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Old July 3, 2013, 01:52 PM   #1
Aguila Blanca
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Snail Mail Snooping

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/04/us...mail.html?_r=0

Hmmm ...

Quote:
As the world focuses on the high-tech spying of the National Security Agency, the misplaced card offers a rare glimpse inside the seemingly low-tech but prevalent snooping of the United States Postal Service.

Mr. Pickering was targeted by a longtime surveillance system called mail covers, but that is only 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 snail 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. (Actually opening the mail requires a warrant.) The information is sent to whatever law enforcement agency asked for it. Tens of thousands of pieces of mail each year undergo this scrutiny.
It seems to me there is one HUGE difference between this snail mail snooping (not that I approve of it) and PRISM: The gummint can get a warrant and open someone's mail only before it has been delivered. If they analyze his/her mail pattern six months or two years down the road, they can't go back and retroactively open as many of the letters as they choose -- without a warrant, if they decide to play it that way. Once the letter is delivered, it may or may not be retained by the recipient. More than likely, an honest person might hang onto certain letters, but a conspirator would almost certainly shred and/or burn any potentially incriminating letters almost immediately upon receipt.

With PRISM, if I correctly understand what I've been reading, they copy and store ALL e-mail messages, but they don't actually read them unless they later get a warrant. ("No, really, we don't. Honest. Heck, would we lie to you?") So they have a copy, not just of the so-called (inaccurately) metadata, but the actual communications. That makes PRISM vastly different and far more insidious than either snail mail program.
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Old July 3, 2013, 02:14 PM   #2
TXAZ
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The potential for abuse is infinite. According to an FBI agent I delt with years ago in business was a question I asked regarding their "information acquisition", to which he replied "you don't really need a warrant if you're not going to court."(referencing wiretaping, circa mid 90's)

And the reason some have questioned why theybshould follow the rule of law, with that type of bureaucrat in power or supported by superiors is what?
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Old July 3, 2013, 05:14 PM   #3
Tom Servo
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From the 1950's until 1973, the CIA had a similar program called HTLINGUAL. I'd not be surprised if it never actually ended.
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Old July 5, 2013, 09:41 AM   #4
iraiam
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I'm not saying I agree with this practice, but I believe they are within the law (4th amendment) on this, as long as they only record and store the data that is on the OUTSIDE of the envelope.

We in fact have a reasonable expectation of privacy to our documents or whatever on the INSIDE of the envelope/package. If they want to peek on the inside they must obtain a search warrant.

No such expectation of privacy could exist in regard to the data on the outside of the package, as it must be read in order to figure out where it's even supposed to go.
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Old July 5, 2013, 12:10 PM   #5
csmsss
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Quote:
From the 1950's until 1973, the CIA had a similar program called HTLINGUAL. I'd not be surprised if it never actually ended.
An old fella I knew long ago somehow was aware of this program. His response was to never use his own name or address as a return address; rather, he would complete the return address as a famous personage from history - so, as a result, his acquaintances were accustomed to receiving mail from Benjamin Disraeli, George Washington, General Douglas MacArthur, and so on.
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Old July 5, 2013, 01:04 PM   #6
BarryLee
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A few years ago I was given a tour of a large postal processing center. They have large machines that use some sort of camera to read the address, sort and route the mail. I’m sure they just maintain this stuff in a database for some period of time. In general I see no problem with them doing this, but would hope a warrant is required to review data on a specific individual.
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Old July 5, 2013, 04:58 PM   #7
Aguila Blanca
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BarryLee
A few years ago I was given a tour of a large postal processing center. They have large machines that use some sort of camera to read the address, sort and route the mail. I’m sure they just maintain this stuff in a database for some period of time. In general I see no problem with them doing this, but would hope a warrant is required to review data on a specific individual.
Whether or not they need a warrant to review the data on a specific individual, there is still (IMHO) a HUGE jump from this to the PRISM program. If the Feds want to actually read my mail, they have to get the warrant and put someone in the post office or processing center while my mail is passing through it. Once the mail has been delivered to me, they've lost their chance to read the content.

With PRISM (as it has been described), the NSA doesn't capture just the "metadata" pertaining to e-mails and tweets, they actually capture the entire message. So they don't have any need to be quick about getting a warrant to read your messages. They can wait six months, or six years, then get a warrant and go back as far as the data collection allows. The warrant process is no longer time-sensitive.

In other words, as others have pointed out, they are collective evidence on millions of people who are NOT suspects. The USPS address scanning doesn't even begin to compare with this.
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