With all the attention so far on the US government scooping up the electronic communication records (email, phone calls, internet use, etc.) of people around the globe, we could be excused for thinking that old-fashioned postal mail was the only thing that was safe from their prying eyes. It now turns out that even our snail mail is tracked by the government, something that a victim discovered by accident when he discovered a card that had been inadvertently placed in his mail that contained instructions that his mail was to be monitored.
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.
What will we find out next? That even our homes and public spaces are bugged? That the government maintains detailed dossiers on each one of us?