Surveillance

U.S. Post Office Taking Pictures of All Our Mail for Database

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More for that warm feeling of total security, as reported in the New York Times, about:

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….

The Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program was created after the anthrax attacks in late 2001 that killed five people, including two postal workers. Highly secret, it seeped into public view last month when the F.B.I. cited it in its investigation of ricin-laced letters sent to President Obama and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. It enables the Postal Service to retroactively track mail correspondence at the request of law enforcement. No one disputes that it is sweeping.

"In the past, mail covers were used when you had a reason to suspect someone of a crime," said Mark D. Rasch, the former director of the Justice Department's computer crime unit, who worked on several fraud cases using mail covers. "Now it seems to be 'Let's record everyone's mail so in the future we might go back and see who you were communicating with.' Essentially you've added mail covers on millions of Americans."

Law enforcement crows about how important the program has been to find a ricin-mailer, a prostitution ring, and drug smugglers (the latter two the kinds of crime for which surveillance is so often needed, as it often lacks victims).

Don't worry, they need a warrant to open the mail. (Unless they don't):

Law enforcement officials need warrants to open the mail, although President George W. Bush asserted in a signing statement in 2007 that the federal government had the authority to open mail without warrants in emergencies or foreign intelligence cases.

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  1. I gave a letter to the postman
    He put it in his sack
    Bright and early next morning he brought my letter back
    She wrote upon it: Return to sender, address unknown.
    No such number, no such zone.
    We had a quarrel, a lovers’ spat,
    I’d write “I’m sorry” but my letter keeps coming back.

    1. That’s why you send a postcard.

  2. Jesus, can we just start the new millennium over?

    1. It’s well overdue. And I can’t wait to welcome in a new millennium.

    2. 2001: A Space Didn’t-Turn-Out-So-Awesome

      1. Leaving aside the sequels, the implication in 2001 was that we had awesome technology in 2001 (they even had tablets! In 2001!) and were on the verge of becoming living gods. So yeah, we’re underachieving.

  3. I’ve said it before and it’s coming true: if we ever get a peek inside what’s going on in the leviathan government, it will horrify us with its incompetence, fraud, corruption, and violations of probably all of our supposed civil liberties. And I was right!

    And the really horrifying thing is they just. Keep. Coming. How many more?

    1. Wait, I thought you said that about Warty’s basement.

      1. Beware that, when fighting off Warty, you yourself do not become a Warty…for when you gaze long into Warty’s basement, Warty’s basement gazes also into you.

    2. I’ve said it before and it’s coming true: if we ever get a peek inside what’s going on in the leviathan government, it will horrify us with its incompetence, fraud, corruption, and violations of probably all of our supposed civil liberties. And I was right!

      You think the average voter gives a shit about snail mail? I say no because it has nothing to do with abortion and gay people.

      1. They seem to care when we want to privatize the shit.

        1. Because… KKKORPORASHUNZ!!!111!!!!11!!

      2. I don’t think that most voters give a shit about any of that.

      3. Who cares if the government images 159 billion Savers envelopes, dental reminders, and tax lien notifications?

        1. I’d care, but I think that implication would go over most voters’ heads. Not to mention the fact that in order for them to even be aware of that they ‘d have to hear about somehow on a prominent mainstream news outlet.

          Do you honestly think the MSM thinks this is news compared to what’s going on in Texas with the abortion debate, the Aaron Hernandez and George Zimmerman trials, and fires?

          1. The MSM doesn’t think a coup in Egypt or a head of state’s plane getting forcibly grounded is news compared to what’s going on in the Zimmerman trial, so no.

            1. That’s because if Morsi had a son*, he’d look kinda like George Zimmerman.

              *He has four, actually.

          2. If I subscribed to Alex Jones-level paranoia I might think that timing these revelations around media causes c?l?bre is pretty crafty. Airing all the dirty laundry after the election but well before the midterms.

      4. I think this would have been a minor scandal if it hadn’t come after revelations of other massive spying. But now, it’s more fuel for the fire.

        Expect more.

        1. Waves wand of state and shouts, “Nationalibus securitatem!” And all was forgiven.

    3. Luckily the government is so large it doesn’t know what to do with the information it has otherwise it would have, should have, caught the Boston bombers.

  4. John Stossel has no problem with this because the bigger problem is the poor selection of greeting cards at Post Office retail locations.

