JOHN KIRIAKOU: Neither Rain, Sleet, nor Snow Will Stop the Post Office From Spying on You

It’s called the “Mail Cover Program” and it’s run by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Yes, even the Post Office is spying on us, writes John Kiriakou.

By John Kiriakou
Special to Consortium News

You may remember that last year some nut was arrested for mailing bombs to prominent Democrats, media outlets, and opponents of Donald Trump. Less than a week after the bombs went out, a suspect was arrested. Almost immediately, video turned up of him at a Trump rally, wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat and chanting for the camera. He was soon tried, convicted, and jailed. End of story.

But it wasn’t the end of the story. The investigation into the bomb incidents focused attention on an almost unknown federal surveillance program—one that poses a direct threat to the privacy and constitutional rights of every American. It’s called the “Mail Cover Program” and it’s run by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Yes, even the Post Office is spying on us.

The Mail Cover Program allows postal employees to photograph and send to federal law enforcement organizations (FBI, DHS, Secret Service, etc.) the front and back of every piece of mail the Post Office processes. It also retains the information digitally and provides it to any government agency that wants it—without a warrant.

“We also spy on you.” (Wikimedia Commons)

In 2015, the USPS Inspector General issued a report saying that, “Agencies must demonstrate a reasonable basis for requesting mail covers, send hard copies of request forms to the Criminal Investigative Service Center for processing, and treat mail covers as restricted and confidential…A mail cover should not be used as a routine investigative tool. Insufficient controls over the mail cover program could hinder the Postal Inspection Service’s ability to conduct effective investigations, lead to public concerns over privacy of mail, and harm the Postal Service’s brand.”

Return to Sender

Not only were the admonitions ignored, the mail cover program actually expanded after the report’s release. Indeed, in the months after that report was issued, there were 6,000 requests for mail cover collection. Only 10 were rejected, according to the Feb. 2019 edition of Prison Legal News (P.34-35) .

I have some personal experience with the Mail Cover Program. I served 23 months in prison for blowing the whistle on the CIA’s illegal torture program. After having been locked up for two months, I decided to commission a card from a very artistically-inclined prisoner for my wife’s 40th birthday. I sent it about two weeks early, but she never received it. Finally, about four months later, the card was delivered back to me with a yellow “Return to Sender – Address Not Known” sticker on it. But underneath that sticker was a second yellow sticker. That one read, “Do Not Deliver. Hold For Supervisor. Cover Program.”

Why was I under Postal Service Surveillance? I have no idea. I had had my day in court. The case was over. But remember, the Postal Service doesn’t have to answer to anybody – my attorneys, my judge, even its own Inspector General. It doesn’t need a warrant to spy on me (or my family) and it doesn’t have to answer even to a member of Congress who might inquire as to why the spying was happening in the first place.

The problem is not just the sinister nature of a government agency (or quasi-government agency) spying on individuals with no probable cause or due process, although those are serious problems. It’s that the program is handled so poorly and so haphazardly that in some cases surveillance was initiated against individuals for no apparent law enforcement reason and that surveillance was initiated by Postal Service employees not even authorized to do so. Again, there is no recourse because the people under surveillance don’t even know that any of this is happening.

Perhaps an even more disturbing aspect of the program is the fact that between 2000 and 2012, the Postal Service initiated an average of 8,000 mail cover requests per year. But in 2013, that number jumped to 49,000. Why? Nobody knows and the Postal Service doesn’t have to say.

The question, though, is not how many cases are opened under the Mail Cover Program or even how many requests there are for the information. The real question is, “How is this constitutional?” Perhaps a secondary question is, “Why hasn’t anybody challenged the program in the courts?” In general, Americans don’t–or at least haven’t–objected to a gradual loss of civil liberties and constitutional rights. That has to stop. When even the Post Office is spying on you, you know the republic is in trouble.

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act—a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.

If you enjoyed this original article, please consider making a donation to Consortium News so we can bring you more stories like this one.

80 comments for “JOHN KIRIAKOU: Neither Rain, Sleet, nor Snow Will Stop the Post Office From Spying on You

  1. Joe Stalin
    March 14, 2019 at 09:29

    Starting a few years ago years ago, they decided that every piece of mail had to go through a central depot. Mail that was supposed to go to the next county now goes across the state and back again. The reason is so that they can scan and spy on everything. Mail that should travel 15 miles, now travels 200.

    Then when the USPS loses money, the taxpayer bails them out. They put that Postal Inspectors show on TV to brainwash kids into thinking they are saving the world with their spying. The show costs a lot of money too.

    So they illegally perform dragnet spying on the whole country, it costs a fortune, and they take that fortune from you in taxes. So you can pay for them to spy on you, as if every peasant in the country is a potential criminal.

    There is a service called General Delivery. It is still specified in the regulations. But they hate it since it interferes with spying. If you get this service, they will try to lie to you about its terms or badger you out of using it. If you confront them with the regulations, they will have the Postal Police call you to SHUT YOUR MOUTH. Otherwise known as intimidation.

    During the Vietnam War, how did the communists know where each of the liberty-lovers lived in Hue so they could kidnap and murder them all during the night? They stalked them all ahead of time with this same type of spying. The E-911 system built a coordinate database of every person’s residence in the country. They said it was so UPS and the fireman could find your house. These records are validated because postmen are told to report if they don’t think you have been at your house for a long time, and then they will shut off your mail (postmen are trained to LIE and say that it is because they don’t want your mail in the box for a long time where it could be bothered). Now, the stalk-o-riffic driver’s licenses are to end up being mailed to you. No E-911 mailbox, no driver’s licenses. People who live in campers are to have their licenses stolen under this new system. Homeless and looking for a job? Now they’ll steal your driver’s license too due to USPS surveillance.

    They want to know where you sleep at night for a REASON. Communists always need to know where their enemies sleep at night because they are cowardly, treacherous vermin.

  2. Trailer Trash
    March 9, 2019 at 09:25

    For decades, maybe since high school, I have assumed that all communications of everyone are subject to scrutiny. The Snowden revelations were not news or surprising to me; I recall a fellow worker telling me about the NSA back in the mid 1970s. Even so, I have great respect and admiration for Snowden and all the other whistleblowers.

    Fifteen years ago I was a full-time volunteer at the IWW headquarters then located on Baltimore Ave in Philadelphia. Our union’s General Secretary-Treasurer had an interesting display in her apartment: one wall was covered with damaged envelopes, each one in a post-office-supplied plastic bag sporting a sticker saying something like, “We’re sorry our equipment damaged your mail”. It was clear that the Philadelphia cops were also spying on us, which was hardly a surprise.

    I suspect that they weren’t really interested in boring union administrative matters. Rather, the most important reason for all these spying and torture programs is intimidation. The last thing that Our Dear Leaders want is for peons to talk to each other or work together on anything, especially organizing mass movements.

    Be careful, but don’t be silent.

    • LJ
      March 9, 2019 at 14:18

      Trailer Trash. I was in Teamsters Local 70 for a while back in the later 70’s when I was in college ( Spending cash, student loans were for Doctors and a few Lawyers back then) . I guess I could rejoin The Teamsters being in good standing when I left if it even exists anymore but I wouldn’t be making as much money walking away with over $100 for a night on the Boneyard. . That was c. 1978. I should have got in the Longshoreman’s Union at the Port of Oakland. That was the cash cow but I had other things on my mind. By the way that was decades before Bush stopped their last relevant strike back in 2001 imposing the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 (which was barely relevant in that case) after the 9-11 Trade Towers criminality. Nobody talks about that anymore. Any visitor to the Bay Area today can look across from the East Bay Hills to the City any morning and see a dozen container ships lined up to be unloaded by the giant cranes that Occupy the Oakland Waterline, Globalization , and can’t help but notice the WRETCHED Corruption Towers ,I mean, Ed Lee’s Millennial Towers , Sales-force Monstrosity. BUT that isn’t the point. Long before Marijuana became what it is today, socially and in a business sense, Marijuana from Humbolt County was making a lot of folks in California a lot of money even then going for over $2200 a lb. Eventually before Decriminalization going up towards $4800 a LB. . I was not one of those folks by the way but knew ‘several’. Everybody did. Still I was a suspect by association. We all knew better, as did anyone who liked to “Party”, than to talk on the phone. We assumed we were wiretapped at home. That was long before Snowden, long before cells. . Coke adds Life, the same. Anything. Coke cost more back then too. Funny, something happens , No warrant? Evidence never comes up in court but what did a warrant matter?. Not much more than your friends display when it came right down to it. Paying for a real lawyer who had connections and would protect your rights, well, that was pricey too but I think it was cheaper than it is today.. Decriminalize a lotta stuff but not the legal profession or the politicians. They should be treated just like the general public.

  3. Fred
    March 9, 2019 at 04:09

    Appears the USPS is too busy spying to consistently deliver the mail to the correct address.

  4. March 8, 2019 at 11:01

    I’m a retired professor of International Relations. In the early 1970s I participated in a Vietnam War protest at the Oakland Draft Center for which I was sentenced to 10 days in Santa Rita Prison. Apparently that put my name on IRS and USPS harassment rosters. The IRS audited my tax return for several years in a row, and while the audits didn’t result in my having to pay more money, they caused me a hell of a lot of irritation.

    Re the Post Office: in 1989 an Iranian friend who’s thoroughly apolitical asked me to co-sign for a car purchase. She was living in Los Angeles. I lived in Oakland. The “Priority Mail” service was just beginning and I was assured she would receive my notarized agreement the next day. She got it 7 weeks later. In 1999 the “pressure sensor” which regulated the flow of gas to the engine of the 1969 Volkswagen Squareback I was driving went out. No new or rebuilt sensor was available, but via the internet I located a man in North Carolina who was “parting out” his old VW and had one. Required to identify what he was mailing, he wrote VW “pressure sensor” on the associated form. Apparently that sounded like a bomb making device to the USPS. His package made it to St. Louis, MO in a day, and remained there for another 8 weeks.

    On February 12th of this year a heavy gust of wind broke our Frog rain gauge, and I internet ordered a replacement the same day. It’s a 660 mile trip from the seller in Las Vegas, Nevada to my home in Northern CA. The Post Office carried the rain gauge for 1700 miles and delivered it BROKEN, 17 days after I placed the order. The gauge was sent to Los Angeles first; then made a 5-day trip to San Francisco, and finally to me 150 miles northeast.

  5. Alan H.
    March 7, 2019 at 08:01

    So I recently signed up for “Informed Delivery” from the USPS with which they will send you a daily e-mail containing scans of your incoming mail. I was already under the impression the USPS did this and likely shared the data with the NSA (among other agencies) and law enforcement, and that they have likely been doing this for years if not decades. Being that as it may, as much as I disapprove of unwarranted and warrantless surveillance, figured I might as well get a copy for my own purposes as well. Funny, that.

  6. Gary Remington
    March 4, 2019 at 21:21

    I read every comment so as not to be redundant. Not only can the government see your mail but it appears that anyone else can. My daughter had moved out of her long time residence and and into a short term accommodation. She filled out a change of address form and had her mail delivered back to the family home.
    She signed up for a USPS program called “Informed Delivery”. This allows one to view their mail inbound to their mailbox.A few weeks later she sent me a text; “Dad you’ve got a letter from ‘so and so'”. “How do you know that? Are you at the house?” I texted back. “No, I can see it on this app” she responded. She included a photo of my mail with her text!
    At that point I assumed that the USPS was photographing EVERYTHING. It requires much more resources but much less effort to take it all in and select just what is needed vs specific images being made.
    No one asked my permission to photograph my mail AND make it available on the WEB. It seems that ANYONE could have their “MAIL” diverted to ANY private mail box or one in a Post Office and snoop via this “SERVICE”.
    This should be an exploitable issue, at least to tamp down mail theft and intrusions by run of the mill snoops and thieves. Bringing this his exploit to the public’s attention can expose the larger problem. What can be done about the Surveillance State I don’t know.
    One small consolation; first class mail volume is down to a small fraction of what it once was. There will be ample reason to close the USPS.

  7. John Dunlap
    March 4, 2019 at 18:51

    The state of ignorant naivety that most Americans still live in is depressing. Each day, because I have an account online, USPS emails photos of the mail pieces that should be delivered that day. It never occurred to me that they would even consider NOT archiving and sharing that data. I still run across people who’ve never heard of Edward Snowden.

  8. GMC
    March 4, 2019 at 12:26

    And here I thought they always x rayed your mail , so that hey could steal the money that might be in it . lol I always got my birthday money from my Aunt – in the fifties – anyways. Never trust a loser and the US /NWO is a big Zero.

  9. March 4, 2019 at 01:22

    I protest the rise of the National Security State in Miami across from large, long-term CIA hub UM. Intel Ops OUT of our educational institutions and medical facilities but for job fairs and teaching (post retirement), with full disclosure. Demand reform and valid, reliable, and verifiable oversight of all Intel. Join me. Learn more at my website.

  10. March 3, 2019 at 21:45

    The Post Office has always screened mail. Any mail addressed, for example, to a Soviet consulate or embassy was examined and noted before it was delivered. In the eighties they were still screening mail of an elderly couple that had been Communist Party members in the Thirties. Of course, in the digital age things have gotten more efficient and more complete.

  11. Iron Felix
    March 3, 2019 at 17:21

    I actually knew about this. If you sign up with an account with the PO to print labels or hold mail etc, you can actually sign up to see images of your mail before you pick it up at your mailbox or the PO. It is all being photographed.

    • Bart
      March 4, 2019 at 09:39

      We use this service. What I wonder is whether the little information windows on our Netflix DVDs are being captured for NSA.

  12. Peter VE
    March 3, 2019 at 16:54

    The NSA thanks all of you who commented here.
    Meanwhile, the Post Office is getting worse at delivering mail. I had a package which I had paid extra to track. The Post Office marked it as delivered on Monday. No package. On Wednesday, I called the shipper, and they obviously knew the routine, and so shipped a replacement package. Saturday, the Post Office delivered the original package they had noted as delivered…

    • March 3, 2019 at 22:33

      In 2005 Congress passed a bill that essentially required the Post Office to prepay for the healthcare of retired employees 75 years in advance. On its face it appears to have been a Republican plan to bankrupt and privatize the service. This burdensome expense has necessarily affected service, although the same thing has happened to me decades ago, without the ability to track it.

      As far as the NSA thanking me for commenting at ConsortiumNews, I am sure that the vault for Bob In Portland at the NSA was overflowing long before I posted here.

      • Skip Scott
        March 4, 2019 at 07:38

        We’ll have to get together and have a big party at the reeducation camp. It’ll be nice to finally meet so many wonderful folks. Unless they decide to drone us instead!

      • LJ
        March 6, 2019 at 15:03

        Hey Bob, Raining today? Anyway wasn’t it call the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 ( 2009) ? I was against it at the time, still would be. Unfortunately, it passed with Bi Partisan Support . I know that Senator Feinstein support it full throated support, slightly ironic, given her history in the Senate, that her husband’s Real Estate Company was given the task of liquidating Prime Postal Service Properties including many historical buildings built with Public Money from the New Deal during the height of the Depression. She was absolutely unapologetic as usual. Nonetheless, point is, a boyhood neighbor of mine got a job with the PS at the time and was trained to service the new giant mail screeners that they were bringing on line . These eliminated a lot of jobs. This was a technology that was frankly overdue. It increased the capability of the sorting process while eliminating labor. You are correct about financing the USPS Pension System 85 years into the future which is obviously outrageous. But look at the pension responsibilities of government agencies up and down the system ( Forget about Labor in the Private Sector, it is cheap by comparison) dragging into the future for 30 years as people are living longer. Cities, parks, government agencies, police , judges, secretaries in all levels of government , not including elected representatives, are owed more than the cities , states and the Federal Government can generate . Still new contracts and new costs continue to accrue. See for instance the recent settlement of the Oakland Teachers Strike which was a total victory for a Labor and is International News. What I’m sayin’ is “it ain’t easy being easy”. The Postal Service was making money, showing a profit before. One of the few Government sectors that does. Service is still great . Basically even with increased competition it still functions. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. If you want to grind the axe , I suggest that you should not overlook the Jobs Act courtesy of Obama and Eric Cantor (Remember Him) . That is what empowered Jeff Besos, the new Mr. Washington Post) to do what he does and become the richest pig in the world. . Amazon, Ick.

      • Brian
        March 8, 2019 at 05:12

        It was actually a bipartisan right wing plan to bankrupt and privatize it. The bill had significant democratic support and when the democrats had complete control of the government in 2009-10 they made no effort to overturn it.

  13. Samantha
    March 3, 2019 at 16:00

    Thank you for sharing this.

  14. robert e williamson jr
    March 3, 2019 at 15:41

    Pick a side. For all those who think that since they have nothing to hide and THEY are absolved of any suspicion, and so what harm can this breach of privacy do. I have two word, PIG SPIT! So what are the rest of worried about. Well we still believe in the secret ballot for starters.

    Maybe I’m worried about picking the side of Col. Larry Wilkerson and being singled out for harsh treatment by the Deep State and their ilk. Tea Partiers, right wing fascists, nuts like the Turtle, and Lindsey Graham or my state owned county sheriff. Or others who “know what is best for me”.

    I have some advice go to

    I have a great tip for those of you who are students of critical thought. Read this article by the Col. Unfortunately I think the title might hurt readership. This piece, although very short, expands way past Venezuala. The Venezualian portion focuses on Kock’s oil refinery which depends on and use only heavy crude, which Venezuala has lots of. The topic quickly changes to the constitutional conventions the Koch Bros are striving for. They need 34 states and they have 28 already. They will if allowed , rewrite the constitution and our government will end up being an “OFFICIAL” “corporate oligarchy”.

    Read the article, pick a side, lead or follow but get the hell out of the way. Failure to stop this effort will result in no one having any say in the government they live under.

    What say you John Kiriakou?

