“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” – The 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution
Amid reports of the National Security Agency’s sweeping surveillance efforts centered on collecting electronic communications data, many Americans have expressed concern about their privacy on the technological front.
But a report out Wednesday from The New York Times offers a reminder: The NSA is not the only government agency spying on Americans.
Leslie James Pickering, a former member of a radical environmental group labeled eco-terrorists by the Federal Bureau of Investigation called the Earth Liberation Front, told the Times that he found a misplaced card in his mailbox last September that indicated that the United States Postal Service was monitoring his mail.
Via the Times:
Postal officials subsequently confirmed they were indeed tracking Mr. Pickering’s mail but told him nothing else.
As the world focuses on the high-tech spying of the National Security Agency, the misplaced card offers a rare glimpse inside the seemingly low-tech but prevalent snooping of the United States Postal Service.
Mr. Pickering was targeted by a longtime surveillance system called mail covers, but that is only a forerunner of a vastly more expansive effort, the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program, in which Postal Service computers photograph the exterior of every piece of paper mail that is processed in the United States — about 160 billion pieces last year. It is not known how long the government saves the images.
Together, the two programs show that snail mail is subject to the same kind of scrutiny that the National Security Agency has given to telephone calls and e-mail.