You may recall last year’s revelation that the U.S. Post Office is taking pictures of every single piece of mail as part of a gigantic program to keep track of who communicates with whom in America. Under the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program the pictures of your mail are made available to law enforcement officials of all sorts, retroactively, so they can follow your associations and your associates. So much for the First Amendment protection of free association.
Don’t worry, we were told last year, Americans are protected while photos of their letters and packages are being taken. There are safeguards, we were told: U.S. government agencies who want to see the photos of your mail need to have a reasonable written justification. No, no, not the justification you’re thinking of, not a warrant affirming probable cause to believe a crime is being committed; after all, the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution is so 20th Century. Instead, the government just had to affirm that looking at photos of a person’s mail “will further an investigation.”
Now it turns out that even this weak protection was being violated. After an audit report by the U.S. Post Office Office of the Inspector General was entirely
removed redacted from public view last December, a follow-up report has finally been published. In this report, the Inspector General finds that government agents obtained more than 1 out of 5 requests for photos of Americans’ mail with absolutely no written authorization at all. A further 13% of government agents’ requests “were not adequately justified,” according to the report, which you can read here. Well, you can’t read all of the report, actually. There are still sections of the report that have been blacked out to prevent you from reading the full text. This is just the public-safe finding that you’ll be reading, but even that is damning enough.
Let that sink in for a moment. What this boils down to is the U.S. Government tracking your mail to keep track of your associations, without 4th Amendment probable cause 100% of the time, without authority 23% of the time, and without reasons 13% of the time.
A tip of the hat goes to the Bill of Rights Defense Committee for spreading the word about this important document. I’ve been scouring through newspaper and TV news sites for hours, and I can’t find any coverage of the report by our corporate news establishment. If this story is going to go anywhere, it’s up to you to spread the word.