  15. Steven B Smith
    March 3, 2019 at 15:28

    Hey John Kiriakou, the torture program was created by Jamie Gorelick, and she’s an undisclosed Iran agent since at least 2004, here is the poof from the USDOJ, that press release is also proof of a USDOJ/FBI cover up conspiracy to obstruct justice to protect Jamie Gorelick from getting prosecuted for 6 years of treason with Iran.

    BTW, who was your judge? She was probably appointed on Jamie’s recommendation.

    Mueller, Comey, McCabe and some AGs and US Attorneys were also implicate.

  16. elmerfudzie
    March 3, 2019 at 14:38

    John Kiriakou, a damn good article and allow me to make a few observations as well. Ever since the appearance of blood-borne disease and 911, USPS workers have been placed in an awkward situation. Every piece of mail is for all intents and purposes, a biological fomite that can carry disease and too, a chemical “fomite”. Contaminated articles may harbor or release toxics into the immediate area via airborne paper dust during high speed machine handling. The sorters at larger postal facilities move the mails so rapidly that suspect articles could conceivably be compressed during the distribution processes, or conveyors for various classes of mail, thus rough handling may release a biochemical or chemical agent into the environs near workstations and eventually throughout the local delivery areas. During an outbreak or other emergency, the optical spying devises may identify hundreds of articles that ran behind the contaminated one. This information aids law enforcement and epidemiologists engaged in tracking down the source(s) and the likely geographic end distribution(s) of some toxin or other agent throughout the mail delivery chain. How did that old phrase go? may you live in interesting times? !

  17. CitizenOne
    March 3, 2019 at 12:14

    In order to understand the post office practice of photographing the covers of letters we need to know why it is being done. Making requests for this data for investigations may be a reasonable way to obtain evidence of a crime without violating privacy. It is not illegal to read an envelope. The envelope is there to protect the contents. The envelope itself is not protected by privacy concerns. I suppose we could get in a huff if we found out government was spying on us by photographing our license plates.

    I have an internet service provider which is owned by a large telecommunications company which has the following to say regarding the contents of my electronic data. Here is what the top level TOS says:

    ” We’ve updated some of the ways we collect and analyze user data in order to deliver services, content, relevant advertising and abuse protection. This includes: analyzing content and information when you use our services (including emails, instant messages, posts, photos, attachments, and other communications), linking your activity on other sites and apps with information we have about you, and providing anonymized and/or aggregated reports to other parties regarding user trends. Hopefully, disputes will never be an issue, but in the case of one, this allows a third-party arbitrator to help us resolve them. We’ve also added a class action waiver. These provisions are an important part of our relationship with you, so please read them carefully.”

    Basically they are saying they will read all my emails and if I don’t like it there is a binding arbitration clause and lawsuit waver to make sure I can’t do anything about it. Their are so many disclaimers, waivers, indemnification, arbitration, intellectual property clauses it seems bulletproof. There is also a statement that there may or may not be support available but if so then anything I say becomes their property and they can do anything they want with it while I am rendered legally powerless to stop them.

    The way I read these terms and other companies do it too, they are expressly written to go overboard by overemphasizing that you have no rights or even expectation of privacy and you agree to never disagree with them and if you do not like it you do not have any legal recourse except in their chosen court. Why even bother.

    I bought a pair of sunglasses and there was a binding arbitration leaflet in the packaging. What’s next? Replace the comics in every piece of bubblegum with binding arbitration and lawsuit waivers? Its coming!

    Here is a roadmap for the postal department if too many of us uppity whiners hamper their letter photograph program.

  18. Barbara A Mullin
    March 3, 2019 at 10:55

    Twice I have mailed contributions to Americans for Palestinian Rights located in Washington D. C. The first time the check was held for a long time before it was cashed and now my second check sent this December was still not cashed in my last bank statement
    for February. Wonder with the spying if it also includes holding up the mail as well for whatever reason. Many politicians lately are pushing the anti-Semitism claim against anyone who doesn’t agree with Netanyahu even to the point of making it unlawful not to be in total agreement.

  19. Joe Wallace
    March 3, 2019 at 08:04

    When the Deep Stain spills over our civil liberties, they disappear under the color of a “national security” state that threatens to keep us safe.

    • March 5, 2019 at 03:41

      I’m Canadian but that doesn’t matter to Google, who I caught blocking my emails (political in nature) twice! I tell people but they don’t say much about it. Until it happens to them… Some lefties want to completely absolve the general public of all blame for the sorry state that society is in. That’s not, in my view, a profitable approach. I want people to like me too, but I’m not going to tell everyone every chance I get how great they are and how it’s so bad the way the evil government (which ‘is’ evil) is treating them. That’s not really honest. I’ve said it for a long time; The abused people have some responsibility to push back against the abusers by caring enough to know. That involves lifting a little finger, not so as to click the tv remote, but so as to ‘actively’ learn by looking into news reports be they Left or Right. Being a victim doesn’t automatically make you right or righteous.

  20. LJ
    March 2, 2019 at 17:05

    I am not impressed by your dedication to journalism or whatever but not surprised .

  21. March 2, 2019 at 14:09

    Wow John, thanks for uncovering another sick government operation. But these are deep state ops, by people who supported the Clintons I bet~!

  22. March 2, 2019 at 13:02

    I thought this was very informative. I read the Washington Post as well and it seems there was a coordinated effort to scare off any dissenting voice from making comments. Since it is a paper that many policy makers read I would suggest getting an e-subscription and making your voice heard, if you can afford it.

  23. Frank McElhannon
    March 2, 2019 at 10:36

    Thanks for calling the public’s attention to this. It’s even worse than you write:

    A lot of the above is inside baseball, but the thrust of it is that literally every piece of letter mail passing through the PO’s mail processing equipment is digitally imaged in order to enable the automatic redirection of mail that cannot be delivered as addressed.

    Well over 95% of letter mail is auto-sorted, so the PO retains images of virtually all letter mail going through it. Welcome to to our new & improved 1984

  24. Alan Ross
    March 2, 2019 at 09:53

    I worked as a sub-clerk for the USPS many years ago, and even then they were spying on the mail. Back then you had to sign a statement that you never belonged to the Communist Party or any organizations that were on some list of the Attorney General. I do not remember much because I wasn’t particularly interested and the supervisor who did the spying was bad-tempered. I believe that he tore open one small segment of the flap of the envelope and inserted a probe of some kind into the envelope to read the contents. On occasion I get mail, including ads, that has that torn opening. I cannot see any other reason why such flap would be torn, unless that is the way it is sealed by the sender, or it happens in mechanical processing.

