Once again, another MSM lead story on our surveillance state--in this instance an article on the front page of Tuesday’s NY Times regarding massive law enforcement abuse of the previously publicized US Postal Services’ “Mail Covers” and “Mail Imaging” surveillance programs—reminds readers that if U.S. law enforcement maintains access to military-grade weapons and hardware, cutting edge surveillance technology and/or simple, raw data, they will, sooner or later, unconstitutionally exploit the crap out of it.
Of course, and quite contrary to the all-too-frequent, knee jerk, pro-surveillance-state spin put forth by some, tonight’s Times’ story isn’t reporting upon “legal” surveillance of the American public. Tuesday’s Times exposes the rampant abuse within the domestic, USPS “Mail Covers” and “Mail Imaging” surveillance programs—like so many others the public’s learned about over the past 18 months—that have dramatically expanded over the past couple of years, from an average of 8,000 mail monitoring requests by local, state and federal law enforcement in the years 2001 through 2012, to “nearly 50,000 requests in 2013.”
And, like the millions of widely-reported, warrantless cellphone wiretaps and pen register/track and trace requests made by local law enforcement over the past few years, the NYT informs us, today, that USPS employees “don’t have to report the use of [these surveillance] tool[s] to anyone.”
(Bold type is diarist’s emphasis.)
Report Reveals Wider Tracking of Mail in U.S.
By RON NIXON
New York Times (Page A1)
OCTOBER 28, 2014
WASHINGTON — In a rare public accounting of its mass surveillance program, the United States Postal Service reported that it approved nearly 50,000 requests last year from law enforcement agencies and its own internal inspection unit to secretly monitor the mail of Americans for use in criminal and national security investigations.
The number of requests, contained in a little-noticed 2014 audit of the surveillance program by the Postal Service’s inspector general, shows that the surveillance program is more extensive than previously disclosed and that oversight protecting Americans from potential abuses is lax.
The audit, along with interviews and documents obtained by The New York Times under the Freedom of Information Act, offers one of the first detailed looks at the scope of the program, which has played an important role in the nation’s vast surveillance effort since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The audit found that in many cases the Postal Service approved requests to monitor an individual’s mail without adequately describing the reason or having proper written authorization…
But, in a perverse use of the phrase, the story gets “better” the deeper one dives into it...
…Interviews and court records also show that the surveillance program was used by a county attorney and sheriff to investigate a political opponent in Arizona — the county attorney was later disbarred in part because of the investigation — and to monitor privileged communications between lawyers and their clients, a practice not allowed under postal regulations…
Readers are reminded of the 2011 incident concerning how Maricopa County supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox "discovered that her mail was being monitored by the county’s sheriff, Joe Arpaio. Ms. Wilcox had been a frequent critic of Mr. Arpaio, objecting to what she considered the targeting of Hispanics in his immigration sweeps…"
…She sued the county, was awarded nearly $1 million in a settlement in 2011 and received the money this June when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling. Mr. Thomas, the former county attorney, was disbarred for his role in investigations into the business dealings of Ms. Wilcox and other officials and for other unprofessional conduct. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment on Mr. Arpaio’s use of mail covers in the investigation of Ms. Wilcox…
(Bold type is diarist's emphasis.)
I strongly encourage readers to click upon the story link, up above, to get the Times’ full take on their scoop. Reporter Ron Nixon has been covering this story for many years. (There’s significantly more to it than I’ve reported herein.)
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