Or you can mail donations to Henry Shivley at P.O. Box 964, Chiloquin, OR 97624

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

New York Times – by Ron Nixon

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 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, but that is only 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 snail 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. (Actually opening the mail requires a warrant.) The information is sent to whatever law enforcement agency 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 retroactively track mail correspondence 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, the former director of the Justice Department’s computer crime unit, who 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.”

Bruce Schneier, a computer security expert and an author, said whether it was a postal worker taking down information or a computer taking images, the program was still an invasion of privacy.

“Basically they are doing the same thing as the other programs, collecting the information on the outside of your mail, the metadata, if you will, of names, addresses, return addresses and postmark locations, which gives the government a pretty good map of your contacts, even if they aren’t reading the contents,” he said.

But law enforcement officials said mail covers and the automatic mail tracking program are invaluable, even in an era of smartphones and e-mail.

In a criminal complaint filed June 7 in Federal District Court in Eastern Texas, the F.B.I. said a postal investigator tracing the ricin letters was able to narrow the search toShannon Guess Richardson, an actress in New Boston, Tex., by examining information from the front and back images of 60 pieces of mail scanned immediately before and after the tainted letters sent to Mr. Obama and Mr. Bloomberg showing return addresses near her home. Ms. Richardson had originally accused her husband of mailing the letters, but investigators determined that he was at work during the time they were mailed.

In 2007, the F.B.I., the Internal Revenue Service and the local police in Charlotte, N.C., used information gleaned from the mail cover program to arrest Sallie Wamsley-Saxon and her husband, Donald, charging both with running a prostitution ring that took in $3 million over six years. Prosecutors said it was one of the largest and most successful such operations in the country. Investigators also used mail covers to help track banking activity and other businesses the couple operated under different names.

Other agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services, have used mail covers to track drug smugglers and Medicare fraud.

“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.”

For mail cover requests, law enforcement agencies simply submit a letter to the Postal Service, which can grant or deny a request without judicial review. Law enforcement officials say the Postal Service rarely denies a request. In other government surveillance program, such as wiretaps, a federal judge must sign off on the requests.

The mail cover surveillance requests are granted for about 30 days, and can be extended for up to 120 days. There are two kinds of mail covers: those related to criminal activity and those requested to protect national security. The criminal activity requests average 15,000 to 20,000 per year, said law enforcement officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are prohibited by law from discussing the requests. The number of requests for antiterrorism mail covers has not been made public.

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 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 George W. 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, was awarded nearly $1 million by a federal judge after winning a lawsuit against Sheriff Joe Arpaio, known for his immigration raids in Arizona, who, among other things, 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, objecting to what she considered the targeting of Hispanics in his immigration sweeps. The case is being appealed.

In the mid-1970s the Church Committee, a Senate panel that documented C.I.A. abuses, faulted a program created in the 1950s in New York that used mail covers to trace and sometimes open mail going to the Soviet Union from the United States.

A suit brought in 1973 by a high school student in New Jersey, whose letter to the Socialist Workers Party was traced by the F.B.I. as part of an investigation into the group, led to a rebuke from a federal judge.

Postal officials refused to discuss either mail covers or the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program.

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.

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

Mr. Pickering said that although he was arrested two dozen times for acts of civil disobedience and convicted of a handful of misdemeanors, he was never involved in the arson attacks the Earth Liberation Front carried out. He said he became tired of focusing only on environmental activism and moved back to Buffalo to finish college, open his bookstore, Burning Books, and start a family.

“I’m no terrorist,” he said. “I’m an activist.”

Mr. Pickering has written books sympathetic to the liberation front, but he said his political views and past association should not make him the target of a federal investigation. “I’m just a guy who runs a bookstore and has a wife and a kid,” he said.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/04/us/monitoring-of-snail-mail.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

This entry was posted in News. Bookmark the permalink.
18600

7 Responses to U.S. Postal Service Logging All Mail for Law Enforcement

  1. marty says:

    And with all this high tech and low tech snooping going on thousands of fraudulent tax returns going to one address cant be detected for years . The United States has now become a total joke.

  2. Enbe says:

    Please don’t go – a story with disinformation is not a reason to leave. Certainly I, and I would wager most of the regulars at FTTWR, read through most, if not all, the comments, because people of various experience can validate or critique particular points of an article. If you have experience bearing on any “information” presented, we would all be most interested in your response (correct me, please, any longstanding readers and contributors if you disagree), confirmatory or refuting, that you have to add. We need to know what is fact and what is scare mongering in mainstream media. Thank you.

    • # 1 NWO Hatr says:

      Who are you talking to, Enbe?

      Unless a comment was deleted that I missed.

      • Enbe says:

        There was a comment there from a disgruntled reader, a postal employee saying he had never seen such a thing as described in the article at the post office where he works, and he was thinking of not coming back here to FTT. So either there was a comment that was deleted, or some goobermint creep was messing with the site last night. Making me look like an idiot having an on-line conversation with myself, LOL. Hope your comment stays up! If not, I really will look like an idiot talking to myself!

        • # 1 NWO Hatr says:

          LOL. That’s happened to me more than once. I figure if a comment is deleted, it makes sense to delete any reply to it, so those who post afterward don’t get confused by it.

  3. KBright says:

    Guess the US Postal workers forgot that the three branches of our government, the military, all law enforcement, the heads of the States, ALL FEDERAL EMPLOYEES are *required to take an Oath to support and defend the Constitution and NOT an individual leader, ruler, office, or entity. Once given, the Oath is binding for life, unless renounced, refused, and abjured. It does not cease upon the occasions of leaving office or of discharge.

