„Postal officials refused to discuss either mail covers or the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program“, the New York Times is reporting in the current edition. The dimension is much wider than what German Tagesschau has been reporting at 20 pm. The NYT writes:
„Leslie James Pickering noticed something odd in his mail last September: a handwritten card, apparently delivered by mistake, with instructions for postal workers to pay special attention to the letters and packages sent to his home.
“Show all mail to supv” — supervisor — “for copying prior to going out on the street,” read the card. It included Mr. Pickering’s name, address and the type of mail that needed to be monitored. The word “confidential” was highlighted in green.
“It was a bit of a shock to see it,” said Mr. Pickering, who with his wife owns a small bookstore in Buffalo. “ (…)
Mr. Pickering was targeted by a longtime surveillance system called mail covers, 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 postal mail is subject to the same kind of scrutiny that the National Security Agency has given to telephone calls and e-mail.
The mail covers program, used to monitor Mr. Pickering, is more than a century old but is still considered a powerful tool. At the request of law enforcement officials, postal workers record information from the outside of letters and parcels before they are delivered. (Opening the mail would require a warrant.) The information is sent to the law enforcement agency that asked for it. Tens of thousands of pieces of mail each year undergo this scrutiny.“
In 2008 I covered mail surveillance between the US and Germany for ZEIT online as well as for Heise-Telepolis:
„Massiver Eingriff in die Grundrechte“
Susanne Härpfer 22.01.2008
Politiker und Datenschützer kritisieren Vorabübermittlung der Absender- und Empfängerdaten von Paketen und Briefen aus Europa an US-Behörde
Geheimdienste haben Zugriff auf gespeicherte Kommunikationsdaten
Susanne Härpfer 25.03.2008