(April 22) Now, this is a situation to go postal about.

The U.S. Postal Service, according to Yahoo News, “has been quietly running a program that tracks and collects Americans’ social media posts, including those about planned protests.”

The response to this doesn’t require a deep dive. The post office has no business monitoring social media posts. None whatsoever. Not even close. The job of the post office is to deliver letters, not to do domestic intelligence.

Yet, according to Yahoo, “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.”

This is outrageous. This is unacceptable. This is a time when a cliche actually fits: This is Orwell’s Big Brother come to life. This is government tracking without probable cause and without any reasonable law-enforcement role, not just anonymous data points but individual utterances.

Liberals and conservatives alike are perplexed and worried about the post office’s domestic spying. Liberal University of Chicago Law professor and Obama appointee Geoffrey Stone said so. So did Rachel Levinson-Waldman of the liberal Brennan Center for Justice. And conservatives, especially Trump fans, are obviously concerned because the Postal Service’s tracking in March seemed to focus on them.

The Postal Service put out a statement saying, in part, this: “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.”

But this doesn’t justify the program. “It’s not at all clear why their mandate would include monitoring of social media that’s unrelated to use of the postal system,” Levinson-Waldman told Yahoo.

Of course, public statements are public. But the bulk aggregation of posts, targeted at specific groups, and dissemination throughout the government by a branch of the government not charged with such a function, well, it has the makings of a civil liberties nightmare….

[The full column is here.]


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