US Postal Service Approved Nearly 50,000 Unauthorized Requests to Monitor Mail

United States Postal Service (USPS)

A United States Postal Service (USPS) service truck

It has emerged that the United States Postal Service approved almost 50,000 requests from law enforcement agencies and its own mail-inspection wing to secretly monitor the mail of American citizens for criminal investigations and national security concerns last year, according to a 2014 audit.

The audit found that in most cases the Postal Service approved requests to spy on an individual’s mail for criminal and national security investigations without providing adequate reasons or having proper written authorization.

Not only was the U.S. Postal Service watching over American citizens but it has been revealed that the protocols in place for authorizing such scans were reportedly full of flaws, which makes it impossible to conduct a thorough investigation.

“Insufficient controls could hinder the Postal Inspection Service’s ability to conduct effective investigations, lead to public concerns over privacy of mail, and harm the Postal Service’s brand,” read a statement from the audit report.

The audit found that from 2001 through 2012, local, state and federal law enforcement agencies made nearly 100,000 requests roughly amounting to almost 8,000 requests a year.

Despite the surveillance program, the so-called mail-cover program has been in place for years and is still deemed to be a powerful investigative tool. The audit also clarified that the U.S. Postal Service wasn’t actually reading Americans’ mail under the program. Instead postal workers recorded addresses, names and other key pieces of information that is revealed on the outside of the letters and parcels before they were delivered.

Officials are not allowed to open suspects’ mail without a warrant. However information regarding the address (both recipient and return) and the names of people on packages often helps in building strong cases.

“It appears that there has been widespread disregard of the few protections that were supposed to be in place,” said Theodore Simon, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. The audit reveals how public American citizens’ lives can be, he said.

The audit findings also reveal the depth of the nation’s surveillance efforts that were prompted after 9/11 attacks. In Arizona in 2011, a US county’s sheriff Joe Arpaio and a country attorney, Andrew Thomas used the surveillance program to spy on a political opponent, Mary Rose Wilcox. She discovered that her personal and business mail was being monitored after she objected to sheriff Arpaio’s targeting of Hispanics in his immigration sweeps. Wilcox was later awarded £0.6m ($1m) in a settlement in 2011 after she sued the county.

Avatar
Christy Gren
Christy Gren is an Industry Specialist Reporter at Industry Leaders Magazine; she enjoys writing about Unicorns, Silicon Valley, Startups, Business Leaders and Innovators. Her articles provide an insight about the Power Players in the field of Technology, Auto, Manufacturing, and F&B.

Recent Posts

Apple car may upset auto industry manufacturing model

Apple car may upset auto industry manufacturing model

Since last December, the Apple car project called Titan has been generating much interest with speculations surrounding design manufacturing...
11 hours ago
Amazon opens two new logistics centers in Italy

Amazon opens two new logistics centers in Italy

Amazon will open two new logistics centers in Italy this year, investing over $278 million (230 million euros), the world’s largest online...
12 hours ago
Fitch Ratings invests in AI startup to improve bank misconduct detection

Fitch Ratings invests in AI startup to improve bank misconduct detection

Fitch Ratings, a global leader in credit ratings and research, has inked a partnership with a French artificial intelligence startup as it e...
12 hours ago
New Shepard Rocket launches Successful Test Liftoff

New Shepard Rocket launches Successful Test Liftoff

The New Shepard rocket by Blue Origin successfully conducted the test launch in the Texas testing site, successfully performing take-off and...
2 days ago
MIT unveils Modern Design for Hybrid-Electric Airliner

MIT unveils Modern Design for Hybrid-Electric Airliner

Engineers at MIT conceptualized a hybrid-electric plane that would reduce nitrogen oxide emission levels and harmful greenhouse gases signif...
2 days ago
Store Closures Cost European Retail Giant Primark $1.43 Billion in Sales

Store Closures Cost European Retail Giant Primark $1.43 Billion in Sales

The European retail giant Primark said the COVID-19 had caused a loss of over $1.43 billion (£1.05 billion) in sales from store closures. T...
3 days ago