  5. Just for fun, pay attention to how many letters you get with one corner of the flap torn open.

    *** doffs tinfoil hat ***

    1. I’m sure they can scan through anything and interpret the words inside. so in the tin foil hat vain I will now mail all my monthly payments in foil lined letters. that may be a new market.

      1. The bigger problem is too many people using Aluminum foil instead of Tin in their hat.

        1. Dude, I’ve never even seen tin foil. I think it used to exist, but was supplanted by tin foil after WW2.

          1. YOU THINK THAT IS COINCIDENCE?!?

          2. supplanted by aluminum foil…

            According to Wikipedia, my suspicions were correct.

            Of course it’s not coincidence, robc. (backs away slowly)

          3. Tin foil was supplanted by tin foil?

            1. And you didn’t even notice.

  6. We can never allow competition in first-class mail delivery because of the poor rural Alaskans who will no longer be able to have their mail photographed and recorded for reasonable prices.

    1. +44 +45 +46

    2. Is there a dog sled corps in the USPS, or do they outsource those deliveries? Just how rural will they go?

      1. “Many letter carriers died to get us this information.”

      2. Get the postal inspectors involved, and there will be a dog sled corpse in the USPS.

        1. I thought we’d all agreed to let the cops deliver the dog corpses.

  7. Further proof that we shouldn’t privatize post service: could you imagine the scary business corporations would get up to? /derp

    1. They might analyzing the kind of mail we send and receive and let other businesses know what kind of junk mail to send us!

      Can you imagine the horror of having to throw away evil capitalist advertisements?!

    2. Remember: the actual “corporation” with a complete monopoly on force that can and will imprison you for smoking a plant or not paying their extortion money, that’s not the problem. The problem is the little parasite corporations that suck up to the big one, because it has the monopoly on force and they don’t. Get your priorities straight!

      1. Keeping in mind that businesses these days are at best unwilling accomplices (Google et al.) and at worst slavering supplicants (health insurance providers), it’s getting difficult to discern the big parasite from its myriad hosts. I suppose the benefit of relatively competitive markets is that we can still choose our poison.

        1. Nationalization of industry by a thousand cuts. The slow-roasted path to fascism.

        2. I think it’s like in an old horror movie or anime. Eventually the parasites and host will become so indistinguishable that they make one horrible creature.

          1. You know, like Warty.

            1. I was given to understand this is the closest analogue to Warty’s… habits.

              Note that Warty is the willing host, and the parasites are escaping him.

              1. Warty is like Shub-Niggurath; it’s a symbiotic organism that can spawn off mini-organisms which it later re-absorbs.

          2. I think it’s like in an … anime. Eventually the parasites and host will become so indistinguishable that they make one horrible creature , and tentacle rape a 12-year-old schoolgirl

            .

            Jus’ sayin’

            1. But I think Gojira meant it pejoritively.

              1. me spel inglesh gud.

  8. ALL OF YOUR SECRET ARE BELONG TO US!

  9. President George W. Bush asserted in a signing statement in 2007 that the federal government had the authority to open mail without warrants in emergencies or foreign intelligence cases.

    … or for WoD, or dissidents, or unlicensed dog ownership….

    1. Why would you want to license a quadrupedal bullseye? They’ll know where to find it.

    2. The Bush administration asserted that it can do pretty much anything it wants in emergencies and foreign intelligence cases.

      1. And Obama has done away with all that, just like the liberals said he would.

        In other news, Unicorn farts will be replacing all nuclear power plants.

  10. Who will be the first to market a reflective envelope?

    1. I want an envelope with either photosensitive ink, or and OLED screen on it, so that every time it is photographed, the address changes…

      1. Once they put the bar code on it, that’s what matters to the USPS.

      2. Either that or an image of a middle finger.

  11. …the federal government had the authority to open mail without warrants in emergencies…

    Like they need a signing statement or authorization from congress for that. This is known as “it’s easier to get forgiveness than permission.”

  12. If they photograph and track all the letters, why the fuck can’t they tell me where my fucking mail is? UPS and FedEx do.

    1. They’re photographing them with polaroid cameras. It takes a while to sort and file all those photographs. Think the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

      1. Top… Men…

      2. But dur jerbz.

    2. Good one, Brandon. And there is an actual legal precedent that could be used against them – remember when the judge required the NSA to disclose any phone records it might have? That precedent should (IANAL) also apply to USPS. Time to flood them with requests.

