Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz has introduced a bill to shut down the Internet Covert Operations Program, a domestic surveillance operation run by the law enforcement arm of the U.S. Postal Service. Now formally called the Analytics Team, the operation’s agents “proactively gather intelligence using cryptocurrency analysis, open-source intelligence, and social media analysis,” according to a 2022 audit report from the USPS’s Office of the Inspector General. The program came to light when a report detailing its existence was published by Yahoo News in April 2021. Yahoo noted at the time that a March 16, 2021, government bulletin, marked as “law enforcement sensitive,” said the program was working to monitor “right-leaning” internet sites for possible domestic terrorism. “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,” the bulletin said, according to Yahoo. “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,” it said. According to the report, the bulletin noted that despite the appearance of supposed “threats” on the sites the program monitored, “No intelligence is available to suggest the legitimacy of these threats.” It added that “iCOP analysts are currently monitoring these social media channels for any potential threats stemming from the scheduled protests and will disseminate intelligence updates as needed.” In 2022, The Epoch Times reported that the U.S. Postal Inspection Service had sophisticated hacking tools at its disposal that could even breach iPhones and that had been used “hundreds of times over the past several years.” The service defended its use of these spy tools, saying, “Only a limited of number of individuals have access to these tools and they are used in accordance with legal requirements. A search warrant, court order, or other constitutionally permissible situation must exist prior to any digital evidence examination of cell phones.” The OIG report last year on the program’s audit — performed following pressure from members of Congress — said, “We determined that certain proactive searches iCOP conducted using an open-source intelligence tool from February to April 2021 exceeded the Postal Inspection Service’s law enforcement authority.” “Furthermore, we could not corroborate whether other work analysts completed from October 2018 through June 2021 was legally authorized,” the report said. Gaetz’s office announced in a news release Tuesday that he was introducing the USPIS Surveillance Protection Act to combat such abuses. Since the audit, the release said, “there has been no indication that USPIS has shut down iCOP, likely meaning that this surveillance program is still violating Americans’ privacy and seeking to curb their First Amendment rights.” “Rep. Gaetz’s legislation would prohibit any federal funds, including amounts available in the Postal Service Fund, from being used by USPIS to carry out iCOP, or any other similar program,” the release said. “The Postal Service should be focused on delivering the mail on time and on budget, not running a covert surveillance program to monitor political behavior on social media,” Gaetz said in a statement. “This program is not only outside USPIS’ jurisdiction and infringes on American citizens’ civil liberties but is more evidence of the government-sanctioned spying on its own citizens. Congress must immediately abolish this program,” he said. USPS operations have been called into question by numerous groups. The Electronic Information Privacy Center, for instance, scolded the Postal Inspection Service for the programs. “The Postal Inspection Service has a well-defined mission in protecting the mail, but the agency has often overstepped its bounds,” the group said in a January 2022 statement. “The Postal Inspection Service now claims a ‘wide jurisdiction’ to preserve the ‘safety, security, and integrity of the nation’s mail system from criminal misuse.'” In 2021, The Hill reported that Gaetz said in a statement that the USPS “shouldn’t have a covert surveillance program to monitor social media political behavior, protected by our cherished Constitution.” “As the dangers of government surveillance and targeting become ever the more clear, especially to conservatives, Congress must immediately abolish this program,” the congressman said at the time. This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.