Tracking the Postal Surveillance System

Last year, Ron Nixon discovered a small-business owner whose mail was being monitored by the United States Postal Service. After looking deeper, he realized that the snail-mail monitoring program is more common than he thought. Mr. Nixon describes the year-long reporting process. He also spoke to WNYC's The Takeaway about the subject this morning.

The idea for a story on the Postal Service's century's old mail cover program, in which all the information on the outside of letters and packages are recorded for law enforcement purposes, actually started over a year ago. I was discussing the government's mass surveillance programs with colleagues in the Washington bureau and looking for those beyond the National Security Agency's well-known program, which was in the news at the time.

I had heard about a case in Buffalo where a book store owner had found a card attached to his mail telling letter carriers to copy all the information on the outside of his letters and packages before delivering them. There was also a mention in a court filing of how the Postal Service surveillance program had played a role in catching Shannon Richardson, an actress who had sent ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. With these examples I was able to write a front-page article for The Times last year, but I wanted to know more. Continue>>>