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

Discussion in 'Bill of Rights' started by tulianr, Jul 4, 2013.


  1. tulianr

    tulianr Don Quixote de la Monkey

    EXCERPTS:
    WASHINGTON — 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.

    “Show all mail to supv” — supervisor — “for copying prior to going out on the street,” read the card. It included Mr. Pickering’s name, address and the type of mail that needed to be monitored. The word “confidential” was highlighted in green.

    “It was a bit of a shock to see it,” said Mr. Pickering, who with his wife owns a small bookstore in Buffalo. More than a decade ago, he was a spokesman for the Earth Liberation Front, a radical environmental group labeled eco-terrorists by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Postal officials subsequently confirmed they were indeed tracking Mr. Pickering’s mail but told him nothing else.

    As the world focuses on the high-tech spying of the National Security Agency, the misplaced card offers a rare glimpse inside the seemingly low-tech but prevalent snooping of the United States Postal Service.

    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.

    Together, the two programs show that postal mail is subject to the same kind of scrutiny that the National Security Agency has given to telephone calls and e-mail.

    The mail covers program, used to monitor Mr. Pickering, is more than a century old but is still considered a powerful tool. 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 sent to the law enforcement agency that asked for it. Tens of thousands of pieces of mail each year undergo this scrutiny.

    The Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program was created after the anthrax attacks in late 2001 that killed five people, including two postal workers. Highly secret, it seeped into public view last month when the F.B.I. cited it in its investigation of ricin-laced letters sent to President Obama and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. It enables the Postal Service to retrace the path of mail at the request of law enforcement. No one disputes that it is sweeping.

    “In the past, mail covers were used when you had a reason to suspect someone of a crime,” said Mark D. Rasch, who started a computer crimes unit in the fraud section of the criminal division of the Justice Department and worked on several fraud cases using mail covers. “Now it seems to be, ‘Let’s record everyone’s mail so in the future we might go back and see who you were communicating with.’ Essentially you’ve added mail covers on millions of Americans.”
    .......

    “It’s a treasure trove of information,” said James J. Wedick, a former F.B.I. agent who spent 34 years at the agency and who said he used mail covers in a number of investigations, including one that led to the prosecution of several elected officials in California on corruption charges. “Looking at just the outside of letters and other mail, I can see who you bank with, who you communicate with — all kinds of useful information that gives investigators leads that they can then follow up on with a subpoena.”

    But, he said: “It can be easily abused because it’s so easy to use and you don’t have to go through a judge to get the information. You just fill out a form.”
    .......

    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.

    The program has led to sporadic reports of abuse. In May 2012, Mary Rose Wilcox, a Maricopa County supervisor in Arizona, was awarded nearly $1 million by a federal judge after winning a lawsuit against Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The sheriff, known for his immigration raids, had obtained mail covers from the Postal Service to track her mail. The judge called the investigation into Ms. Wilcox politically motivated because she had been a frequent critic of Mr. Arpaio’s, objecting to what she considered the targeting of Hispanics in his immigration sweeps. The case is being appealed.
    ......

    Mr. Pickering says he suspects that the F.B.I. requested the mail cover to monitor his mail because a former associate said the bureau had called with questions about him. Last month, he filed a lawsuit against the Postal Service, the F.B.I. and other agencies, saying they were improperly withholding information.
    .......

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/04/us/monitoring-of-snail-mail.html?pagewanted=2&_r=0&hp
     
  2. VisuTrac

    VisuTrac Ваша мать носит военные ботинки Site Supporter+++

    And y'all wonder why you can't read the return address on the DVD I send out for site supporters.

    Y'all might be on a list or something. No way am I wanting to get caught up in that! ;)
     
  3. oldawg

    oldawg Monkey+++

    biglaffYeah right VT, I'd bet you got a designated drone over your place 24/7.o_O
     
  4. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    designed to home-in on tin-foil too...;)
     
    oldawg likes this.
  5. VisuTrac

    VisuTrac Ваша мать носит военные ботинки Site Supporter+++

    Nope, I'd notice.
     
  6. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    naw, it's likely cloaked....
     
  7. -06

    -06 Monkey+++

    They know who you are, what you are doing, and where you are--if they want to. Would not be surprised that most here are on several "lists". Better to be somebody than no body.
     
    Mountainman likes this.
  8. BTPost

    BTPost Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    I am "somebody" but live to far out, for them to care about....
     
    Pax Mentis likes this.
  9. Pax Mentis

    Pax Mentis Philosopher King Site Supporter

    I figure they are all over my stuff...

    I certainly would be.

    [gone]
     
    tulianr and VisuTrac like this.
  10. chelloveck

    chelloveck Diabolus Causidicus

    I wonder whether the same surveillance measures would apply to privately owned courier services? Is fedex subject to the same surveillance as the US postal service? If not. .Why would goblins us the USps in preference to some courier services?
     
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