Tracking your mail: Ripe for abuse |

Tracking your mail: Ripe for abuse

An internal U.S. Postal Service audit reveals almost 50,000 requests approved in 2013 for secret monitoring of mail in criminal and national-security investigations — which means avoiding electronic means can’t hide Americans’ communications from government’s prying eyes and abuse of safeguards.

Along with the audit, interviews and documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show postal surveillance “is more extensive than previously disclosed and … oversight protecting Americans from potential abuses is lax,” according to The New York Times.

Opening mail requires warrants. But the warrantless “postal covers” program “records names, return addresses and other exterior information on letters and packages” — postal metadata — before delivery.

The Times found “many cases” of postal monitoring approved “without adequately describing the reason or having proper written authorization,” requests “not processed in time” and tracking numbers erroneously assigned to multiple requests. And “a few cases” showed apparent law-enforcement abuse.

Frank Askin, a professor at the Rutgers Constitutional Rights Clinic, says Postal Service personnel aren’t “schooled in the meaning of the First Amendment.” Nor are they schooled in Fourth Amendment protections that “postal covers” skirt.

It’s time for Americans to realize how extensive and worrisome mail monitoring is — and for Congress to curb its abuse.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.