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.
October 09, 2015 02:00 PMLinn’s managing editor Charles Snee reported the recovery of a block of three of the 1845 5¢ New York postmaster’s provisional stamp, once part of a block of 10 that was stolen from the Benjamin K. Miller collection in 1977. Read More ›
blogThis month marks my fifth anniversary writing the monthly auction report for Linn’s Stamp News. That’s 60 columns, totaling more than 100,000 words (enough for a decent-sized novel), all about our favorite hobby. Read More ›
blogWhen this cover was listed on eBay in mid-September, it didn't take long for some knowledgeable collectors to recognize this piece of postal history for the gem that it is: an early trans-oceanic survey cover for a Pacific route that included Midway Island, which would become famous as the location of a pivotal 1942 naval battle during World War II. Read More ›
blogIn mid-September I traveled to London, England, to attend Autumn Stampex, one of two British national stamp shows sponsored by the Philatelic Traders’ Society, Great Britain’s national stamp dealers association. The show took place Sept. 16-19 at the Business Design Centre in Islington (central north London), a comfortable and attractive venue for a stamp show. Read More ›
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News senior editor Denise McCarty discusses current events that relate to the stamp hobby, including the relocation of a stamp show in Sweden due to the Syrian refugee crises, and new stamps honoring Pope Francis and the British monarchy.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News associate editor Michael Baadke talks about a record fifth win for wildlife artist Joseph Hautman in the federal duck stamp art contest, and see the painting that will appear on next year’s federal duck stamp
Watch as Scott catalog senior editor Marty Frankevicz questions Bolivia’s choice for the design of a 2013 stamp honoring the country’s efforts to protect its migrants in foreign lands.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News managing editor Chad Snee discusses the discovery of the upright Jenny Invert pane received in an order from Stamp Fulfillment Services in Kansas City, Mo., and also reports on the Confederate Stamp Alliance.
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.