According to the Times, the Postal Service admits having honored more than 50,000 mail-monitoring requests from various police agencies, There has been little oversight and accountability on the spying campaign, nor has its efficiency or lack thereof ever been measured.
The surveillance program, officially called mail covers, is more than a century old, but is still considered a powerful investigative tool. At the request of state or federal law enforcement agencies or the Postal Inspection Service, postal workers record names, return addresses and any other information from the outside of letters and packages before they are delivered to a person’s home.
Law enforcement officials say this deceptively old-fashioned method of collecting data provides a wealth of information about the businesses and associates of their targets, and can lead to bank and property records and even accomplices. (Opening the mail requires a warrant.)Who are they kidding? Warrants are so yesterday, as old-fashioned as the century-old surveillance program itself.
But anyway -- I have long suspected/known that the post office had gone over to the Dark Side... or at the very least, harbored Dark Side aspirations.
It all started with a strange phone call I received one dark December night in 2010. When the caller identified himself as the chief assistant counsel for the Postal Regulatory Commission, my heart skipped a beat. Had I neglected to put extra stamps on that thick letter I'd just sent out? Had they finally tracked down the culprit who'd put the chewing gum wrappers and pennies and other detritus into the prepaid credit application envelope from the annoying Capitol One scammers?
|I Should Be So Lucky|
I obviously assumed it was a prank call. But after hanging up, I checked the Times Sunday review page. And there it was: The Postman Always Pings Twice (cue the Nightmare On Elm Street music) --
The service’s thousands of delivery vehicles have only one purpose now: to transport mail. But what if they were fitted with sensors to collect and transmit information about weather or air pollutants? The trucks would go from being bulky tools of industrial-age communication to being on the cutting edge of 21st-century information-gathering and forecasting.
After all, the delivery fleet already goes to almost every home and business in America nearly every day, and it travels fixed routes along a majority of the country’s roads to get there. Data collection wouldn’t require much additional staff or resources; all it would take would be a small, cheap and unobtrusive sensor package mounted on each truck. (This idea is mine alone, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Postal Regulatory Commission.)Well, thank God for that. Also thank God there was no option for reader comments. Then again, this guy had my number. I began to shiver as I read further:
True, other types of vehicles, like taxis or buses, could also carry sensors. But such vehicles typically don’t follow as many regular routes. Nor are they managed by a single organization that could readily coordinate nationwide or regional data collection.
There are a few obvious objections. For starters, there are privacy concerns regarding certain types of data. But a review panel could be set up to monitor the use of the network and ensure safeguards for handling the data.Mind you, this was long before Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the Panopticon State. Back in the good old innocent days of 2010, most people were blissfully unaware that their privacy had gone by the wayside decades ago. The worst thing that had happened was that the Bush administration was caught harassing librarians over what books we were subversively reading. This was before the seemingly daily revelations of privacy abuses, greeted with a politician or a bureaucrat blithely insisting that such assaults on civil rights were not done "willingly", or if they were, they could be handled by "review panels." Soothing cross-agency checks and balances are there to ensure that any abuses can be safeguarded against public outcry. But my Mr. Postman already knew this years ago.
There’s also the question about marketplace competition from a federal agency monopoly, an issue that has led Congress to limit the types of non-postal services the agency is allowed to provide. But in this case, the service wouldn’t be competing; rather, it would be providing a platform that a business could never afford. If anything, by offering access to a wide range of data and thereby being a catalyst for business innovation, the service would be promoting competition, not hindering it.Who is Mr. Postman kidding? There is no separation of government and corporations. Ed Snowden worked for private contractor Booz Allen, not the NSA. The Department of Homeland Security has an office high in the government-subsidized Goldman Sachs tower, and shared its intelligence on Occupy protesters directly with Wall Street. In an oligarchy, the moneyed interests always call the shots. Fool me once, ping me twice, the excuses are getting stale. The proles are beyond wise to the fact that we live in a crypto-fascist world.
Incidentally, the reason that I am not including the name of my postal ringer within this post is so that the next time he Googles his own name, my article won't instantly pop up in the search results, and the Postman will be less likely to ring/ping me twice. But if he does, I'll be sure to ask him about that New Jersey-Chris Christie connection to the tampering of my letter from Doctors Without Borders.
Oh, and totally off-topic, but since other bloggers brag about their adorable pets, I thought I'd share this latest snap of my dog Snap in one of his good moods: