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The secret unit of the postal service polled on January 6 on social networks

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The documents also highlight potential shortcomings in the January 6 select committee investigation by revealing concerns about a company it is not known to be reviewing. And these documents point to a new challenge for law enforcement after January. era 6: how to follow the extremist organization on a multitude of discrete platforms.

Two other unpublished government documents reviewed by POLITICO – one of which was reported by ABC News – reveal more about the increasingly complex work of tracking down extremism and the concerns these efforts raise among civil liberties advocates . Property of the People, a national security watchdog group, obtained the documents through open case requests as part of its investigation into the January 6 attack. The group also obtained records showing that hundreds of law enforcement officers had planned ahead in case January 6 became a mass-casualty event and that an FBI bomb analyst had warned his colleagues that #StopTheSteal could turn violent.

The two iCOP bulletins are dated January 11. They have circulated in law enforcement circles, including to intelligence-sharing centers called fusion centers that link federal agencies with their state and local partners. One of the reports highlights tweets from two users on Jan.6.

One of the tweets, from Czech company Intelligence X, announced the creation of a system for people to share photos and videos of the attack on the Capitol. Another tweet, from an account called “@donk_enby”, says it includes a link to every Speak post made during the riot.

Access to these Talking messages was a goal for law enforcement, as the January 6 attackers had lengthy discussions on the platform ahead of the attack on violence that day. But – as the iCOP newsletter noted – large tech companies stopped providing services to Parler following the attack due to violent content. As a result, the social network went offline.

The iCOP newsletter implied that the disappearance of all these messages could create an obstacle to law enforcement efforts to prevent further violence – and that the archives created by “@donk_enby” could be a useful resource.

“Although Parler is currently inactive and inaccessible, efforts by ‘@donk_enby’, Intelligence X, and public data contributions can help law enforcement analyze and identify parties involved in the U.S. Capitol protests.” , indicates the bulletin. “Archived information can help mitigate potentially future violent protests. ”

Peter Kleissner, CEO of Intelligence X, said he was unaware the Postal Service released information about its archives.

“Our intention behind the archives is to make sure that these important images and videos from this event are not lost and that the evidence is preserved,” he wrote. “These records are not only important for short-term use to hold rioters accountable, but also for the long term for future generations.”

The second iCOP bulletin is entitled “National Coordination of Militias and Threat for Nancy Pelosi”. It was hosted on a website called givemebass.com and stated that a post “directly associated with the founder of the site [sic]», Threatened the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. The bulletin included an image saying “ASK FOR PELOSI TO EXECUTE, SHE HAS TRYED TO COME BETWEEN OUR POTUS NUCLEAR CODES [sic]. ”

The Postal Service bulletin raised concerns that someone was using givemebass.com to coordinate national militias.

“Wimkin ‘Vik Freeman’ account promoted the ‘Givemebass’ website[.]com ‘as a communication and coordination portal that was posted on several militia pages on Wimkin, ”the newsletter read.

The bulletin added that iCOP analysts “are actively monitoring the website and the Wimkin account” for new messages. It included information about who he said had registered givemebass.com and when, as well as details of its reach on other Wimkin pages. Wimkin bills itself as “the world’s only free speech social media platform,” but its terms of service state that posts on the platform may not contain “nudity, pornographic material. , including cartoons, and may not be threatening or harassing in any way. “

Chip Gibbons, director of policy at Defending Rights & Dissent, said the document highlights the growing overlap between intelligence gathering and law enforcement work – especially since the link between the Jan.6 attacks and the postal service appears to be tenuous at best.

“Law enforcement and intelligence apparatuses raise serious constitutional questions, serious questions for our democracy,” he said. “It’s outside their jurisdiction as I understand it.”

“The FBI has jurisdiction over domestic terrorism, while the Post – I don’t even know how they’re involved in this,” he added.

A spokesperson for the US Postal Inspection Service said the agency is reviewing social media posts as part of a “comprehensive security and threat analysis.”

