Postal Service Confirms Photographing All U.S. Mail
By RON NIXON, The New York Times
Published: August 2, 2013
Last month, The New York Times reported on the practice, which is called the Mail Isolation and Tracking system. The program was created by the Postal Service after the anthrax attacks in late 2001 killed five people, including two postal workers.
The Times reported that the program was a more expansive version of a longtime surveillance system called mail covers, where at the request of law enforcement officials, postal workers record information from the outside of letters and parcels before they are delivered. (Opening the mail would require a warrant.)
The information is then sent to the law enforcement agency that asked for it. Tens of thousands of pieces of mail each year undergo this scrutiny, and a number of law enforcement agencies have used it, like the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services. Law enforcement officials called the mail covers an important investigative tool.
Mail covers are not subject to judicial oversight. Law enforcement agencies simply fill out a form and submit it to the Postal Inspection Service, an arm of the post office that oversees the programs.
The digital mail tracking programs had raised concerns about their sweeping nature because the post office and law enforcement agencies are allowed to monitor all mail, not just the mail of those suspected of a crime.
You know, I remember being in the blast zone for megatonnage. Perhaps that’s why terrorists causing a slip and fall in my bathtub doesn’t scare me so much.