USPS usage declines, but sloppy postal surveillance is way, way up

Surveillance requests for "postal metadata" climbed 600% in recent years, often undertaken with badly formed or expired warrants.

An Office of Inspector General audit found that the postal service was incredibly sloppy in its handling of the surveillance orders, and USPS managers tried to suppress publication of the report in order to sustain public confidence in the mail.

According to the new audit, about 85 percent of mail covers are requested by USPS's own law enforcement division, the Postal Inspection Service. Over 6,000 per year are sought by outside criminal law enforcement agencies, including those at the federal, state and local level. The exact frequency with which specific agencies use the technique was deleted from the public version of the report.

"Mail may seem pretty old-fashioned to people, but the privacy of mail has a very long history in terms of civil liberties," said Edgar, who worked for the American Civil Liberties Union before joining the Office of Director of National Intelligence during President George W. Bush's administration. "The first Congress in 1792 passed a law making it a crime to open mail without a warrant."

Snail mail snooping safeguards not followed [Josh Gerstein/Politico]

(via The Intercept)