“Social media reporting and listening activity helps protect the 644,000 men and women who work for the Postal Service by ensuring they are able to avoid potentially volatile situations while working to deal with and deliver the country’s mail every day, ”the spokesperson said.

The USPS ‘covert ops program gained attention in April when Yahoo! reported a newsletter he sent out in March on anti-lockdown and anti-5G protests. The newsletter, which cited social media posts, raised concerns on Capitol Hill. Members of the House Oversight Committee asked the Postal Service Inspector General to investigate the program and see if any analysts had engaged in illegal surveillance because Yahoo! also reported.

These new materials, along with two other documents, highlight the growing complexity of this work. A March 29 report from the Department of Homeland Security’s Intelligence and Analysis Office said violent militia extremists “actively disguise their outreach on online social media” to promote violence, find other extremists violent and share tactics.

In 2020, EVDs used or expressed interest in using a variety of more secure and often encrypted messaging applications – including Zello, Telegram, Signal and Threema – to discuss operational activity, according to the FBI and the open source reports, “the DHS report reads. .

The report also states that social media companies are focusing on “overt threats of violence” when removing content. He added that if US government officials worked with the private sector to develop “operational planning and recruiting” indicators, it would help those companies understand how extremist militias circumvented their terms of service. The report also says such a commitment could help U.S. officials detect and disrupt the efforts of extremists.

The DHS report also refers to FBI reports on messages militia extremists posted on social media in the months leading up to the Jan.6 attack. He specifically notes the FBI reports on the publications that were released in July, August and October 2020. After the January 6 attack, FBI Director Chris Wray answered several questions during Congressional hearings on the issue. monitoring of social media by the FBI, as detailed in Lawfare. He and others have reported that the FBI’s internal rules on monitoring social media contributed to their inability to predict violence.

“We’re not allowed to… just sit and watch social media and watch someone’s posts… just in case,” he said in a hearing.

But the DHS report says the FBI collected information that extremist militias released in the months leading up to the Jan.6 attack. This is notable since militia extremists were among those who attacked the Capitol. The DHS report does not say whether the FBI collected these social media posts dating several months before or after January 6, and it does not say how the posts came to the attention of the FBI.

Mike German, a member of the Brennan Center for Justice and former FBI agent specializing in domestic terrorism, said he believes the FBI’s counterterrorism efforts are placing too much emphasis on social media.

“A lot of people online are saying things that are really scary, and if law enforcement is using their resources to focus on that, that could explain why so much of this violence that is happening on the streets is not happening. This is not being monitored because they are spending their resources looking for bad words online, ”he said.

German said he believes the FBI should focus its resources more on investigating violent crimes committed by far-right extremists, rather than trying to predict which ones will turn violent based on their social media posts. .

And these social media posts are still plentiful, despite the efforts of the largest mainstream social media companies to purge extremist content. According to a Jan.15 report from the Central Florida Intelligence Exchange, a clearinghouse, domestic extremists migrated to alternative platforms after Jan.6.

“In an effort to avoid censorship and maintain their online presence, DVEs of diverse ideologies have started to migrate to existing alternative platforms such as MeWe, Telegram, Gab, Clouthub, Minds and TikTok,” the report reads. Florida report. “Popular message boards such as 4chan and 8kun have also seen an increase in the number of users.”

The same report states that people linked to the Boogaloo movement – a loosely organized movement of anti-government extremists who believe a civil war is at hand – “have started migrating to alternative platforms, and can currently be found on Telegram, MeWe, Minds and TikTok. This migration came after social media networks began removing content from Boogaloo following the arrest of several people linked to the movement. The report noted that the number of Boogaloo hashtags and accounts on Twitter was increasing. and that Boogaloo-related accounts were still active on TikTok, although “more difficult to locate due to their shadow ban.”

The report added details on shadowbanning: “When a channel is shadowbanned, content is blocked and a name and / or hashtag search will not return any results,” it read. “Shadowbanning has no effect on channel subscribers. Additionally, new users can still locate and join these channels by clicking on hashtags shared by other TikTok users that they have subscribed to.

A spokesperson for TikTok said the platform deletes Boogaloo accounts when it identifies them.


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