It seems like ever since the NSA story broke we’ve seen an influx of surveillance stories hitting the news; the use of license plate scanners on cop cars is one of the latest. But now it seems like the NSA and local police units aren’t the only ones implementing surveillance systems.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) just joined the game; the surveillance game that is.
The Postmaster general, in an interview with The Associated Press, said that the outside part of your mail is photographed and then stored in their system for up to a month.
The photos are used for everything from the sorting process to delivery accuracy to making sure the postage was paid properly.
But despite this rather mundane use, law enforcement agencies are allowed to access the photos upon request. And they’ve taken advantage of that ability on several occasions.
The most notable one was the ricin filled letters that were sent to President Obama and New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg last June.
The Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program (as it’s called) was cited by the FBI in its investigation into the ricin letters. The FBI stated that the program “photographs and captures an image of every piece of mail that is processed,”
That might not sound bad to you, but don’t let it fool you. This is surveillance under the guise of “productivity.”
The Post Office’s excuse for this: it helps them sort the mail
The FBI’s excuse: it makes it easier for them to track dangerous pieces of mail.
The USPS’s excuse is funny when you think about how much money they’re losing. I guess the program hasn’t helped that much.
As for the FBI, wouldn’t you rather not give them access to your mail? Yes it’s only the exterior of your mail, and yes it’s only stored for a month, but that doesn’t reduce the danger.
Any breach of privacy, no matter how small has the ability to grow into a giant chasm. You saw how bad it can get with the NSA. Why would the Post Office be any different? It’s a government agency, a pretty corrupt and bloated one.
Storing those photos for one month could turn into six months to a year with the blink of an eye. And it would all be done in the name of security and productivity.
That’s how the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program got started.
The automated mail tracking program was created after the deadly anthrax attacks in 2001 so the Postal Service could more easily track hazardous substances and keep people safe…
The program was a reaction to a deadly event, just like the Patriot Act. A plan crashes into a building, a bridge collapses, or poisonous chemicals are found in a letter and politicians freak out. They pass legislation faster than you can say the preamble to the Constitution when there’s a “crisis”.
The USPS’s program has the ability to be so much more. It could rival the license plate scanners if politicians wanted it to.
Or it could go from bad to worse… much worse.
What if the Post Office just started opening your mail? Forget photographs of the exterior, they’ll just open your mail to make sure you’ve got nothing to hide.
And if you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to worry about.
Typical government rhetoric…
In the name of protecting you, they strip you of every ounce of privacy you have, leaving you naked and chained to the wall of security.
That’s government security surveillance for you.