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Kiriakou writes: "The U.S. Postal Service is spying on us. I'm talking about the systematic collection of information on every single piece of mail you send or receive, including the names and addresses of the sender and recipient, without a warrant or oversight and without any explanation to the person being targeted."

Winnie Hong sorting packages before Christmas last year in San Francisco. (photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Winnie Hong sorting packages before Christmas last year in San Francisco. (photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)


The US Postal Service Is Spying on Us

By John Kiriakou, Reader Supported News

30 November 15

 

he U.S. Postal Service is spying on us. And they’re not doing a very good job at it. I’m not talking about peeking into letters or looking at how many mutual fund statements you receive. I’m talking about the systematic collection of information on every single piece of mail you send or receive, including the names and addresses of the sender and recipient, without a warrant or oversight and without any explanation to the person being targeted.

Indeed, the USPS Inspector General has even issued a report saying that the Postal Service “failed to properly safeguard documents that included the names, addresses, and financial information used by its law enforcement arm to monitor the mail of people suspected of criminal activities or for national security purposes.” The USPS “mail cover surveillance program” is poorly run, poorly managed, and could “reveal personally identifiable information and compromise the security of the mail,” the report said.

What makes this program particularly dangerous is that there is no judicial oversight, no appeals process, and no way of knowing why any one person is under surveillance or when the surveillance began or will end. I know. I’m under Postal Service surveillance.

I served 23 months in prison for blowing the whistle on the CIA’s illegal torture program. After having been locked up for two months, I decided to commission a card from a very artistically-inclined prisoner for my wife’s 40th birthday. I sent it about two weeks before her birthday. She never received it. Finally, about four months later, the card was delivered back to me with a yellow “Return to Sender – Address Not Known” sticker on it. But underneath that sticker was a second yellow sticker. That one read, “Do Not Deliver. Hold For Supervisor. Cover Program.”

Why was I under Postal Service Surveillance? I have no idea. I had had my day in court. The case was over. But remember, the Postal Service doesn’t have to answer to anybody – my attorneys, my judge, even its own Inspector General. It doesn’t need a warrant to spy on me (or my family) and it doesn’t have to answer even to a member of Congress who might inquire as to why the spying was happening in the first place.

The problem is not just the sinister nature of a government agency (or quasi-government agency) spying on individuals with no probable cause or due process, although those are serious problems. It’s that the program is handled so poorly and so haphazardly that in some cases surveillance was initiated against individuals for no apparent law enforcement reason and that surveillance was initiated by Postal Service employees not even authorized to do so. Again, there is no recourse because the people under surveillance don’t even know that any of this is happening.

Perhaps an even more disturbing aspect of the program is the fact that between 2000 and 2012, the Postal Service initiated an average of 8,000 mail cover requests per year. But in 2013, that number jumped to 49,000. Why? Nobody knows. And remember, the Postal Service doesn’t have to answer to anybody.

So where does all this surveillance information end up? Much of it remains with the Postal Service, which is always looking for people illegally sending things (drugs, weapons, etc.) through the mail. A lot of it also goes to the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Internal Revenue Service.

But between 2011 and 2013, 800 “Special Mail Cover” operations were approved. These dealt with “national security.” Again, because there is no judicial or Congressional oversight, we don’t really know what this means. Does the information go to the FBI? The CIA? The Department of Homeland Security? Who knows? Is it used to target political opponents of the administration? Is it used to build cases against civil liberties activists? There aren’t any answers.

The civil libertarian Reason Foundation wrote in early November that the system already is being grossly abused. The notorious Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio and an Arizona prosecutor used mail cover surveillance against a politician who criticized them. And a former FBI agent said the mail cover program is “So easy to use. You don’t have to go through a judge. You just fill out a form.”

With that said, there’s at least some oversight. Federal prosecutors a few years ago charged a letter carrier with a felony for tipping off a customer on her route that he was under Postal Service surveillance. There’s justice for you.



