Spying through the Mail, How Last Century

Ideas and Issues

full-mailboxNew Orleans      The US Postal Service admitted that it had complied already this year with 50,000 different requests from local law enforcement authorities and national security folks for permission to open the mail of US citizens in search of nefarious schemes and hanky-panky.  Perhaps unrelated, and perhaps not, within days the US Postal Service also said, “Yeah, you right,” mail delivery is getting slower.  Fewer workers and routes no doubt, and the added burden of rerouting the mail for those 50,000 as well.

There are a bunch of head scratching problems to contemplate here.

Can Clyde Cop, the local po-po, just give a call or, more appropriately I suppose, write a letter to the local postmaster and ask them to pop the seals on some mail or deliver it over?  Surely not?  But, reading more closely, it seems that is pretty darned close to what happens at the Post Office, though perhaps higher up.  There seem to be no real standards or stumbling blocks, just “open, sesame!”  We don’t even have to wonder whether or not your local cellphone company or internet provider revealed your stuff here, fought in a secret court, or rolled over.  With the post office it was all easy-peasy, what you want is what you get.

But, that intrigues me as well.  What in the world would they be getting?  This must be the most snoozing surveillance ever, despite its complete breach of citizen rights and privacy.  Does anyone really send confidential material through the mail anymore?  At home, its bills, magazines, political notices, and the usual credit card and real estate solicitations.  At the office it might be some books, but still mainly bills spiced up with the occasional tax notices or correspondence from attorneys about our union contracts or whatever.  Are there still people out there with a rich body of written mail correspondence?  Are there people who have secretaries?  From everything I read, this is so old school, they actually don’t even bother teaching it in school at all these days.  Must be one of those, “no stones unturned” strategies, because it’s hard to believe that there’s much “there there.”

Now the internet is another thing entirely, but we seem to come up short on the law enforcement side there with our misplaced priorities.  While NSA and the like are harvesting all of our messages, it turns out that big problems like the fact that 40 to 60000 websites are selling drugs online without prescriptions are pretty much beyond the pale.  Authorities have identified 4700 scam and illegal sites this year alone according to the Wall Street Journal, but even after reporting them, 4000 are still merrily going about their illicit business.

And, if they are spending so much time trying to get into our email, why can’t they also do something about the flood of spam that seems to be increasing exponentially on a daily basis.  You would think it would be in their interest to help us get rid of some of that garbage, so that they could get to the good stuff in our email, like messages from our children or reports from our organizers.

It won’t be long before some billionaire will bring back the Pony Express or its 21st century equivalent so we can get around all of that.  Oh, yeah, right, they already have haven’t they, and they are called United Parcel Service and Federal Express.   When will they announce the number of inquiries they receive from so-called law enforcement and security agencies for our stuff from them?

Something to think about as we wait for the next shoe to drop.