Feds Are Keeping an Eye on Your Snail Mail, Too
USPS has two main tools for law enforcement, says New York Times
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted Jul 3, 2013 4:41 PM CDT

(Newser) – Creeped out by all this talk of metadata and Big Brother and the fear that your emails aren't as private as you thought? Well, at least there's good old snail mail, right? Not so much, reports the New York Times. It looks at two programs the US Postal Service uses at the behest of law-enforcement agencies—"mail covers," which have been around for more than a century, and the scarier-sounding "Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program," which began after the 2001 anthrax attacks.

Mail covers are old-school. Postal workers, at the request of a law-enforcement agency, record by hand all the information on the front and back of letters going to your house, though they can't look inside. The MICT program is way more high-tech: USPS computers photograph the outside of every piece of mail, just in case this data—or metadata, as it were—might come in handy for an investigation down the road. (As it did recently in the latest batch of ricin letters.) A former Justice Department official sums things up:

  • “In the past, mail covers were used when you had a reason to suspect someone of a crime. 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.”

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Showing 3 of 66 comments
Jul 4, 2013 4:04 PM CDT
My old phone used to take snapshots inside my pocket. The NSA probably has a picture of my balls hanging on one of their chalkboards by now.
Jul 4, 2013 2:01 PM CDT
I think every American should install a toilet camera and have the video feed directly to the Justice Department for analysis.
Jul 4, 2013 7:33 AM CDT
Guess I'd better dig out the old Enigma machine, whirl the dials, and send a note to my son asking how his first year of college is going. Just to keep it interesting, the next letter will be using the old Imperial Japanese naval code. NSA take note.