Track This Post: U.S. Postmaster DeJoy Must Be Fired and Hajjar Hired

[NB: Check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

No. Hell no.

The U.S. Postal Service has been covertly monitoring Americans’ social media. The surveillance program was first reported last month; this is some seriously ugly stuff.

Now we learn the USPS has been using Clearview AI for facial recognition, Zignal Labs for keyword searches, and Nfusion software to create untraceable covert accounts.

Why has the USPS been using anything other than intelligence from the Department of Justice for monitoring events which may pose risks to normal mail delivery?

Why were these resources used to monitor First Amendment-protected protest rallies like those in the wake of George Floyd’s death last year?

While this was running under Louis DeJoy’s tenure at the U.S. Postal Service, it began under the previous postmaster Margaret Brennan’s term. Did Brennan know the scope of this surveillance program when it began? Did the scope change over time with or without her awareness?

Did the USPS Board of Governors know about this program and its spying on American’s social media?

Surprisingly, there are GOP members of Congress who are unhappy with USPS’ spying on Americans — Matt Gaetz and Louis Gohmert have both expressed concern. One might wonder why.

Of course these GOP members tipped their hand and submitted a bill to defund the USPS which gives away GOP’s desire to kill the USPS as a government service which private sector businesses could carve up, ditching unprofitable parts along with the USPS’ obligation to protect privacy of mail contents.

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All of which brings us to another ongoing problem: the U.S. Postal Service’s Board of Governors still doesn’t include all of Joe Biden’s nominees. At least one of three nominees remains unapproved, obstructing Biden administration’s ability to deal with the lousy mail service under DeJoy’s leadership and the covert domestic spying program. There’s ample reason for both parties to light a fire under the confirmation process based on the history of the USPS under DeJoy’s highly-questionable leadership:

16-JUN-2020 — Louis DeJoy assumed office as U.S. Postmaster; he joins a Board of Governors which are all Trump appointees, white and all male.

10-JUL-2020 — A USPS internal memo restricted overtime and ordered postal personnel to return to their post office on time, thereby reducing priority on timely delivery of mail.

07-AUG-2020 — DeJoy overhauled USPS’ upper management; 23 senior USPS officials were reassigned or displaced.

24-AUG-2020 — Before the House Oversight Committee, DeJoy said, “I did not direct the elimination or any cutback in overtime.”

SEP-NOV-2020 — Several lawsuits were filed due to USPS’ handling of mail related to the election including ballots and dissemination of false information by the USPS about voting by mail in Colorado.

02-NOV-2021 — On the eve of the election, first-class mail on-time delivery rate had dropped to 80% after DeJoy’s changes from over 90% before DeJoy became postmaster.

21-FEB-2021 — By way of a FOIA lawsuit, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington obtained documents which showed DeJoy lied to Congress about cutting overtime.

23-FEB-2021 — USPS awards Oshkosh Defense a contract worth approximately $6 billion for a next-generation fleet of 165,000 delivery vehicles which are “equipped with either fuel-efficient internal combustion engines or battery electric powertrains and can be retrofitted to keep pace with advances in electric vehicle technologies.”

24-FEB-2021 — Hearing before House Oversight Committee in which DeJoy testifies about mail slowdown.

24-FEB-2021 — Biden announced three nominees for open seats on the USPS Board of Governors.

11-MAR-2021 — House members submitted a bill to halt the contract with Oshkosh Defense as the contract may violate Biden’s executive order dd. January 27 requiring all federal fleet vehicles purchased thereafter to be “clean and zero-emission.”

22-APR-2021Confirmation hearing before Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for all three Biden nominees.

12-MAY-2021Ronald Stroman (Democrat) confirmed by the Senate; his term will expire December 8, 2028.

13-MAY-2021Amber Faye McReynolds (Independent) confirmed by Senate for term ending December 8, 2026.

19-MAY-2021Anton Hajjar (Democrat) remains unconfirmed.

Finish this job, Senators. Constituents on both sides of the aisle need better, more reliable postal service; they also don’t need a postmaster who is so egregiously disrespectful of his role as a public employee, nor another covert surveillance program outside the scope of USPS’ mission relying on iffy platforms like Clearview AI.