John Kiriakou is an associate fellow with the Institute for Policy Studies. He is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

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0 # cordleycoit 2015-11-30 10:09
Ask Spooner about this rather old problem.
 
 
+42 # Anonymot 2015-11-30 11:07
I thought that everyone knew the good, old Postal Service, now privatized, records every piece of mail & has for years. I've only read one in-depth article on the subject a few years ago, but I remember being very shocked.

We do live in a militaristic nation. The old idea of America as an open democracy is long gone. Someone pulled the facade aside.
 
 
+31 # John of Milpitas 2015-11-30 11:45
Not privatized yet, nor supported by your taxes. The buying of postage supports the Postal Service.
 
 
+22 # Cassandra2012 2015-11-30 13:10
Well, still preferable to the gouging customer-unfrie ndly UPS and FEDEX.
 
 
+1 # ericlipps 2015-12-02 05:53
Quoting John of Milpitas:
Not privatized yet, nor supported by your taxes. The buying of postage supports the Postal Service.

Actually, it has been at least semi-privatized . It lost its federal subsidy many years ago, as part of President Nixon's campaign to make the USPS "run like a business" and "pay for itself." At the same time, the Postmaster-Gene ral lost the Cabinet rank the office had enjoyed since the 1790s.
 
 
+13 # Cassandra2012 2015-11-30 13:09
Quoting Anonymot:
I thought that everyone knew the good, old Postal Service, now privatized, records every piece of mail & has for years. I've only read one in-depth article on the subject a few years ago, but I remember being very shocked.

We do live in a militaristic nation. The old idea of America as an open democracy is long gone. Someone pulled the facade aside.

There is apparently a CIA office in part of the main post office in Chicago... someone I know was 'interviewed' [but not recruited in the end] there.
 
 
+21 # reiverpacific 2015-11-30 11:44
Hell, the Postal Service has been spying on its OWN employees for ever.
I've designed a couple of P.O. Buildings as an Architect -before everything went electronic- and part of the design was a kind of hidden corridor over the sorting area with surveillance windows, presumably to prevent pilfering, so spying has always been part of the gig. It's just obviously gone up a notch or two to become part of the Military/NSA (National Spy Agency) becoming a massive dragnet dredging, the many-headed's information for military/corpor ate use. Wonder if your most corrupt politicians use "Diplomatic Immunity" or Pouches to carry on their lobbyist lucre back-door extra compensation?
To "Anonymot" I don't think that the US Postal Service is "officially" privatized yet but Staples certainly has their hands in the honey pot.
The former Royal Mail HAS been privatized in the UK, by the thuggish Cameron regime, to the loss of ±2,000 jobs in a farcical attempt at "Austerity". How the efficiency has been affected I haven't heard but can certainly find out from my many friends I stay in close touch with over there.
I'm sure that it has come under the similar blanket of "Security" of GCHQ.
 
 
+5 # oakes721 2015-11-30 12:35
For all the taxes we pay to bring us together as a community, the system does nothing to bring people together ~ but rather discourages most meaningful forms of communications in every way possible.
 
 
+27 # reo100 2015-11-30 13:51
Actually, this is very old news. "Covers" investigations can be done by just about anyone.It is a process whereby names and addresses are recorded. Unfortunately, this process is very antiquated. I mean, what would it take for the government or local authorities to "watch" you or obtain a search warrant,etc.? Nothing mailed can be opened, so it is still one of the only remaining secure forms of sending merchandise or a letter. There have been articles in the past about this. It's safer and more secure than than computer your typing your comments with. And it is less expensive than any other mail system in the entire world. Yes, Staples is trying to perform counter mail services with the blessings of Postal Management, but it will never last. Staples employees don't have the knowledge or experience. They can perform basic service and sell stamps. The Post Office does some stupid things, but it was built by you and me. We better boycott Staples and save our Postal Service, because if we dont, what we've built will be gone forever!
 
