OIG begins new audit of USPS mail surveillance program

From the USPS Office of Inspector General:

uspsoigA mail cover is an investigative tool used to record data appearing on the outside of a mailpiece. Law enforcement agencies use this information to protect national security; locate fugitives; obtain evidence; or help identify property, proceeds, or assets forfeitable under criminal law.

Code of Federal Regulations, Title 39 – Postal Service, section § 233.3 is the law that gives the Postal Service the authority to grant a mail cover. The regulation directs the chief postal inspector to maintain rigid control and supervision with respect to the use of mail covers. Only Postal Service personnel are authorized to record information relevant to mail covers and this information is disclosed at the direction of the Postal Inspection Service.

In our prior audit of the Inspection Service Mail Covers Program, we found responsible personnel did not always handle and process mail cover requests from external law enforcement agencies in a timely manner and external law enforcement agencies did not always return documents relating to the covers on time. The objective of our current project is to assess controls over the management of the Postal Inspection Service’s mail covers requested by Postal Service inspectors. Specifically, we will assess whether personnel:

  • Handled and processed mail covers timely.
  • Returned accountable items.
  • Safeguarded mail cover information.

Additionally, we will assess the impact of reporting mail cover statistics to the public. We will also review the status of recommendations made in our prior mail covers report.