    In any case, my attendance at an anti-war rally and some other innocent but suspicious looking actions might have gotten me on some list. Years ago, I decided to widen my political reading material and mistakenly and briefly subscribed to a publication put out by …. After that, for about a year, my phone would ring just once between 8:00-9:00 pm. A friend whose parents had been Communists told me that my phone was being tapped using old equipment, and that the one ring was just to test the line. After a year this stopped. I never got worried about any of this since my motives were innocent and I did not then see how much of an enemy to privacy parts of our government have become, and how John Bolton-like some IC people could be.

    The only answer I can see is to elect someone like Sanders who might be able to lessen the spying on the American people. To me all of the Republicans and most Democrats are not to be trusted.

    • John Dunlap
      March 4, 2019 at 19:47

      The fact is, we lost the Republic entirely in 1914. The Constitution hasn’t been getting more than lip service since then. The only reason Americans haven’t already begun disappearing in the night, as was common for subjects of the Soviet Union or East Germany, is that we are still so heavily armed.

      Here’s my Post Office story. Back in ’92, I purchased an M1 Garand, one of the re-imports from South Korea. A few months later, I received a letter from CADOJ demanding the serial number, with the excuse that some of these rifles had been placed in boxes with incorrect numbers, which gun store employees had been using instead of getting the numbers directly off of the rifles. I found this suspicious, especially since the state agency had no jurisdiction over a curio. I did not refuse to provide the number, but I did ask my state assemblyman to inquire as to why the DOJ was requesting it first. A couple of weeks later I received an apology letter from the DOJ, saying the demand letter had been sent by mistake. Another two weeks went by, and then I received the same demand letter, almost word for word, from the ATF. They DO have jurisdiction, but my suspicions were fully aroused now, so I made the same request of my Congressman, with the same result, an apology from the ATF. A week or so later my mother and I were picking up mail from our P.O. box at the local post office, when we were stopped by a guy who’s dress and demeanor telegraphed Federal Agent. He tried to make small talk at first, but then began questioning us about our politics, blocking our way when we tried to leave. Both of us gave him a couple of non answers and pushed past. Right after that, we started getting all sorts of solicitations for illegal products and services. You name it, from drugs to child porn, if it was a felony it was showing up in our mail. Long story short, it took a month of phone calls and several formal written complaints to the Post Master General and my Congressman and Senators to get it stopped.

      A few years later, the story broke that the ATF had gotten caught building a blatantly illegal national registration list of gun owners. Connect the dots, that’s why they wanted the M1’s serial number (I had to sell it to get through college, still regret it). That was over twenty years ago. Do you think these bureaucrats stopped building that database, and linking it to others, just because they got their hands slapped? Of course not. By now, we all have a dossier. The only question left to answer now is, what are we all going to do about it?

      • John Dunlap
        March 4, 2019 at 19:50

        Oh, and Sanders is just as dirty and corrupt as the rest of the Establishment. He and his ideology are another part of the problem, certainly not the solution.

  25. March 2, 2019 at 09:38

    Thank you, John, For hanging in there and continually pointing out the excesses of our “national security state”. It is so ironic that that things we once accused our former Cold War enemy of, we are now guilty of ourselves. “We have met the enemy, and they are us,” as a famous cartoon character once said not so long ago. Not so funny, though, as we watch our individual freedoms in the land of the free and the brave wind up in the dustbin of history, and the national security emperor keeps eating away. Only the principled journalists, the whistle blowers, can save us from ourselves, so we all owe you a debt of gratitude. Thank you, again.

  26. March 2, 2019 at 05:25

    A big irony here is that the Postal Act of 1792, establishing the Post Office in its first modern form, forbade spying on the mail. It wasn’t always obeyed but it was enough of a concern that it was in that act.
    Also, in what I think of as an early form of net neutrality, the 1792 act required all mail delivered regardless of who sent it and to where and required all to be charged the same rate rather than different rates for different customers.
    So those were concerns more than 200 years ago. The only real difference is the specific technology. Same human concerns.

    • Alan Ross
      March 2, 2019 at 09:58

      This then would be a basis to sue the USPS. Even if the USPS claims “national security” as a defense and a means to make the proceedings secret it might at least not only again bring to the attention of the American people what is going on but also to show it is real and serious enough to start legal action.

  27. March 2, 2019 at 02:59

    Good little piece.

    I like the personal anecdote about sending his wife a card, highlighting humble realities of life in a national security state.

    “In general, Americans don’t–or at least haven’t–objected to a gradual loss of civil liberties and constitutional rights. That has to stop.”

    The first part of that statement seems so true. But the herd behavior of populations, so counted upon by advertisers and marketers, is very much also counted upon by the power establishment and its security apparatus. I say “its” because that who is largely being served, not people in general.

    I personally take a dark view of the second part of the statement, “That has to stop.”

    There is no effective political mechanism for dealing with the situation.

    The parties are both married to the security state through money.

    Government by, of, and for the privileged and wealthy is what you have.

    The combination of the various security mechanisms, the military, and the bought-and-paid-for members of the legislature work round the clock for their interests.

    That is what the Dark State is, what America is.

    Small independent voices heard in American politics are just that, small and independent. They are tolerated, but they have no power or hope of power.

    The more prominent seeming-rebels – Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren – are just more of the same old, same old, dressed up in jeans.

    When you support activities like America’s outlaw work in Venezuela, when you support Dark State creatures like Hillary Clinton, and when you vote for Pentagon budgets, when you parrot all the lines about Iran or Syria, you are only a pretend critic, a potential reformer of nothing that counts. Moreover, even your more fanciful ideas about matters like education and healthcare have zero chance ever without fundamental reform. That’s Sanders and Warren.