The public also needs more diverse representation within their federal government; Hajjar’s confirmation would realize two men of color on the Board of Governors, both appointed by Biden along with McReynolds.

But it doesn’t stop with Hajjar’s confirmation. Governors Ron A. Bloom and Donald L. Moak, both identified as Democrats, both appointed under the Trump administration, may need to be replaced. They failed to object forcefully enough to the use of a covert surveillance system on Americans’ protected First Amendment speech. Can the country depend on them to do the right thing to work with the other Democratic and Independent appointees to remove DeJoy after they’ve failed the public?

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A few last thoughts: Since the USPS was surveilling the American public, did it also fail to advise Capitol Police and the Department of Justice there was a growing threat leading up to the January 6 insurrection?

Did someone use the USPS system to see what the other intelligence agencies saw ahead of the insurrection?

Did the USPS collect documentation about what it saw brewing?

Sure hope somebody asks behind closed doors on Capitol Hill.

32 replies
  1. Rayne says:

    I didn’t even mention DeJoy’s other ethical problems from conflicts of interest to his FEC regulation violations using straw donors.

    This guy’s a snake and he needs to go before he gets any more ideas about using the USPS for his personal and political benefit.

    ADDER: What the senator said.

    • P J Evans says:

      I also suspect DeJoy has no clue how many people feel connected to the USPS, one way or another. A lot of people have worked for them over the last 230 years.

    • Rayne says:

      Biden can’t ask him to resign. His job can only be terminated by the Board of Governors which is why Hajjar needs to be confirmed ASAP.

      If USPS wasn’t half-fish-half-fowl entity which isn’t fully private or public, was instead fully public, then Biden could fire him. I think that’s the next thing we push for — the return of the USPS as a public service not obligated to turn a profit just as the military doesn’t have to turn a profit. And then we push for post office banking so that low income Americans can obtain inexpensive banking services like check cashing which for-profit private sector banks resist providing without steep fees.

      • Raven Eye says:

        Regarding check cashing — we could expect huge push-back and lobbying from the check cashing and payday loan organizations. They keep a close eye on Congress and try to keep a goodly number of Congress Critters in their pockets. Check cashing and maybe limited debit card services would be a lifesaver for a lot of folks.

        And people like DeJoy have no idea how much USPS is part of the fabric of small and rural communities. When I moved here I said “Hi” to my letter carrier (contract) as soon as I could, and even had a moment discussing the merits of Subaru vs Jeep RHD cars.

        • Rayne says:

          I guess check cashing and payday loan companies should be added to my list of targets. Oddly enough, payday loan companies are outlawed in Georgia. Hmm. Why isn’t that the case in every state?

        • P J Evans says:

          The town west of where my parents lived in west Texas has a post office, but no delivery service (population is a couple of thousand). So the post office is also something of a social center (they got the town’s weekly newspaper by mail). And yeah, we knew the mail carrier by name: Lloyd Louthan. He’s been retired for years, but he drove a RH-drive Volvo wagon, so he could reach the mailboxes easily.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          DeJoy and his neoliberal peers Do understand that the USPS is as fundamental to American towns and villages as it is to their participation in American governance. They want to destroy both, by atomizing them, as much as they want the USPS’s real estate and to destroy it as a real or potential competitor to delivery services and banks.

          Bereft of community, average Americans will be less able to engage in democratic governance or defend themselves from corporate excess. As DeJoy’s USPS board support illustrates, like Trump, DeJoy is not an outlier or exaggeration – he is the quintessential Republican and neoliberal.

  2. observiter says:

    I’m totally confused. What in the world is the USPS doing with Clearview AI, and the other stuff? Covert surveillance??!! I’ve wanted that DeJoy gone the moment I heard about him. I’m afraid to send anything important, such as a check, these days via the USPS. Thanks for the update, Rayne. Oh, the head of the IRS is another one who needs to go immediately (and have his personal taxes audited, in perpetuity).

    • Leoghann says:

      I live in one of those little, rural towns that PJ Evans describes above, and depend on the mail quite a bit, as some of my work involves blueprints and other hard copies. I also use a mail order pharmacy. It behooves me to keep track of mail I’m expecting, since, with no home delivery, packages and important mail are not going to just arrive on my doorstep or in a box at the end of my driveway. I can attest that the USPS is still very reliable, insofar as they don’t lose things. But since DeJoy took over, delivery has really s l o w e d down. Items that took four days to reach me 18 months ago can take up to two weeks now. Another infuriating thing is that it’s become so inconsistent–one prescription refill took 13 days, the next, only 3.

