I'm Tempted To Mail Letters To "Mr. Yellowcake" And My Elderly Aunt In The Name Of Some Wanted Terrorist
Since nobody in government is making it hard to violate our privacy and other civil liberties, I think the answer might be that a lot of us lead them off track.
Got an aunt with dementia? Write and mail a letter to Ayman Mohammed Rabie al-Zawahiri c/o that aunt and include a brownie recipe.
It seems the U.S. Post Office is also looking up every citizen's butt. From The New York Times, Ron Nixon writes about 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 postal mail is subject to the same kind of scrutiny that the National Security Agency has given to telephone calls and e-mail.
Probable cause? Pffft! Nobody complained when they got searched at the airport.
Okay, not many people.
More from the piece:
The Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program was created after the anthrax attacks in late 2001 that killed five people, including two postal workers. Highly secret, it seeped into public view last month when the F.B.I. cited it in its investigation of ricin-laced letters sent to President Obama and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. It enables the Postal Service to retrace the path of mail at the request of law enforcement. No one disputes that it is sweeping.
"In the past, mail covers were used when you had a reason to suspect someone of a crime," said Mark D. Rasch, who started a computer crimes unit in the fraud section of the criminal division of the Justice Department and worked on several fraud cases using mail covers. "Now it seems to be, 'Let's record everyone's mail so in the future we might go back and see who you were communicating with.' Essentially you've added mail covers on millions of Americans."
Bruce Schneier, a computer security expert and an author, said whether it was a postal worker taking down information or a computer taking images, the program was still an invasion of privacy.
"Basically they are doing the same thing as the other programs, collecting the information on the outside of your mail, the metadata, if you will, of names, addresses, return addresses and postmark locations, which gives the government a pretty good map of your contacts, even if they aren't reading the contents," he said.
But law enforcement officials said mail covers and the automatic mail tracking program are invaluable, even in an era of smartphones and e-mail.
Not an excuse to do it. Catching a few perps is not worth it. Our civil liberties are extremely precious and today -- July 4 -- is a day maybe we should spend a little more time reflecting on that and what we should do to stop them all being yanked from us without any suspicion we've done anything more than, say, write Granny a thank you note for the ugly tie.