USPS nearly always lets law enforcement spy on Americans' mail without warrant

Since 2015, the United States Postal Service has agreed to 97% of requests made to share customer's information with law enforcement. These requests for customer's names and their 'to's and 'from's were issued without warrants and regularly complied with. This practice is surprisingly and disappointingly legal. I wonder if they were allowed to shake the box, too.

Each request can cover days or weeks of mail sent to or from a person or address, and 97 percent of the requests were approved, according to the data. Postal inspectors recorded more than 312,000 letters and packages between 2015 and 2023, the records show.

The surveillance technique, known as the mail covers program, has long been used by postal inspectors to help track down suspects or evidence. The practice is legal, and the inspectors said they share only what they can see on the outside of the mail; the Fourth Amendment requires them to get a warrant to peek inside.

Does anyone else find it suspicious that this "Santa Claus" character is getting so much mail? Surely the "North Pole" is some kind of proxy address for some kind of, shall we say, fulfillment operation. Postal Inspection employees are in fact allowed to shake the box but not peek and they can do so without a warrant, which I'd argue is totally not fair!!

But the Postal Service's law enforcement arm, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, has traditionally declined to say how often it facilitates such requests, saying in a 2015 audit that such details would decrease the program's effectiveness by "alerting criminals" to how the technique works.

Drew Harwell, Washington Post

Most requests came from the department of Homeland Security, the FBI and the IRS. If they can peek at Santa's presents, I should be able to, to. I rest my case.