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U.S. Postal Service Logging All Mail for Law Enforcement

Jango

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"Leslie James Pickering noticed something odd in his mail last September: a handwritten card, apparently delivered by mistake, with instructions for postal workers to pay special attention to the letters and packages sent to his home."

"Mr. Pickering was targeted by a longtime surveillance system called mail covers, a forerunner of a vastly more expansive effort, the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program, in which Postal Service computers photograph the exterior of every piece of paper mail that is processed in the United States —about 160 billion pieces last year. It is not known how long the government saves the images."

"Law enforcement officials need warrants to open the mail, although President George W. Bush asserted in a signing statement in 2007 that the federal government had the authority to open mail without warrants in emergencies or in foreign intelligence cases."

"Court challenges to mail covers have generally failed because judges have ruled that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy for information contained on the outside of a letter. Officials in both the Bush and Obama administrations, in fact, have used the mail-cover court rulings to justify the N.S.A.’s surveillance programs, saying the electronic monitoring amounts to the same thing as a mail cover. Congress briefly conducted hearings on mail cover programs in 1976, but has not revisited the issue."

"A spokeswoman for the F.B.I. in Buffalo declined to comment."

U.S. Postal Service Logging All Mail for Law Enforcement - NYTimes.com


I heard about this a while back on the Drudge Report. Not at all surprising. It wouldn't surprise me if they're opening mail without a warrant either. I do wonder how long they keep the photographs and how much money it is costing to maintain this sizeable operation.
 

Fisher

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I had a package sent through the USPS through an online order where it arrived with the package having been sliced open and the packing slip removed but the contents left inside. Since I was here when it arrived, I know whatever happened happened while in the custody of the USPS. There is no way the packing slip would have just fallen out and the contents did not .
 

tererun

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I had a package sent through the USPS through an online order where it arrived with the package having been sliced open and the packing slip removed but the contents left inside. Since I was here when it arrived, I know whatever happened happened while in the custody of the USPS. There is no way the packing slip would have just fallen out and the contents did not .
Was it an overseas package? I know i have seen some overseas packages that have been opened I assume by customs and inspectors and that would be why they are placed on the outside in a way that they can be opened and re-inserted without opening the package itself.
 

tererun

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"Leslie James Pickering noticed something odd in his mail last September: a handwritten card, apparently delivered by mistake, with instructions for postal workers to pay special attention to the letters and packages sent to his home."

"Mr. Pickering was targeted by a longtime surveillance system called mail covers, a forerunner of a vastly more expansive effort, the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program, in which Postal Service computers photograph the exterior of every piece of paper mail that is processed in the United States —about 160 billion pieces last year. It is not known how long the government saves the images."

"Law enforcement officials need warrants to open the mail, although President George W. Bush asserted in a signing statement in 2007 that the federal government had the authority to open mail without warrants in emergencies or in foreign intelligence cases."

"Court challenges to mail covers have generally failed because judges have ruled that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy for information contained on the outside of a letter. Officials in both the Bush and Obama administrations, in fact, have used the mail-cover court rulings to justify the N.S.A.’s surveillance programs, saying the electronic monitoring amounts to the same thing as a mail cover. Congress briefly conducted hearings on mail cover programs in 1976, but has not revisited the issue."

"A spokeswoman for the F.B.I. in Buffalo declined to comment."

U.S. Postal Service Logging All Mail for Law Enforcement - NYTimes.com


I heard about this a while back on the Drudge Report. Not at all surprising. It wouldn't surprise me if they're opening mail without a warrant either. I do wonder how long they keep the photographs and how much money it is costing to maintain this sizeable operation.
Though they would be somewhat correct in that the outside of a letter contains information which any person in public could see so you have no expectation of privacy, it still would normally fall under an illegal search to have the information gathered before any charges were filed, and without a specific object to be looked for. Search warrants have to be specific in what they are trying to obtain, and they have to be specific to an investigation. Simply making an investigation on everyone is not going to make it through a regular court. There is also doubt that the patriot act even permits this as the rules the FISA courts are supposed to follow have some similar restrictions. The problem is there is no real way to know what the FISA court has issued and there is no oversight outside of the executive branch to limit their searches. Still, if you are doing criminal activity you would want to not advertise it in a place readily viewable to the public lioke the outside of a letter.
 

Fisher

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Was it an overseas package? I know i have seen some overseas packages that have been opened I assume by customs and inspectors and that would be why they are placed on the outside in a way that they can be opened and re-inserted without opening the package itself.
No it was a domestic, continental US package--basically a medium sized padded envelope about the dimensions of a sheet of paper with an replacement part sealed in an a plastic envelope inside of it. The sealed plastic not-see through envelope with the part was not opened. It was clear that the outer envelope had been opened with a razor knife as it was a clean, crisp cut but not in a straight line. It is just highly curious as to why they would remove the packing papers and keep.
 

specklebang

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What was in your package? What class was the package? I know they can open media mail to verify that there is no personal content beyond a packing slip.


I had a package sent through the USPS through an online order where it arrived with the package having been sliced open and the packing slip removed but the contents left inside. Since I was here when it arrived, I know whatever happened happened while in the custody of the USPS. There is no way the packing slip would have just fallen out and the contents did not .
 

Fisher

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What was in your package? What class was the package? I know they can open media mail to verify that there is no personal content beyond a packing slip.
It wasn't media though I do order DVD's and CD from Europe from time to time and they have never been opened so far as I can tell. It was a a metal replacement part for the steering in an old riding lawnmower I have been tinkering with--basically a metal disk and cog thingy. It is just weird to me because I have never knowingly had something like that happen and I order lots of stuff online. Since they did not open the gray plastic bag the parts were in I assume they were not that interested in the actual parts.
 
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