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Snail Mail Surveillance

Last year, Leslie James Pickering, a bookstore owner and activist in Buffalo, New York, noticed something unusual in his mail, a confidential note reminding postal employees to copy all of his mail before delivering them.

The note was accidentally slipped into his mail deliveries and Pickering has just stumbled upon a little known postal spying program:

As the world focuses on the high-tech spying of the National Security Agency, the misplaced card offers a rare glimpse inside the seemingly low-tech but prevalent snooping of the United States Postal Service.

Mr. Pickering was targeted by a longtime surveillance system called mail covers, 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.

Ron Nixon of The New York Times reports: Link

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