 
+6 # lfeuille 2015-11-30 18:29
Quoting reo100:
Actually, this is very old news. "Covers" investigations can be done by just about anyone.It is a process whereby names and addresses are recorded. Unfortunately, this process is very antiquated. I mean, what would it take for the government or local authorities to "watch" you or obtain a search warrant,etc.? Nothing mailed can be opened, so it is still one of the only remaining secure forms of sending merchandise or a letter. There have been articles in the past about this. It's safer and more secure than than computer your typing your comments with. And it is less expensive than any other mail system in the entire world. Yes, Staples is trying to perform counter mail services with the blessings of Postal Management, but it will never last. Staples employees don't have the knowledge or experience. They can perform basic service and sell stamps. The Post Office does some stupid things, but it was built by you and me. We better boycott Staples and save our Postal Service, because if we dont, what we've built will be gone forever!


All this is true, but it still should be stopped. It is really no different than the mass phone records collected the was stopped yesterday. It just isn't as well known.
 
 
+17 # PABLO DIABLO 2015-11-30 15:12
The government has always spied on us and always will. They get caught, laws get passed, spying continues. Laws are used to get the people they want to get. In Mexico, they say, "The law is merely a suggestion".
Save "our" Post Office.
 
 
+18 # joe_me 2015-11-30 16:16
Cheapest & most secure way to ship a first class letter? Yes our United States Postal Service (USPS) @ .49 mail a letter from Key West, FL to Seattle, WA some 3462 miles for .49 cant beat that guaranteed!!!
FedEx & UPS charge abusive sky high prices. A postal employee told me one time USPS is required to sub contract FedEx & UPS planes to fly mail out otherwise by using their own planes all the time they would put FedEx & UPS out of business.
 
 
+4 # LionMousePudding 2015-12-02 10:50
I love the USPS. It's too bad that it has been given this function or at least given cover for it. Otherwise it is a wonderful institution. The law intending to break it-- stating that it has to have funds for ten years ahead-- is just another kind of TRAP law. I think the USPS needs to advertise that law and how it is being used to try to sink them. And the name of a bill to repeal it with info on contacting our congressional officials. What institution has a further advertising reach than they do?

A little OT but I don't want to leave a bad taste in people's mouths about the whole USPS.
 
 
0 # Ps2os2 2015-12-02 11:05
Or it could be the NSA or CIA.
 
 
+4 # Mark J. Novitsky 2015-12-02 11:51
As bad as you think it is...I assure you that it's WORSE. President Eisenhower warned us about the Military Industrial Complex. What we have in place today I call the Military Industrial Surveillance Complex. There is a VERY good reason a FBI/DOJ National Security Letter (NSL) (Gag Order / Blackmail / Extortion) starts with "Under the authority of Executive Order 12333, dated December 4, 1981, and pursuant to Title 18, United States Code (U.S.C)" Pay attention to XO 12333 start date. December 4, 1981 to create DOD/IC "front / cover companies" pre-dates Bush/Poindexter "Total Information Awareness". Want to understand what is really going on visit the Yahoo (PRISM) Financial Message Board for my former employer / MASSIVE USG "contractor-par tner) / DARPA & all available evidence an XO 12333 / Multi-Nat Tele Tech Holdings (TTEC) / Tele Tech Government Solutions. I am FPVSFF finance.yahoo.c om/mb/TTEC - They were USPS until getting caught in a $635 Million bid-rigging scam. USPS Sr, Exec Francia Smith allowed to resign / full benefits. TTEC walked. I am FPVSFF Peace. Mark J. Novitsky
 
 
+4 # Mark J. Novitsky 2015-12-02 11:58
ALSO...from the 1980's that nobody wants to talk about / connect the dots...is the USG/DOJ (Fed Court Record) theft of PROMIS (Prosecutors Management Information Systems aka "Google For Spies" in 1980's / search "WIRED" magazine & PROMIS) and the MAINCORE Database. You can tell a society in decline by how they treat its truth-tellers. "It's dangerous to be right...when the government is wrong." - Voltaire. And they are WRONG ALOT!!!
 

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