The U.S. Postal Service's program to covertly spy on Americans' social media posts should be brought out into an open hearing, Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C. tells Newsmax TV.
Mace was part of a recent closed-door hearing on the Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP), and told "Spicer & Co." hosts Sean Spicer and Lindsay Keith on Tuesday, the representatives from the Postal Service showed up "wildly unprepared" with answers that went all over the place.
Mace said, when she asked what legal authority the post office has to carry out such operations, "they couldn't come up with an answer," she said. When first asked, they denied the program even existed, then gave conflicting dates about when it started, Mace said.
"It was deeply troubling," Mace said, adding she hopes for a public hearing because "if you're going to be spying on the American people, then they have a right to the answers to their questions."
The program first came to public light in an April 21 Yahoo News story. Mace said the news media is where she first learned of the program herself.
According to Yahoo, iCOP focuses on social media posts of mostly right wing groups who were planning protests March 20. Civil liberties experts who spoke to Yahoo questioned why the postal service would be involved in investigating activity that did not appear to involve mail delivery when there are other agencies such as the FBI and Homeland Security to handle such matters.
They also questioned whether peaceful protesters might be monitored in the operation, which would be a constitutional violation no matter what agency were involved.
Those were the same questions Mace said she had, and she was particularly troubled only right-leaning groups were targeted, calling up memories of the IRS investigations under Lois Lerner.
"I was telling my kids about this," Mace said. "I'm a single mom. I've got to middle schoolers, and they're like, 'oh, my gosh, that's terrible; that's illegal; that's literally stalking.'"
The Postal Service declined to respond to Yahoo for its story except to give a general statement of its investigatory powers. It reads in part:
"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."
"Additionally, the Inspection Service collaborates with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to proactively identify and assess potential threats to the Postal Service, its employees and customers, and its overall mail processing and transportation network. In order to preserve operational effectiveness, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service does not discuss its protocols, investigative methods, or tools."
The Post Office, beset with issues of late mail deliveries, should stick to its primary mission, Mace said.
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