Feds surveilling thousands of Americans’ mail each year

By Around the Web

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TV's Scooby-Doo appears on USA Forever stamps from the U.S. Postal Service. (Photo by Joe Kovacs)
TV’s Scooby-Doo appears on USA Forever stamps from the U.S. Postal Service. (Photo by Joe Kovacs)

By Wallace White
Daily Caller News Foundation

The United States Postal Service (USPS) gave law enforcement thousands of names, addresses and other details from the letters and packages of Americans without court approval, the Washington Post reported Monday.

The USPS said it generally only granted information requests from law enforcement agencies when it aided in tracking down a crime suspect; however, records obtained by the Post showed that 97% of the 60,000 requests from law enforcement were approved over an eight-year period. Between 2015 and 2023, over 312,000 letters and packages were recorded without receiving judicial approval.

The Internal Revenue Service, Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were the top requesters in the 2015 audit, according to the Post.

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“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,” Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden said in a statement to the Post.

A bipartisan group of eight senators urged the USPS to require the approval of a federal judge before beginning the recording of information in a May 2023 letter, saying that the process of “surveillance of this information does not just threaten Americans’ privacy, but their First Amendment rights to freely associate with political or religious organizations or peacefully assemble without the government watching.”

Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale responded to the senators in a June 2023 letter, denying allegations that the program was a “large-scale surveillance apparatus.” He added that, “There is no reasonable expectation of privacy with respect to information contained on the outside of mail matter,” according to the Post.

The technique used is called a “mail covers program”, which has been deemed legal by the Supreme Court since 1879. However, the Postal Inspection Service has declined to state how many Americans were subject to this surveillance, citing concerns with giving criminals too much information, according to a 2015 audit.

The USPS did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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