  3. Leoghann says:

    This article from today’s Washington Post (link below) begins with an informative video. In it, the point is made that the chair of the USPS Board of Governors, Ron Bloom, one of Trump’s appointees who is nominally a Democrat, is a strong supporter of DeJoy. If that is the case, and he’s allowed to continue in his position, even after Hajjar is confirmed, there are only four dependable votes for DeJoy’s removal. I have no idea where Trump and his lackeys found the Democrats who he appointed to the board, but it’s not lost on me that the major factor involved in the appointment of anyone to any position during the 45th Administration was loyalty to the orange despot.

    • Rayne says:

      That’s exactly why I mentioned governors Bloom and Moak in my post — both Trump appointees though nominally Democrats, who didn’t object to this abuse of Americans’ First and Fourth Amendment rights by covert surveillance.

      • Leoghann says:

        Which leads me to wonder if there was any rationale offered to the board before the surveillance was approved, or if the members just rubber stamped it. Either way, it’s deplorable, but also mystifying.

  4. Eureka says:

    “I was never happier than to land on the EW home page and see DeJoy getting the Rayne treatment.” — American whose mail delivery is episodically fucked up.

    Also want to know what PR resources they hired to push trends on social media about how “cute” the new mail trucks are (or will be, or won’t be) back when that contract was announced.

    Aside, I discovered the most wonderful thing: trash talk en francais:

    After the Lakers won:

    “Adam Silver actuellement : [image — NSFW, lol]”

    Direct hit, as they say in the business.

  5. subtropolis says:

    “Since the USPS was surveilling the American public, did it also fail to advise Capitol Police …”

    That’s quite an absurd leap! I don’t recall reading any details about how USPS was utilizing this alleged surveillance. To ask this question suggests that you’re imagining something akin to what the NSA does, but domestically. AND was specifically hunting for that kind of information in the haystack. The surveillance thing bothers me, too, but I suggest maintaining some perspective. Until and unless we learn that USPS was -specifically- monitoring the militia types — or anyone else involved in the insurrection, or even just the rallies — such a question seems rather “out there”. One might as well demand to know what this surveillance uncovered about UFOs.

    • Rayne says:

      Really? You think it’s a leap they may have collected info ahead of the January 6 insurrection when they were spying on Black Lives Matter and protesters at Floyd rallies last year? How naive…I think I need to check to see how long you’ve been here in the EW community because clearly you’ve missed some posts about the U.S. government’s surveillance of its citizens.

      As for USPIS’ iCOP: if they *didn’t* collect information about January 6, it means the USPS was selectively violating civil rights of persons protesting other civil rights violations against persons of color.

      If they *did* collect information about January 6 but didn’t share it, it means yet more selective violation of civil rights.

      If they *did* collect information about both BLM+Floyd protesters as well as January 6, we have a massive surveillance system which wasn’t disclosed to the public which they were funding.

      There’s nothing good at all about this. It’s just a matter of degree and who knew what when.

      ADDER: Here, I’ll spoon feed you this one time —

      …The details of the surveillance effort, known as iCOP, or Internet Covert Operations Program, have not previously been made public. 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.

      “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,” says the March 16 government bulletin, marked as “law enforcement sensitive” and distributed through the Department of Homeland Security’s fusion centers. “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. …”

      Bold mine. That’s what the USPIS was “utilizing this alleged surveillance,” as you called it. Oh, do be sure to poke a bit in the Yahoo news articles for the USPIS memo which described iCOP as its internal branding changed from “Dark Web Request for Information.”

      Fuck it — here’s the link since you’ve proven you can’t be arsed to read and somebody else probably needs it spelled out for them, too.

      • subtropolis says:

        Why are you going on about BLM? I’m well aware that the government has been surveilling them. But you were going on about the January 6 events, which I’m pretty goddamned sure had nothing to do with BLM.

