No metadata will be delivered to the NSA on Saturdays or Sundays

U.S. Postal Service Logging All Mail for Law Enforcement

Leslie James Pickering noticed something odd in his mail last September: a handwritten card, apparently delivered by mistake, with instructions for postal workers to pay special attention to the letters and packages sent to his home.

"Show all mail to supervisor for copying prior to going out on the street," read the card. It included Mr. Pickering's name, address and the type of mail that needed to be monitored. The word "confidential" was highlighted in green. [...]

"In the past, mail covers were used when you had a reason to suspect someone of a crime," said Mark D. Rasch, who started a computer crimes unit in the fraud section of the criminal division of the Justice Department and worked on several fraud cases using mail covers. "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."

Bruce Schneier, a computer security expert and an author, said whether it was a postal worker taking down information or a computer taking images, the program was still an invasion of privacy. "Basically they are doing the same thing as the other programs, collecting the information on the outside of your mail, the metadata, if you will, of names, addresses, return addresses and postmark locations, which gives the government a pretty good map of your contacts, even if they aren't reading the contents," he said. [...]

"It's a treasure trove of information," said James J. Wedick, a former F.B.I. agent who spent 34 years at the agency and who said he used mail covers in a number of investigations, [...] But, he said: "It can be easily abused because it's so easy to use and you don't have to go through a judge to get the information. You just fill out a form." [...]

Law enforcement officials need warrants to open the mail, although President George W. Bush asserted in a signing statement in 2007 that the federal government had the authority to open mail without warrants in emergencies or in foreign intelligence cases.

Fortunately for me, traffic analysis will show only that I order books from Amazon, and I get a lot of spam postcards from realtors! Hah! Suck it, NSA!

FYI, "Signing Statement" means "some unconstitutional shit I just made up". HTH.

Tags: , , ,

5 Responses:

  1. nooj says:

    Yay prior art! Now the NSA can't assert its patent over metadata spying! This is good news for the little guy.

  2. Tom Lord says:

    In the movie "The Lives of Others" the secret police are depicted as having a "steaming room" where mail is steamed open, checked, and re-sealed before delivery. I wonder if these days they don't have machines that can image pages in a sealed envelope without opening it. If you can focus light on a particular spot and layer among the folded pages.....

    • David says:

      Like a really fucking bright backlight? Yeah, those machines exist; as to whether they are in widespread use by NSA for surveillance, who knows.

  3. Pavel Lishin says:

    Time to draw a lot more dicks on my outgoing mail, I guess.

  4. James says:

    The only mail I get is final demand letters for previous occupants, junk mail and the occasional "Hey we're the company you bought your car from. Did you know we still sell cars? Want a new one yet?" targetted spam.

    All my actual communication is easily searched, catalogued and indexed by Google or Facebook.