    Oath: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”

    Laws they are breaking:
    Title 42 U.S.C. § 1986. Action for neglect to prevent conspiracy
    Every person who, having knowledge that any of the wrongs conspired to be done, and mentioned in the preceding section [42 USCS § 1985], are about to be committed, and having power to prevent or aid in preventing the commission of the same, neglects or refuses to do so, if such wrongful act be committed, shall be liable to the party injured, or his legal representatives, for all damages caused by such wrongful act, which such person by reasonable diligence could have prevented

    42 USC § 1983 – Civil action for deprivation of rights: Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer’s judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable. For the purposes of this section, any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia shall be considered to be a statute of the District of Columbia.

    Article VI, Clause 2 of the US Constitution: “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

    5 U.S.C. 3331, provides the text of the actual oath of office the three branches of our government, the military, all law enforcement, the heads of the States, all federal employees are required to take before assuming office.

    5 U.S.C. 3333 requires the three branches of our government, the military, all law enforcement, the heads of the States, all federal employees sign an affidavit that they have taken the oath of office required by 5 U.S.C. 3331 and have not or will not violate that oath of office during their tenure of office as defined by the third part of the law,

    5 U.S.C. 7311 which explicitly makes it a federal criminal offense for anyone employed in the United States Government to “advocate the overthrow of our constitutional form of government”. (Which by trying to do away, or to modify, the protected unalienable rights of the people is overthrowing and changing our constitutional form of government.)

    18 U.S.C. 1918 provides penalties for violation of oath of office described in 5 U.S.C. 7311 which include: (1) removal from office and; (2) confinement or a fine.

    The definition of “advocate” is further specified in Executive Order 10450 which for the purposes of enforcement supplements 5 U.S.C. 7311. Exec Order 10450 provision specifies it is a violation of 5 U.S.C. 7311 for any person taking the oath of office to advocate “the alteration … of the form of the government of the United States by unconstitutional means.”

    Our form of government is defined by the Constitution of the United States.
    which means that according to Executive Order 10450 and therefore 5 U.S. 7311 ANY act taken by government officials who have taken the oath of office prescribed by 5 U.S.C. 3331 which alters the form of government other then by amendment, is a criminal violation of the 5 U.S.C. 7311. (caps mine)

    18 USC § 241 – Conspiracy against rights: If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same; or
    If two or more persons go in disguise on the highway, or on the premises of another, with intent to prevent or hinder his free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege so secured—
    They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, they shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.

    28 C.F.R. Section 0.85: : Terrorism is defined in the Code of Federal Regulations as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives” .
    Domestic terrorism is the unlawful use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual based and operating entirely within the United States or Puerto Rico without foreign direction committed against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof in furtherance of political or social objectives.

    Legal terms used in the contract lawfully requiring the oath to occupy the position or office that requires an oath:

    Solemn: “Legally binding, Common legal phrase indicating that an agreement has been consciously made, and certain actions are now either required or prohibited. The other requirement for an agreement or contract to be considered legally binding is consideration – both parties must knowingly understand what they are agreeing to”
    .
    Bound: “Being under legal or moral obligation; to constitute the boundary or limit of; to set a limit to; confine”

    Legally Binding: Common legal phrase. Lawful action, such as an agreement consciously agreed to by two or more entities, establishing lawful accountability. An illegal action, such as forcing, tricking, or coercing a person into an agreement, is not legally binding. Both parties knowingly understand what they are agreeing to is the other requirement to legally establish an agreement or contract.

    Consideration: “Consideration in a contract is a bargained for exchange of acts or forbearance of an act.”

    Require, Requirement, Required: Mandated under a law or by an authoritative entity. “To claim or ask for by right and authority; That which is required; a thing demanded or obligatory; something demanded or imposed as an obligation.”

    Contract: “An agreement between two or more parties creating obligations that are enforceable or otherwise recognizable at law.”

    Court cases that agree:
    “Decency, security, and liberty alike demand that government officials be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen. In a Government of laws, existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Crime is contagious. If government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law it invites every man to become a law unto himself and against that pernicious doctrine, this court should resolutely set its face.” Olmstead v U.S., 277 US 348, 485; 48 S. Ct. 564, 575; 72 LEd 944 U.S. versus Verdrigo-Urquidez, 110 S. Ct. 1056, 1060-61 (1990) South v.Maryland/Bowers v. DeVito

    ”The Legislature, either by amending or otherwise, may not nullify a constitutional provision.” Rost v. Municipal Court of Southern Judicial District of San Mateo (1960)

    There can be no sanction or penalty imposed upon one because of his exercise of Constitutional rights.” Sherar v. Cullen, 481 F. 946

    “Where rights secured by the Constitution are involved, there can be no rule-making or legislation which would abrogate them.” U.S. Supreme Court in Miranda v. Arizona, 380 U.S. 436 (1966)

    “State Judges, as well as federal, have the responsibility to respect and protect persons from violations of federal constitutional rights.” Gross v. State of Illinois, 312 F 2d 257; (1963).

    “An officer who acts in violation of the constitution ceases to represent the government.” Brookfield Construction Company V. Stewart 284 F Sup. 94

    And many more

  4. unheilig says:

    Welcome to Under the Optical Dome, or the new Panopticon

Leave a Reply