    The truth is that any kind of serious popular movement has almost no chance of accomplishing anything in a contemporary, advanced Western state. Just look at France’s Gilets Jaunes. There was a genuine, spontaneous popular movement and it started to have some impact, but France’s national security apparatus – and France is a state just like the United States in the way it is run – now appears to have quieted them with false accusations of being associated with anti-Semitism and a possibly contrived event.

    Sorry, but that really is how I see America, and I consider myself very much a realist.

    • Alan Ross
      March 2, 2019 at 10:00

      Pessimists and cynics do not make for changes.

    • rosemerry
      March 2, 2019 at 14:08

      You are correct about the gilets jaunes,and it seems that Macron, an obedient servant of CRIF (similar to AIPAC) is now trying to establish the anti-Zionism equals anti-semitism link which the “Friends of Israel” are using shamelessly against Jeremy Corbyn, one of the few genuinely honest and fair politicians in the UK (or even the planet!). No freedom of speech is permitted if the State of Israel is not treated with excessive pandering.

  28. Zhu
    March 2, 2019 at 02:22

    Ordinary Americans are busy trying to pay for food and rent. Staying out of the homeless shelter has priority over civil rights for most of us.

  29. Barbara guillette
    March 2, 2019 at 00:55

    I discovered that program just a few months ago. It also seems someone else is interested in my social security mail. Envelope was ripped. Enough to peer in.A young man previous told me that the PO photographs every piece of mail. Incredible.. I called it first back in 97 that we are living in a totalitarian state and we are. I went to Noam Chomsky’s lecture. I asked. ,,,, how would we know as a nation that we are in a despotic state? Its much worse.

    • March 5, 2019 at 03:51

      “…how would we know as a nation that we are in a despotic state?” Indeed. Once the warmaking State has gone to the limit of banning and burning books and censoring all non-approved content online, and once some time has passed after that, Those who didn’t pay attention to begin with (most) will not even know what they’re missing. Theoretically, That will make the warmaking State happy and all will be well. I see a different conclusion to the war on light, but there’s no doubt that there ‘is’ a war on light and democracy (which isn’t the whole answer to our troubled world).

  30. March 2, 2019 at 00:13

    Here in the U.S. we’ve become the petri dish for the West’s global capitalist-dystopian-paradise future. If only Macron and company would either sufficiently persuade, or pummel, those pesky French yellow vests to get them back into a nice orderly line so we can all quietly and politely continue onward like zombie lemmings toward our ultimate destination. Which is to become obedient serfs on the global plantation one presumes.

    Perhaps as predicted the “Artificial Intelligence’ developments will allow the wealthy to eliminate even more of our remaining jobs and thus one day “free us” so we can all become happy go lucky “individual entrepreneurs,” delivering pizzas to each other, while trying to postpone for as long as possible having to sell one of our kidneys for cash. It is of course hard to predict just how big of a “splat” there will be upon landing this flaming civilizational zeppelin, but our “trajectory” is abundantly clear.

    • Bethany
      March 2, 2019 at 03:42

      What a great commentary. The human ego keeps the species steadfastly shuffling on towards its own destruction…blissfully unaware of reality.

  31. disillusionist
    March 1, 2019 at 22:25

    So many people and places have cameras that we all must be photographed 24/7.
    I guess the Post Office is more of the same.
    Privacy is a thing of the past.

  32. LJ
    March 1, 2019 at 20:29

    Well, yeah but Americans don’t have standing to challenge our loss of 4th amendment Rights according to the courts. And Obama was protecting us all when he ordered the mouth breather Brennan to carry out the summary execution of an American citizen , a radical sheik in Yemen, with no due process , Same,same when they blew up the mourner’s tent the next day and killed dozens of women and children including his non combatant 16 year old son who was also an American citizen, Who did that bother?. Obama signed a National Defense Authorization Act during the 99% protests that placed limits to the Right of Freedom of Assembly and nary a peep was heard anywhere. Best of all though was the same route being taken , NDAA, to create an Office of Disinformation in the Pentagon without any Declaration of War, Obama’s last NDAA fully funded this operation, hundreds of millions yearly unless I’m mistaken, This goes back to the War on Terror and the Patriot Act for it initial impetus but unless I’m mistaken that giant building in Utah , 5 times the size of the Pentagon, that stores all our metadata was being built before 9-11 and who talked about it in the media? They want to read my mail, they already triangulated me a dozen different ways , why worry now?

  33. Brian James
    March 1, 2019 at 16:33

    Jan. 14, 2019 ‘The Age of Surveillance Capitalism’

    The New Big Brother Tech companies have shown themselves to be increasingly cavalier with our personal data. Are we handing over too much information?

    Aug 8, 2017 How NSA Tracks You (Bill Binney)

    William “Bill” Binney, former NSA technical director on how NSA track you. From the SHA2017 conference in Netherlands.

  34. K Lee
    March 1, 2019 at 13:39

    “The technotronic era involves the gradual appearance of a more controlled society. Such a society would be dominated by an elite, unrestrained by traditional values. Soon it will be possible to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain up-to-date complete files containing even the most personal information about the citizen. These files will be subject to instantaneous retrieval by the authorities.” ~ Zbigniew Brzezinski’s book, Between Two Ages, 1970

    Why are Trump and AOC’s GND supporting 5G “smart grid” deployment, a disastrous swap of fossil fuel pollution for cancerous electrosmog, without a national discussion first?

    5G is designed to usher in Technocracy, which would enable a social credit system similar to China’s. Data is the new oil. Surveillance capitalism is what we call it in the US, but it’s oppressive communism/totalitarianism by any name. Maybe that’s why Bill Clinton loved that word “communitarianism”.

    The Technocracy agenda, which began in the 1930’s, is now trying to piggy back onto a very good idea, to boost the public sector with a strong fiscal policy investment. But green energy solutions should be decoupled from social services so that we can move forward quickly on addressing our healthcare and education crisis while considering a TOTAL BAN ON 5G TECHNOLOGY, not only because of the over-surveillance capabilities, but also the health risks involved.

