and aggression used against largely peaceful anti-racism protests.

Sund, the USCP chief, and another high-ranking Capitol security officer have already announced their plans to resign, and more are expected to go.

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DC police chief says 3 people died of medical complications as pro-Trump rioters violently stormed the US Capitol

Trump supporters face off with police and security forces in front of the US Capitol in Washington DC on January 6, 2021. - Donald Trump's supporters stormed a session of Congress held today, January 6, to certify Joe Biden's election win, triggering unprecedented chaos and violence at the heart of American democracy and accusations the president was attempting a coup. (Photo by Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)
Trump supporters face off with police and security forces in front of the US Capitol in Washington DC on January 6, 2021. – Donald Trump’s supporters stormed a session of Congress held today, January 6, to certify Joe Biden’s election win, triggering unprecedented chaos and violence at the heart of American democracy and accusations the president was attempting a coup.

  • DC Police Chief Robert Contee III said during a press conference late Wednesday evening that three people died earlier in the day due to medical conditions amid rioters’ violent takeover of the US Capitol building.
  • One adult female and two adult males were reported dead on or around the Capitol grounds in separate “medical emergencies,” Contee said.
  • Contee also said that 14 Metropolitan Police Department officers sustained injuries during the day’s events, including two hospitalizations.
  • Law enforcement officers were overwhelmed by violent protesters who had been incited by Trump at a rally earlier in the day, prompting questions around their handling of the events.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Three people died as the result of medical emergencies during violent protests at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert Contee III said during a press conference late Wednesday evening.

“One adult female and two adult males appear to have suffered from separate medical emergencies” on or around Capitol grounds, Contee said, “which resulted in their deaths.”

“Any loss of life in the District [of Columbia] is tragic, and our thoughts are with anyone impacted by their loss,” he said.

The deaths came in addition to a woman who was fatally shot by a US Capitol Police officer as armed and violent rioters stormed the Capitol building, breaching police lines and assaulting officers.

Contee said at least 14 MPD officers sustained injuries as a result, adding that two were hospitalized: one who suffered “serious injuries after he was pulled into a crowd and assaulted” and another who “received significant facial injuries after being struck by a projectile.”

MPD also recovered various explosives and weapons throughout the day, including one unexploded pipe bomb left at the Democratic National Committee headquarters, another left at the Republican National Committee headquarters, and a long gun and Molotov cocktails from a vehicle on Capitol grounds.

But law enforcement has already come under fire for their handling of the rioters, who managed to seize the Capitol and force lawmakers to evacuate with relative ease.

In a video posted to TikTok, police even appeared to open the gates and allow rioters in, while a video posted to Twitter appeared to show an officer taking a selfie with one. Law enforcement experts told The Washington Post they were “mystified” by the tactics used by police once protesters had breached the Capitol.

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said she was not aware of the incident where police allegedly opened gates for protesters.

The events have drawn sharp criticism from civil rights advocates, who pointed out the disparities in low arrest rates and less aggressive tactics used against violent protesters on Wednesday compared to high arrest rates and violence deployed against other, peaceful protests in Washington.

MPD made just 52 arrests on Wednesday, 26 of which were made on Capitol grounds, according to Contee, despite Bowser enacting a 6:00 p.m ET curfew.

The security issues puzzled experts in online misinformation as well, who noted that Trump supporters had for months been expressing their intentions to illegally arm themselves and commit violence at Trump’s January 6 rally, according to a report from BuzzFeed News.

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Video shows pro-Trump mob charging at news crews and destroying equipment outside US Capitol building

capitol seige GettyImages 1230455307 TOPSHOT - Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as they storm the US Capitol in Washington D.C on January 6, 2021. - Demonstrators breeched security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the a 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification. (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP) (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty Images)
Law enforcement in Washington, DC, deployed tear gas against rioters who eventually stormed the US Capitol building.

  • A mob of Pro-Trump protesters charged and yelled threats at at news media crews outside the US capitol building on Wednesday, forcing them to flee the area.
  • The protesters also swung a flagpole at the crews and and destroyed their camera equipment.
  • Some of the protesters who had gathered in Washington, DC, to protest the presidential election results violently stormed the Capitol building earlier on Wednesday, forcing lawmakers to evacuate.
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As protesters in Washington, DC, on Wednesday became violent, a mob of pro-Trump protesters charged at news media crews reporting on the events outside the US Capitol building, according to multiple videos posted to Twitter.

The videos depicted protesters toppling metal fences that the journalists had been positioned behind, with one swinging a flag pole at a camera crew, yelling comments like “f— the mainstream media,” “get out of here,” and calling the media “traitors.”

As protesters converged, the media crews could be seen fleeing the area.

A handful of protesters then proceeded to destroy the camera equipment that had been left behind, as the crowd cheered and several people urged them to take “souvenirs.”

 

Trump has consistently criticized the news media, often referring to journalists as “the enemy of the people,” a term popularized by Joseph Stalin to describe those who opposed views pushed by his government, and has at times glorified violence against members of the press.

Thousands of Trump supporters had gathered in Washington earlier on Wednesday to attend a “March for Trump” rally to protest the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential race. Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress were in the process of mounting a challenge to Congress’ efforts to formally certify the Electoral College votes. 

Following the president’s speech, a large mob then stormed the US Capitol building, forcing the House and Senate to abruptly go into recess and lawmakers, Hill staffers, and reporters to shelter in their offices before being evacuated.

An armed standoff between rioters and police ensued, with multiple law enforcement officers injured and a woman being fatally shot.

In response to the violence, Washington, DC, mayor Muriel Bowser ordered a 6 p.m. curfew in the District of Columbia. The D.C. National Guard and Virginia National Guard have been deployed to the scene.

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