Don’t call it a Surveillance State. According to a report in the New York Times snail mail is also being tracked by a large indiscriminate spying program. Apparently all mail going through the U.S. postal service is logged for law enforcement.
The Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program was created after the anthrax attacks in late 2001 that killed five people, including two postal workers. Highly secret, it seeped into public view last month when the F.B.I. cited it in its investigation of ricin-laced letters sent to President Obama and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. It enables the Postal Service to retrace the path of mail at the request of law enforcement. No one disputes that it is sweeping.
“In the past, mail covers were used when you had a reason to suspect someone of a crime,” said Mark D. Rasch, who started a computer crimes unit in the fraud section of the criminal division of the Justice Department and worked on several fraud cases using mail covers. “Now it seems to be, ‘Let’s record everyone’s mail so in the future we might go back and see who you were communicating with.’ Essentially you’ve added mail covers on millions of Americans.”
So much for the “technology changes everything” argument for surveillance. But of course there are safeguards, you probably need to comply with an intense process to start tracking someone’s mail.
“It’s a treasure trove of information,” said James J. Wedick, a former F.B.I. agent who spent 34 years at the agency and who said he used mail covers in a number of investigations, including one that led to the prosecution of several elected officials in California on corruption charges. “Looking at just the outside of letters and other mail, I can see who you bank with, who you communicate with — all kinds of useful information that gives investigators leads that they can then follow up on with a subpoena.”
But, he said: “It can be easily abused because it’s so easy to use and you don’t have to go through a judge to get the information. You just fill out a form.”
So all mail is tracked for law enforcement and all anyone has to do to get access to the information is “fill out a form” no judicial oversight. Like your telephone calls, email, texts, and all digital communication your use of the US Postal Service information will be logged and available to numerous members of the Surveillance State.
Happy 4th of July, enjoy your freedom.