    “The greatest polluting element in the earth’s environment is the proliferation of electromagnetic fields. I consider that to be a far greater threat on a global scale than warming, or the increase of chemical elements in the environment.” – Robert O. Becker

    Pay no attention to the hundreds of birds that fell from the sky recently in the Netherlands due to 5G radiation, insect population decline or the mini cell towers already popping up in 50 US cities WITHOUT OUR CONSENT, many close to school playgrounds. Sterility concerns??

    5G could easily become a war on humanity.

    Connecting EVERYTHING to one source leaves us very vulnerable. Marc Ellsberg’s novel, Blackout, is about how easy it would be to create a global electrical grid shutdown. Or it could affect us personally. Late on a payment? No more energy (heat, electricity, etc.) for you until next month’s energy credit load.

    “Who is demanding a hundred devices in his home that spy on him and record his actions? With 5G, the ultimate goal is: every device in every home that uses energy will be “its own computer,” and the planetary grid will connect ALL these devices to a monitoring and regulating Energy Authority.” ~ Jon Rappoport

    “The Internet of Things (IoT) will destroy not only the Internet… but all of mankind. I can prove it. In only 20 minutes.” ~ Bryan Lunduke

    5G Health Hazards:

    More on Technocracy with Patrick Wood:

    “They define wireless radiation as a pollutant when it comes to protecting themselves in terms of liability, but when they want to force it into our communities and blanket our communities, supposedly it’s safe.”

    Surveillance capitalism:

    Green New Deal proposal for “smart grid” installation, pg. 7. Sec. (D):

    5G Smart Grid: Great Summary Of The World We Are Rapidly Heading Into

    Blackout scenario:

    • Realist
      March 1, 2019 at 21:54

      “Masters” who would deploy such devices might also be inclined to use microwave radiation or ultrasound to punish individuals or entire communities for societal dissent (strikes, protests, etc). Some businesses already use irritating ultrasonic signals that can only be heard by humans below a certain age (~20) to drive them away from their establishments. The microwave devices could already be used on the battlefield (and maybe have been, as the whole world has lately been our testing laboratory for new weapons). Amazing what repressive high tech tools are being avidly developed to control the population in the land of the free and the home of the brave. How exceptional.

    • Abby
      March 1, 2019 at 22:46

      K. Lee, thank you for posting this information here. I will share this with others who have been discussing this.

      Speaking about this subject, zerohedghes has a great article about how out of control the spying on us has gotten. When we found out that Bush was spying on us “to keep us safe” too many people said that they were okay with it because they had nothing to hide. People don’t realize that if they can be spied on then they can also have false information put on their phones and computers if the PTB wants to do something nefarious like lock up a lot of people.

      And now those same people are buying spying equipment themselves that can be used against them. This is just unbelievable isn’t it?

    • Zhu
      March 2, 2019 at 02:28

      Always ground your tin foil hat, guy.

  35. Al Pinto
    March 1, 2019 at 12:48

    Quote from the article:

    “In general, Americans don’t–or at least haven’t–objected to a gradual loss of civil liberties and constitutional rights.”

    Of course the Americans don’t object. In the “Home of the free and the brave” it is not necessary to fight for your right and freedom. It is your God given right written in the Constitution. That’s the general attitude and no changes in the laws can change that.

    By the time people realize, that it is not so, it’ll be too late. The chances are that point had been passed already, without people realizing it. Some did, but those people are called by all different names….

  36. Anarcissie
    March 1, 2019 at 10:30

    The Postal Service has been in the spying business for a long time. Back in the 1960s, someone I knew mailed a check to a defense fund for Bobby Seale. She worked for the local post office. Some weeks after she mailed the check, she was fired from her job. She demanded to know why, and she was shown a photocopy of the check, which had been mailed, of course, in a sealed envelope and sent First Class. She pointed out that going bail for a defendant was legal and part of how the American judicial system was supposed to work. She was told it was a national security issue — apparently Mr. Seale was considered a hostile foreign power — and that there was no recourse. She was going to go to court about it but was then … dissuaded. This kind of story was not uncommon in those days. I would not think things had changed much for the better since.

  37. TomG
    March 1, 2019 at 10:01

    The next big idea is already on its way. AI will be ‘keeping us safe’ as it tracks everything in transit regardless of privacy rights or the carrier.

    • Alan Ross
      March 2, 2019 at 10:03

      That seems like it will be the future. i.e. “We are not spying on you it is an AI programmed to avoid violating the privacy of innocent individuals so no human eyes ever gets to invade your privacy. Just trust “Hal.”

  38. john wilson
    March 1, 2019 at 09:18

    Presumably, email is the same? There is a method of communicating by email without actually sending one. You and your friend open separate, shared email account to which you both know the user name and pass word. You write your email and put it into the drafts folder. You let your pal know there’s and email in the draft folder by say, a cryptic text which alerts him/her to the email. Thus you have sent an email without actually sending one. If its between countries then just agree with your pal to check the account on odd hours and he/she checks and sends on even hours. If you want to be really secretive, you can get a cheap unregistered phone with a sim card that’s not activated, and go to a wifi hot spot and do your correspondence there. As long as you have an unactivated sim card in your phone it will work fine in a hot spot. I dare say there are other methods out there which will eventually become widespread as the “state” continues to threaten and spy on the people.

    • Limert
      March 1, 2019 at 11:40

      I suspect that even «not sending» an e-mail might be picked up, as long as you are storing it on the cloud connected to your e-mail account. I certainly don’t trust g-mail to keep my secrets safe. I’m pretty sure that if you are being targeted, they would also be able to monitor where you are, and that you are logging in from a different location.

    • Al Pinto
      March 1, 2019 at 12:29

      General David Petraeus may disagree with your suggested method of utilizing the draft folder to communicate with each other. The exact same method had been used by him and his girlfriend and forced him to resign.


      The same method used to be utilized by criminals as well. People should learn, that there’s no privacy whatsoever with plan-text email. Encrypted email on the other hand is better, but not without fallacy. If LEOs really want to read your encrypted email, they will. On the other hand, encryption will stop most other people from reading the content of the email.

    • Will
      March 3, 2019 at 08:51

      doesn’t work that easily-it didn’t keep the FBI out of CIA director General Patraeus’ draft emails because IPs can be traced and his dingbat girlfriendd was threatening people by another one of her emails accounts. read more here: One could download the Tor browser but not only does one suspect that any internet system for keeping communications private that the government itself invented probably has some sort of back door, but the mere act of seeking info on Tor via a web search is said to put one on a NSA list of potential terrorists.

