A vast postal surveillance system is tracking every piece of mail you send. Moreover, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) frequently shares data about mail with law enforcement.
In particular, the USPS photographs the front and back of every envelope, postcard, and package it ships. The USPS also regularly shares images of mail with law enforcement, Fast Company reveals.
In fact, law enforcement needs no warrant to track mail if the Postal Inspection Service does the tracking. Furthermore, a program called the mail cover lets any law enforcement agency get information about your mail from the Postal Service.
Postal Surveillance System Is Over 120 Years Old
To explain, the Postal Inspection Service is the USPS’s law enforcement arm. The Inspection Service has been operating a vast postal surveillance system since the 1800s.
“The mail cover has been in use, in some form, since the 1800s,” Chief Postal Inspector Guy J. Cottrell informed Congress in November 2014. In detail, the USPS filled 49,000 requests for mail covers in 2013.
Under mail cover, authorities can track mail without a warrant. On the other hand, postal inspectors need a warrant to open your mail.
Opening mail is considered a violation of the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable search and seizure. Yet, tracking mail is constitutional because information written on the outside is public, Fast Company reports.
Postal Surveillance System Is Tracking All Your Mail
The postal surveillance system can track every piece of mail because of computers. To demonstrate, digital cameras take pictures of all mail.
Advanced analytics check the pictures and look for specific addresses names or patterns. Notably, this would include letters or packages mailed to the White House or the Trump Tower.
Law enforcement checks the mail for explosives and other threats, CBS reports. For example, the postal surveillance system helped the Secret Service spot bombs mailed to Hillary Clinton and other politicians last week.
The Postal Surveillance System Can Find You
Altogether, the postal surveillance system enables law enforcement to find you through your mail.
To illustrate, police and federal agents were checking surveillance video of post offices in Florida to identify the mail bomber. The Postal Service apparently conducts video surveillance at many of its facilities.
The postal surveillance system can easily track mail sent to anybody. For instance, law enforcement also detected a bomb mailed to actor Robert De Niro. The mail bomber allegedly hates De Niro because of his leftwing politics and criticism of President Trump.
Postal Surveillance System Tracks 170 Billion Pieces Of Mail
The postal surveillance system screens over 170 billion pieces of mail a year, the USPIS claims.
However, the USPS conducted merely 19 investigations of suspicious mail in 2017. In detail, suspicious mail includes bombs, biological weapons, and chemical weapons. Authorities arrested only 11 people for sending suspicious mail in 2017.
Biological weapons are the main threat that the USPS is screening for. In 2001, five people died after inhaling the germ warfare toxin anthrax. Someone mailed the anthrax to the U.S. Senate, ABC News, CBS, The National Enquirer, and other targets in the wake of the September 11 attacks.
It is important to realize that nobody knows who mailed the anthrax. The FBI believes former Army scientist Bruce Ivins was responsible, NPR states. Nevertheless, a National Academy of Sciences investigation could not prove that Ivins sent the anthrax. This reveals that there are certainly limits to what the mail surveillance system can accomplish.
Postal Surveillance System Violates Its Own Rules
Additionally, the postal surveillance system routinely violates its own rules, Fast Company charges.
For example, 13% of mail covers audited in 2014 lacked documentation that justified them. Moreover, officials without authority regularly approve mail covers.
All that law enforcement needs to have for the Postal Service to track your mail is “reasonable grounds.” Nonetheless, the reasonable grounds must be very broad because they rejected just 10 of 6,000 mail cover requests audited by the Postal Service’s Inspector General.
Ultimately, everything you mail or receive through the mail is being tracked by a vast postal surveillance system.