Even the Mail’s Not Safe from Privacy Invasion

Just when you thought your postal mail might be safe the government has often been photographing the outsides of mail envelopes delivered to people it doesn’t like.

According to the New York Times, one small upstate New York bookstore owner and environmental activist discovered by accident his local post office was tracking the names and addresses of those sending mail to him http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/04/us/monitoring-of-snail-mail.html?pagewanted=all.

It turns out that this technique of photographing mail covers has been used by law enforcement for nearly a century and has proven quite effective in helping apprehend criminals. But actually opening mail requires a search warrant from a judge.

But was program was expanded to include all postal mail in the wake of the anthrax attacks in 2001that killed several people including two postal workers. More recently the expanded effort, the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program, was used in the investigation of the ricin-laced letters sent to and resident Obama New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.

This report about paper mail surfaced after Edward Snowden, the contract worker for the National Security Agency revealed  that the NSA is allegedly spying on all Americans electronically and through their phone records http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2013/07/14/after_edward_snowdens_whistleblowing_americans_rethink_tradeoffs_on_freedom_and_security_editorial.html,

Even if this mail-spying has helped deter potential assassinations you can see where it’s headed.

In the 1950s Senator Joseph McCarthy ruined the lives of many people accusing them of being Communists. In the current day terrorist has replaced that word as a catchall to scare the population.  No doubt these broad brush approaches can lead to abuses of government powers.

For example, some say the Federal Bureau of Investigation is labeling environmentalists peacefully protesting the Keystone XL oil pipeline as ecoterrorists, according to PolicyMic http://www.policymic.com/articles/48923/keystone-xl-pipeline-if-you-can-t-beat-environmentalists-with-facts-just-label-them-eco-terrorists.

Given all this what’s to stop the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies from further using the U.S. Postal Service as tool for stifling dissent?

When the people are terrified they’re more vulnerable to accepting more government intrusion on their lives. Perhaps they’ll even accept it from the seemingly trustworthy USPS.

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