  39. March 1, 2019 at 09:10

    John Kirikou:

    “Why hasn’t anybody challenged the program in the courts?” In general, Americans don’t–or at least haven’t–objected to a gradual loss of civil liberties and constitutional rights. That has to stop. When even the Post Office is spying on you, you know the republic is in trouble.”

    Don’t know what others feel but haven’t ever felt the ACLU is on the side of the American People beyond nibbling at the edges on election reform and sex and racial issues. There were are no signs of alarm when the Homeland Security was passed nor has the media expressed it continuing outrage about violations of international law, torture, or extra judicial murder of foreigners.

    Instead we see lots of examples of support for such violations.

    • March 1, 2019 at 09:40

      You are so right.

    • Trailer Trash
      March 9, 2019 at 08:49

      I thought about joining the ACLU about 20 years ago. I soon found out that the only role for non-attorney members is to send money. They give the impression that they are all about promoting civil rights, but the reality is that they are just another bunch of lawyers looking for income. If they think one’s case will pay off for them, they might take it. Otherwise, they are not interested.

  40. john wilson
    March 1, 2019 at 09:02

    A great deal of package mail these days is delivered by private carriers so I wonder if this is subject to scrutiny as well?

    • Will
      March 3, 2019 at 09:03

      The USPS allegedly requires a warrant to open one’s mail whereas the private package services can and do open or X-ray anything they think might have something in it thats forbidden. This typically involves attempts to send alcoholic beverages through the mail. if they hear sloshing, they’ll probably look inside. As somewhat of a canary in a coal mine, at least anecdotally; booze is much more likely to arrive intact via USPS, even in cases where the packaging is so damaged that the fact that booze is being sent illegally is quite obvious. thats said, I sent a $75 bottle of whiskey and two quarts of homemade salsa to a friend and according to my tracking info it disappeared at the first postal transit center it hit. I actually assume that employees stole it rather than it being caught by a screening system or the tracking info would have probably mentioned the confiscation. Plus legally speaking, the salsa should have continued on it’s way. Finally, the guy who sent a bomb via UPS in Texas last year was well photographed by that parcel service (as was his vehicle in the parking lot) and that makes private parcel services a bit problematic in terms of photographing their customers, and since everything one sends has a digital tracking record its always possible that like google and the rest,they may be supplying that info voluntarily to the NSA.

  41. Garrett Connelly
    March 1, 2019 at 08:45

    This phenomenon was a subject of my graduate school studies that partially included communism in actual practice.

    Spies start out cheap and gradually take over with ever expanding staff, high pay and the luxuries imagined for James Bond. One astute professor graphically indicated a time would soon arrive when the central planning and control as well as the spy functions of the soviet union would each require the labor of every adult and child 24/7. How soon will the soviet economy collapse? Was the point..

    “Perhaps an even more disturbing aspect of the program is the fact that between 2000 and 2012, the Postal Service initiated an average of 8,000 mail cover requests per year. But in 2013, that number jumped to 49,000. Why? Nobody knows and the Postal Service doesn’t have to say.”

    • Charlie Love
      March 1, 2019 at 10:48

      In an effective strategy to break the powerful (socialist?) Postal Union and reduce efficiency of the public service so private companies like FedEx and UPS could complete, Congress put exorbitant, totally unreasonable financial burdens on the USPS a few years back. They are still in place.
      If they can’t fix things so their doners can privatize it, perhaps they can run it into the ground.

      • Dan
        March 1, 2019 at 15:09


    • Craig
      March 1, 2019 at 11:38

      I get photos of mail coming to my house. Is that a cover request?

      • March 1, 2019 at 12:22

        That’s presented as a “courtesy” from the USPS. The cover program is when they actually hold your mail, photograph the front and back, and entire the data into a law enforcement system.

    • March 2, 2019 at 13:05

      The CIA’s budget is around 58 billion.

  42. Sally Snyder
    March 1, 2019 at 08:03

    As shown in this article, Facebook is developing new technology that will greatly improve its ability to spy on its users:

    The techno-state can never know too much about us

    • Will
      March 3, 2019 at 09:12

      according to harper’s magazine, apparently there is a phone ap that women can use to track their menstrual cycle and somehow, Facebook not only collects that data but has either sold it or allowed it to be collected by third parties.

  43. March 1, 2019 at 07:09

    Thank you John Kiriakou and thank you Consortium News for pointing this situation out. In our neighborhood, the mailman often parks his truck at the end of the Street to eat lunch for 20 minutes or so. Never once has it crossed my mind he might be up to something other than eating the PB&J his wife made for him.

    P.S., we’ve now also got a fleet of blue Amazon Prime Mercedes van playing Santa too. Waiting for the drones. Thank you Bezos!

  44. Sue Harris
    March 1, 2019 at 06:39

    What’s interesting for conspiracy theorists is that the majority of IT systems used by the postal service in the US and UK and elsewhere are supplied and managed by Lockheed Martin – just saying !

    • March 1, 2019 at 09:17

      Interesting use of the term conspiracy theorists. I wouldn’t think it was intended to convey a so what message.

      • Will
        March 3, 2019 at 09:24

        conspiracy theories are like the theory of relativity-perhaps not perfect but

    • March 3, 2019 at 21:25

      For a time Lockheed-Martin also had the contract to build and supply the postal delivery trucks. They were crappy.

  45. LarcoMarco
    March 1, 2019 at 02:17

    Many years ago, the IRS had a tax fraud case dismissed, after it was revealed that the USPS had photographed envelopes mailed from the defendant’s undisclosed Swiss bank accounts, which were the repositories of unreported income.

  46. Lucius Patrick
    March 1, 2019 at 01:31

    Thanks John, great article. Good points about Americans accepting loss of rights with little or no argument.

  47. Jeff Harrison
    March 1, 2019 at 00:24

    Yes, John, most Americans haven’t challenged the erosion of our rights. That’s why we will lose our Republic.

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