Protecting the security of the mail

December 2, 2014

By Patrick R. Donahoe
Postmaster General | U.S. Postal Service

Recent media reports inaccurately assert the U.S. Postal Service is spying on the American public. Nothing is further from the truth. Reporters have distorted facts surrounding three distinct programs:  mail covers, mail imaging, and Mail Isolation, Control, and Tracking.

Mail covers are used for criminal investigations. The Postal Service processed and delivered 158 billion pieces of mail last year, of which only a minute percentage was subjected to a mail cover. The recent spike in mail covers is attributed to revised procedures for investigating illegal drugs and other dangerous mail. Whereas these investigations accounted for 80 percent of all mail covers in 2014, traditional mail-cover use has continued to decline.

Mail imaging was developed in the early 1990s to help automate mail processing, thereby reducing costs, increasing speed, and improving accuracy. The images created are not maintained in a centralized database, nor are they profiled for mailing habits.

Mail, Isolation, Control and Tracking (MICT) is a set of safety procedures developed in response to the anthrax mailings of 2001. MICT is only triggered when a potentially contaminated mailpiece is identified, helping determine potential contamination of mail-processing equipment, facilities, and vehicles. Safety is the ultimate goal of MICT—although the contamination path can be relevant for law enforcement purposes.

The Postal Service respects the privacy of its customers and the sanctity of the mail; it does not monitor the behavior of its customers, nor does it maintain any system or program of “surveillance.”

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