  13. Are they taking pictures of alt-text too?

    1. Doherty does not have a budget for alt-text. Only some of the writers get a budget for it.

      Sequestration is hitting all of us pretty hard.

      1. I guess the sequester hit so hard it retroactively went back in time and preemptively removed alt-text from previous articles too. Devious.

      2. Doherty does not have a budget for alt-text.

        That’s because he’s spending it all on promoting some shitty book.

        1. He’s also Irish, so also potatoes and whisky.

  14. This is no surprise. If we could see what they are really up to I am sure this would seem like the tip of a very large iceberg.

    I can forsee the day when all of this stored data is mined by some supercomputer and a file will be created on each and every one of us including our interests, associates etc etc.

    How is that for tinfoil hat material? Seriously though.

    Also, I take all of my mail, a river of shit flowing into my mailbox, throw it in the firepit and burn it. Nothing but junk.

  15. Well, that settles it. I’m putting down Warty’s return address on all my anthrax letters from now on.

    1. You’ve just been flagged by NSA, DOJ, GSA & BSA and every other group just for mentioning anthrax.I hope you have fun under the microscope. It’s only a little bigger then the one the rest of us are under.

      1. Aurgh! Oh! Don’t say that word!

      2. Now you’ve said it!

  16. Brazil gets less fun to watch every year.

    1. I picture the Constitution as the old lady who had so much plastic surgery she turned to unrecognizable jelly in her coffin.

      1. So, basically Joan Rivers?

  17. Fucking government. They took out $1780 this paycheck for the right to have my asshole reamed like one of those Japanese women I’veseen heard about on those porn sites. And that’s after I upped my deductions to an absurd number.

    I fucking hate them.

    1. And they hate you. That’s why your name is on a list somewhere.

      1. And they hate you all of us. That’s why your everyone’s name is on a list somewhere.

        FIFY!

        1. Probably. But I’m afraid they hate libertarians, particularly ones with a history of violence against federally protected property, all the more. Maybe we’ll be in the same concentration camp?

          1. If those mailboxes were federally “protected,” their owners ought to complain about their vulnerability.

            1. National icons, you mean? Also federally protected.

              It’s a wonder you haven’t been secretly murdered and buried. On the Moon.

              1. I consider the fact that Sloopy still walks among us as proof that the feds are completely incompetent.

                1. Just to show my disdain for the feds, I not only walk, I pimp-roll.

              2. If Buzz Aldrin wants to go a few rounds, I’ll oblige him.

                1. He’d kick your ass. You know it, I know it. With space karate.

                  1. That old man would go down quicker than Marilyn Chambers.

                    1. Ha! You couldn’t swing at him anyway, protected as he is by his force field of awesomeness.

                    2. OK, you’ve got me on that one.

              3. A good point, how do we know it’s the real sloopy?

                1. True…and, let’s face it, even Banjos can’t know for certain because he would have been replaced before they’d met.

                2. That’s never been verified, and Armstrong is now living on the secret moonbase, so no one can attest otherwise.

    1. I’m OK with this, as long as they do it consistently. Who a company hires and what they pay them shouldn’t be any of the government’s fucking business.

      Your link, by the way, is to the story we just read. Are you trying to get us tied in a logic loop or something? That shit only works on Master Control Program.

      1. Or Nomad.

        1. Or Episiarch’s mom.*

          *Don’t blame me for the google search results.

  18. Oh, please. When was the last time any of you even mailed an actual letter? Just hold off your outrage until they start taking pictures of your electronic mail.

    1. In a few minutes.

      Admittedly, its a tax form going to the state, but its technically a letter getting mailed.

    2. They have cameras in the tubes!?

  19. President George W. Bush asserted in a signing statement in 2007 that the federal government had the authority to open mail without warrants in emergencies or foreign intelligence cases.

    BOOOOOSSSSSSHHHHITLERCHIMPYMCHALLIBURTAN!!!!111!!!

    1. That fucker would have done the world a favor if he’d have never put down My Pet Goat.

  20. It is not known how long the government saves the images….

    Forever, duh.

  21. So, let me get this straight. Ram-rod straight. The Fed now KNOW Tony ordered the 16″ Mandingo strap-on??

  22. So maybe ordering bath salts online isn’t such a good idea?

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