Post Office Lets Police Monitor Americans' Mail

Thousands of requests to log the outside of letters are approved each year, per the Washington Post
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 24, 2024 10:45 AM CDT
Post Office Lets Police Monitor Americans' Mail
Mail delivery vehicles are parked outside a post office in Boys Town, Neb.   (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)

The Washington Post reports that the US Postal Service allows law enforcement agencies to monitor the mail of Americans—or at least the outside of it—on a fairly regular basis. The postal service has received more than 60,000 such requests since 2015, and it has honored virtually all of them, according to the newspaper. Under what's known as the mail covers program, the postal services logs what the outsides of envelopes look like and passes the information onto such authorities as the FBI, the IRS, and the Department of Homeland Security. They can't provide details on what's inside the letters because that would require a warrant.

The practice is both long-standing and legal, but lawmakers in Congress are bringing renewed scrutiny to it. From the story:

  • Sen. Ron Wyden: "These new statistics show that thousands of Americans are subjected to warrantless surveillance each year, and that the Postal Inspection Service rubber-stamps practically all of the requests they receive," says the Oregon Democrat.
  • Post office: The agency honors the requests only to help police and federal agencies "carry out their missions and protect the American public," Gary Barksdale, the nation's chief postal inspector, wrote to Wyden and other senators last year. Besides, he added, "There is no reasonable expectation of privacy with respect to information contained on the outside of mail matter."
Read the full story. (More post office stories.)

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