The United States Postal Service’s inspector general has found a number of shortcomings in a program that allows Postal Service officials to look at — but not open — an individual’s incoming mail.
The secretive program, run by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, is called the Mail Covers Program.
In fiscal 2013, inspectors processed about 49,000 mail covers under the program, according to a report released June 13.
But the inspector general discovered a number of problems with the program, noting that 21 percent of the covers examined were approved by individuals who lacked written authority for such approvals.
The report also said 13 percent of the covers studied “did not have the required justification or were not transcribed accurately.”
The program allows Postal Service officials to record data appearing on the outside of a mailpiece at the request of a law enforcement agency.
Those requests must be reviewed by the Criminal Investigative Service Center (CISC), a group within the inspection service.
Only the CISC manager, chief postal inspector or designated individuals may approve a cover operation.
The program is so sensitive that the released report blacked out the names of some of the local police and federal agencies who used the mail cover program.
The report described the cover program as an investigative tool used by a number of police agencies. The report said it could be used “to protect national security, locate fugitives, obtain evidence, or help identify property, proceeds, or assets forfeitable under criminal law.”
“A mail cover should not be used as a routine investigative tool,” the report stated.
It said a “requesting law enforcement agency must explain what law the subject of the mail cover is violating and how the mail cover could further the investigation or provide evidence of a crime.”
The requests must be in writing, and the CISC is required to ensure that any request “contains enough information to stand alone as full justification for the cover and fully complies with all applicable regulations.”
The report also said it had failed to find evidence that the Inspection Service had conducted required annual reviews of the program.
Congress created the Office of Inspector General in 1996 over the objections of the USPS. Until then, the Postal Inspection Service acted as the Postal Service’s internal watchdog.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service agreed to take the inspector general’s suggested steps to bring the mail cover program in line with requirements, the report said.
blogEleanor Roosevelt said, “Great minds share ideas …,” and Linn’s is fortunate to have thoughtful leaders of the stamp hobby on its Editorial Advisory Board. Board members participated in a lively discussion of “The State of the Stamp Hobby” Aug. 21 at the American Philatelic Society Stampshow in Grand Rapids, Mich. Read More ›
August 19, 2015 01:58 PMIn an unusual development for our hobby, the Office of Inspector General of the United States Postal Service is blogging about stamp collecting. Read More ›
August 17, 2015 12:19 AMFrom 1967 to 2006, Royal Mail (Great Britain’s post office) advertised all new issues with posters displayed in post offices. Most of these posters had pictures of the stamps along with basic information such as the date of issue, instructions for first-day covers, etc. Some were a little more elaborate. Read More ›
August 14, 2015 09:46 AMWill the United States Postal Service issue a Christmas stamp this year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the classic television musical special A Charlie Brown Christmas? Read More ›
Watch as Linn’s associate editor Michael Baadke discusses happenings at the recent APS Stampshow from the show floor.
Watch as Linn's/Scott editorial director Donna Houseman discusses the early release of the new U.S. Elvis stamp, the possibility of a Peanuts stamp and Linn's at the upcoming APS Stampshow.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News managing editor Chad Snee discusses highlights of Robert A. Siegel Auction Rarities Week sales in late June, and reports that the 49¢ price for a first-class United States stamp will remain in effect until April.
Watch as Linn’s senior editor Denise McCarty discusses the hiring of a new executive director of the American Philatelic Society, the new Linn’s Editorial Advisory Board and the upcoming APS Stampshow.
It is always a treat to get to see stamp dealers’ own collections.
In the recently concluded Linn’s United States Stamp Popularity Poll, the Circus Posters set of eight stamps was chosen as the overall favorite issue of 2014.
Dispersal of the splendid Daniel B. Curtis collection continued March 25, with Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries gaveling items from United States back-of-the-book and possessions.
The 175th anniversary of the first postage stamp, Great Britain's Penny Black, is May 6, but the stamp was placed on sale May 1, 1840, for mailers to use beginning on May 6, the designated issue date.