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U.S. Government Tracking Your Mail Without Probable Cause, Authority or Reasons

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.

5 thoughts on “U.S. Government Tracking Your Mail Without Probable Cause, Authority or Reasons”

  1. J Clifford says:

    The GOVERNMENT gets to keep its secrets from us, see, but WE have to give up all our secrets to government spies. It’s all for Homeland Security… also known as Big Brother.

    Disgusting. I am spreading the word among my networks.

  2. Tom says:

    I don’t put return addresses on envelopes, don’t send much mail anymore, and use different post offices or random box drop anything I send.

    Most of the stuff they’re gathering is bills and junk mail. Most people use e-mail now (which is certainly being vacuumed up) but if they want to collect all the nonsense from millions of kids talking about their latest fascination, people talking in gang-speak and little old ladies trying to figure out recipes for chicken, what’s the point. None of it will help when the whole system collapses. They’re just wasting what little energy remains.

  3. Tom says:


    “In retrospect, the spark might seem as ominous as a financial crash, as ordinary as a national election, or as trivial as a Tea Party. The catalyst will unfold according to a basic Crisis dynamic that underlies all of these scenarios: An initial spark will trigger a chain reaction of unyielding responses and further emergencies. The core elements of these scenarios (debt, civic decay, global disorder) will matter more than the details, which the catalyst will juxtapose and connect in some unknowable way. If foreign societies are also entering a Fourth Turning, this could accelerate the chain reaction. At home and abroad, these events will reflect the tearing of the civic fabric at points of extreme vulnerability –problem areas where America will have neglected, denied, or delayed needed action.” – The Fourth Turning – Strauss & Howe – 1997

    The article is long and involved but worth the read, imho.

    1. J Clifford says:

      Tom, doesn’t it cause you to pause, that this article, predicting the “tearing of the civic fabric” was written 17 years ago?

  4. Tom says:

    . . . and, what – you think everything is honkey-dory? Who cares when it was written – are the words true or not? Writers like Huxley and Orwell wrote of the deleterious effects of our living arrangements even further back. Looks like we’re rapidly getting there, no?

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