        Thanks for the spoon feed. That’s interesting and worth a deeper look. No thanks for the attitude.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Not coincidentally, this abuse – and his let’s get the bastards approach – fed directly into Donald Trump’s intense fear of criticism, generally, and via social media, in particular. DeJoy is too good a wormtongue for that to be an accident.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    We’ve covered this topic several times, especially in the months before the election, when DeJoy’s destructiveness threatened its outcome. But it seems useful to repeat a few items about why the right and its wealth sponsors so hate the USPS.

    For starters, it represents an example of government working for everyone, rich or poor, urban or rural, in every village and town in America. The right wants to pretend no such thing is possible or desirable. It represents a large robust public employee union, which has helped lift hundreds of thousands of people into the middle class, especially people of color. Neoliberals hate unions and social mobility, preferring a cowed and vulnerable populace too exhausted to participate in goverment or resist corporate excess.

    The USPS owns huge amounts of real estate. Neoliberals want to buy it for a song. Its delivery services are the backbone of communications between countries and states, and between individuals and their government. Apart from private communications, these include public notices of all kinds, court communications, voting, tax filings and payments, and subsidized marketing for private companies. The right wants to destroy the idea of government working well for average Americans, and any sense of community not driven by its fear and hate mongering.

    Like the TVA, public universities, and other public projects, the USPS’s resources are devoted to providing a valuable service – at cost – to the public. To the right, that is not a public good – it claims there is no such thing – but an unforgivable waste of economic resources, because they are not devoted to generating private profits. In fact, they represent a competitor to johnny-come-lately private delivery services, which cherry-pick the most valuable services and leave the less profitable ones to government. In a similar vein, the USPS is a large purchaser of goods and services – vehicles, power, manufactured goods, IT goods and services, paper and artistic products, clothing, you name it. For the private sector, that can make it a cash cow or a demanding, public disclosure-biased snake around their necks.

    The USPS is also a potential provider of other necessary services, most especially, basic banking (which post offices in Europe have done since their inception). Also like the TVA – which private power generators still hate – providing such services would disclose their cost and the excessive profits taken by the traditional private sector, starting with outrageously priced payday lenders. That makes the USPS a bete noir for private industry lobbyists and their patrons, who have been trying to kill it for decades. I think it’s time to return the USPS to full government ownership; reform its management, board supervision, accounting, purchasing and employment practices; and keep it a permanent part of the American landscape it did so much to help generate.

    • bmaz says:

      It HAS been a full on onslaught for decades. That is exactly how the insane pension funding thing, different than any other entity in history, came to be. Every bit of the actions against the USPS has been in extreme bad faith. It needs to be recognized as such, and corrected as such.

      • FunnyDiva says:

        I keep wondering about that “insane pension funding thing”, where USPS has had to PRE-fund ALL it’s pension $$$ out a ridiculous number of years.

        What happens to all THAT money if the privatizing raiders succeed?
        Am I mis-remembering that in corporate takeover world pension funds are a juicy, juicy target and they end up NOT going to the employees that have paid in?

        • Rayne says:

          Oh that, yes — force the government to pay into a huge pot, same huge pot causing the USPS to be noncompetitive, and then the vulture could descend. I smell DeVos as well as Kochs; DeVos family wanted to end teachers’ unions, and then carve into teachers’ pensions.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      More to the point of Rayne’s post, DeJoy’s abuse of the USPS’s surveillance capability politicizes a quintessential public good and misuses it for the benefit of a single, anti-democratic party.

      Moreover, the public disclosure of DeJoy’s abusive, probably illegal, surveillance helps to further undermine the USPS’s public standing. Left and right would find it hateful. That makes it part of the right’s longstanding aim of demonizing the USPS and its union, a necessary precondition to ending their existence.

    • posaune says:

      So right you are, Earl, about USPS lifting people into the middle class. I have a cousin from a tiny town in IA. One of 9 kids, she was the one with extensive learning disabilities, a life-long struggle. She managed to finish HS, married a fellow HS graduate who landed a job with the local post office. She worked at the local elementary school. They bought a small house, had two kids, sent both kids to college, and finally retired last year. They lived a modest midwestern plains life, nothing fancy, a vacation every three years. But they created a loving, secure family, and contributed consistently to community and church. They appreciated the salary, benefits and security that gave them satisfying, fulfilling lives and they always returned their blessings to others. THAT is what a middle class job can do.

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