Republicans are demanding answers on Thursday after it was reported that the Postal Service’s elite police unit combs through Americans’ social media accounts for alarming posts.
In a letter to Postmaster Louis DeJoy, more than 30 House Republicans questioned why the Postal Inspection Unit was tracking and collecting social media posts, which they characterized as a potential "encroachment" upon Americans’ private lives.
"The type of amorphous, broad mandate under which iCOP is allegedly operating is particularly troubling because it is unclear why the USPS, of all government agencies and the only one devoted to the delivery of Americans’ mail, is taking on the role of intelligence collection," the letter read. "The type of general review of social media alleged in the reporting does not indicate that the posts reviewed by iCOP are related to the protection and security of USPS, its postal routes, its employees, or the mail generally."
A spokesperson for the United States Postal Inspection Service did not return FOX Business’ request for comment about Republicans’ concerns.
As previously reported by FOX Business, the United States Postal Inspection Service is an "elite police force" that "enforces over 200 federal statutes related to crimes that involve the postal system, its employees, and its customers," according to the group’s website.
Yahoo News first reported that the group is carrying out a program known as iCOP (Internet Covert Operations Program), after it reviewed what is alleged to be a bulletin compiled by analysts.
USPS analysts working for iCOP are said to scroll through social media accounts on the lookout for "inflammatory" posts, which are then transmitted across other government agencies.
A spokesperson for the agency confirmed in a statement to FOX Business on Wednesday that the group reviews "publicly available information" as it searches out threats to its personnel, customers and network.
"The U.S. Postal Inspection Service occasionally reviews publicly available information in order to assess potential safety or security threats to Postal Service employees, facilities, operations and infrastructure," the spokesperson said.
In their letter on Thursday, lawmakers wondered why the Postal Service would be called upon to carry out what appear to be intelligence tasks, when "the United States is not lacking in intelligence agencies."
Among the items listed on the Postal Inspection Service’s website under its "scope" are illegal narcotics, mail theft, identity theft, mail fraud, suspicious mail, disaster response, money laundering, cybercrime and child exploitation.